Modi government should learn from Gandhi who never believed he had all the answers

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Crying child  alone will get milkDemocracy is a talking shop between rulers & ruled!

dr. james kottoor

  James Kottor   “When you have done all that you are expected to do, say you are a useless servant only.” This biblical words of wisdom forced this scribe long ago to admit and write: “I am nothing, have nothing, can think, say, write or do nothing without Him (that eternal all-knowing wisdom), but I can do everything with Him who strengthens me.”

As for knowing: “all that I know for certain is that ‘I do not know’ and that applies to everything in this world and in the next.” Listen also to another earth shaking words of wisdom from St.Paul: “What have you, which you have not received and if you received, why do you glory, as if you have not received!”

All seekers of Truth

This I believe is the Motor, the driving force, behind the beautifully reasoned article of Sagarika Ghose on Ganthi’s thinking on Truth. Even otherwise popular wisdom tells us: “The moment you think you have reached excellence, become perfect and all-knowing, you are finished, incapable of  taking one more step in the ladder of perfection and therefore good only to be dumped in the dustsbin of history.” Recal: “Trifles make perfection and  perfection is no trifle (Michael Angelo).

We all come into this world as a “Tabula rasa”, a clean slate with nothing written on it. All that we have learnt and learn, is from here below, received from others. Therefore all others are our teachers who have many things to teach us (Recall: you have to learn even from a grave digger.) Therefore all humans, our bothers and sisters, are our teachers and therefore we have to, with docility and humility listen patiently and respectfully as though to our teachers, to what they have to tell us so that we may learn more and more. But we will never become all-knowing even when we have listened to the whole world.

Gandhi’s Sathyagraha

Gandhi believed and asserted he did’t know answers to many things. He had the courage to say: “I don’t know the whole truth” That made him a perpetual ‘seeker of truth’. As a result of that raging fire consuming him, he became a Sathyagrahi. And to capture the truth,  he insisted on listening to others and dialoguing with them, even with one’s bitter critics and enemies.

He invited Jinna to be the PM and suggested Ambedlar to head of constitution drafting work. Even a Lord Krishna had to resort to discussion, dialogue and persuasion with Arjuna to take up arms and fight. He did not use diktatas. Which means in Hindu or Indian tradition and belief even divines must choose the path of discussion and persuation before deciding on concrete acton.

But what does our Modi sarkar do? It surprises all by handing down diktats at the mid of night with out any prior consultation with the public or cabinet of ministers. Sagarika Ghosh in her article below gives many instances to drive the point. Some of them are: 1. Midnight declaration of demonatisation; 2. Ban on cattle slaughter; 3. Triple talaq issue with no public orderly discussion;  4. Use and misuse of Adhar card; 5. Kashmir burning but actions are taken with out discussion with stake holders or opposition; 6. Refusing to answer pointed questions from public and prominent citizens.

CCV just published yesterday an open letter from 65 senior citizens, all IAS or IPS retired public servants which is so far ignored by Modi sarkar. All these happenings seem to prove conclusively that the present BJP Sarkar assumes, it knows everything, it needs no consultation with anyone or the stake holders, and the duty of the public is to obey blindly or be penalized as anti-national or unpatriotic.

We don’t say our conclusions are right. That is why we humbly request our readers to react without fear or favour. We follow the principle of Voltaire: “I may not agree one bit with what you say, but I will go to death to defend your write to say or write it in public.” Your views may even offend and hurt us, but that is collateral damage, not intended purposely and so to be borne in a sportsman spirit. That is what Jesus said and did: Scandals must come he said and they will, but don’t cause scandals which alone is wrong. In spite of that, if you don’t speak up agreeing or disagreeing, are we to conclude you are all ‘cowards’?  God forbid! We want to believe that you are all brave warriors for truth, like the Man from Galilee.

 Democracy is a talking shop between rulers and ruled. Government is your business. If you keep your mouth shut it will become the business of the profiteering  business class. Such a government will eventually become what Americans have paraphrased the true definition, to laugh at and ridicule: “A government of hypocrites, by hypocrites and for hyprocrites!” Solely due to your silence, please don’t make the world’s largest democracy an object of such redicule!  james kottoor, editor, ccv.


Please read below Sagarika Gosh’s article on Gandhi and Modi sarkar

Lessons from the ‘Chatur Bania’:

Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 6.53.17 pmSagarika Ghose in Times of India, June 21, 2017                 

What’s common between democracy and Hindu philosophy? A constant search for answers, a quest for knowledge, a starting assumption that we don’t know everything.

In a democracy parties compete through their respective perspectives on public welfare, each hoping to convince voters. In Hindu philosophy, the search is as important as the discovery. The seeker sets out to find the truth, encounters many answers, but on the brink of enlightenment is left humbled by the limits of his awareness. Even markets are about a quest for knowledge: prices are determined by supply and demand of the moment and a search for the just price.

