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Recently, Oxford University Press, New Delhi honoured Governor B.P. Singh by launching a box-set of his two books India’s Culture: the State, the Arts and Beyond and Bahudhā and the Post-9/11 World at Teen Murti House, New Delhi. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has written foreword to both the books. The launch event was well attended.

India’s Culture besides presenting lucid description of India’s diversified cultural base asserts that in the post-Cold War world, Culture has emerged as a third factor in determining the status of a country in the world after market and military strength; market having replaced military from position of supremacy. Culture did become important but the religious fundamentalists had other ideas and plans. Unfortunately, in the 21st century we have been pushed into an era of terrorism and fundamentalism.

Bahudhā and the Post-9/11World provides an answer to the 21st century challenge of How to live? Bahudhā celebrates pluralism, seeks dialogue of harmony and peaceful living. It also underlines the importance of cultivating an attitude of mind that respects another person’s point of view with hope and belief that he may perhaps be right while asserting his own position in dialogue.

It was a sheer coincidence that during the birth centenary year of Jawaharlal Nehru, OUP had launched a box-set of his two classic works Discovery of India and Glimpses of World History.

         The Box-set has received the attention of the Media as well as scholars.

 Some snippets:

 1. Comments of Dr. Ralph Buultjens, Professor of Political Science, New York and Cambridge Universities on the box-set containing (1) Bahudha and the Post 9/11 World and (2) India’s Culture: the State, the Arts and Beyond authored by Shri B.P. Singh, Governor of Sikkim published by Oxford University Press, India.

On the two volumes that are being presented today - India’s Culture: the State, the Arts and Beyond and Bahudhā and the Post-9/11 World, I will confine my remarks to three areas- the context of these books, their significance, and the philosophic well-springs of the author.

THE CONTEXT

When you examine the context and the ethos that have given birth to these books, you will find something quite remarkable. They are both intellectual children of the post-Cold War era, they both challenge the conventional wisdom of their time, and they both seek to address the core questions that emerge from the post-Cold War situation. Although written then years apart (India’s Culture: the State, the Arts and Beyond first published in 1998 : and Bahudhā and the Post-9/11 World in 2009), there is an extraordinary consistency of approach and a continuity of thought that links both books.


In 1998, the prevailing notion was that communism had been defeated and democracy had won the political argument; that socialism was ineffective and capitalism had won the economic argument; that military’s might had contributed to these victories and would maintain global stability. Many believed that out of such circumstances a kind of convergence was taking place and the world was moving into some sort of common cultural condition essentially based on certain Western values – and that these values would eventually became the bedrock of the international system. A book by Francis Fukuyama entitled “The End of History” promoted these ideas and was enormously popular.


India’s Culture challenged these notions. Ostensibly, B.P. Singh book explored the roots and the evolution of India’s cultural experience- and it was a penetrating and provocative study. Actually, the book went much further than this- the author suggested that culture would be the defining, the most significant attribute of power in the world that was emerging after the Cold War. It was not the political agenda or the economic agenda or military arsenals that would shape and condition world events. It was culture that would be the critical feature. This, he argued, was going to be India’s source of strength in the future. However, his message came with a warning: culture as a positive source of strength depends on how well the integrity of culture would be preserved.


Ten years later, this prescient message of India’s Culture had become a reality. The post-Cold War world has become the post 9/11 and the post-Mumbai World. The verities of democracy are being challenged by the authoritarian model of China and the quasi-authoritarian model of Russia; faith in capitalism is badly shaken by the economic tsunami of the past two years; the application of military force has de-stabilized large areas of the world and has certainly not brought peace or security to the Middle East, Afghanistan and elsewhere. The roots of much unrest are lodged in the fearsome power of culture and its capacity to provoke violence. We are moving from the notion of cultural convergence to a situation where culture as religious fundamentalism has become a frightening tool of disruption. The darker side of culture as power has emerged with a lethal potency- and now we are desperately looking for ways in which to prevent this from growing into a great consuming force.


In Bahudhā, B.P. Singh searches for a response. He explores the current global condition and sees an answer in the Indian experience. The concept of Bahudhā is extracted and distilled from India’s history – a synthesis of the Indian version of pluralism, tolerance and harmony. The frightening power that forms of culture now generate can be corrected by the countervailing force of enlighted cultural values abstracted from Indian history. In many ways, the 20th century has been a terribly violent period and that violence is carrying over into the 21st century. We have few instruments to prevent this – Bahudhā makes efforts to build a fire-wall to stop this spill-over.

SOME CONCERNS

The Bahudhā thesis stimulates our thinking because it speaks to the most profound concerns of contemporary times- it seeks to both answer our most basic questions and to question our most basic answers. As I reflect upon it, two concerns arise-

  • Bahudhāuniversalizes the Indian experience and declares its validity for global society. Can a philosophy so rooted in Indian history be accepted and be effective in regions not conditioned by the Indian experience? In short, you can take Bahudhā out of India but can you take India out of Bahudhā?Is Bahudhā too culture-bound to be universalized?
  • Bahudhāis deeply infused with religious values and has deep religious-spiritual affinities. Is this acceptable to the large number of secular individuals who today constitute a significant portion of any society? There are many non-believers, ethical and moral men and women, to whom religiously rooted philosophies have no appeal or relevance. Can Bahudhā reach such individuals and, if it cannot, will its effectiveness be limited?

About 150 years ago or so, the British man of letters Mathew Arnold looked around his society and said he felt he was “wandering between two worlds- one dying and the other struggling to be born”. This is a pretty good description of our world today. The world of the 20th century, so close to us chronologically, is dying and the world of the 21st century is struggling to emerge from its embers. In this transition there is great potential for either making a new and enlighted planet or for a new Dark Age of violence and evil designs. Our generation and even more the generation of students in our audience have to make fateful choices that will shape the outcome.

If we can fashion wise and humane policies, apply the life-giving technologies within our grasp, we can avoid the worst outcomes and make a more just, more secure, more ecologically sustainable world. But such enlightened approaches do not come by magic or luck- they are made by men and women of insight and foresight. Unfortunately, such persons are in short supply today. This is why we must cherish and honour individuals like Balmiki Prasad Singh who give so much of themselves and strive improve the human condition.

B.P. SINGH – AN INTELLECTUAL JOURNEY

Balmiki Prasad Singh’s intellectual journey-evident in the prolific output of books, monographs, essays, articles and lectures he has authored – is an inspiration because it demonstrates how self-development can be conjoined to social commitments. Many will testify that he has been an exemplary public servant who has humanized the tasks of bureaucracy – the concerns of the weakest segments of society have always been his highest priority. Yet, unlike too many others, he has consistently found time for reflection n the midst of heavy administrative pressures – the civil servant who is also a scholar, once a glorious feature of India’s administrative services but now a declining tradition. In conventional terms, then, he has been an extraordinarily successful career.


Yet, to me, all these achievements are secondary to what I believe is B.P. Singh’s two greatest attributes. First, his capacity for life-long growth and the ways in which he has used his experiences to continuously expand his conceptual universe. Scholars there are in plenty, but rare is the scholar whose originality and creativity is so lodged in practical experience. A second outstanding attribute is his generosity of spirit- his willingness to share his thoughts to engage and encourage others without seeking any reciprocity or benefit for himself. That is why we should honour B.P. Singh today and everyday and hope he will long continue to enlighten and enrich us with his ideas and his ideals.

2. Comments by Shri A.N. Ram on the box-set containing (1) Bahudha and the Post 9/11 World and (2) India’s Culture: the State, the Arts and Beyond authored by Shri B.P. Singh, Governor of Sikkim published by Oxford University Press, India.


For a practitioner of diplomacy and a student of International Affairs, like myself, who has been trained to view situations in a somewhat black and white prism, often with a blinkered view-perhaps taking refuge behind perceived national interest or exigencies of pragmatic diplomacy- Governor B P Singh’s two books “Bahudha and the Post 9/11 World” and “India’s Culture” come as a breath of fresh air opening new vistas and providing a fresh and novel perspective.

B.P. Singh’s deep knowledge of history, philosophy, religion, culture, the Indian ethos shaped by thousands of years of uninterrupted tradition and cross- cultural enrichments and contemporary international issues comes out as an interwoven and holistic framework of his thesis in his two extremely scholarly and well researched volumes.

He has, obviously, drawn inspiration from India’s Vedic traditions, epics and composite values and has conceptualized contemporary situations in that background.

Continuity is a recurring theme in his strong advocacy of dialogue and discussion as a means of resolving differences, disputes and disagreements.

For him, “Bahudha” implies the only truth, although there could be several interpretations in different contexts. The challenge before us, therefore, is to find a way for truth to prevail, differences to be coalesced and harmony to be restored without anyone coming out second best. “Bahudha”,he believes, is the only way forward, even if the world is not yet ready to absorb its time tested relevance.

Analyzing recent international developments-he lists three watershed ones- including 9/11 and its aftermath, Governor B P Singh believes that it is too simplistic to judge right or wrong, apportion blame or ascribe motives; an incomplete diagnosis devoid of a full understanding of the context or causes can only provide incomplete answers.

The Governor’s masterly expose of the philosophy of “Bahudha”drawing from the Rig Veda and other scriptures suggests that “Bahudha”is universal, timeless and the common thread that binds all religions; it has many manifestations but its central purport is common; its application to contemporary international problems is in consonance with the teachings of our great philosophers and sages from Buddha to thinkers and visionaries of our times like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama espouses the same universal message with great eloquence and advocates it for resolving contemporary disputes, including that concerning his own homeland, Tibet. He says with conviction and profundity that “self-interest clearly lies in considering the interests of others”, a philosophy which lies at the very root of “Bahudha” and Buddhism.

The author elaborates that India’s foreign policy and statecraft have always been based on the percepts of “Bahudha”. The Panchasheela, the non-alignment movement, the underlying principles on which inequalities, injustice, subjugation and colonialism were fought, satyagraha and non-violence, freedom, tolerance, pluralism and secularism, disarmament and development, are all offshoots of “Bahudha” which inspired, shaped and reaffirmed the foundations of our national polity and state policy. It was natural for free India to build our country on our legacy of “Bahudha”.

To the layman and for the less initiated, it is natural for several questions and doubts to arise. Can “Bahudha” be applied unilaterally and in isolation even if the interlocutor is unwilling or unable to respond?

Is it relevant in today’s times and context? How can one protect national interest in an environment full of deceit, double standard, violence and betrayal where all means are said to be fair?

Can Jehadi terrorism, fundamentalism and extremism, a major focus of Governor Singh’s study, be countered through “Bahudha”? Is the violence in our world and the acquisition / pursuit of overkill destructive weapons of mass destruction not beyond the “Bahudha” philosophy? Is it not an ideal which no country is willing to practice and many professing to preach? Can we, in short, risk its application unilaterally?

These are all very valid and legitimate doubts which need to be examined and studied if “Bahudha” is to become a relevant instrument of state policy and succeed. Perhaps, some would say that, it is an idea whose time is yet to come, though it must happen soon if human beings and our planet are to survive and be saved from the brink of destruction.

Can the philosophy of “Bahudha”, in today’s context, remain the guiding and determining force of our foreign policy?

Some would argue that India’s hostile strategic environment; the entrenched discrimination that characterizes the international system institutionally weighted against the developing countries like India.

The increasing non-traditional and new threats to India’s security; poverty and ecological degradation and the socio-economic-political challenges these pose; and the absence of good and responsive government- all of which have been discussed at length in Governor B P Singh’s books- make it difficult for India alone to practice “Bahudha”.

The ever increasing threats of destabilization, including by highly motivated non-state actors, make it impossible for any country to turn the other cheek if ones very existence and integrity is challenged.

