Resurgent Bharat-An Anthology of Essays

    Foreword by Prof Bharat Gupt. Interesting and good read.

Resurgent India – And Other Issues - An Anthology of Essays, is a scintillating collection of thoughtful essays and reviews by Jay Bhattacharjee that were published in various journals and newspapers between the mid-1990s to 2021. When put together in a single tome, they convey a significant message that India has undergone a major change-one that is not merely wedded to the fortunes of its two major political parties, the Congress and the BJP and its allied organisations.

Another significant change is the near-permanent wilting away of the dogmas of Socialism and Secularism as they were practised by the Nehru Parivar, and their replacement by Hindu aspirations that had been denied their natural flowering earlier. This suppression was perpetrated under the previous colonial yoke, as well as during the successor regimes under Gandhi and Nehru.

Through the sheer vitality of his arguments, the author unmistakably conveys that the direction of change is irreversible, no matter how much resentment, rebellion, chicanery or sabotage the beneficiaries of the earlier established order may provoke or drum up.

Very early in the book, he takes up the question of why the creamy classes resist the change so vehemently. Is it their education in the Christian convent schools or their monolingual grooming through the English medium?  The writer points out something more. The classes to whose good fortune fell the enjoyment of governing India after the “Transfer of Power”, were colonised not just by Macaulay but also by eight hundred years of Islamic rule before the British came to our country. The syndrome of ingratiating oneself before the invader has a longer recorded history. It is a result of such a humiliation, such a dhimmitude, that the official historians of the Nehru-Indra era denied the ravages of Islamic rule and concocted the story that British historians should be credited with the depiction of Islamic oppression. 

Jay Bhattacharjee has no hesitation in pointing out that the core ethos of India is under siege today. There is a blatantly negative treatment of Hindus, particularly by the agencies of social reform. The bias is ingrained into the Constitution which calls for social reform only for Hindus while the minorities, namely Muslims, are exempted from that burden. On the contrary, they are provided with state-sponsored facilities of being as conservative as possible. He gives clear examples of the provisions in Article 25 and the reversal of relief granted to Muslim women who seek divorce.

Not content with mentioning the above blunders, the author has chosen to speak out against the much-venerated English language proponents and advocates in Nehruvian India. As somebody who has been part of the Anglophonic class of India by virtue of his job as teacher of English literature at a premier university, I have myself not been blinded to the unethical tyranny of the English language in India that has resulted in stultifying the Indian languages and their literatures. Despite all the attention our ruling establishment gave to English, our country has not succeeded in creating a class with any special facility in English. The writer points out that “English is now getting to be an albatross around our neck.” Most people never go beyond the pidgin level in handling it and, by turning away from their own mother tongues, they end up causing serious damage to the indigenous Indian languages. What is more, as the author describes so perceptively, many erstwhile premier institutes of India, such as the author’s own alma mater, Presidency College, Kolkata, have failed to maintain their glorious standards. They now wallow in utter mediocrity. 

To salvage the linguistic decline, while examining the confusion created by national leaders like Gandhi and Nehru, Jay Bhattacharjee advocates the adoption of a high dose of Sanskrit-vocabulary usage in all modern Indian languages. He clearly points out such a common denominator will make it easier for all Indians to be at home with languages that are not their mother tongues. At this point, one wonders how our linguists and literary giants, simply overlooked this basic fact, and got deluded by spurious claims of religious harmony supposedly created by Hindi-Urdu bonhomie and Marxist fascination with plebian speech.

The book is not devoted to a reassessment of Nehru as a leader, but some crucial facts are stated by our author. He clearly says that Nehru had hardly anything Indian in his education and little to recommend by way of academic achievements. He contrasts Nehru’s performance with the academic careers of Sri Aurobindo and Subhash Bose who ranked at the top, while Nehru could only make it to a ‘compassionate pass’ degree in Cambridge. Not very generous as it may sound, this truth surely explains the momentous impact that Nehru’s ignorance of Indian culture had on the course of events in India’s history.

The theme of India under siege is expanded by the current rise of Islamism in West Bengal. In our author’s mind, the situation resembles what happened in Kosovo when Yugoslavia underwent its calamitous disintegration. Thus, he makes a clear call for the dismissal of the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal. For him, India must never wither away into a soft state under the onslaught of Islamist and liberal-Leftist machinations.

Some parts of the book may not be of interest to the general reader, since they concern issues that have passed into history, such as the Trump Presidency in the U.S. However, many critical issues still remain like the Jihadi violence in many countries in Europe. Here, the author attempts to remind us of the history of Islam’s foray into Europe and its later retreat, hoping that European people, though appearing very helpless right now before the Islamic onslaught through forced migration, may recover their defences soon.

While giving a pithy account of how Christians reclaimed Cordoba in AD 732 through the valour of Charles Martel the Frankish King, and then much of Europe in AD 1236 by the Spaniards during the Reconquista, followed by the battle of Vienna in AD 1683 won by the Polish king John III Sobieski, the author is exasperated by the terrible short-sightedness of the German Chancellor Merkel and the British Labour Party, who refuse to note that the number of Muslim refugees or migrants has crossed a dangerous threshold in Western Europe.

There are many insightful essays in the book on how the Indian politicians have been treating the country’s armed forces by not giving them their dues, either financially, or in terms of the status and respect they deserve. Jay Bhattacharjee discusses at length the basic flaws in the Indian state’s policies pertaining to the nation’s sword-arm. 

The book calls for an enormous amount of introspection by all thinking persons and classes responsible for governance at every level. Publications like this are most necessary, when the political classes are wont to drum up a nationalism that does not have its feet firmly on the ground, when heritage and lived culture are seen through a clouded lens of half-baked ideology, and when leadership has to invigorate itself by eschewing all lethargy and senility.  

At this stage of its history, India awaits a leadership that is firm in resolve, meticulous in planning and generous of heart to usher in a new Indic civilisation. This is no time to dilly dally or to be hesitant and depressed. This is the moment to hear and answer the clarion call once given to a great warrior, “Uttishtha parantapa. Rise and subdue the vicious.” 

Through these essays and articles written over a span of twenty five years, Jay Bhattacharjee issues a clarion call to his readers and to a wider audience that our ancient civilisation is on the cusp of a giant leap forward. A failure at this juncture would be cataclysmic.

Author Professor Bharat Gupt is a Trustee and Executive Member, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (Ministry of Culture), New Delhi.

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