India has been lucky to have a continuous political tradition of high quality original thinking that touched every aspect of human condition but much needs to be done to restore it and make it relevant in today's context, noted historian and writer Ramachandra Guha has said.
"India may be unique in having a long
tradition of original political and reflective thinking that has been
both continuous and continuously of high quality and touched every
aspect of the human condition," he said.
Speaking at the fourth Penguin India lecture on "The Indian
Political Tradition - And Those Who Made It" based on his new book Makers of Modern India, Guha said here last night that, "The big idea
of India owes itself to a remarkable set of men and women who founded
and nurtured the Indian political tradition.
Like in his book, Guha began with reformer Rajarammohun Roy,
describing him as one of India's first liberal and modernist who was a
"precocious pioneer, swimming against the current, both a thinker and an
actor, a scholar and social reformer who confronted an orthodox
hierarchical and ossified society by Western thought.
"He pointed out that unlike today, yesteryear thinkers and
makers of Indian political tradition had original, compelling and
relevant things to say about democracy, nationalism, economic policy,
religion, gender, caste, environment and India's relations with the
Giving examples of Mahatma
Gandhi, Tagore, Jawaharlal Nehru, Jaiprakash Narayan, M S Golwalker and
Ram Manohar Lohia, Guha said, "No politician or social reformer in
India's political society thinks like them anymore...What should worry
us is not that we don't have thinker politicians but the leaders of
today are so ignorant of the lineages they claim to represent.
He asked whether Congress MP Rahul Gandhi had ever read
letters written by Jawaharlal Nehru to chief ministers, whether the BSP
leader Mayawati had read Ambedkar's speeches or whether Samajwadi Party
leader Mulayam Singh Yadav could name a single book written by Lohia.
Finding other world leaders like
French President Nicholas Sarkozy, or British Prime Minister David
Cameron or even Sri Lankan President Mahindra Rajpakse deficient in
original political thinking, he commended US President Barack Obama
describing him as "the closest to come to a thinker politician anywhere
in the world".
predecessor George W Bush as "anti-intellectual" and "anti-scholarly",
Guha said even George W Bush knew something about the American political
historian-author who has bagged a seven-book deal with Penguin
that includes a two-volume biography of Mahatma Gandhi described the
father of the nation as "mother of all battles concerning social
"Guha said both Gandhi and
Nehru had to confront people with ideologies different from them but
they argued cogently.
lecture, Guha took pot-shots at himself, fellow thinkers and also
several ethnic communities in India such as Malayalees, Bengalis,
Gujaratis and the Punjabis which left the 700 plus audience in splits.
Guha concluded that the Indian
political tradition was not merely an obscurely, or antiquarian or of
archival interest but one where the multiple legacy of its thinker
activist makers was still available to fulfil and redeem the unhonoured
and unfulfilled ideals of a "remarkable political experiment in
India Lacks Thinking Politicians: Ramachandra Guha
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