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Charles Russell Memorial Lecture-2012 delivered by His Excellency Shri. Balmiki Prasad Singh, Governor of Sikkim at Patna College on the occasion of its 150th Year Celebrations on Sunday,  the 25th March, 2012.


Thank you Mr. Principal, for inviting me to deliver Charles Russell Memorial Lecture this evening. It is a singular honour to speak in memory of an institution builder and former Principal who worked tirelessly in the building up of Patna College. I find that this memorial lecture commenced in 1924 and some of its prominent speakers include persons like Chakravarti Rajagopalachari and John Kenneth Galbraith. I am grateful to Prof. Shambhunath Singh, Vice-Chancellor for persuading me to accept this task.

Patna College was founded on 9th January, 1863. Over the years, it emerged as an important centre of learning in eastern India.  A large number of distinguished scholars, administrators, thinkers, jurists, poets and philosophers proudly refer to this campus as their alma-mater.

My grandfather - founder of national school in our village Bihat in 1920’s - invariably got down from his carriage while passing through the main gate of Patna College and touched the ground as a mark of respect. He believed - and so do several of us still - that this temple of learning changed the youth of Bihar and the State itself in significant ways. It created new opportunities and livelihood options. People both in urban centres and in rural areas started stepping into services and industry from agriculture. In fact, Bihar’s contribution to the national freedom struggle and also its own cultural, economic and political progress could be attributed to the valuable contribution made by the College which empowered the young boys and girls through modern education and they have, in turn, served the State and the country with dedication during the last 150 years.

Patna College established itself as a Renaissance institution and contributed immensely to the spirit of enquiry among students. It imparted the feeling among the youth that they have the right to educate and improve themselves.

It is no mere coincidence that rise and decline of Bihar has been associated with Patna College and vice-versa. Bihar’s present leadership has given confidence to both the people within and outside the State about its rise. And so does Patna College.

On my own part, I was brought up in my village and subsequently, at Begusarai and at Patna. I owe to Bihat, Begusarai and Patna University immensely in the making of myself. In fact, when I look back - and despite the fact that I have spent the last four decades outside Bihar in different parts of India and in the UK and the US- I could still recognize myself in the framework of the person who was shaped in Bihat, Begusarai and Patna.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great privilege to be associated with the 150th year anniversary of Patna College. I vividly recall my presence in the gathering held on the occasion of the centenary celebrations of Patna College in January 1963 in the College campus in a winter morning that was graced by Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, President of India and Dr. George Jacob, Vice-Chancellor of Patna University, who had conducted the ceremony.

It was here in the campus of Patna College that I learned to be a teacher and administrator. My first major article was published in March 1962 precisely 50 years ago in the famous Modern Review of Calcutta entitled Goa and International Law when I was a young lecturer here. Soon I got immersed into the administrative responsibilities in Assam as an IAS officer,  which led me to feel that the writer in me is deep-buried. But such strong was the foundation imparted to me by this great centre of learning that it rose again.

I have combined the adventurous journey in administration and public service with writing and reflection. This got fillip with Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship which was awarded to me in 1982. This resulted in publication of the book The Problem of Change: A Study of Northeast India which continues to be in circulation.

I have chosen to speak today on Building Peace: the Bahudha Approach, a theme which has been a part of my mental journey for the last decade and more.

In some way it owes its origins to my previous work India’s Culture: The State, the Arts and Beyond which was published in 1998. I had reluctantly accepted the invitation of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) to inaugurate a two-day seminar at New Delhi on 11th  April, 1996 entitled Art, Culture and Business in a Liberalized Economy: Towards Synergy. In view of heavy workload, I did not get time to look at the draft speech that my colleagues had given to me for this occasion. When I glanced through it on my way to the seminar campus my heart sank. For what I was carrying was a pedestrian paper. As my car stopped at traffic lights, my stress level kept on rising. Fortunately, I got some new ideas during this short time.

I had then articulated two interrelated ideas : one, that India is one of the unique nations in the world in that it possesses a developed culture, credible military strength and a developing economy; and second, that in the last decade of the twentieth century one could clearly see that culture is emerging as a third factor in determining the status of a nation in the world after market and military strength; the market having replaced military strength from its position of supremacy in the post-Cold War world. Another consideration contributed to writing of this book was that every student of India’s culture particularly the youth found India both fascinating and baffling, with its multiplicity of languages and dialects, gods and goddesses, values and beliefs, customs and practices, sensuality and asceticism. I wanted to portray my understanding of India’s culture for benefit of students. The book began and I quote :

“What is India’s culture? This is a question that cannot be easily answered. And yet India’s culture which blossomed more than 3000 years ago, has given successive generations of Indians a mind-set, a value system, and a way of life, which has been retained with remarkable continuity despite the passage of time, repeated foreign invasions, and the enormous growth in population. It gives to Indians as well as to people of Indian origin a unique personality today, as it has done in the past. In fact, these constitute enduring imprints on Indian consciousness”.