Even Gandhiji had not advocated capitulating to violence meekly. Of course, he was a strategist par excellence who chose his own methods to fight injustice. India’s foreign policy, some would argue, has been less than effective in safeguarding our national interests.

The Kashmir “dispute”, trusting the Chinese blindly, the unreasonable and repeated non-reciprocated and unilateral concessions to Pakistan since independence, including at Simla, and more recently, the inability of our state policy to get for India its due in the management of the emerging international socio-economic- strategic order are all arguably examples of state policy going awry, not always reflecting national opinion or interest.

Some would say that too much of the unilateral practice of “Bahudha”philosophy, admittedly integral to our ethos, cost India dearly in furthering and safeguarding her national interests.

Arguably, that part of our foreign policy which was directly a product of our civilaizational inheritance, “Bahudha”, epitomized, for example, by Panchasheela, the non-align movement and advocacy of freedom, peace, equality, disarmament and development were perhaps the biggest question marks viewed in the immediate context.

Were we ahead of our times? After all, diplomacy and state policy is all about dealing with contemporary situations in a contemporary context. Idealism devoid of pursuit of immediate national interest is very hard to sustain and rationalize.

However, having said that, even the skeptics will have to agree that it is necessary to have an ideal- a vision- if we are to lift ourselves from a bottomless abyss and save ourselves from mutual destruction for the sake of succeeding generations.

Bahudha”, according to the author, is that vision of a world that lives in perpetual peace, harmony, plenty and prosperity; where no one goes to bed hungry and where the sick and the infirm are cared for;where the world does not live in fear of catastrophic annihilation and there is trust, freedom and dignity for all, big or small; where no one seeks to dominate or dictate to the other; where genuine democracy, individual freedom, human rights and development are the pillars of the new order; where lethal weapons of mass destruction are not required to ensure peace and justice for all; and where religions and cultures spread love, tolerance and oneness among all.

In other words, “vasudhaiva kutumbakam” is the underlying philosophy governing inter- state relations, social intercourse and our distinct way of life which respects each ones faith, belief and traditions.

Governor B P Singh needs to be congratulated for daring to think big. He has, like the sages, thinkers and philosophers of our great land, provided us with an alternative framework with the conviction that it is possible to live our dream.

In that sense, his message is timely, bold and big. That is also the imperative of an ever shrinking and increasingly globalized interdependent world in which we are compelled to protect each other’s vulnerabilities in our own interest. H H the Dalai Lama summed this up brilliantly when he said that “self interest clearly lies in considering the interests of others”

Governor Singh’s book on India’s Culture cannot but inspire every Indian. His detailed and very scholarly narration of India’s cultural richness, diversity and its history, will, no doubt, make every Indian feel proud of his composite heritage.

I hope it will also make him more sensitive and responsible for preserving his unique mosaic of our inheritance so that our future generations can continue to benefit from this unique legacy without any parallel.

Indeed, in that sense, India is a tested laboratory where pluralism has been woven into a beautiful fabric of our composite culture the hallmark of which is unity in diversity and harmony. The Indian experience must succeed if we are to survive.

Governor Singh’s strong sense of patriotism and pride in his inheritance is infectious; I for one have been deeply moved by his erudite study.

This book, in my view, should be compulsory reading for all teachers and graduate students, particularly for civil servants, who often seem to be oblivious of our unique composite ethos and its imperatives. If this message had been inculcated in our civil services they might have been better equipped to handle communal carnages like Godhra, which I hope was an aberration never to be repeated again.

He has quite brilliantly discussed the role of State in culture which he sees as an instrument of benign change and an integral part of “Bahudha”.Indeed, culture is the fountain source of civilization and no civilization can prosper and survive without it.

However, in a globalized world-one global village- what, according to Governor Singh, author V S Naipaul called “universal civilization” it is important to be cautious of ultra-nationalistic or xenophobic loyalties which smack of intolerance and superiority.

Governor Singh quotes Mahatma Gandhi whose love for India did not make him narrow minded. Gandhiji said “I cling to India like a child to its mother’s breast, because I feel that she gives me the spiritual nourishment I need. She has the environment that responds to my highest aspirations”.

Challenging Huntington’s thesis, Governor Singh says that Huntington seems to “forget that it is also human to love”. (Governor Singh’s discussion of Huntington’s thesis of clash of civilizations is an outstanding critique). He quotes Dr. Zakir Hussain who said “cultures do not clash, savagery does”.

Bahudha” teaches us to be good and loyal citizens of our community and country even as we pursue globalization. Governor Singh, I believe, has very eloquently conveyed this message in his book.

It has been a privilege for me to have had an opportunity to read Governor B. P. Singh’s scholarly works. I am certainly much better informed and educated. His commitment and love for India are truly uplifting.

 

3. Comments by Shri N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu on Governor B.P. Singh’s book Bahudhā and the Post 9/11 World

I have followed the ideas, the reflections of my friend Mr. Balmiki Prasad Singh over a pretty long period and I was delighted to have the opportunity to read this Book. The scholarly and reflective account of how to come out of the kind of problems that we face in the world today finds a clear diagnosis in the Book. There is a very fine survey as the Book starts with major developments in the world between 1989 to 2001 and the way the world has changed with 9/11 and all that came with it. There is also a close look at the challenges facing India and there is a very clear prescription about the set of ideas drawn from India’s great civilization and civilizational heritage.


The author makes it clear that the pluralist approach towards all life is at the heart of India’s civilizational endeavours and goes back to the Vedas and the Upanishad, the oral traditions as well as various historical developments and role of outstanding leaders. This approach, the recognition of the existence of plurality as an idea he points out helps us to understand our cultural diversity and incredible ethnic, religious and linguistic varieties. And only understanding of this will enable us to participate in this diversity. The idea that there is one truth and many interpretations may be open to philosophical challenge, but it is very interesting and exciting idea to reflect on this approach. For the pluralistic approach is an approach of profound respect, respecting diversity, respecting others and not treating them in an inimical fashion.


Of course, in real history Bahudhā has been practiced but also violated. There have been plenty of breaches as well which of course the author recognizes it. But looking at it in totality as civilizational heritage it is clear that if we quarrel on religion, if we violate the principles of Bahudhā, if we fail to show respect to people belonging to diverse backgrounds, faiths, ethnicities, languages, religions, colour and so on even in some cases of anthropological features, then you are betraying India’s values, Indian civilization itself.


I think a powerful message comes out from this book. Various others have approached this including India’s first and greatest Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who talked about these ideas. You agree or disagree with emphasis on unity in the midst of diversity but the respect for diversity and the attempt to distill from this certain set of civilizational principles and philosophical principles, whether founded on religious beliefs or not a point also made by our author in a very subtle or sophisticated way. The religion is not going to go away but there is also a fine contribution made by people who do not belong to any religion, the people who do not have any faith and so on and this is also recognized in the Book.


I was very pleased to read little section on Iraq where I think quite a profound idea, profound analysis is provided in a page and half or so where the author talks about what might have been an attempt to ride rough-shod, overriding principles of multilaterism and consultation, and indeed Bahudhā. I think that has cost us dear, cost the United States and the United Kingdom and others who were participating in this aweful misadventure, done of course without using any of these words. I think the analysis makes it clear that this is a totally wrong path, it is totally harmful path and it could have been completely different. The response to a terrorist attack to 9/11 which has really nothing to do with the regime in Iraq.


I was also interested to read the little section on the brief comment on Tibet because that comes straight from the Dalai Lama’s foreword to this Book. I have been in Tibet twice. We don’t want to enter into any controversy here but it is clear to me and I have written on this subject that those who follow the Dalai Lama, many of them have not practiced the principles that he has espoused or preaches and it was seen in those horrible events before the Olympics in Tibet. Whatever you think of China’s policies the kind of reaction there, the brutality of the response, the lynching that took place, I think is very unfortunate. But again the author provides a very acceptable framework within the sovereignty and unity of China to provide maximum autonomy for the Tibetans. Already Tibet is an autonomous region but there is a scope of further improvement, further development. The author makes a point that expresses the hope that the dialogue process will succeed, which is very consistent with the principle of Bahudhā. So I think that is also very interesting.


There is a great deal in this Book about what should be the response to terrorism which makes it exceedingly topical. I just came back from Mumbai having spent the weekend there to get a sense of the horror of the event in the aftermath and as to whether it has broken the spirit of the people in Mumbai? Whether there is resilience in an attempt to overcome the calamity that has happened and the breaking of the human spirit that has occurred there? Many others have written on this. It has become a truly international development of great international significance. And also what should be the response to it and I think it is clear that this Book provides at this point of time many insights into how to approach it not in an impractical way, not purely in an idealistic way in that sense but in a practical way. There must be idealism combined with practicality. The author recognizes the need for military response but not in the way that has been put out and projected on televisions by some of the news channels or indeed in some sections of the Press. Jingoism, go and bomb somebody, is not the way to go at least in my opinion. I think if you are to be consistent in your approach and respect for India’s historical civilization, then you would know what would you do. You would, I think, collect all the evidence. There is clear evidence that it originated in Pakistan. Marshal the evidence, be forthcoming without prejudicing the investigation and give it to Pakistan at the highest level. Wait for 10-15 days and if there is no satisfactory response, no response to our request or indeed demand for cooperation in the investigation to get into the bottom of this, then not a kind of war mongering that some people talk about but you can go to the Security Council. India can go to the UN Security Council.


There is a UN resolution 1373 very close to the event described and analyzed in this Book which requires all States to act against terrorism. Please go to the resolution and read it. Those interested in the subject would note that States are required not only to refrain from providing any form of support, active or passive, to entities of persons involved in terrorist acts. They must also take necessary steps to prevent the commission of terrorist acts and they must provide early warnings to other States by way of exchange of information. They must deny safe heaven to those who finance, plan, support or commit terrorist acts or provide safe heavens. They must ensure that any person who participates in terrorism in any way, financing, planning, preparation or perpetration is brought to justice. They must assist in exchange of information and cooperate with each other. This is no longer an option, this is required by UN resolution after 9/11.


It is an another matter that the United States completely mis- interpretated and misused the legitimacy provided by this resolution. But India has an opportunity considering our great civilizational heritage, considering the need for peace, in an area where nuclear weapons are being developed to respond firmly, not weakly, not do more or less the same but respond resolutely and in a civilized way, in a way that enhances the prospects for peace. I am not trying to implicate the author of the Book in any of these suggestions or imply that this is what follows but this is my reading of all the principles and values that he has so beautifully analyzed in his Book.


I thought I would take this opportunity to provide some little commentary on topical subject. The subject that has come to the fore today. Getting back to the Book, I thank our Governor of Sikkim Mr Singh. I do not know how he found the time to come up with a defining work, a Book that is tight, that is well substantiated, that is logically explained and very clearly and accessibly written. I hope this Book will find serious readership everywhere. We look forward, of course, to reviewing it.


I thank Governor for doing me the honor by inviting me here to say a few words. I compliment the Oxford University Press which is one of the finest publishing houses in the world for bringing this out. Please read the Book. It has great meaning and value for all of us.

Thank you.

