Freedom and India

By Dr Mukul Pai Raiturkar
29 April 2015 19:08 IST

We have two very special groups on WhatsApp. One is a group of those esteemed doctors who joined Goa medical college in 1985; and the other is a group of Indian Medical Association. In both these groups, the members are highly trained and highly qualified in the field of Medicine.

I realized time and again that in both the groups, the moment the topic of religion in politics came or the moment the topic of real history of India came, there was a very strong emotional response that made the dispassionate consideration of issues impossible. Gradually I stopped contributing to both groups and exited one of them.

It appeared that the greater the scientific training of these doctor citizens, the less was their ability to engage in dispassionate debates on real issues confronting our society. They stopped me when I came to the philosophy of religion. They stopped me the moment I came to the political use of religion. They stopped me when I came to the history of Indian civilization -- the REAL history, that is or that was. They were alien to two very important aspects of life and civilization -- Introspection and Retrospection.

Their freedom had limits. It was neither unconditional nor holistic. Their freedom was divided as freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of action and so on so forth....And they were accepted as very influential figures in our society.

Compare this to the first Prime minister of India, the elected representative of the Indian people of those times, who wrote in his will: “I wish to declare in all earnestness that I do not want any religious ceremonies performed for me after my death. I do not believe in any such ceremonies and to submit to them even as a matter of form, would be hypocrisy and an attempt to delude ourselves and others."

Jawaharlal Nehru also had a deep sense of history. Not only Indian history but also world history. He was the living example of my statement that introspection and retrospection are directly related to the quality of thought, the quality of consciousness. And the quality of an individual's consciousness is the quality of consciousness of a nation -- the quality of civilization of that nation.

It is quite possible that individuals can rise above circumstances and environment to reach great inner height and quality of consciousness, but for large groups of individuals and for nations a certain measure of external development should be probably necessary before an inner evolution can take place.

Why is it that India, despite that certain measure of external development in the last six decades, fails to experience an inner evolution ?


Why is it that I am smothered into silence by people of my own profession in my own country ?

Is it my fault that I cannot enter into the spirit and ways of thinking of people I call my compatriots? This invisible barrier of passion comes between me and even my closest at the very instance the discussion moves into the realm of religion or caste or even politics.

And if we define fascism as the supremacy of an ideology together with  the supremacy of a section of the society that espouses that ideology then is this barrier indicative of a fascist people ?


If we go by the Nehruvian thought that freedom must be judged by the freedom of the lowest, then it is quite possible that India's quality of freedom is not really good as India's development is not really inclusive.

If we consider that a leisured, upper middle class is necessary for the inner evolution of a nation, as that is what European scholars think, then India already has such a class -- and in rather large numbers. But they simply seem unable to contribute meaningfully to inner growth of India.

India is primarily a religious country. Everything else is secondary. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and many more religions flaunt their faiths and testify their truths by hammering each other's heads. Luckily be-headings are left to the Islamic states so far, but India may come to that - gradually.

And religion offers a safe anchorage, a safe harbour -- albeit shallow and noisy - from doubt and mental conflict. It even assures a future life to make up for the deficiencies of this life.
Safe anchorage and freedom do not go hand in hand. Shallow noise and freedom do not go hand in hand.

And I am a creature of the open sea. With its unfathomable depth, its storms, its whirlpools and its tempests. I stand for holistic, unconditional freedom. With my thought and action, I threaten to move each anchored ship into the vast expanse of the ocean. The captains of these ships protest, and I have to let go.

Those who never need  to please a master or conciliate a colleague invariably retain the power of thinking and feeling with absolute honesty and integrity on all subjects. Such persons alone can be truly disinterested and detached. What else is freedom if not this ? What else is civilization if not this ?
Once a person tastes complete freedom, he instinctively appreciates the Beauty and the Truth of the inner and outer world. So happy is he at his ability to see the world in all its colours that it gives him the conviction of the absolute necessity of freedom.

All this is shattered by the communal behaviour of Indian culture. This behaviour manifests as strong family values, strong religious, caste and regional values. Although regional and family values are less sectarian, they are still communal and divisive.

All these stifle the flowering of a free mind, a free nation in the true sense of the word.

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Dr Mukul Pai Raiturkar

Dr Mukul R Pai Raiturkar is a consultant pediatrician & neonatologist practicing in Margao. He is the co-convener of Ami Goenkar, an organisation of secular young Goans working towards a novel approach to religious-political issues of Goa. Son of veteran Goan freedom fighter Mr Ravindranath Pai Raiturkar, he exudes unshakable faith in a liberal, secular and free spirited democracy of India.

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