Nation on the cusp of a cultural renaissance - Hindustan Times

Nation on the cusp of a cultural renaissance

Jan 29, 2024 08:08 AM IST

We gained Independence only 77 years ago. Civilisations cannot turn in such a short period, yet we are paving the way for a renaissance

Are we on the cusp of a cultural awakening, a renaissance reshaping our country? To answer this question, I’d like to introduce you to two persons.

Workers give finishing touches to an Indian flag at a workshop ahead of the Republic Day, in Mumbai on Wednesday. (HT PHOTO) PREMIUM
Workers give finishing touches to an Indian flag at a workshop ahead of the Republic Day, in Mumbai on Wednesday. (HT PHOTO)

The first is Alamdar Abdi, an experienced journalist based in Ayodhya. I asked him what he, and the Muslims of Ayodhya, thought about the construction of the temple. He recalled that as long as the dispute had persisted, confrontations would frequent. “There was an atmosphere of fear in 1992,” he said, “We were worried about our future. Now we are confident that no one will disturb us and that we will be able to move forward together.”

The second person is Nepal’s biggest industrialist and businessman, Upendra Mahato. He attended Ram Lalla’s consecration ceremony. He claims that it is not just the time for sanatan dharma, but also the resurgence of Indian culture. “I am a Nepalese citizen, but I am glad that our morals, attitudes, and behaviours are similar. This would boost connections between India and Nepal and motivate us to move further. Ram Lalla’s temple, like sanatan dharma, represents a cultural renaissance,” he said.

Pay attention. Alamdar Abdi is an Indian Muslim, while Upendra Mahato is a Nepalese Hindu. One is of a different religion, the other is of a different nationality, yet they both think in the same way. Those who witnessed what happened in 1992 find it difficult to believe in this new rising trend. Many so-called thinkers predicted that December 6 would mark the beginning of the end of India’s Ganga-Jamuni culture. They’ve been proven wrong. This is why the tone has shifted, even in the cocktail circle in Lutyens’ Delhi. Until a few years ago, the privileged class regarded speaking out on this issue as against their elitism.

How did this shift in thinking occur?

In fact, over his 10-year reign, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi has succeeded in dispelling many myths that frightened Indians. As soon as he began his second tenure, he added “sabka vishwas” to the slogan “sabka saath, sabka vikas”. Then questions arose about how he would gain the trust of everyone. Modi never wears a skullcap and does not host iftar parties. He sees such actions as religious “appeasement”. Regardless, why is this sentiment spreading? The reason is straightforward. The government has ensured that social programmes reach all poor people without discrimination. Along with these social initiatives, the repeal of triple talaq sent a fresh message to Muslim women, and communal rioting was kept under control during this time. When we combine these facts with Abdi’s wish for peace, as indicated at the beginning of this piece, everything becomes clear.

Read or listen carefully to the PM’s remarks at Ram Lalla’s pran pratishtha event. There was religiosity, but not communalism. There was cultural unity, not alienation. There was a vision of a wealthy India and a desire to take everyone along with it. It was not without reason that, shortly before him, the sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh stated that there is no need to injure anyone else’s thinking or belief in our zeal. Those who believe that this entire event is just an election gimmick should acknowledge that the behaviour of the crowd that has been gathering in Ayodhya for the past week is evidence that we are experiencing a cultural renaissance. If this were not so, Diwali would not have been celebrated on January 22 in Bengal and Bihar, both of which are known for casteism and sectarian discord.

In terms of politics, we must remember that every party engages in politics, and politics is not about sacrifice but about acquiring power; therefore, it is preferable to limit this conversation to cultural change.

For those who have forgotten, I humbly remind them of the Renaissance in Europe, which began in the 15th century. This was a period when both capitalism and socialism were prospering. Machiavelli and Shakespeare were both born during this period. Leonardo da Vinci and Donato Bramante made an indelible mark on art during this period. Europe is currently in decline, but Mahato sees this as India’s time to thrive.

One more point to note here. Europe took six-seven centuries to recover from the era of social, cultural, and economic deterioration following the fall of the Roman Empire. We gained Independence only 77 years ago, after centuries of slavery. Civilisations cannot turn in such a short period, yet we are paving the way for a renaissance. Surely, no one can stop us from constructing fresh and wonderful stories for ourselves.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. The views expressed are personal

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