 

4. Review by Mary E. Hancock on India's Culture: The State, the Arts, and Beyond. Published on H-Asia (October, 2009)

                                      Culture and Development in Twenty-First-Century India

The Indian subcontinent has long been the home of diverse and dynamic streams of cultural creation and expression, fed by encounters born of migration, trade, war, commerce, pilgrimage, labor, and learning. Over some five millennia, varying designs for living have been engendered by ethnic, regional, linguistic, religious, occupational, and status communities using diverse media--Harappa’s clay figures, Ashokan pillars, palm leaf manuscripts, wooden toys, rice-flour drawings, and the human body itself. How these diverse and diverging cultural forms have responded to and have had an impact on the political order has been examined by historians, literary scholars, and artists in works spanning several centuries. Answering the question of how political institutions should nurture cultural expression is Balmiki Prasad Singh’s ambitious goal in his book, India’s Culture. Singh, currently the governor of Sikkim, draws on his academic training in political science and, perhaps more important, on his distinguished career in government and international organizations to outline culture’s role in twenty-first-century India’s development.


Although it offers a synoptic account of regional cultural history, the book is not principally historiography and is marred by occasional errors and inconsistencies in its presentation of historical materials (e.g., the Indus Valley civilization is sometimes dated between 3000 and 1500 BCE and at other times between 2400 and 188 BCE). Historical narratives are used, instead, to frame and contextualize the author’s prescriptive statements. Singh begins the book with a chapter, apparently written for the second revised edition of the book, that introduces India’s geography, history, and culture to the general reader, and provides broad, working definitions for key analytic terms, such as “culture,” “civilization,” and “development.” (Here, it should be noted that the author treats “India” as a discrete, albeit pluralistic, collectivity that has persisted as such for the past five millennia, and that is marked by cultural continuities that transcend the region’s changing geopolitical boundaries. Thus, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh are at points gathered under this umbrella.)


The following chapter (chapter 1), “India’s Culture: Some Facts, Some Perspectives,” aims to provide a general overview of the history of Indian civilization--its languages, religions, performing arts, philosophies, and scientific achievements. It is a narrative replicated in many general, introductory texts and is not meant to break new historiographic ground but to set the stage for the prescriptive analyses of later chapters. To this end, he emphasizes the encounters (between Indus Valley agriculturalists and Aryan herding communities; between Vedic, Buddhist, and Jain traditions; between Hindus and Muslims; and between Indian subjects and European colonizers) that have shaped India’s history.


Subsequent chapters offer reflections about how the present-day Indian nation-state’s economic growth will affect citizens’ ways of living, their world views, and their pluralist society, and about how India’s forms of cultural expression and creativity can nurture its political and economic development. Chapter 2, “State and Market in India’s Culture,” begins with the contrast between India’s “developed culture” and its “not yet developed economy” (p. 47). Singh suggests that nurturing culture will support economic growth by creating environments in which self-expression and pluralism are encouraged. His argument that development should extend to cultural domains and, in fact, be guided by cultural norms echoes positions advanced by Amartya Sen in many of his works on development policy. Like Sen in The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture, and Identity (2005), Singh hopes to draw lessons for the liberalization of the present from ancient precursors, such as the Pallava era’s commerce-fed cultural florescence, though Singh’s historiography, as noted above, is not meant as close comparison but as inspirational illustration. Chapter 3 discusses the postcolonial blueprint for cultural policy established under Nehru, using extended excerpts from letters and policy documents pertaining to the genealogy of the Republic Day parade and to the state’s arts administration policies. Chapter 4 offers India’s history of cultural encounters and democratic traditions as a counterargument to Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” model. The book closes with a postscript in which Singh revisits Mahatma Gandhi’s well-known critique of industrialization, finding in it a more nuanced position than sometimes presented; specifically, he proposes a Gandhian rationale for embracing the democratizing potential of the information and communications technology revolution. Indeed, Singh’s understanding of India’s deep history of pluralist cultural forms and his ecumenical outlook are consistent with Gandhian philosophy, and it is not surprising that Gandhi’s writings are invoked throughout the book.


The book does not offer new historical material, nor does it deal in any sustained or detailed way with the challenges and contradictions with which cultural policy must wrestle in contemporary India. It does provide the general reader with a sense of the temporal depth and complexity of the region’s cultural history and, more significantly, asserts that that cultural history is relevant to the political economy. Overall, Singh’s prognosis for India’s economic development is optimistic, and his book conveys a deep respect for a civilization of which he is, admittedly, both proud and sometimes angry, and about whose achievements and failings he is “still learning”.

 

5. Review by Maya Chadda, Professor, Political Science, William Paterson University of New Jersey, USA published in India Quarterly- A Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 65 No.2 April-June, 2009

Bahudha and the Post 9/11 World by B.P. Singh explores some of the most nettlesome e questions facing humanity   today. How do we order diversity, meet the rising tide of economic expectations, and achieve a peaceful and harmonious social and political order? This is a daunting but an urgent question of extraordinary importance. More faint hearted scholars and those lacking in intellectual courage would have avoided it altogether or else reduced it to manageable parts, short period or specific perspectives. But while the question is undoubtedly difficult, it is no less important in a world characterized by dangerous civil wars, ethnic fragmentation and religious confrontation- all exacerbated by powerful economic forces whose consequences are yet to fully pay out. Singh outlines the pivotal question which forms the theme of this book thus: “ The fundamental issue facing the world,’ he says, is ‘how to live,’. ‘How do we control human nature that involves violent conflicts and threaten peace? How do we subordinate sectarian and ethnic loyalties and exploitation? How can people in different countries be made masters of their destinies? How do we get engaged in a dialogue on a constant base? His answer is Bahudha, an approach culled from Indian civilization’s responses to problems of social division and cultural differences.

A distinguished scholar, public official and diplomat who has served long and with great distinction over four decades, Singh is clearly an astute student of human affairs and an analyst of the first order. Yet, he is aware of the difficult task he has set himself in writing this book. He abjures any claims to discovering the truth or propounding original philosophy: ‘Mine is just an individual effort to seek a way of reconciling the disturbing order of our times. This work is not a technical study of history or philosophy,’ he says in the introduction of the volume. With appealing humility he submits this book as an effort to record what ‘ I have found relevant in the Indian and world experiences that could provide ways…….for the formulation of public policies’ to make for greater harmony and social peace. And what is this Indian experience that would help us manage the problems of our times? Singh argues that it is the notion of Bahudha, a truly tested and tried approach that is embedded in the civilizational experience of India.’ Whether one reads India’s great epics or travels through the length and breadth of the sacred geography, one is truck by the fact that neither the Indian literature nor…..places of worship emphasize a singularity of approach to truth. The idea of “ the one in many” in central to this thought process (p.44). in his view it is this approach that we need to revisit as we explore ways to resolve and manage the ‘clash of civilizations’ and rising aspirations of millions now on the march under the banners of global market and democracy.  

Historians might charge that Singh was being disingenuous by reducing the vast history of a civilization to some imagined ‘essence’, that it was not possible to understand Indian history in terms of key ideas. Singh does not claim that it can be understood. His is a quest to tease out from the welter of events, recurring patterns of thought and responses characteristic of all distinct civilizations including the Indic civilization. Singh takes us through a whole spectrum of textual and empirical survey demonstrating throughout this fascinating journey the powerful but recurring expressions of a pluralist approach to human affairs. But as any true scholar, he does not abandon self doubt. “Was I judicious in accepting the challenge of trying to seek the soul of civilizational harmony? He asks. ‘ I knew then an am conscious now that the Bahudha approach is not a discovery but at best a reassertion of an old truth about the pluralist approach in society, religion and politics’ (p xvii). With that one sentence, Singh disarms his potential critics.  

What then is the Bahudha approach? It is one imbued with accommodation of distinctions and tolerance of different identities and ways of life. But accommodation does not mean erasing distinctions. This is not an assimilationist project; if at all, it is an insistence on retaining separate identities intact. What one must do is to open a constant dialogue and find a path to harmonious coexistence. Singh stresses another important insight from the Indian experience; the need to make religion and its moral teachings a part of the public and political discourse. In this sense, he rejects the western definition of secularism. He does not believe we are going to modernize religion out of existence. Therefore, it is imperative to find it a proper place in the public square. He argues that all great religions of the world teach tolerance and commitment to public good. These teachings can be harnessed in the interest of good politics, especially in multi-ethnic, multi-religious societies that are required to accommodate and negotiate differences.  

The volume is organized in five parts. The first part outlines the current state of the world, the disruptions caused by the collapse of the soviet Union, the emergence of China and shifts in the international balance of power, the rise of religious and ethnic extremism attended by violence, terrorism and civil wars, and the growing gap between the rich and poor unleashed by the globalizing economy. The second part explores the manifestations of the Bahudha approach throughout India’s history. Singh traces the teaching of the Vedas and Upanishads followed by a masterful summary of the lives and philosophies of the prophets of Bahudha. This discussion includes the ancient founders of great religions in India, Buddha and Mahavira, later Guru Nanak and the more contemporary advocates of tolerance, namely M.K. Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Singh also explores public policies of ancient kings and contemporary rulers and in a chapter entitled ‘The People’, he take us through an interesting journey of India’s villages where he finds the principles of Bahudha embedded in the fabric of people’s daily lives. The field trip and the anecdotal evidence of religious coexistence he has gathered are particularly interesting because they show how, to this day, village folks negotiate and accommodate difference of caste, religion and wealth. They also show how modernity is eroding the mechanisms of accommodation and creating rigid boundaries invested with political ambitions. This latter ought to inspire and shape public policy.  

This brings us to the last substantive part of the book in which Bahudha is explored as an instrument of public policy. Here, Singh stresses two points; first, he points out that tolerance is a common feature of all great civilizations ( Sinic, Christian, Hindu-Buddhist, Islamic and Judaic) and second, that we need a genuine and mutually sympathetic inter-faith dialogue. The purpose, he says, is to understand the differences and find common grounds for peaceful coexistence. He clearly implies that leaving religion out of the public debate would be a grave mistake; it will deprive us of a critical source of establishing social harmony and mutual understanding. In this fourth segment of the book, Singh explains how Bahudha can become a guiding principle in education, national politics and international organizations. The conclusions bring the various strands of his arguments together to stress that although Bahudha is a tried and tested approach to the fundamental question of our times, it needs to be approached as a new creative venture, a mission in which all can participate from their own perspectives.  

In writing this book Singh has shown not only why the Indian experience is of universal value but also how modernity can destroy answers that history has wrought in response to parlous human conditions. Elegantly written and though provoking. Singh’s Bahudha and the Post 9/11 World is a volume rich in insights and deserving of wide readership.  

 

6. Review by Mahendra Ved entitled A pluralistic approach to harmonious coexistence published in The Strait Times, Kuala Lumpur (June 16,2008)

              WHAT is the panacea for a world so globalised, yet with nations so unequal, living in mutual distrust, fear and, worse, terror?  

               Is there a way to curb, if not eliminate totally, the clashes in the name of religion, region, language, community and caste?  

The answer is Bahudha. Part of a Rigvedic hymn Ekam Sad Vipra Bahudha Vadanti, it means "the real is one; the learned speak of it variously".  

Simply put, it is respect for another person's view of truth with the hope and belief that he or she may be right. It is a pluralistic approach to inclusive, harmonious coexistence among people.  

Its proponent is not a saint, seer or soothsayer, nor a politician or preacher. Balmiki Prasad Singh is a Mahatma Gandhi National Fellow who blends knowledge of philosophy with four decades' experience as a civil servant. He retired as India's home secretary.  

The Dalai Lama says in the foreword to his book Bahudha and the Post-9/11 World: "India is a country in which we can see Bahudha... something close to pluralism, as a living reality... It can be the role model for other nations and people who are still striving to build civil societies, to institutionalise democratic values of free expression and religion, and seeking to find strength in diversity."  

Three global events of the last 15 years compelled Balmiki Prasad to draw up the Bahudha philosophy: the breaking down of the Berlin Wall, the return of Hong Kong by the British to China, marking the end of colonialism in Asia, and the terror attack on America, now known as 9/11.

