New Delhi: Rabindranath Tagore, Nobel laureate and one of the most towering national icons of India, was invoked several times in the run-up to the just-concluded West Bengal assembly elections conducted over eight phases, with political leaders reciting his lines or recalling his contributions during their speeches.
With the same Bengal witnessing widespread violence after the election results that were declared on 2 May, it maybe time for the state to draw lessons from what Tagore wrote in the early years of the 20th century on why violence must be shunned in an India that “wants to accommodate everybody within the great system” without sacrifice or destruction.
In one of his relatively less-talked-about articles, titled ‘Swadeshi Samaj’, which he also delivered as a lecture on two occasions, Tagore talked about the importance of shunning the violence as a tool to dominate the rivals, the resilience of India’s ancient heritage, the Hindu dharma. He also wrote why he thought the ‘Hindu viewpoint’ was the only way out to resolve conflict in Indian society.
The ‘introduction’ to the English translation of this article by Anasyua Guha, and published by Dey’s Publishing in the form of a book titled ‘Swadeshi Samaj by Rabindranath Tagore(2013)’, reads: “The article was first read out on the 7th of Shravan, Friday, Bengali 1311 at the special meeting of Chaitanya Library at Minerva Theatre. Later on 16th Shravan Bengali 1311 an enlarged edition of this was again read at Curzon Theatre.”
Tagore said in the first lecture, “Each fresh conflict will enable us to expand ourselves. The Hindu, the Buddhist, the Muslim and the Christian will not fight each other and die in India-here they will find a meeting point.”
Emphasising the importance of a ‘Hindu viewpoint’, he added: “That meeting point will not be non-Hindu but very specifically Hindu. However foreign may be her body parts, her life and spirit will be India’s.”
‘Hindu society has harmonised many mutually contradictory elements of variety’
Referring to the uselessness of attempts to dominate through force and violence, something that the perpetrators of the ongoing violence in West Bengal can learn, Tagore underlined: “To feel unity in diversity, to establish unity amidst variety-this the underlying religion of India. India does not regard difference as hostility, she does not regard the other as enemy. That is why without sacrifice or destruction she wants to accommodate everybody within the great system. That is why she accepts all ways and sees the greatness of each in his own sphere.”
Also talking about the use of power to dominate others, he shared a lesson from which many can learn today. “India has never fought over kingdom, squabbled over trade. The Tibet, China or Japan who are willing to close all doors and windows in fear of great Europe, that same Tibet, China, Japan have beckoned India inside in their home in an unworried fashion as guru or religious leader.”
He added: “India has not traumatised the whole world’s flesh and blood with her own army and goods, but has squired the esteem of mankind by establishing peace, consolation and religious systems everywhere. Thus the glory she has acquired has been done through penance and it is greater than the glory of the sovereignty over other kingdoms.”
The article went on to say: “If we keep in mind this divine dispensation for India, then we shall have a fixed target, our diffidence will be removed and we shall know about that deathless force in India. We have to remember that we shall not only receive the European knowledge as pupils, the Indian Saraswati will make all factions and conflicts bloom like a hundred petal lotus and will remove its fragmentation. The main duty of the Indian genius is to bring about unity. India is not one to keep others at a distance or to forsake others. India will one day indicate to this contentious divided world how to accept all receive all how to establish each within one great.”
Talking about the importance of reviving the ancient heritage as a way forward for the Indian society, Tagore said, “If you are able to revive that heart of our ancestors to lead this static Society of ours, only then shall we be great. If our entire society becomes alive and active rejuvenated by the noble moments and greatness of the ancient times, if it makes self strong and mobile with the life force of centuries crossing through its organs then foreign rule and all other kinds of misery will become trifling matters.”
Giving a befitting reply to the critics of Hindu dharma, Tagore said: “Today many may ask: Where is the unity in this Hindu society, in this Hindu religion prone to internal feud and schisms? It is difficult to supply a clear answer. It is equally difficult to find the epicenter of a great periphery. But it definitely has one. It is not difficult to comprehend the spherical quality of a sphere. But those who perceive the spherical earth in small segments, would regard it as a flat.”
He added: “Similarly the Hindu society has harmonised many mutually contradictory elements of variety so that the source of unity has become abtruse and concealed. It is difficult to lay one’s finger on this Unity but it is easy to feel this Unity existing strongly within all the apparently perceived contradictions.”
The writer is research director with Delhi-based think-tank Vichar Vinimay Kendra. He has authored two books on RSS. Views expressed are personal.