Organization: Penn State University
Date: Thu, 6 Jan 1994 09:50:42 EST
From: Dinesh Agrawal <DXA4@psuvm.psu.edu>
Subject: Naipaul Asserts His Views Again, Part2/3
...Continued from the last post....
LKS: There are many worries. No social movement is promoted by a religious
impulse which is destructive and not constructive. Sitting in London, one can
recall Europe history. How can one say that the fate of this religious or
pseudo-religious impulse will be different?
VSN: It is part of the interest of what is happening now. One has to see what
happens. If you have a huge intellectually-aware section of population, I think
this can be managed. Various expressions of this religious impulse can be
LKS: Religion of the post-reformation period was a source of social strife
and division which led to a century of religious warfare and chaos. They
learnt the lesson that hope of peace and order lay in the establishment of
some form of mutual tolerance, a tradition inherent in the Indian tradition.
They discovered that even the spiritual unity of Christendom could not be
restored by war and diplomacy. Thus evolved the concept of secularisation of
The rise of secularist tolerance brought religious strife under control.
Europe went on to develop a new literary culture, new scientific knowledge
and a new creed reflected in the works of Pope and Voltaire. Religious strife
inspired the men of the 18th century with ideals of humanity and a new social
order. India was lucky. Why should India, at the end of the 20th century, have
to go through that earlier cycle?
VSN: These historical comparisons have very little meaning. What is happening
in India is happening in the 20th century. The century is all around and is
leaking through to India at hundreds of points.
LKS: What about the danger to Hinduism itself? Many fear it is being distorted
- a task that has been made easy by the long neglect of classical learning
VSN: Your question is a fundamentalist question, in fact, I hope that Hinduism
is a living thing, a living culture. Such things constantly change. The neglect
of classical learning that you talk about is part of the degeneracy of recent
centuries. Debate about Hinduism now is necessary. It has to be gone through.
It is very good that it is occurring. These things have to be thought out and
LKS: Hinduism can perhaps look after itself but what about the practicalities
of running a multi-religious nation? A strife-ridden polity has retarded the
constant process of the construction of the Indian society. It may make the
nation more vulnerable to external and internal pressures. Do you have no
fears on that count?
VSN: A big country like India has to deal with the big issue. You can't deal
only with the village politics. You have to rise to these challenges - and
I feel the people will. Something will come out of this debate. Not tomorrow,
not in the next elections, but some form will evolve.
LKS: Those engaged in religious mobilisation seem to distrust a section
belonging to the same civilisation, same nation, sharing common languages.
But they are not talking of reform of Hinduism or of outdated religious
rituals or social customs. Not even of proper maintenance of undisputed places
of religious importance. Are they proposing new centers of learning or classi-
cal studies? Is there a movement for the cleansing of public life? They are
not debating western social influences or the new obsession with material
success. One may ask religious impulse for what? For invigorating culture
and civilisation or for narrow political ends and immoral violence?
VSN: I feel you are pinning in a Gandhian way for the simple old days of
poverty. But once the simple old days of poverty have gone, they have gone.
People will change. It is an aspect of a living culture that people should
change. That is why India is so interesting, so full of possibilities.
People are being forced to change. To you it may appear to be the problem, I
see it in another way.
I see the upheaval. I see even your feeling of despair as creative. You
despair, but what am I to do? There is this apparent mess in the world. But
you know there always has been. Consider the great turmoil in a country like
Britain over two centuries as a result of the industrial revolution. Major
countries have to regenerate themselves constantly.
And India has been luckier than most in the last 100 years. It has had a
period of comparative order. Would you have liked to be a Russian or a
German, with the histories they have had? Think even of France. Let us begin
at 1870 with the Prussian war and the mess of the Paris commune. Go on to
1914, the war, the depression, the second war, the German occupation and then
Indo-China and Algeria. Most of the world has been convulsed in the past
century. Only some small countries got away. India so far has had an easy
ride. Much easier than China for example.
LKS: Even if it is an awakening, I see no wise and charismatic leader who can
channelise this 'awakening' to reassert the genuine Indian tradition, carrying
the Indian society with him and sensitising it to that which is noble in our
VSN: I see you are not only pining for the simple old days but you also have
a feeling that some great leader should emerge and sort all this out, take
the burden from your shoulder, and put everything right. But no. India can't
have that kind of a leader. When you have this large educated body of people,
you can't have those charismatic leaders that you are talking about. Perhaps
this is the blessing of the situation. You do not have a great charismatic
leader who might do an awful lot of damage. We do not want that kind of a
leader at this stage. Peasant culture needs leaders. Tribal cultures need
....to be concluded...