The underlying philosophy in all the three incidents is the capacity, or the lack of it, to understand and accept differing and different cultures and values.  

His book comes when the world is still struggling to find an answer to what is touted as "a clash of civilisations".  

It comes when India itself is trying to look within and without for answers. This is underscored by a chain of events in the last three months. Imperfect and tentative it may be, this effort is showing signs of continuance and of gathering support.  

It began in March with a resolution condemning terrorism passed by the scholars and ulama at Darul-Uloom, the renowned centre of Islamic theology at Deoband.  

Writing about it in this column, I thought like many others that it would probably be a one-off event. But there have been a series of such meetings. A dozen more are being planned by Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind, which has been guiding the Indian Muslim clergy since 1919.

A logical follow-up to Deoband was to take the resolution further, into a fatwa or edict. The ulama did this on May 31 - the first by Muslims anywhere.

Viewed globally, it is a move forward from the Amman Declaration of July 2005. Scholars from 40 countries met in Jordan to debate on the theme of "The reality of Islam and its role in contemporary societies".

King Abdullah II of Jordan said: "The acts of violence and terrorism carried out by certain extremist groups in the name of Islam are contradictory to the principles and ideology of Islam."

A fatwa against Osama bin Laden, to declare him an apostate, was mooted. But the Amman conference clarified that it was "not possible to declare as apostate any group of Muslims who believe in Allah the Almighty and His Messenger".

In its fatwa, Darul-Uloom has not touched on acts of any individual or group. It has condemned terrorism in all its manifestations.

Another flash in the pan? No. A day later, they moved to Delhi's historic Ramlila Ground. More than 300,000 Indian Muslims lent their voices to condemnation. Their number and the unanimity can best be interpreted as a creative innovation in democratic engagement within the Muslim community.

The Deoband ulama and Shahi Imam of Delhi's Jama Masjid were not alone when they sought an "unbiased initiative" in tackling terrorism. The Dalai Lama was there; so were the Archbishop of Delhi, Vincent Michael Concessao, and Jathedar Avtar Singh, president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), head of the Sikh shrines.

The meet garnered significant international support. Muslim scholars came from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Jordan, Libya and Uzbekistan.

"India is a natural centre," says Balmiki Prasad of this initiative. He points out that Gandhi was the first to moot the idea of all-faith participation like the one that took place at Ramlila Ground.

Balmiki Prasad approvingly quotes Gandhi: "The Allah of Islam is the same as the God of the Christians and Isvara of the Hindus."

Gandhi was concerned about the perception that Islam and Christianity preached violence. If people of any faith took to arms, it was not because their scriptures taught so. He blamed it on the environment they were born in and worked.

"It is difficult to visualise a world where there will be no use of force. But surely, military force should be only a last resort when all other methods to resolve conflict have been exhausted," says Balmiki Prasad.

The book's thrust is on the need to promote dialogue and compassion over the mechanics of politics, statecraft and diplomacy. It emphasises that the key to success of any society is the rule of law without which understanding and love cannot permeate social life.

"The coming world is not going to be divided between the colonies and the colonised, superior and inferior races but more in terms of modernisation and development," says Balmiki Prasad. Inequalities will persist and the military and industrial complex would continue to make their impact on world politics, but wars and terrorism are not likely to be as dominant as in recent years.

Taking a long-term view on terrorism, he says: "While terrorism may gradually recede, the long-term threats to world peace are from poverty, inequality, environmental degradation (including global warming), disease and illiteracy."

 

7. Review by Jyoti Singh entitled Pearl of Wisdom published in The Sunday Tribune (August 10, 2008)

Bahudha and the Post 9/11 World. The fundamental issue facing the world today is unbeatably, "How to live?" or more appropriately "How we all ought to live?" This crucial question finds an answer in the volume under review. Drawing upon the ancient Indian philosophical concept of Bahudha—Pluralism—the dominant strain in the volume reflects the attitude of modern civilisation. Balmiki Prasad Singh has successfully concluded that no matter how much we may think we have progressed ahead, we would have to look back to our scintillating traditional wisdom for the solutions to our modern-day problems. He vehemently stresses the need to weave the concept of Bahudha into a sound blueprint for rebuilding the post-9/11 world.  

Through his scholarly enquiry peeking into the lives of the enlightened personalities— Lord Mahavira, Buddha, Guru Nanak, Swami Vivekanand, Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Ashoka, Akbar, Jawaharlal Nehru and many others—the author shows how each one left a remarkable legacy that has profoundly enriched the Bahudha philosophy. He emphasises the relevance of tolerance and accommodation in the present world threatened by terrorism and a dire need of a breakthrough, i.e., Bahudha.  

Tracing the quintessential teachings of the Vedas, Upnishads, Puranas, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bible, Quran, Guru Granth Sahib and other religious texts, the writer highlights how they all preach the law of harmony— rightfully the strength of the society. The exploration brings to the foreground the indisputable fact that the enlightened prophets of all religions never thought or preached in terms of exclusiveness of their religion, nor did they think only of their welfare but for the welfare of all. Throughout the volume, the author stresses the need to don the Bahudha attitude—of accommodation and tolerance—to pave the way for a strong foundation of the harmonious society.  

Balmiki Prasad Singh has tried to diagnose the problem of violence and the hate-hate relationship among our race, highlighting the condition post-9/11 and also prescribed a cure in the form of pluralism that calls for an attitude of accommodation and tolerance, however, the biggest question that would assail the minds of the readers would be "Who will bell the cat?" A deluge of queries sway the mind of a discerning reader: Why or will people like Osama bin Laden, and other fundamentalists who are ever preaching the exclusiveness of their religion embrace this virtue? Would just wishful thinking for harmony or pluralism be a logical conclusion for correcting the apathetic behavior or thinking of the world when the present capitalist world is full of inherent internal contradictions?  

At one place the author states that "the Bahudha approach can be regarded as a prerequisite of democracy `85 both Bahudha and democracy are in a mutually complementary relationship. The democratic political environment thus determines the Bahudha temper and is in turn shaped by the Bahudha spirit".  

Democracy as a political system and capitalism as an economic system, are compatible with each other. If capitalist system consists of opposing vested interest groups/classes, wouldn’t the corresponding democratic system, too, contain different opposing pressure groups/classes, which would fight to protect their respective group/class’ interests? In such a situation where there is so much disparity, can harmony/pluralism flourish favorably? Can we achieve harmonious existence when the basic premise of this system is self-interest—every individual/economic agent is motivated by the spirit of self-interest —which in turn provides viability and sustainability to this system? Doesn’t it seem unconvincing and mere utopias to think that though nations/societies consist of different opposing self-interest groups/classes, they would work harmoniously in the interest of the others?  

Doesn’t our end to achieve pluralism seem far, more so a Herculean task, when the vested interest groups deliberately misguide the masses by creating false consciousness among them by diverting their attention from the real issues, i.e., poverty and inequality, by dividing them on the basis of caste, creed, gender, region, religion, state, nation, language, faith, political alliance, etc? The philosophy of Bahudha can flourish and sustain itself in this world, which is full of complexities/antagonistic forces, only on the strong foundation of good sanskaras that teach selflessness. But how far will it be viable to be selfless in a selfish society?  

Unless and until all nations unanimously embrace Bahudha, can harmonious existence be achieved? The guidelines for achieving the Bahudha attitude will have to be implemented thoroughly and embraced by all, if we have to make the world a better place to live in. It would not be less than a miracle if this world, rocking with seething violence, attains the attitude of pluralism.  

Political or social freedom without economic freedom is just a fa`E7ade. Countries, which are completely dependent on other advanced countries not only economically but also technologically, what freedom can they enjoy? The advanced countries are bound to dictate/bully and exploit the under developed or smaller nations because the development of the former depends solely on the economic exploitation of the latter, otherwise the former are bound to collapse and perish in the face of cut- throat competition. Why then the few developed countries, which are dictating the world, would follow the tenets of pluralism by shedding their political and economic hegemony? USA’s foreign policy and the way it dominates the World Bank and the UNO is enough to substantiate this. Will ever the US change its attitude towards the Muslims after the attack and step forward embracing Bahudha to stop the chain reaction, can be anybody’s guess.  

Keeping this reviewer’s reservations aside, the readers ought not to be dissuaded, for hope and optimism sustain life. If the fluttering of the wings of a butterfly can cause a hurricane in Amazon, a small step towards Bahudha even by a single person can spark a revolution. The tragic events of 9/11 paved a worldwide will to oppose terrorism. This consensus can be used to implement long-term preventive measures. No doubt Bahudha philosophy will prove to be much more effective than taking violent steps based on anger and hatred. We all know violence begets violence. The 9/11 example substantiates this.  

I would like to highlight what Balmiki Prasad did not point out. It was the verbal violence of the US President—when on September 11, 1990, while making a speech to the joint session of congress he announced his government’s decision to go on war against Iraq—that rebounded and explains as to why the terrorists chose 9/11 to attack. We will have to overcome the temptations to respond to violence and choose a more cautious approach. Resolving differences through dialogue, compromise, humility and understanding would usher a genuine peace that comes generate from respect, trust and mutual understanding to solve the problems in a humanitarian way. Non-violence advocated by different schools of thought is the right solution.  

The book is indeed a timely response to the major global conflicts — cultural homogenization and violence in the name of religion. It makes an enlightening reading, helping us to reflect the way we perceive the world.

 

8. Reviewed in Foundation for Pluralism Studies in Religious Pluralism and Inclusive Societies (August 10, 2008) 

Bahudha Pluralism. I was taken back by this article. It sounded like my writing, it is not. Glad to see the evolution taking place with Pluralism – Mike Ghouse

Pearl of Wisdom – by Jyoti Singh (http://www.tribuneindia.com/2008/2008-08-10/spectrum/book1.htm)

Bahudha and the Post 9/11 World by Balmiki Prasad Singh. Oxford University Press.  

 

9. Review of Bahudhā  and the Post 9/11 World by Dr. Y. P. Anand published in Anasakti Darshan an International Journal of non-violence-in-action Vol. 5 No.1 January-June 2009 published by International Centre for Gandhian Studies and Peace Research, New Delhi.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has defined Bahudhā philosophy in his foreword to the book in simple terms: ‘Many of the world’s problems and conflicts arise because we have lost sight of the basic humanity.’ Human beings ‘naturally possess diverse temperaments and interests’ and follow different religions and cultures. India is, by its continuity of history, civilization and culture from ancient to present times and being the largest democracy, eminently suited to be the living example of the Bahudhā philosophy for resolution of differences through dialogue and compromise, understanding and humility, respect and trust.

The author has, most aptly embodied the subject of the book – ‘respect for another person’s views of truth with hope and belief that he or she may be right’- in the Rig-vedic (I.164-46) hymn – ekam sad viprah bahudha vadanti:’ The Real is one, the learned speak of it variously,’ or, ‘one truth, many interpretations’. Mahatma Gandhi had called it ‘relative truth.’ ‘Pluralism’ may be the closes equivalent of bahudha. The book covers a wide ground in four parts: a world in need of bahudha approach, its manifestations in India, its culture, and its global imperatives in areas of religion, education, and international political structures.

The author indentifies three events in recent time as the global milestones: the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) which led to unification of Germany but also to the end of the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet regime, thus ‘promoting democracy, capitalism, and the free market’; the transfer of the British colony of Hong Kong to China on 30/6-1/7. 1997, marking the virtual end of the colonial era that began about 1500 AD; and the terrorist attack on the USA on September 11, 2001 – the ‘Nine-Eleven’ – by an Islamic extremist group, that has made terrorism an issue of global concern. Indian Parliament was attacked on 13 December, 2001, and terrorist attacks have continued across the world. The usual sources of youth dissatisfaction, exploitation and unemployment, were now abetted by deep religious and ethnic emotions. Terrorism cannot be fought with weapons alone; it is a struggle for people’s ‘hearts and minds’. The ‘Nine-Eleven’ has led to a war in Afghanistan, and attack by the USA and UK on Iraq in 2003.