Yet today India’s government believes it has all the answers and is the sole repository of knowledge. Self-doubt does not trouble the Narendra Modi-led dispensation, which firmly believes that it (and only it) knows what’s good for the people and, rather like Indira Gandhi’s sterilisation programme, the people have to simply be herded and goaded into obeying the mai-baap sarkar’s wishes. Any questioning or disagreement is either plain wrong or agenda-driven or equivalent to treason.

For example, the Centre’s newly enacted cattle slaughter rules have sparked controversy. They are seen to dangerously increase the use of state power, to limit constitutional liberties in the name of cultural nationalism. Centre may well claim that it’s only following a SC order but the fact is there was hardly any consultation or dialogue before an overnight announcement that has affected livelihoods and eating habits of millions of Indians.

Predictably, opposition ruled states and states with large non-Hindu populations have stormed into protest, but the message is clear: government knows best. Dissenting voices are irrelevant; majoritarianism trumps any other consideration.

On Aadhaar card too, Centre has made an ally of the courts to push its diktat that Aadhaar is a must while filing income tax returns. But was Aadhaar ever meant to be an instrument of fear or a device to dominate citizens’ lives? No, the limited aim of Aadhaar was simply to ensure better delivery for welfare schemes, not to be a regulator or inspector or a vehicle of surrendering private information.

The fact that Aadhaar amendments were pushed through as a money bill to avoid any discussion in Rajya Sabha shows that government had already made up its mind, was in no mood to listen or introspect or if need be change course. Like the religious fanatic who lives by absolute certainties, this government believes its knowledge is absolute.

On triple talaq the PM speaks of the need for a dialogue, yet government has made no attempt at spurring a detailed conversation with stakeholders. Here too government is using the courts to declare executive intention.

In Kashmir any attempt by civil society groups to push for a dialogue has been deemed as anti-national and sympathetic to separatists. When a group headed by BJP leader and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha travelled to the Valley and prepared a report they were effectively snubbed by New Delhi, with the PM refusing to even meet the senior BJP leader.

Recently a group of eminent civil servants signed an open letter expressing their concern about the bludgeoning binary being created between ‘nationalists’ and ‘anti-nationals’ and the bulldozing of debate. Typically their views have been disregarded. Even demonetisation, that epic announcement that changed the life of every Indian, was reportedly decided on by a very small group; no one, not even the chief economic adviser, had the chance to disagree.

BJP president Amit Shah recently called Mahatma Gandhi a ‘chatur bania’ (clever trader). But has the BJP government learnt anything from the father of the nation, has it learnt the true meaning of his chatur-ness? Gandhi never believed he had all the answers, his was a constant quest. From satyagrahas to non-cooperation to the sheer brilliance of gigantic mass mobilisation over a humble handful of salt, Gandhi endlessly explored, sought knowledge and tried to learn from contrarian views.

Who else but a Mahatma would invite his enemies to the highest positions, asking staunch critic Jinnah to be prime minister of India or suggesting to Nehru that another be appointed as head of the Constitution’s drafting committee?

Gandhi realised that the human condition is based on the words, I don’t know, I don’t have complete knowledge but am trying to know and trying to find out. In the same spirit, Hindu scriptures debate endlessly.

None other than the divine Krishna had to explain to Arjuna the need to go into battle through argument and persuasion in the face of Arjuna’s constant questions. Did Krishna simply command Arjuna to do his bidding? Did he issue a diktat and demand it be instantly obeyed? No, in Indian tradition even divinities must dialogue, debate and persuade, and listen to opposing points of view.

When a government believes that it has a monopoly on the truth, that there is no need for any course correction, it inevitably makes every differing point of view illegitimate and intolerable. It also turns its back on the Gandhian inheritance, even as it seeks to appropriate Gandhi’s charkha and spectacles for its various schemes.

Gandhi kept admitting his mistakes and kept searching for what he called the truth. Today when state power bears down on citizens’ lives in an unprecedented way, government must hark to the chatur bania’s quest and ask why exactly Amit Shah has been forced to admit he was so ‘chatur’ (shrewd). That was because Gandhi started with the assumption that he did not have all the answers and instead sought dialogue with as many as he could. It’s a lesson Modi sarkar would do well to imbibe.(Views expressed above are the author's own.)


Sagarika Ghose has been a journalist for over two decades, starting her career with The Times of India, subsequently moving to Outlook magazine and The Indian Express. She has been a primetime news anchor and hosts the show 'Capital View' on ET Now. At present she is consulting editor, The Times of India. She is the author of two novels, "The Gin Drinkers" and "Blind Faith" both published worldwide by HarperCollins.

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