In defense of India’s national interests and civilizational values
The essay has remained a popular form of literature since the days of The Spectator founded by Joseph Addison and Richard Steele in 1711. Essays can both entertain and inform in a short time, making them convenient for readers. The English language can boast of a rich harvest of essayists from both sides of the Atlantic, such as Thomas Carlyle, Ralph W Emerson, Walter Bagehot, EM Forster, George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, among others.
Some of the early English writings of Indians like Girish Chunder Ghose (editor, Hindu Patriot) and MG Ranade were also in the form of essays. The growth of journals has also aided the development of essays. Jay Bhattacharjee’s essays prove that their evolution doesn’t have to stop in the age of news portals.
As the title suggests, Resurgent Bharat and Other Essays is a work in defense of our national interests and the core values of Indian culture. The book is divided into 11 chapters, each containing several articles. These essays have been written for different publications (print or online) over a period of more than two decades between 1997 and 2021. Major publications are Times of India, New Indian Express Indian Defense Review and Niti Central. A number of articles concerned the UPA-II era, which was fertile ground for critical assessments of our national politics and economy.
“Our Core Ethos under Siege: It’s time to Take a Stand,” the title of an essay that originally appeared in New Indian Express in 2015 sets the tenor of the book. The signature is that India is going through a critical period, due to its unresolved legacy of long Islamic rule, indoctrination and colonial administration. To make matters worse, the Nehruvian administrative structure has resulted in a selective amnesia that has made us anemic. The rot started at the top, and the author convincingly explains how India’s political-intellectual ecosystem, which bears the name of Lutyens Delhi, has ruined India’s development path.
Where does the book stop being predictable? The book could appear as the author’s coup against his class. The author, a graduate in economics and sociology from the University of Cambridge, has had a rewarding career in the business world. He knows French well and references to France appear in many chapters of the book. He writes English with a panache that characterizes no Indian writer today. His style could be compared to the cue-sports technique in billiards, where the player hits a ball to pocket another. With such a background, he could have been a very prominent member of the elite of the Lutyens area, but he clearly did not choose this habitat.
The author is well read – a rare quality among writers today. However, he is a conservative with a difference. Her mother and aunt were both freedom fighters. He mixes his love for four thousand years of Indian civilization with a manifest interest in Western humanism, without being blind to the follies of either. If he idolizes French humanist ideals, he does not endorse Western colonial marauders. He advocates for progress, while being rooted in Indian culture.
Essays, being journal (or portal) articles, are moderate in length around 1200 words, which can be read and evaluated quickly. To accommodate this format, technical analysis and discussion had to be kept to a minimum. It is also the requirement of the style followed by the author. However, there are exceptions, where he provides detailed roadmaps to his readers.
In two essays titled “Narendra Bhai: One of Your Consciousness Guardians Sets Your Course of Action and Agenda – I and II” (October 2013), written a few months before Narendra Modi burst into the southern bloc in 2014, the author made a wish. list: (a) Give the Indian Armed Forces their due; (b) the restoration of balance in the historiography followed in the country; (c) ushering in good governance and its constituent elements; (d) make bureaucracy technocratic and accountable; e) curbing the judiciary; (f) rationalization of the judicial system; and (g) root out corruption and corruption.
Did the Modi government meet the essayist’s expectations? This is a matter of speculation. In an article written for Indian Defense Review (7 March 2020), the author laments that India is still a soft state manipulated by its civilizational enemies. He cites anti-CAA violence, prolonged Shaheen Bagh protests, the Tablighi Jamaat rally in Nizamuddin which allegedly became the super-spreader of Covid-19 in March 2020.
Similarly, in Our Armed Forces Severely Handicapped when Fighting Terror, he laments the deplorable role of the Ministry of Defence, when in January 2018 the Mehbooba Mufti government of J&K filed an FIR against Major Aditya Kumar for an incident in Shopian (where rioters threw stones at an army convoy) although he was not even present at the scene, and his father, Colonel Karamveer Singh (Retd) had to go to the Supreme Court to cancel the FIR against his son. Later Major Adtiya Kumar received the Shaurya Chakra from the President of India.
The author is deeply disturbed by the rise in jihadist violence, whether in West Bengal or in other parts of the world. He fears that West Bengal is on the edge of a precipice and heading towards a similar situation in Kosovo due to the rise of Islamism. The rotting corporate sector and the crying need for reform of the justice system are also capturing his attention. Collusion between banks and the corporate sector (as in the case of fugitive businessmen like Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, etc.) has come under the scanner (and hammer) of the author. It is obvious that he wants to see a strong and vibrant India, where the rule of law punishes the guilty and protects the innocent.
The fervent desire of the author is an India, rooted in the values of our ancient Indian civilization. One of the guiding mottos is the axiom of Buddha – “Bahujan Hitaye, Bahujan Sukhaye”. In a modern republic, this should be the motto of rulers, officials, scholars, etc. Resurgent Bharat will have served its purpose if it inspires its target audience to start thinking and introspecting themselves.
The reviewer is a freelance columnist and essayist, based in New Delhi. He is the author of two books Leap of Faith: Journey of Indian Elections (Election Commission of India, 2022) and The Microphone Men: How Orators Created a Modern India (Indus Source, 2019). The opinions expressed are personal.
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