Fukuyama’s ‘the end of history’ theory based on the end of the Cold War and then Huntington’s ‘ the clash of civilizations’ thesis signified the two divergent views about the world future before the ‘Nine-Eleven’ changed the scenario. Terrorism shows no respect for human life, including one’s own. The issue is no more how to cut back on the ‘State’ but it is now how to see that it functions and delivers.

The world has entered the 21st century with a pervasive sense of people’s power and democracy which now exists in 117 countries. But democracy also generates aspirations for development and equity. Globalization has generated not only global markets but also movements for sustainability and empowerment of women and other weaker groups. Conflicts are bound to keep arising in such a diverse and changing global society. It is here that India offers a unique example of how to meet these challenges!

The author analyzes the whole spectrum of Indian history and civilization under five headings- the Vedic worldview, the Pathfinders, the Builders, the Rulers, and the people- and shows how bahudha philosophy has been its essential ethos. The bahudha worldviews is encapsulated in the dictum Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam (‘the whole world is one family’) along with the Rig-Vedic ‘one truth, many interpretations’ mantra. The four Vedas containing hymns, sacrificial treatises, forest texts, and the highly philosophical Upanishads, along with the epics of Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and the mythological Puranas formed the rich variegated basis of Indian society over a long period (1500 BC to 1000AD). The Vedas taught that everyone was ‘ a born debtor’-indebted to gods, to parents, and to society- and, hence, must spend the life by serving them. The ultimate unity of all life and its divinity were constantly stressed, such as through the dictum Tat tvam asi (‘thou are That’). The Gita enunciated the spiritual law of one’s only right being to perform one’s karma, or duty. The epic wars showed how wars never benefited even the victors. These scriptures accepted the differences among human beings but also stressed the ultimate unity, brotherhood, and values of truth and non-violence in resolution of conflicts. They postulated a cosmic order, or rta, a moral order based on the four purusharthas of artha, kama, dharma, and moksha, a social order based on varnashramadharma, and a political order based on the right conduct and duties of the ruler.

The author has exemplified the ‘Pathfinders’ of India through the life and teachings of Lord Mahavira (599-527 BC), Lord Buddha (563-483 BC) and Guru Nanak (1469-1539 AD). All the three great religious teachers accepted human diversity and emphasized unity ,brotherhood, non-violence and social equity at a time when limitations of the vedic worldview had become evident, particularly the stress on sacrificial rituals and a varna system that had become a caste hierarchy led by a priestly class.

Lord Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, propagated the bahudha approach through his philosophy of anekantavada (multi-faceted nature of reality) and of syadvada ( need for integrated view to judge an object), his stress on the three-fold right path, right knowledge and right action and the five vratas (vows) for ordinary people, and above all his emphasis on ahimsa.

Lord Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, continues to influence even today a large part of humankind with his philosophy of non-violence, and of four noble truths and the eight-fold path. His doctrine of madhyam nikai, ‘middle path’, is remarkably close to similar doctrines developed by Confucius and Aristotle around the same period, indicating the universal emphasis on the pluralist approach in human conduct.

India had experienced a long period of decline in social and political structures during the middle ages marked by Muslim invasions, and a pluralistic approach was sought to be developed between Hindus and Muslims by the Bhakti and Sufi saints such as Kabir and Guru Nanak. Guru Nanak spread the universalistic message of social brotherhood in those difficult years, particularly with his teaching of nam japo (recite God’s name), kirat karo (dignity of labour for social service), and wand chakho (voluntary sharing).

Next, the author takes up the most eminent modern ‘Builders’ of India, who were known for the pluralist approach, namely, Swami Vivekanand (1863-1902) in religion, Gurudev Tagore (1861-1941) in literature, and Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) in politics. Swami Vivekanand gave a new meaning to the Hindu philosophy of tolerance, and proclaimed, on another ‘Nine-Eleven’ (1893) in the Parliament of Religions in Chicago, that religion would soon have to be an instrument of ‘help and not fight’, ‘ assimilation and not destruction’, and ‘ harmony and peace and not dissention’. He coined the term Dridranarayan, the ‘God in the poor and the lowly’. Gurudev Tagore wrote, ‘I have found my religion at last, the religion of Man’, and wrote in a reply to Einstein, ‘Truth is realized through man.’ He rightly asserted, ‘It was Buddha who conquered the world, not Alexander.’ He gave a universal anthem to modern nations: ‘Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high…’ Gandhiji continues to stride the world as the 20th century prophet of truth and non-violence, love and compassion, social harmony and social justice. All the three ‘Builders’ have contributed immensely towards greater freedoms of the masses in an otherwise unequal society.

Among the Indian ‘Rulers’ who personified most the Indian spirit of bahudha, the author most aptly chooses Ashoka (304-232 BC), Akbar (1542-1605), and Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964). On coming to throne, Ashoka typically pursued the imperial aim of expanding the Mauryan kingdom, till his annexation of Kalinga (262 BC) through a war which killed 100,000 people turned him towards the Buddhist view of Dhamma and renouncing of wars and violence. Dhamma, as the basis of state policy, meant following the pluralistic path based on rational thinking, good conduct, truthfulness, purity, charity, and mercy. Ashoka stipulated state tolerance of different religious sects, and his numerous rock and pillar edicts made common people aware of the principles of his righteous rule.

Initially, Akbar too was engaged in annexing new territories for the Moghul empire, but then he turned to prayer and meditation and wanted to reflect the true spirit of brotherhood. In 1575, he raised an Ibadat-Khana (House of Worship) in Fatehpur Sikri for inter-faith participation. He advocated ‘peace with all’ and, in 1564, even repealed Jazia, a poll-tax levied on non-Muslims by Muslim rulers. In 1582, he instituted Din-i-Ilahi, a religion which included good features of all major religions. He respected holy men of all sects and worked for tolerance and friendship among different sections of people.

Pandit Nehru’s years of transformation were 1919-20 when, also influenced by Gandhiji, he became an inveterate follower of bahudha philosophy and humanism. He followed it during India’s freedom struggle and then after independence. Organized religion did not appeal to him as it ‘invariably becomes a vested interest and….a reactionary force opposing change and progress.’ Nehru’s secularism meant segregation of religion from public life, the state being secular, religious tolerance, and equal opportunity to all religions. After independence, he ensured institution of the largest democracy in India, and practiced pluralism through a foreign policy of ‘non-alignment’, and the well-known ‘Panchsheel Agreement’ with China (1954) with whom India had serious territorial disputes. He avoided both war-mongering and panic, and went more than half way in resolution of the Naga and other such serious conflicts within India.

All the three, Ashoka, Akbar and Nehru pursued a policy of dialogue, peace and persuasion even while being builders of large empires.

The author, then, discusses how the long Indian history and the inter-twining of religion into the socio-political life have imparted a cultural unity and a sense of tolerance and of nationhood to its people amidst diversity. Hinduism itself, in sociological terms, is a sort of federation of faiths, and there are vast common traits between it and other religion s. the author undertook a 41 day tour (2005) of different areas of India and saw the interplay of harmony and conflict, and the fast change in attitudes, values and beliefs, human relations, and religious and caste practices going on under the impact of economic and other forces of modernization. He noticed that mostly the bahudha approach to conflict resolution was in evidence, and that the role of the State in maintenance of law and order and in provision of human, social and physical capital could greatly help in restoration of the traditional ways of conflict management. India has a substratum of a psychological unity, a composite ‘live and let live’ ethos, an inherent sense of pluralism and anekantvada, even though narrow politics at times does try to undercut the unifying role of democracy.

That brings us to the third part of the book, the culture of bahudha as an instrument of public policy and harmony. The author quotes from the UNESCO constitution: “That since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace can be constructed.” Today, people identify themselves with respect not only to nationality, but also to religion, ethnicity and race, and ignorance too leads to discord and violence. Terrorism is the latest instrument of conducting violent conflicts in the name of religion, politics, and so on. Hence, all the more need for the ‘one truth, many interpretations’ approach.

Conflicts and violence are, to some extent, integral to human affairs. Religious resurgence is also a reaction to the social-economic-cultural-political forces of modernization. Major religions see complex areas of mutual conflict as well as conflicts within each of them. Visible economic disparities, problems of governance, and growth of human aspirations in an age of information and communications revolution, and rising populations all have worked towards a worldwide climate of conflicts.

Bahudha philosophy has been a basic feature of the Indic, Chinese, Islamic, and Western civilizations, but now when all civilizations are tending to merge into a global society, there are human fears and insecurities. When a religion claims monopoly of Truth for itself it denies it to other religions. In last 50 years, there have been conflicts, wars within and among states, terrorism, and misery but also there have been growing areas and instruments of mutual tolerance and dialogue and desire for peace and harmony. The culture of bahudha accepts that, due to diverse identities and interests, conflicts do arise among people and nations, and it helps in their resolution through dialogue and not violence, by recognizing that others too may have a case. It is a prerequisite to the growth of democracy, harmony and peace.

The author includes among imperatives for action: emphasis on dialogue among all faiths; religious leaders to resist political temptations; acceptance that religious beliefs can play a vital role in promotion of tolerance; mass media and other information services to work for social harmony; and identification of leaders who can be the role models, especially among youth. The forces of democracy, ecology and spirituality should work together for elimination of basic causes of conflicts and violence.

The next part of the book deals with ‘Global Imperatives of bahudha’ in the three vital areas of religion, education, and international political architecture. Nietzsche had declared ‘death of God’ towards the end of 19th century as secularism and rationalism were presumed to prevail in ‘The Age of Reason’. Came Marx, Darwin, Freud and others but religion was back in the later part of 20th century, as a growing creed of ‘fundamentalism’, as an identity increasingly mixed with political , economic and moral issuers, and as a rallying point against insecurities felt due to the growing forces of globalizing market, technology, media and culture. Religions have strong symbolic and emotional appeals, and religious, particularly Islamic, reaction indicated a fall-back to the scriptures. The ‘Nine-Eleven’ (2001) showed the extent to which religion has got associated with violence and world politics.

India has an ancient tradition of dialectical arguments, dialogue and pluralism. In modern times too, we have survived colonialism and a bloody Partition to become the largest secular democracy, though grievous slippages such as the ‘Blue Star’ and the ‘Babri Masjid’ too have been there. Common Indians accept diversity even while competitive politics attempts to use religious identity for political mobilization.

All religions have traditions of plurality while accepting the one ultimate reality, and exclusivist approaches develop mostly when we tend to use religion to attain political or other such objectives. We need a dialogue among all religions, and a continuous emphasis on the religious traditions of tolerance, love, compassion and humility to make religion a force for building a pluralist global society.

Education is a t the centre of individual development and social progress but educated youth also form suicide squads and indulge in senseless violence. Education must inculcate values of diversity and multiculturalism, tolerance and mutual respect. For this we need good teachers, good infrastructure, and opportunities for lifelong learning. The UN Declaration of Human Rights (1948) had put education as a basic human right, and the Millennium Development Goals (2000) had aimed at its compliance by 2015. However, illiteracy, child labour, and wide disparities in standards of education continue to underlie deep social divisions.