India’s Culture became an instant success both within and outside India. I have heard appreciative references about the book from scholars as well as from students.

The author of the theory of clash of civilizations Samuel P. Huntington although did not appreciate my criticism of his thesis that this book contained in its last chapter, but we had two meetings at the initiative of an Indian diplomat as Huntington wanted to understand my point of view. This book also brought me closer to Fancis Fukuyama, the author of The End of History as he called on me to discuss India’s Culture policy on 12th  June, 2001at Washington DC.

My forecast in this book that culture will dominate world affairs did materialize but not in the manner that I had visualized.

We in India were instructed by Mahatma Gandhi during the freedom struggle that the independence movement was against the servitude and exploitative mechanism of the colonial order and not against the British. Senior leaders of the  new Republic Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Maulana Azad and Dr. Rajendra Prasad concentrated their energy and time on building institutions in the fields of science and arts, literature and philosophy and participation of the common people in the democratic governance.

Such a phenomenon was not experienced in several newly independent countries in Asia and Africa as also among the nation-states which emerged after the dissolution of the Soviet empire in 1991. In these countries, there was a deep resentment against the cruelty inflicted by the colonialists and the dictators on the people as also against their economic exploitation.

Placed in these circumstances, the fundamentalists in several countries fomented hatred and hostility and used religion and traditional values to further their argument. No wonder we have been pushed in era of terrorism and suicide squads.

The Bahudha approach is the answer to this challenge.

Etymologically speaking, the word Bahudhā is derived from the word bahu, and dha is suffixed to it to make it an adverb. So, what does Bahudhā mean? ‘Bahu’ denotes many ways or parts or forms or directions. It is used to express manifoldness, much, and repeatedly. When the word is used with the root kri, it means to make manifold or multiply. Bahudhā is also used as an expression of intermittent continuity in various time frames. It is used to express frequency, as in ‘time and again’. Bahudhā suggests an eternal reality or continuum, a dialogue of harmony, and peaceful living in society.

Pluralism could be the closest equivalent to Bahudhā in the English language. The Bahudhā approach recognizes that there is a distinction between plural societies and pluralism. Pluralism is an inevitable ingredient of democratic societies. The role of religion, language, and ethnicity is very significant in plural societies. Pluralism in this context is an imperative for both developed and developing societies.

Pluralist societies are necessarily multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multilingual societies. In such societies, there are various boundaries: racial, linguistic, religious, and at times even ideological. The Bahudhā approach does not believe in annexation or transgression of boundaries or assimilation of identities and propagation of a simplistic world view. It merely facilitates dialogue and thereby promotes understanding of the collective good. The realization of one’s own identity may sustain boundaries and yet, at the same time, understanding of other identities may help formulate a public policy of harmony. The Bahudhā approach is conscious of the fact that societies without boundaries are not possible.

The culture of Bahudhā is deeply rooted in the inculcation of a special attitude from an early age.  Dialogue requires a state of mind where one can strongly believe in one’s own way of looking at issues while simultaneously accommodating another’s point of view. It is this mental discipline that makes one willing to consider the validity of other person’s view point.

In short, the Bahudhā approach is both a celebration of diversity and an attitude of mind that respects another person’s point of view. Democracy and dialogue are central to this approach.

Diversity celebrates different religions, gods and goddesses and belief systems. It also promotes a feeling that the world would be a dull and over-uniform place if there was only one religion, one god, one language, one folklore and one folktale. The human species cannot be all of one belief or faith or system – humanity is diversity – something we too often forget.

At the risk of over-simplification, the vital  question in this changed world is ‘How should we live?’

In this broad context, the relevance of Bahudhā approach in the contemporary world could be viewed in the context of a series of interrelated happenings such as globalization and its discontents; the yearning for freedom and hope for a decent livelihood among youth; the increasing importance of religion in human affairs; and the rise of terrorism caused by and/or accompanied with a sense of fear, revenge and humiliation.

In a globalized world the poor are no longer ignorant of the world of the rich. The rich can no longer ignore the tragedies of people of Asia, Africa and Latin America for this could adversely affect them.

The Arab Spring
Today, there is lot of hope in the Arab world. The changes that began in the first year of the second decade of the twenty-first century in the Arab World constituted a titanic movement in history. It reminded one of the nature of changes that were set into motion in the last decade of the twentieth century that commenced with the fall of Berlin Wall, dissolution of the Soviet Empire and democratic freedom for the east European countries.

