Dr. Darshan Singh Maini

‘There are moments in the life of ‘a nation when the deeper spiritual rhythm is so addled by events and incidents as to bring to the surface all manner of ironies and irrationalities inherent in its body politic. Such contradictions and institutional insincerities remain largely out of view, and even acquire a doubtful ethic and a passing valid it in the name of pragmatism. But when finally the weight of wanton and rogue occurrences reaches a point where the state begins to split at the seams, as it were, the rulers themselves are no longer in a position to comprehend the course of history, or to direct it; they are either marginalized and rendered irrelevant, or, more grievously, as in India today, turn into political rakes and phonies for whom indulgence and gimmicks become a style of life. The spiritual side of the state—its inner life, its evolved ceremonies and its milk of moral nourishment is then desecrated and public life does become nasty and brutish and degrading. That invisible bond of trust between the state and the citizen is snapped, the bond which sustains a civilized society. And once this trust is lost it is thereafter a whoredom of the spirit, anybody’s game, so to speak. The state is turned into a political slut.

To be sure, all nations are sustained by a certain dream even when its bones begin to show and the India of Gandhiji’s conception or of Jawaharlal Nehru’s vision which still comforts the Indian imagination in a romantic fashion was in ruins soon after the advent of Indira Gandhi. That betrayal of the dream by the daughter was to use Freudian language, an act of political patricide. Starting on a most promising note, she had by 1975 exhausted her spiritual energies. From the Emergency to Operation Bluestar, it was (even when she was out of power for a while) an extended exercise in the upturning of the state to feed her ravenous heart of power. No wonder, as her appetite grew, and her paranoid impulses sharpened, she stopped at nothing. The Constitution, the Supreme Court and the entire state machinery were required to administer her will and whims. It was, in other words, an assault upon the state as state and an invitation to chaos and hell. And riding the storm of history, she took the lethal leap. How the swift and tragic and’ horrendous chain of events then altered forever the balance of trust and faith need not to be gone again, It is one unredeemed story of disgrace abounding.

Briefly, then it is the very structure of the Indian State that now raises certain fundamental questions and doubts. In turning against itself, and becoming its own enemy, the state has sabotaged its ‘own rationale, its own moral being, It’s thus that we may understand the philosophy of neo-politics (which denigrates political activity in favor of the market economy) that Rajiv Gandhi and his high-tech kids are seeking to set up as an alternative for a new paradigm of power. This could perhaps make us understand partially why after 40 years of freedom, India today answers so brazenly to the echoes of the Bofors guns, and to the threat of another Emergency. The wheel of venality and wantonness has come full circle. The state has almost become anti-state, a travesty of itself.

The state, it appears is at any given time, a composite organism of two parallel pulls, one fuelled by the energies of poetry and dream, and the other by the pressures of Realpolitik. And in this continual tension or dialectic lies its moral health. A rampant and warped idealism (witness the rise of the Khomeini’s in today’s world) can cause a national tragedy as surely as a populist pragmatism, and the politics of thunder and prophecy are as dangerous as the politics of unbridled power and pelf. Therefore, so long as a reasonable balance is maintained between the two, the state, despite ups and) downs, manages to negotiate a passage to progress, and a general respect for the constitutional authority and for the instrumentalities of governance remains in attendance.

But when the balance is willfully disrupted or destroyed in either direction, the result is a maverick state. And a maverick state is answerable to no institutional discipline or whip; it obeys only those dark impulses that, in the first instance, brought the state qua State into being. In other words, in such situations, the state finds itself returning to that primal chaos from which it rose gradually and dainfully to affect a truce with reality, this political regression is an aspect of the Freudian death wish that all organisms carry within themselves. What we witness, then, is the spiritual demise of the state as state, though, to be sure, the trappings and emblems of authority are, for that very reason, Sought to be extended augmented and apothecised. It’s hegemony of the “hollow men” and they seek to perpetuate their power through recourse to national totems and shamanism. Trickery, travesty and tyranny come natural to them. The State thus loses it putative majesty, and becomes a cartoonist’s joke.

These rulers are almost mocked to their face and a kind of shamefacedness becomes their stock response. It’ll perhaps be tedious to narrate the “stories” and gags that have now gathered round Rajiv Gandhi and the kickbacks, but I reproduce briefly a real life ‘story’ that appeared recently in a newspaper. A boy caught copying in an examination hall in a Punjab town had the wits and the cheek to stand up and shout that if the country’s Prime Minister could cheat the nation in regard to the truth about the Defense deals, why should he be punished for so small a lapse. Reportedly he was allowed to have his way! When things reach such a level, the state is left with little to cover its nakedness.

There is, unfortunately, some such feeling about the Rajiv Gandhi government in the public mind today. Wherever you go and whomever you talk to there’s an air of moral unease and distaste, if not disgust and nausea, about its style. Even the admirers (a dwindling species) have often to fall back upon cant and clichés to stay in the argument. There are almost 2 senses of guilt and furtiveness in their eyes, and they know in defending the indefensible, they are only registering their own misery and bewilderment. And if they happen to be intellectuals a la Ginilal Jain, they require a great expense of the spin it to retain even a semblance in Parliament on the Bofors and German submarine kickbacks, even the cynics have started shaking their heads. The Congress (l) MPs have simply reduced the country’s highest body to the level of a political “keep”. They all lied fully, generously and copiously, and they exercised their statistical lungpower as viciously as they could to drown the truth.

Can the honor of a state ever be safe in such sold hands? Will any parliamentary committee or commission in future ever carry any moral weight or authority? The JPC has not only been economical with the truth, as an American official confronted with his web of lies observed in his confessional report; it has sent the truth packing out of Parliament with the hounds of the law at its heels! The state has outlawed the truth, so to speak. But the truth will be out, as they say, sooner than they imagine. Let me conclude this piece with a few lines from a 19th century American poet, James Russel Lowell (who incidentally, was also, at one time, his country’s ambassador in London); “Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong for ever on the throne— Yet that scaffold sways the future, And, behind the dim unknown Standeth God within the shadows

Keeping watch above His own,”

(courtesy; The Sikh Review)

Article extracted from this publication >> November 4, 1988