As education shapes the mind of the youth, the textual content and curriculum assume vital importance. The texts should impart education about different religions and traditions and inculcate opposition to fanaticism, otherness, prejudice, hostility and blind faith. Education should link students with secular values of faith and reason, human welfare, democracy, good governance, compassion, brotherhood, open-minded conflict management and peace, and impart much more than literacy and professional skills. Education is the best means to empower women. It is necessary also to modernize madarsas and maktabs so that these may not be seen as breeding grounds of terrorism.

Education must, of course, prepare all students adequately for the modern industrial/market economies. Education is an ideal means towards reduction of ignorance, disease and poverty, synthesis of moral, material, and intellectual pursuits, and emergence of an inclusive harmonious and sustainable social order.

The United Nations Organization (UNO) came into being (1945) after World War II in order to secure peace, global prosperity, alleviation of poverty and unemployment, and promotion of human rights. The UN Charter asks people to “live together in peace with one another as good neighbours”, and to “promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom”. It accepts sovereign equality of all member nations. Its functions and institutional structures have extended even well beyond political issues to include promotion of multiculturalism and pluralism and sustainable development.

After World War II, along with the UNO, Bretton Woods institutions were set up to spread and regulate globally the market economies. These included the IMF, the World Bank, and the GATT- later as WTO. However, after World War II the world was also beset first with the Cold War era, and then with a resurgence of nationalism, ethnic conflicts, civil wars, and ‘failed’ states, apart from serious threats to global environment and security, and widening disparities in human development factors. The UNO, being essentially a political body based on consensus, cannot deal with all such problems, particularly with issues like intra-state violence and strife. Article 51 of the UN Charter permits military action by a State in self-defence to resist an armed attack, but on its own it cannot initiate military intervention without approval by the Security Council, nor offer any substantive solution to face modern ‘terrorism’. Even after rejection by the UN Security Council, the USA went ahead to attack Iraq though such ‘preventive’ wars fall outside UN’s Article 51 as Iraq had not attacked USA.

Still, the UNO has remained the primary international political institution for over 60 years and there is urgent need for reforming it to reflect the present political, social and economic realities. Towards this, a high level Panel’s report titled, ‘A more Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility’, submitted in 2004, listed six major threats at present: interstate wars, intra-state violence; poverty, diseases and environmental degradation; nuclear, radiological, chemical, and biological weapons; terrorism; and trans-national organized crime. The two crucial areas of reform, however, remain contentious: a common understanding about the collective security system envisaged in the Charter, and strengthening of the Security Council.

The UNO, being the highest forum for multilateralism, is the bedrock of bahudha approach on the global scale. Political tussles among and within states will remain an on-going phenomenon. Fortunately, growing global economic integration, international mobility, activities of mass media and NGOS, and political democracy are also contributing towards adoption of pragmatic and accommodating attitudes. The UNO cannot be the ‘World Government’ but it can certainly promote facilitation and provide authority for conflict management, law enforcement, international co-operation, and finding common ground.

The author sums up the book with the observation that while the fall of the Berlin Wall and freedom of Hong Kong and the ‘Nine-Eleven’ have led to both hopes and fears in international politics and society, issues of globalization, democracy and peace will remain prominent in the 21st century. Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela have been the guiding spirits of reconciliation and dialogue in the post-Gandhi era even while terrorism and intra-state violence promoted by fanatics, criminals, drug peddlers, mafia, and warlords present a lethal threat to world peace. Today states need democracy, technology, trade, and spread of education, and not wars or antagonism, for their people to prosper. There is an identity crisis based on ethnic, religious, or cultural diversity, as also an underlying resistance to too fast a pace of modernization. How to integrate the virtues of religion with the needs of peace, democracy, secularism, ecology and a global society is the challenge before human society. It is here that the bahudha philosophy enshrined in the ancient Indian wisdom of ‘one truth, many interpretations’, ‘the world is one family’, ‘the middle path’, and anekantavada, and Gandhiji’s life is an experiment with truth’ can become the basis of conflict resolution and evolution of a non-violent, egalitarian and happy world social order.

The book is a work of conviction and hope. The author has given an inspiring and learned coverage of the Indian pluralist civilizational ethos, from the ancient Vedas right up to Vivekanand, Tagore, Gandhiji and Nehru, and simultaneously projected the rationale for cultivation of the same ethos to meet global challenges to world peace and harmony in modern times. It should be read.

 

10. Review of Bahudhā and the Post 9/11 World by Professor Farida Haque published in The Assam Tribune, Guwahati (May 28, 2010)

A substantial book of more than 300 pages, Bahudha and the Post 9/11 World contains 12 chapters, sectioned into five parts, with the added value of a foreword by the Dalai Lama. The author Balmiki Prasad Singh is a man with varied experiences, who has much more than an inkling of the diplomatic world, having served at the World Bank as an executive director in Washington DC. It was here that he heard and saw for himself the tragedy of 9/11, followed by the backlash. Deeply shaken, he wished to “reconcile the disturbing disorder of our times”, and delving into his own experiences, he sought to reveal “ the soul of civilisational harmony”. He makes a study of India’s ancient history, its illustrious rulers and their magnanimous philosophies that drove them to realise an India of their own. This book succeeds in raising consciences among its readers to the prevailing conditions in the world and sets forth a path to be trodden by the solution-seekers.

This book is an expression of the author’s strong belief in the Bahudha approach: a process of dialogue by means of peaceful negotiations, with the goal of living peacefully in society. He provides the etymological meaning of the word Bahudha in his preface as a continuous process of dialogue, with the aim of promoting understanding, facilitating the formation of a public policy of harmony. Thus, it emphasizes a harmonious existence underscoring his deep conviction that the Bahudha approach is relevant today as never before. The author refers to Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha, which is a technique of non-violent conflict resolution as a dialogic process, inclusive of negotiation and compromise. Tracing the origin of the word Bahudha, he points out that it was Gautama Buddha who had advocated the Bahudha approach of dialogue and understanding.

Here, in this book, his effort has been ‘to record all that he found relevant in the Indian and world experiences that could provide ways and means for the formulation of public policies’, in order to ‘bring more harmony into societies’. He has attempted to study different aspects of situational conflicts in various parts of the globe that impacted world events and phenomena triggered by power struggles in the name of religion, politics and communities. He traces the growth of terrorism and gives an account of the rise and disintegration of Islamic power. He provides a historical analysis of countries like Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Arabia, Afghanistan and Russia’s power. The author specifically points out the two major threats in the world today – terrorism and religious fundamentalism. The author notes that ‘all major religions have fundamentalist elements’, but now the focus of the world is on ‘militant Islam’ only.

The author gives an overview of conflict situations in the history of Indian civilisation including the two epics. This entails a detailed study of the social structure of Vedic times in Part II of the book. The writer is of the view that the Bahudha approach of ‘one truth, many interpretations’ is sure to ‘resolve’ the differences in the world today. This is proved by the Vedic experience of Bahudha philosophy in dialogue, by which people belonging to different faiths and culture can live together in harmony.

The writer dives deep into religious, philosophical discourse while researching the application of the Bahudha approach during the different ages and times of Indian civilisation. He examines certain concepts, institutions, persons to illustrate the application of Bahudha principle in Indian history. He traces the origins of the Bahudha approach, and finds its finest expression in Gautama Buddha’s ‘middle path’ that emphasizes moderation in all things. This Bahudha approach of the middle way could also be found in the lives of Lord Mahavira and Guru Nanak.

Throughout the book, he talks about the necessity for belief in ‘one truth, many interpretations’, that is, the Bahudha approach, which he tries to define in many ways, illustrating from the pages and figures in history. And then, he goes on to define religion and identifies the triangular nodes of religion, politics and the state. In the latter part of the book, the writer uses the Bahudha approach as a touchstone to study the prevailing situation in various parts of the country.

This book is a storehouse of information for research scholars and students of history, politics, philosophy and religious discourses- an example of inter-disciplinary work. The ways and methods mentioned in this book could be a marker for administrative officers, for, if those at the helm of affairs are imbued with Bahudha approach, then surely, the badgered Indian common men and ordinary women would find hope and relief in the disposal of their grievances.

The highlight of this book is that instead of discussing only the problems and presenting situations, the author has provided solutions in many areas. The writer calls for a greater role for intellectuals, women and youth in the democratic processes of a country because ‘the more democratic the world becomes, the less would be the threat of terrorism and suicide killings’. Singh envisions a world where terrorism has receded, but the world would still continue to have to wage war with poverty, inequality, environmental degradation, disease, illiteracy, etc.

The writer, of course, has the last word when he states: “Respect for the rights, beliefs and cultures of all human beings can go a long way in facilitating and enhancing processes of negotiation and eventually, in securing peace and harmony.” This book is a must read for every man and woman who aspires for leadership as it can be referred to as a guide book for the effective running of any organisation.

11. Speech of Professor Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, Professor of History at the Centre for Historical Research (ICHR), New Delhi, delivered on the occasion of box-set launch of books- India’s Culture: the State, the Arts and Beyond and Bahudhā and the Post-9/11 World- authored by His Excellency, Governor of Sikkim, Shri B.P. Singh at Raj Bhavan, Kolkata on 5th July 2010.

1. Your Excellencies and friends, it is a very great pleasure to be here today with you on this occasion of the release these two books.

2. I have known the author since at least 1995 when I happened to meet him when I was the Vice-Chancellor of Vishwa Bharatiya, Shantiniketan, and he was holding the vital important position of Secretary in the Ministry of Culture, and as His Excellency, the Governor of West Bengal, told you just now, at least one of these volumes is clearly a product of that period when he led the Ministry of Culture. It’s very good indeed to meet him once again as an author.

3. Even in those days he was known to be somewhat different from, shall we say, the common run of bureaucrats because of his individual interest. In these essays, another aspect of his intellectual life is revealed and I shall soon come to that. But what strikes me most of all from these two books which have been produced and reprinted now and put in a case, is that we have here not only the insides of an insider but also a kind of wisdom that goes beyond the normal range of insights one would expect from an author.

4. I find that especially with the book entitled Bahudha. The author shows an ability to project a view that is of an exceptional nature, I will tell you why.

5. To begin with, many of you may agree with me, when I say that there are two kinds of books. There are books which come at the end of a long line of authors, who, in many ways, anticipate the argument, and thus you have books which bring a discourse to a closure. Then, there are books which begin a discourse, books which stand at the beginning of an argument of a discussion. I believe that Shri B.P. Singh’s book is a book of the second kind. It begins, what I believe would be a very interesting discourse on the various meanings of pluralism and the relevance of that in our world today as well as in the interpretation of our past.

6. The title Bahudha, I find, very attractive; the subtitle which refers to 9/11, to my mind, trivializes perhaps, the theme of the book. We have in this book the discourse of history which goes back to the Vedas and then the subtitle suddenly throws us into the level of newspaper headlines and events of 9/11 in New York. The term Bahudha is from Rig Veda and the 9/11 incident is something else. However, that is a personal prejudice of mine. I do believe that, although history has to be connected with contemporary events, and hence perhaps, 9/11 comes in. The title as well as, in some case, the treatment of the theme takes us from the timeless to the ephemeral. And in particular, since I hugely like the title Bahudha, I would have thought, the book could very well do without its subtitle.

