KM Munshi- Forgotten visionary of India's cultural renaissance

The Bharatiya Vidya  Bhavan celebrated its Platinum Jubilee Year in 2013, which was also  the 125th birth anniversary of its founder KM Munshi. Given the  magnitude of resources available to the Bhavan, it was disappointing  to see that the twin celebrations turned out to be a low key affair,  not befitting the stature of this cultural institution and its  visionary founder. While some centres unveiled statues of leaders  like Mahatma Gandhi, others organized music festivals. Even  symbolically speaking, one wonders why the Bhavan did not think it  fit to install a statue of Munshiji himself to commemorate his 125th  birth anniversary at suitable locations and keep his name and message  alive.

It  appears as though the Bhavan’s leadership has been infected with  the policy paralysis of the current government! One has to only visit  any of the centres of the Bhavan in India to see how the great legacy  of KM Munshi is gathering dust in the portals of his own institution.  A recent visit to the Bhavan’s bookstall in one of the centres in  south India revealed that most of the original works of KM Munshi are  either ‘out of stock’ or even worse ‘out of print.’ None of  the seminal works that defined Munshi’s literary legacy – The  Ruin that Britain Wrought, Jai Somnath, Akhand Hindustan – are  accessible to the common man today. This writer had to make do with  photocopies of old moth-eaten copies from a public library.

The  manager of the bookstall said the reason for the non-availability of  Munshi ji’s books is that they are not in popular demand and hence  their publication has been stopped! So a stalwart intellectual like  Munshi is being subjected to the agni  pariksha of popularity by the very  institution he founded to propagate the core values of Indian  Culture.

Bharatiya Vidya  Bhavan has 122 centres in India and 7 abroad. The Bhavan’s schools  in India have an approximate strength of more than three lakh  students. Are the staff members and students of the Bhavan’s  institutions familiar with Munshi’s vision and his plan of action  to revitalize Indian Culture? Does the Bhavan prescribe Munshi’s  books as recommended reading for its students and teaching staff?

Over the last  several years, regular visitors to the Bhavan have found that most of  the students and staff have never had an opportunity to read the life  and works of Munshi. Worse, the top echelons of the Bhavan’s  management are infested with the secular elite who shy away from  acknowledging Munshi’s unwavering commitment to the Sanatana  Dharma.

Recently, Jinnah  apologist AG Noorani called KM Munshi a ‘RSS mole in the Congress  party’ who was appointed by Sardar Patel as the Agent General to  Hyderabad to resolve the Nizam’s refusal to accede to India. The  Bhavan’s stoic silence to this abusive and derogatory reference to  their founder is sad, but perhaps understandable in the stifling  anti-Hindu ethos of our times. A nationalist Government at the Centre  would have forced an apology from AG Noorani or initiate legal  proceedings against him for such offensive allegations.

KM Munshi was one of  the few leaders of modern India who understood and cherished India’s  civilisational ethos, unlike the brown sahibs who often felt ashamed  of own cultural roots and sought to imitate the colonial masters. In  his formative years, Munshi was a student of nationalist icon Sri  Aurobindo, whom the British considered as the most dangerous man in  India. No wonder Munshi was profoundly transformed and influenced by  Sri Aurobindo’s nationalism, patriotism and his vision for India’s  cultural renaissance.

During  the partition era, he took a bold and uncompromising stand against  the divisive politics of Jinnah and the Muslim League. His work Akhand Hindustan,  was the passionate outpouring of his deep anguish at seeing his  motherland being cut into pieces by greedy politicians whom he called  as the ‘Disruptionists’: “The creed of disruption has thriven  on appeasement so far, and unless Indians put their foot down, the  country will be cleft into bits before they know what is being done.”  (p.9)

“Friendliness  comes by mutual forbearance and mutual respect. It is not born out of  a wedlock of bluff and appeasement. When those standing for the unity  of India win the respect of the disruptionists by their fearless  advocacy of Akhand Hindustan, friendliness and mutual understanding  will follow, as day follows night.” (p.14)

One cannot but feel  the power of his prophetic words and the uncanny resemblance they  continue to have to the situation in India today which is dominated  by the politics of appeasement of minority vote banks.

“Akhand  Hindustan is a living reality, which no man in his senses dare trifle  with. There cannot be any parley on the question of the integrity of  India. There can be no compromise on the basis of its disruption. No  coercion, no calamity, no slavery, however oppressive will make us  agree to such vivisection. From Amarnath to Rameswar, from Dwarka to  Kalighat, the land is one and indivisible. It is sanctified by the  sacrifice of Indians of thirty centuries. It is the shrine at which  our gods have worshipped. It is the hope of India’s sons; it will  remain such till the end of time. Its inviolability is the first  article of their faith here, their salvation hereafter. Whoever seeks  to part what has thus been joined, will have to walk over the dead  bodies of millions of Indians. And even then, India will remain one  and indivisible.”

What a tragedy for  India that in spite of the presence of towering leaders like Munshi,  the spineless proponents of India’s partition were allowed to have  their say.

Munshi’s role in  the successful integration of Hyderabad State and the renovation of  the Somnath Temple are unforgettable contributions which make every  Indian indebted to him.

Munshi established  the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan as an instrument through which Indian  Culture could be reinterpreted and revitalized to suit the needs of  the modern times. It is high time that the Bhavan stops shying away  from Munshi’s legacy.

As KM Munshi’s  43rd death anniversary approaches on 8 February 2014, one hopes the  Bhavan will shake off its stupor and renew its commitment and  responsibility to preserve his works for posterity. The entire  collection of works of KM Munshi should be available to the public  without delay. If the Bhavan cannot do this, let it renounce the  copyright on Munshi’s works and allow other patriotic institutions  to take up this noble cause.

The author is a  free thinker

First  published Click to view

Also read
1. Foundations of Indian Culture by K M Munshi
2. India’s Rebirth by Sri Aurobindo

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