Dharma Veer Bharati
I WAS born in a family that took active part in the Arya Samaj movement. I grew up in the, shadow of that fierce agitation. This has certain advantages as well as disadvantages. On the advantage side it can be said that very early in life I became conscious of the Value of free thinking and developed a sense in the light of which I judged truth from falsehood and learnt to accept the former and reject the latter. It gave me courage to stand against rotten customs even in my boyhood. But the disadvantages, too, are not less important. Every reformist and aggressive movement creates its own customs and traditions, and though it remains progressive and active in a limited part, it loses initiative beyond it and becomes conservative and entrenched.
This conservatism too needs to be challenged in time, otherwise radical reformists themselves become helpless victims of a new superstructure of customs and traditions. This has happened in the history of every people, and the Hindu society is not an exception.
I do not form my opinion about a political party by its manifesto and declared intentions. Every party should have some persons who can think for themselves, going beyond the usual claptrap of its formal ideology, which only serves as handcuffs and masks for its members, and think in depth. It is they who save their party from being enmeshed in new forms of stagnation, heresy and opportunism, and who extend its vision towards a new horizon. All such men, whether infra-rightists, middle- coursers or ultra-leftists, attract me.
This is why I hope my frank expression will be pardoned. I could never feel attracted by the R.S.S. movement. Discipline, spirit of service, patriotism, readiness for sacrifice, organization etc. are good in themselves, but besides these I never found any original thinking on the subject of culture or any new insight into cultural values. The Jana Sangh thanking on many matters has always struck me as one-sided, and being aware that its leadership is in the final analysis greatly influenced by the R.S.S. view of things has not helped to restore my confidence in the party.
I had the opportunity to meet Deendayal Upadhyaya for a couple of times. But I had heard that he was a staunch R.S.S. worker. So we kept at a gentlemanly distance from each other.
My first pleasant surprise came in 1965, Enraged by Indo-Pak hostilities, the U.S.A. had threatened to stop its food aid to India. I read a brilliant fiery speech made by Deendayalji in the papers. He had strongly condemned the U.S. Government for its anti-Indian attitude and had urged the people to attain self-sufficiency, not only in the matter of food but in all walks of national life. It was a speech in which there was no mere political slogan-mongering; no parading of cheap patriotism; no narrow communalism. On the contrary, It expressed a deep faith in the destiny of the nation and gave evidence of a sincere effort to understand the problem not only in its conventional aspect but by’ reaching its very foundations.
I felt that he had broken through the limits of his party and R.S.S. background; that he was standing altogether on a new elevation and thinking in depth.
His thoughts commanded respect, though, maybe, not acceptance.
After that experience I read many of his articles on a number of subjects like planning, medium of instruction, the dangers that faced the nation etc., and a new awareness of his personality dawned in my mind. I began to think of him not as a power-hungry politician, or disciplined party worker but as a person capable of deep thinking and one who is struggling to escape from the old forms of thought and searching for a new enlightenment. I found that every day he was attaining a new stage on the way to intellectual freedom.
I felt that I should see him and have a free discussion on many matters. I have been always fortunate in having friends in most of the parties, whether Communist or Congress, S.S.P. or C.P.M. They are staunch in their beliefs, yet these have never come in the way of our friendship. I am always able to establish a contact with them on a non-party level. So I thought, “Why not see this deep-thinking personality of Deendayalji from close quarters ?’’
I got the opportunity after about two years. On an invitation from Shri P. Ratnam, then Indian Ambassador in Indonesia, I paid a visit to that country. It was just after the Communist rising which had fabled, and though Dr. Sukarno was still holding the highest office power had passed into the hands of Suharto. A civil war had almost broken out. The Bali island was the stronghold of Communists. It is also the centre of Hindu culture. It had then witnessed a bloodbath unprecedented in history.
I travelled between Jakarta and Den Pasar, and saw trains being looted, tanks guarding the streets, and all foreigners living in the shadow of death. As Sukarno had consistently supported Pakistan, the Indians ran more risk than others. But I travelled from city to city, meeting officers, artists, writers, students, traders. I reached Bali and attended a session of the Hindu Vishwa Parishad, which was then being held there. I observed that the Hindu officers, scholars and students of Bali had some reservations and doubts in their minds. I had a heart-to- heart talk with them and they requested me to place their views before some responsible leader of the Parishad
Somehow I felt that the bitter things they had said could be communicated usefully only to Deendayalji.
After a few months I went to see him when he was on a visit to Bombay He was living with a friend in Worli. When I reached there I found him surrounded by party workers. He finished his work with them and then turned to me. I was surprised by his attention and friendliness. He heard all the bitter things I had to say with courage and patience. I was impressed by his sincerity there was no pretence of any kind about him. His modesty and tolerance were natural, not a mask I felt that he sincerely understood the problems.
On some points we agreed, on some he vehemently opposed what I said. He was then, busy with some election work. He promised that he would think of the problem and its international aspect after the election business was over and when he had more time and peace of mind.
That day, however, never dawned. His life was cut short by death and we lost a great thinker.
I shall not say what we talked about. I do not believe that such problems of cultural conflict will ever be solved under the leadership of Maharajas or Mahants. Deendayalji was different in this respect. He was nearer to the common man of India to the peasants of the land. He was fortunately free from the hypocrisy of the Khadi Kurta and dhoti and limpet-like hold on the seats of power. Only three personalities were purely Indian with- out being burdened by the weight of dead tradition :Ram Manohar Lohia, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Deendayal Upadhyaya.
Alas, all the three have now left us.