7. I will be talking about the book which overshadows its companion. I will be talking about Bahudha.

8. As you know two books have been released and the second book consisting of essays mainly written during 1995-98, when B.P. Singhji was at the helm of the Ministry of Culture. The second book, India’s Culture,, contains some really interesting insights into the working of the cultural policy not in 1990s alone but in earlier times. For the first time, you have from the archives of the Ministry of Culture some hot documents which throw light on the thinking of Jawarharlal Nehru and Abdul Kalam Azad on the representation of India, presentation of India, its history, its culture, to the citizens of the Republic and to the world at large. These are extremely important documents and B.P. Singh’s commentary on it is also of great interest. It shows that apart from an administrator- B.P. Singh- there was also an intellectual and author- B.P. Singh- trying to open windows out of the musty, stuffy corridors of Shastri Bhavan, doors-corridors, lined with doors which lead to other doors, brass plates bearing names and walls on both sides. From out of that we can see- B.P. Singh- the author, trying to look into another world, the world of the Mind. And in particular, I find, what he writes about Nehru’s ideas about how to bring to the citizens of the new Republic the idea of India, it is Nehru’s thoughts on this and approach to the question, I find a very fascinating essay in this book. The other essay which I found very interesting is a long essay on the archeological survey of India and its evolution. Once again, B.P. Singh’s focus is on how India was to be presented in pageants of republic, Republic Day parade, how the new republican leaders tried to work out new answers.

9. However, I would prefer to come back to Bahudha because to my mind that is really the crucial contribution that has been made. And as I said, I think, this book overshadows the other companion body, the collection of essays on India’s culture.

10. Bahudha is a monograph centered on the issue of pluralism in India. Of the twelve chapters, six are historical surveys of the origin and growth of the concept of pluralism in Hindu and Buddhist India, and the subsequent development. Four chapters are on the relevance of pluralism in the global perspective, particularly in the domain international relations and conflict resolution. And the first and last chapters of the book are devoted to a consideration of a contemporary and a futuristic interpretation of pluralism. This is where the author elaborates on the impact of events like the end of the Cold War, demolition of the Berlin wall, the rise of fundamentalism and the traumatic event of 9/11 in New York. Roughly, that is what is on the menu for the reader of this book, Bahudha.

11. More important than the description of what this book contains, is, perhaps, the question, what is the central thrust of the author’s argument. The term Bahudha, as has been mentioned just now, comes from a passage in Rig Veda, Ekam Sat Viprah Bahudha Vadanti, the real is one, the learned speak of it variously. Thus Bahudha, means variousness of the comprehension of reality. B.P. Singh comments, ‘Pluralism could the closet equivalent to Bahudha. Pluralism, in the context of co-existence of nation states and ethnicity, pluralism in the content of equality and identities”. The author goes on to say the chief characteristic of the 21st century is ‘the conflict between forces of tolerance and peace emanating from the concept of Bahudha and on the other hand, the forces of fundamentalism.’ That is why he sees the need to study and propagate the idea of pluralism inherent in Indian civilization from the earliest time. In other words, what I see here, is not only scholarly interest but there is a moral intent in this book which one should note.

12. Now, if that is the theme of this book, we find almost an exact opposite of that in a book that readily invites comparison with B.P. Singh’s book. This is a work that the author has quoted many times. The work of Samuel Huntington entitled ‘The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order’. Huntington’s book stands at the end of the long line of works on analogous political thought. If you remember what I said you about two kinds of books this is the first kind of book which have a very long preceding anticipatory series of authors. From Machiavelli, through Hobbes to Huntington, we can trace an intellectual genealogy. The ruthless rationale of power building in Machiavelli, the picture of pre-social contract, which is ‘nasty brutish and short’, as Hobbes put it, find reincarnation in Huntington’s depiction of international discord.

13. Since B.P. Singhji refers to this book number of times and since Huntington is the most the most influential work on conflict and conflict resolution, I would like to spend some time with Huntington and compare it what B.P. Singhji proposes in his book.

14. B.P. Singh’s argument is just the opposite of Huntington’s. While B.P. Singh sees in pluralism the resolution, the prospect of resolution of national and international discord, Huntington emphasizes that conflict, which is inherently politics, is inevitable. The inevitability of conflict is written very large in Huntington’s book. B.P. Singh’s book is about the long history of Bahudha from the Vedic times through Buddhism to the Panchsheel principles of Jawarharlal Nehru. On the other hand, Huntington focuses on the history of the Crusades and traces the conflict between Islamic forces and Western powers right up to the Afghan and Iraq war, in our times.

15. B.P. Singh points to the growth of tolerance and secularism in combating communalism in national life and inter-state conflict in the international domain. On the other hand, Huntington perceives the rise of religious fundamentalism, particularly, the role of Islamic fundamentalism, as the clue to the understanding of the contemporary world. Thus, these two represent contending alternative approaches to the world around us today, as well as alternative approaches to understand the past history.

16. I mentioned Huntington because his book is one of the well known of books currently talked about. If B.P. Singh presents a certain moral point of view, in Huntington you see an alternative to that. The strong reaction to 9/11 events in the public mind was fully in accord with Huntington’s intellectual predilection. It is also true in countries of the north, the majority of intellectuals have welcomed Huntington’s work which offers a new paradigm to interpret the international order since the Cold War. These are some of the reasons why Huntington’s is so extraordinarily influential book in the present decade.

17. But here are many things which are wrong in Huntington’s thesis and many things which are right in what B.P. Singh tells us. I think it could be of Huntington’s errors arise from his perception or his subjective bias. I, for instance, for the life of me, I don’t understand what he means by calling India a ‘Hindu power’ in the new international order. In which international context has India acted as a Hindu Power? Again, what is the continuity between the crusaders, the medieval Christian Europe and the Western powers which can scarcely be accused of being Christian in their motivation today.

18. The conflating of medieval Crusades with United States action in West Asia is utterly bizarre, to my mind. In fact, Huntington hurtles through history regardless of inconvenient facts somehow to arrive at the United States in world politics today. He looks back at all of history from the crater marking the spot where the world trade center was. The fact that this is understandable in emotional terms, cannot justify it in intellectual terms.

19. For all these reasons, I consider B.P. Singh’s narrative nearer the truth even if on points of historical details, here and there, questions may be raised. B.P. Singh is more dependable because he is not motivated by a scheme to construct a justification for his country’s international role, nor is he offering a history of conflicts as a case for further engagement in conflict, purportedly, to end conflict. I think that is a major motivation in Huntington’s case. B.P. Singh has not been a special case in that, in any sense. Needless to say, it will be possibly said that Huntington is an objective realist and B.P. Singh is an utopian. It is tempting for laymen, thus, to label authors. I will apply here what Amartya Sen had called ‘the test of practical reason.’ Since test is fair if there is an almost equal possibility of two observations being reasonable, as often what happens in social science. What needs to be considered is the practical consequence of accepting one over the other of these observations. If we accept the conflictual account as the only true interpretation of history, the practical consequence is to sow the seeds of further conflict. The emphasis on pluralism as a value has the potential of creating a moral climate suitable for resolving the conflict.

20. That is the choice before us and in B.P. Singh’s book we see a reasonable argument which tells us why our choice should be in favour of an approach which is built upon the concepts of Bahudha.

21. In fact, in social sciences we cannot get away from making moral choices. B.P. Singh’s notion of Bahudha has the potential of opening a line of thinking that involves both the moral choice and an intellectual endeavor. That is why I said in the beginning that we have here a book that stands at the beginning rather than at the end of an argument about our world.

12. ADDRESS BY SHRI K. SANKARANARAYANAN, GOVERNOR OF MAHARASHTRA AT THE RELEASE OF THE BOX-SET CONTAINING BOOKS ENTITLED BAHUDHA AND THE POST 9/11 WORLD AND INDIA’S CULTURE: THE STATE, THE ARTS AND BEYOND AUTHORED BY GOVERNOR OF SIKKIM SHRI B.P. SINGH AT DARBAR HALL, RAJ BHAVAN, MUMBAI ON FRIDAY 18TH FEBRUARY, 2011 AT 5 PM

I am indeed delighted to associate myself with the release of the two masterly books by Governor B.P. Singh, namely, India’s Culture: The State, the Arts and Beyond and Bahudhā and the Post 9/11 World.

Shri B.P. Singh has had a distinguished career in the prestigious Indian Civil Service. He has held such important positions as the Union Home Secretary, Cultural Secretary, Executive Director of the World Bank, and others. The books authored by him are a testimony of his erudition, wide experience and scholarship.

The books offer an objective and unbiased view of history, culture and civilization. They present the philosophy of respect for diverse opinions (Bahudha) in the context of conflicts of modern times and the efforts for their peaceful resolution.

Even though Governor Singh humbly claims himself to be a student of India’s history, I am convinced that he is a great historian and a thinker who has made invaluable contribution to the discourse on Culture, Civilization and Conflict Resolution.

I congratulate Dr. Singh for his labour of love, which has resulted in the birth of these two great books.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Governor B.P. Singh’s book is premised on Rig Veda’s philosophy of Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadanti which means that the ‘truth is one ; sages call it various names’.

The book on ‘Indian Culture’ provides glimpses of a few aspects of India’s culture and highlights the relevance of culture in the social and political life of a nation.

Mr Singh very rightly argues that recognition of culture as an important factor in development, and also a major ingredient of the national personality will alter the national scene in significant ways in the coming decades.

A few years ago, Noble Laureate Prof Amartya Sen had delivered a lecture on ‘Culture and Development’ in the University of Mumbai. He had said development is not just an increase in wealth. Progress of nations cannot be measured only by growth in wealth. Development, according to him, means removal of constraints like poverty, tyranny, social deprivation, inequality of opportunities and intolerance.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Globalization has increased contacts between people and impacted their values, ideas and ways of life in many ways. People are travelling frequently and widely. Communication has brought about a revolution in our lives to the extent that geographic disadvantage is much less an obstacle to our progress than it was 50 years ago.

As religious communities and as nations, our future is now inextricably linked to one another.

In today’s world, we cannot afford to be ignorant of one another, or to have enmities between different faiths. It is crucial to have a process of dialogue and engagement between communities, nations and religions. When we get to know one another, we not only appreciate how other religious communities encounter the divine, but also enhance understanding of our own religion. In the process, we widen the common ground, which we all share together.

Dr. Singh’s book Bahudhā and the Post 9/11 World captures the spirit of this argument. Mahavira had propounded a similar theory of Anekant-Vada or respect for diverse viewpoints.

Preserving the trust and understanding of different religions and cultures requires a spirit of give and take. The attitude of my religion is superior than yours is harmful and must be shunned. There has to be the spirit of accommodation if we wish to usher in a peaceful India and world. This has been the essence of the Bahudhā approach.

I do feel that in order to usher in a conflict free world, we must have our development processes sustainable and inclusive. Development should benefit all the marginalized sections of society like the poor, minorities, SCs, STs, backward classes, women, etc. we must make our democracy and governance decentralized.

I congratulate Governor B.P. Singh for giving us these wonderful books and urge him to give us more. I also congratulate the Oxford Press for the quality printing of books and also for keeping the price reasonable.

Thank you.

13. Bahudhā Approach and India’s Culture Speech by Prof. M.V. Nadkarni on 18th July, 2012 at Raj Bhavan, Bangalore.

I am privileged to be invited to speak at this august function graced by two intellectual Governors, and on two crucially important books by His Excellency Shri. B. P. Singh.

Shri. Singh has been speaking and writing on these two highly, interrelated themes since long, for over two decades or more – the Bahudha Approach and India’s Culture. It is only appropriate that he has put his ideas together in the form of these two books published by Oxford University Press in an attractive get-up.

Both the books are very well researched with authentic references, and exhaustive end notes in clarifications and support. At the same time, the books are equally accessible to nonacademic audience, since the style of writing is lucid and clear; with several rare pictures.

After all, the themes of these two books are not merely of academic importance in India and abroad, but are crucial to our very survival as a civilization. The books are thus relevant to all – political leaders, social workers, teachers, intellectuals, NGO’s, and even common people. I hope that paper back editions at lower prices would come out soon so that they are widely accessible.

