I often say that there are only three nations that were founded on a idea. The United States, on the basis that every individual is free to pursue happiness in a democratic republic bound by the rule of law. The Soviet Union, on the premise that no man is larger than the State, and if he surrenders his individuality and liberty to the State, the State will look after him. And India, on the basis that an individual can rise above identity, economic status, educational status and upbringing, to pursue happiness in a democratic republic bound by the rule of law.
The Soviet Union does not exist today, and no one in their right minds would call China or Vietnam Communist except to identify the particular kleptocracy that holds its peoples’ individual liberty in thrall while it enriches them.
That leaves India and the United States. India – and the idea of India – has to survive and thrive if there has to be hope for humanity. This Republic is a triumph of hope over hate, optimism over history, and modernism over tribalism. At no time has this been attempted except possibly sometime during the Roman Empire, when any man could become a Roman simply by adopting Roman practices and values. Civis Romanum Sum. The United States was founded on the blood of the Native American. And while the Constitution of the United States emphasizes universal values and the US lives upto them the best as it can, this particular debt of blood will always remain unpaid.
But India has tried to do something very different in its short history as a Republic. Its past has been bloody and brutal. But its response is heartwarming. India hopes to triumph over several centuries of Turkic rule and then colonial rule. Turkic or Islamic rule – when the behaviour of the rulers varied from mildly tolerant to rabidly fanatic. Colonial rule – when underwent two centuries of punishing modernisation accompanied by great impoverishment by a colonial power.
There is every reason for hatreds and grudges to be given full let to, and to watch them play havoc on daily lives. There is enormous justification for exacting historical vengeance.
Instead this young Republic aims for lofty ideals and values. That all men are equal. That your value to society is your individuality and not your identity. That redistributive social justice is necessary to correct the wrongs of the past. That vengeance forms no part of our national psyche.
These are wonderful values and uplifting ideals. I feel very emotional about this great experiment that is now in its 70th year. It has not been a uniform success, and there have been some gross failures.
But we try and persist and persevere. We get up each time we are knocked down and prepare to do battle once again for these ideals we set before ourselves.
This is the wonderful thing called the Idea of India. For humanity to have any hope, it has to succeed.