The ‘Jasmine Revolution’ of January, 2011 in Tunisia – so named in view of the pride of place that jasmine occupies in Tunisian society was filled with talk of democracy and freedom. It was facilitated by use of the mobile phone, the Internet, Facebook and Twitter- the new instruments placed in the hands of youth by Information and Communication Technology (ICT) revolution. Egypt and several other Arab countries including Yemen, Syria and Libya followed suit. The massive and spontaneous nature of street-protests posed decisive challenge to the rule of autocrats and dictators. It was a huge reaction against rulers who were stealing wealth of the community and depriving people of their freedom.

In future, it may well be that the Arab World would be ruled by democratically elected leaders. The Arabs will exercise their rights to regime change as in European countries, the US and India. It will, however, take time for democratic institutions like the legislature, the judiciary, the media and the election commission to acquire firm roots and autonomous and independent character.

In a globalized world, the youth are nurturing hope based on doing better in this world here and now. They are no longer believers in fate nor do they entertain the belief in some future better world, either on earth or in heaven.

Religious Revival
The world is also witnessing a revival of religions as never before in recent times. Religious resurgence is primarily a reaction to the loss of personal identity and group stability produced by the process of social, economic, and cultural modernization that swept across the world in the second half of the twentieth century. In the second half of the twentieth century economic and social modernization became global in scope.  With the rapid decline in traditional systems of authority, some people get separated from their roots in a bewildering maze of new rules and expectations. Such people need new sources of identity, new forms of stable community, and new sets of moral precepts to provide them with a sense of meaning and purpose. Organized religious groups, both mainstream and radical, are growing today precisely to meet these needs. It has pervaded ‘every continent, every civilization, and virtually every country’.

Privatization of Violence and Terrorism
Terrorism, including human bombs, is the latest instrument in violent conflicts that are being sanctioned in the name of redressal of religious and ethnic grievances. The story of the Al-Qaeda as a terrorist organization is ‘the story of eccentric and violent ideas sprouting in the fertile ground of political and social turmoil’. Islamists believe that ‘war on terror’ is just a western euphemism for ‘war on Islam’. The concerned citizens in different continents are asking: How to stop this cycle of violence that is leading to more violence and suffering?

Today, the spectre of a nuclear holocaust can no longer be dismissed as wild imagination. There is no road map with the United Nations for achieving nuclear disarmament in a time-bound universal, non-discriminatory, phased and verifiable manner. On the other hand, the fact that some ‘rogue’ nations are already in possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), only fuels this growing sense of insecurity. In a way, globalization has aided the expansion of a global terror network. There is now constant sharing of intelligence and technology between different terror outfits around the world. The porous borders, meant to allow free trade, are being exploited by terrorists to carry out subversive activities.

Humiliation and Hope
The world is also being guided by a sense of Humiliation and by a sense of Hope. Humiliation is the injured confidence of people and the nation-states when they come to believe that for no fault of theirs they were/are badly treated and that their physical and human resources were/are exploited by a few powerful countries and companies.

On the other side of spectrum, there are several countries where people and particularly the boys and girls are hopeful for their future. They are confident that the future belongs to them and that they will be able to realize their potential in their life-time and leave a better future for their children and grand-children.

Need for Change and Bahudhā Approach
So we need a new kind of world to be constructed by people, states, and religious communities. Perhaps, the major world religions could seize the opportunities provided by globalization to transform their messages and reach out to a new global audience. Faith informs the daily struggles of millions in confronting larger political conflicts regarding democracy, human rights, and economic development.


How to Secure Bahudhā

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Bahudhā approach could be secured particularly through (i) religious harmony; (ii) educational programming; (iii) strengthening of international political architecture: the United Nations; and (iv) the use of military power in terms of the UN Charter.

In coming decades religion is likely to make increasing impact upon and even alter relations of the nation-states in several parts of the world. At a basic level, religion will be an important factor in understanding the general foreign policy orientations of many countries.

Religion is a potent force. As an agent for the generation of peace and happiness, it facilitates goodwill among people, and helps them to lead a life of spirituality and fulfillment. In recent years, people like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King have used it for achieving justice and freedom. Swami Vivekananda and Mother Teresa were inspired by their religious faiths to serve the poor, the derelict, and the discarded.

What we need is a synthesis of these values-spiritual and moral as well as intellectual-with the aim of producing a fully integrated human being. Such an individual would be both inward looking as well as outward looking, who searches his own mind in order that his nobler self may prevail at all times, and at the same time recognize his obligations to his fellow men and the world around him.