The two books are organically interrelated, since the two respective themes – the Bahudha approach and India’s Culture are like chicken and egg. They are born out of each other, and each is the others mother, and each is its child as well. It is Bahudha approach which is basic or foundational to India’s Culture, and at the same time there is something inherent in India’s Culture which gives rise to the Bahudha approach. To deny or defy Bahudha approach is to deny or defy Indian Culture.

But it would be incorrect to confine the relevance or applicability of the Bahudha approach only to India’s Culture. The approach is universal in its applicability and appeal. We can say that the Bahudha approach is India’s richest contribution to the World civilization and culture, as significant in importance as India’s contribution through the concept of zero and decimal based numerals. If the world civilizations have to survive, there is no alternative but to adopt the Bahudha approach.

What after all is this Bahudha approach? The author has expertly explained this very well and in great details in the book. But I will try to paraphrase the main features of the approach briefly here.

The author coined the phrase, ‘the Bahudha approach’, inspired by the Rig Vedic saying – The one Truth is expressed in manifold ways by the wise.

Thus there are various dimensions to one Truth, has long been understood in India on its religions and scriptures. This implies that one should respect different view points, different approaches, different religions, different language and customs and even modes of dress and foods. The author makes it clear that what is necessary is not just tolerance, but mutual respect. The significance of the difference between tolerance and respect is evident. If one were to tell his wife when she serves a good dish, that he tolerates her cooking, it may even lead to divorce!

Even between different religions, what is necessary is mutual respect and not mere tolerance. Mutual respect can greatly reduce bitterness, rivalry and competition, and promote understanding and peace. On the other hand, attempts to disintegrate other religions, proselytise and convert people from one religion to another, implies – not respect, not even tolerance, but contempt for other religions. It comes in the way of learning from each other. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a well known spiritual guide from Bangalore told once, that to eat Swiss chocolate, one does not have to become Swiss citizen.

An eminent poet of Karnataka, Shri. Hara Bendre gave expression to the beauty of diversity in a poem on flowers.

He wrote :

The beauty of the poem cannot be translated into English. But I can try to give its literal meaning.
Each is unique,
Each without blemish, and
Each beautiful in its own right.
I think, this poem is a marvelous expression of the Bahudha approach in a nutshell. Diversity is valued because it is in itself beautiful and should never be destroyed or diminished. Diversity is also valued because it is also creative, and even the evolution of the species is both the cause and consequence of diversity. Diversity is valued because it is humane, and brings forth the best in us, and distinguishes the civilised from the barbarian. Diversity is a mark of civilization. It is through respect for diversity that civilizations can survive,thrive and avoid a clash.

The principle of diversity applies to ecological or bio-diversity too; it is not consigned only to the social and political dimensions. The Earth retains its ability to nourish us only because of its immense ecological diversity. If human interventions threaten this, it is human survival itself which is at risk. The necessity to maintain ecological diversity in good health arises are of this need for human survival in comfort, and not just because of aesthetic reasons. Man has to accommodate nature, if nature has to accommodate man.

But diversity cannot work without a verifying principle, just as the planetary system with several planets and satellites, function in a single solar system, and all such systems co-exist in a cosmic order of harmony. This applies to human being as their identities. If each human being is obsessed with a single identity in terms of say religion or language, and thinks of oneself in exclusion from others, such a person diminishes himself no less than he diminishes the country and the world.

Diversity is not chaos and conflicts. It needs mutual harmony. Even excessive nationalism is undesirable, though the sovereignty and identity of each country is to be respected.

It may look paradoxical but is true that any diversity, in terms of religion, language or customs, is meaningful only in relation to a unifying principle of India’s culture which permits and encourages this diversity. Similarly diversity of different countries and nations is meaningful only in relation to oneness of all humanity. The phrase, ‘Unity in diversity’ is not just a nice expression, but is thus pregnant with great significance. It is unity which gives meaning and strength to diversity, and it is diversity which promotes and strengthens unity. It is this genius of India which combines unity with diversity which lies behind its survival as one country. We cannot stress unity alone, nor can we stress diversity alone. We have to stress unity and diversity or unity in diversity.

It is this unity in Diversity which is the secret behind India’s Cultural identity and cultural power. Mr. Singh makes a seminal contribution by developing his thesis that culture is a power, main power in fact, after military strength and economic strength.

However, culture as power is not of a dominating type, unlike military and economic strengths. Cultural relations are mutually enriching, and not of a type where one party in the relation dominates and exploits, and and the other party is diminished. It is not a zero-sum game. That is why cultural power can be a power for peace and happiness, and even for human development.

But we cannot perhaps take for granted that cultural power would never be dominating and exploitative. There is an award winning novel by S.L. Byrappa in Kannada, entitled Mandra().In this novel, a musician of national fame not only dominates his disciples, especially female disciples, but also exploits them sexually. Paradoxically, the exploited student finds a spiritual solace finally, but the musician stands isolated, totally diminished and forlorn in the end. This is not an unrealistic story.

Domination, even culturally, is a double-edged weapon. It can destroy the victim as well as the perpetrator of domination and exploitation. The solution lies in mutual learning and promotion of diversity. We should therefore be careful in using culture as power, whether it be between countries or within a country. Culture should be used with humility and as an ennobling, elevating, spiritually enhancing influence.

The author has done well to stress that culture has to be reflected in everyday life too. Culture has to promote refinement, humility and openness in our behavior. Unfortunately, in spite of our awareness of our rich cultural tradition, our contemporary society does not reflect refinement. Most Indians have disgusting habits like spitting on the road, easily breaking queues, talking loudly, littering waste on the road, and in shops, not even smiling when a customer or client approaches. Our festivals are celebrated in very noisy and environmentally destructive ways.

Cultures and civilizations have an important moral dimension as well, and are not confined to artistic or aesthetic expressions.

I have not been able to do full justice to the two books. I have also perhaps gone somewhere beyond what is written in the books. But my paraphrase is a logical extension of Mr. B.P Singh’s valuable contribution.

14. Review of Bahudhā and the Post 9/11 World by Alex Mckay, International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden in Bulletin of Tibetology, Volume 44 No. 1 and 2 of 2008 published by Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, Gangtok, Sikkim.

As Mahatma Gandhi reminded us, in darkness there is always light, and in the most troubled times there are always voices seeking solutions rather than emphasizing the problems. This timely work is, as its author states, “an individual’s effort to seek a way of reconciling the disturbing disorder of our times” (p.xvii). Appropriately enough it has a foreword by that apostle of peace and reason, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. Its author, Balmiki Prasad Singh, now the Governor of Sikkim and formerly Culture Secretary (1995-97) and Home Secretary (1997-99) in the Government of India, was serving as one of the Executive Directors of the World Bank representing India, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in Washington on 9/11, when the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon took place. Clearly there were first thoughts were of war. But as history already tells us, a more thoughtful and considered response was actually needed. Bahudha into a sound blueprint for rebuilding the post-9/11 world.  

John Lennon, quoted here in the opening lines, imagined, we might say dared to imagine, a different world, one in which mankind could live as one. Like Gandhi he paid the ultimate price despite his hopes of peace, and how that world might be created was left to others to dream of, and to plan. Already we live in an interdependent world, as the earlier and subsequent attacks on Mombasa, Mumbai, Bali and a host of other places has demonstrated. But the question remains; how might this world be one of peace and harmony?

The concept of Bahudhā (from the Sanskrit bahu, meaning many forms, ways, or paths; adverbalised by dhā) which might be best rendered in English as ‘pluralism’, is the model advanced here as a solution to the problems of humanities’ multiple conflicting aims. The term is used here, ‘to suggest an eternal reality or continuum, a dialogue of harmony, and peaceful living in society’ (p.xiii). it is a multi-layered concept, allowing the centrality of diverse religions in the modern world yet reflecting also an essential humanism, involving a deep respect for others which facilitates dialogue between individuals and states.

Bahudhā a and the Post 9/11 World begins by situating the modern world in a historical context which emphasizes the eternal centrality of government to society. At its most basic, a compact exists between ruler and ruled, ideally the former expressing the will of the latter. In the context of Indian society, the second chapter considers the Vedic worldview, born in the conflicts of migration into the Punjab under Indra’s banner, but through the philosophical and spiritual speculation and revelations of the Vedic poets, the rsis, emerging with an understanding of the necessity of respect for the points of view of others. In the more morally complex, even ambiguous message of the Epics, conflict resolution emerged in a Dharma –based moral order, with Dharma the central foundation of social harmony. Here perhaps, the author might have gone further, for , as I understand that concept, the ultimate authority in deciding what the Buddhists call ‘right action’ in the context of an individual’s varnashramadharma is the individual themselves, which implies our own individual responsibility to community and as global citizens.

The Indian heritage absorbs, generally peacefully, many cultures within its own, thus allowing multiculturalism. But the Vedic world and its inheritors were not without fault, for as the author stresses, the failure to allow the education of women and the creation of untouchability (scheduled castes) outside of varna were both detrimental to progress, and in the modern world, anachronistic and anti-0national. Yet from that Vedic heritage, the experience of conflict resolution produced individuals and an over-arching ideology that is relevant to much of the problems of today’s world and the question of solutions to those problems. As we read in chapters Four and Five, that heritage has produced’ pathfinders’- Mahavira, the Buddha, Guru Nanak, and others who showed how we might live peacefully, and ‘builders’ such as Vivekananda, Gandhi, and Tagore who further added to that development of righteous living with their addition of such crucial concepts as non-violence to the earlier lessons. India also produced rulers such as Ashoka, (for whom Dharma became a state policy), Akbar, and Nehru, who at least reflected those ideals, recognized their validity, and generally tried to implement them in society.

Seeking to explore these ideals further the author visited places in Kerala, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, and Assam, “to bring out how the common people in India retain the essence of harmonious living and manage crises and conflicts…..in their everyday life……” (p. 195). He found that amidst great cultural change religious culture survives, and that where- as in Naxalite Jharkhand – communication and dialogue has broken down, conflict follows. At the other end of the spectrum in places such as Hajo – and one thinks also of Rewalsar in Himachal – religious distinctions break down, and social harmony is enhanced. Thus might Bahudhā be seen, as Part Three is entitled, as “an Instrument of Public Policy for Harmony.” One thinks of this pluralist ethos in the closely related context of Bhutan’s concern with Gross National Happiness. In a land neighbouring India this is a genuine enquiry into alternatives to what often seems the world’s primary concern with violent enforcement of ideological goals.

After considering the rise of the secular West, shaped by the philosophies of Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche, and so on, the author advances the concept of Bahudhā as a means of conflict resolution through which there can be “persevering and attempting to solve problems according to the principles of peace,” (p.240), and then discusses what needs to be done to achieve this. The dangers of fundamentalism are ever present. In India, for example, there has been the recent stain of events in Gujarat, but as stated here, much of this tendency can be eliminated through education for all. It is through knowing other paths that they can be respected, and the wider idea of one truth and many paths be understood. Prejudice flourishes best among the uneducated.

In discussing the “International Political Architecture” (Chapter 11), the author points out the agreement between Bahudhā and the core philosophy of the United Nations as well as the fundamental principles of democracy. Can, he asks, we turn these ideals into reality and make Bahudhā a global creative venture – a cornerstone of the plural society and liberal democracy? Such questions need to be constantly asked, and it should be no surprise if the best solutions tend to be age-old, because people of goodwill have asked them throughout history.

If the solutions are to be applied, education is indeed a key, and this work would make an excellent textbook for schools. It is a scholarly and humane work, eminently readable and drawing on a wide range of sources and experiences. It represents the voice of reasons that must be heard if our species and its world are to long survive.

 

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