Education
Education has a central role to play in building a harmonious society. Education must begin at home as it is here that intolerance towards other faiths has its origins. We know that it is not only love and compassion but also hatred and intolerance that are widespread. Just as people can be taught to hate, they can also learn to treat others with love, dignity and respect. In fact, the issue of public policy of harmony is critically linked with education.

There is an urgent need to focus on the educational curriculum in order to purge it of content that spreads hatred and/or distorts history. Effective education also demands the development of a creative mind and scientific temper.

Societies marked by a continuing intolerant ethos, in which religious or ethnic groups blindly espouse their narrowest possible perceptions, education can play a role. Patience and time are needed for education to play its expected meaningful role in bringing peace and harmony in the world. The biggest positive factor is that despite all odds youth in many parts of  the world are full of hope.

The International Political Architecture: The United Nations
Resolving conflict, however, goes much beyond education. Towards this end, the UN has to be strengthened in terms of its Charter so that it becomes an effective conflict resolution organization. The global political order must reflect the best interests, rules, and practices that states hold in common.

As we look towards the future, it appears that the prevailing nation-state system would continue to be a primary structure. An international order based on the rule of law and consent of nation-states can alone be an effective conflict resolution mechanism.

The UN needs to be re-organized in several ways: by expanding the Security Council to reflect present day political and economic realities and  by funding a permanent peacekeeping force.
 
Use of Force
A question is often posed about the role and relevance of the military in the construction of an environment for creative dialogue among civilizations. In the post 9/11 world, it is quite obvious that the ugly face of terrorism has given full justification for a strong military posture by Governments. In fact, the rise of terrorist activities in different parts of the world demands it. It, however, does not mean that military intervention can be taken in an arbitrary fashion.

The Path Ahead

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Although civilizations, like other human creations, are mortal, they also evolve, survive and adapt through re-shaping their enduring ideas and values. The four prominent civilizations which embrace an overwhelmingly large segment of the global population are: Indian or Indic, Chinese, Islamic, and Western. The Bahudhā approach of ‘one truth, many interpretations’ has been an important feature of the higher forms every civilization.

Human nature will continue to be a balance of opposites: love and hatred, peace and violence, truth and falsehood, unselfishness and self-centredness, saintliness and sinfulness, and the spiritual and the physical. In fact, these opposite traits are closely connected to one another. The greatness of the human mind lies in building a system that is inclusive and judicious and one that ensures dialogue among persons, groups and nations. Towards this end, religion and spirituality, education and culture, and global political and economic institutions have major roles to play.

My sense of optimism and confidence that nation-states would cooperate in elimination of terrorist violence make me believe that the menace of terrorism in its present form would become a thing of the past in the coming decades. But this is not inevitable. The state-system, civil society organizations and concerned citizens have to take stronger action against terrorism. As I look into the future, other challenge - of removal of poverty, disease, illiteracy and inequality - will, however, persist in the 21st century.

India and the Bahudha Approach
I am aware that the principal tenets Bahudha approach of dialogue and respect for other person’s point of view have characterized other societies and civilizations. My research on Bahudha approach revealed that in India the pathfinders like Lord Mahavira, Lord Buddha and Guru Nanak; the rulers and leaders like Ashoka, Akbar and Nehru; builders of modern India like Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi, and the common people of India have spoken about, written upon and practiced Bahudha approach in their day-to-day lives. As a country of multiple religions, ethnic groups, castes and belief systems, there is greater need in India to consolidate and enhance its enduring Bahudha approach traditions.

I am not asserting that the Bahudha approach is governing every activity of every Indian. I am painfully aware of layers upon layers of cruelty in the Indian society. Deprivation to people in the name of religion, caste, gender still persists notwithstanding the equality of treatment and opportunity guaranteed in the Constitution of India. And yet the people of India and their democratic order have never jettisoned the Bahudha approach either in their society and polity, or in their thinking or international relations.

The commitment of people to the idea of peace and the concept of concord is the pre-requisite for achieving harmonious society. The renowned German philosopher Immanuel Kant ( 1724-1804) wrote in 1795 essay Perpetual Peace that we have to work for avoiding ‘a war of extermination’ and for establishment of ‘ a state of peace’. He opined that social harmony would emerge either by human insight or by conflict of a catastrophe of magnitude that would give humanity no other choice. In other words, at this time in our history we have to choose between ‘clash of civilizations’ and ‘Bahudhā’. The choice is ours.

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H.E. Shri B.P. Singh’s contact details are as under :-

Governor of Sikkim
Raj Bhavan, Gangtok
Sikkim- 737103
Tel : 03592-202400/201256
Fax : 03592-202742
Email: rajyapal22@yahoo.in  

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