Saturday, September 23, 2006

Subramanian Swamy and Renaissance!! What a paradox??

Dr.Subramanian Swamy is indeed a person who has walked through the national political discourse for about four decades. And by his ways, he has managed to place himself in the mainstream of the political theatre. He appeared in the media, this week, in the context of the release of his book. In a sense, he has returned to the political side where he belonged to in the Sixties. I mean, he was seen in the company of the RSS and BJP leaders in New Delhi.

I shall come to discuss Dr. Swamy and his ways a little later. Let me first comment on the way in which a section of the media captioned the book and his content. The book, we were informed by a section of the English language press, carries an appeal to the members of the Hindu community to work towards another renaissance. Well, this is how those who were present at the function explained the contents of the book. Let me enter into a caveat at this stage that I have not read the book. But it is likely that this description is closer to the contents of the book.

It is necessary, hence, to discuss the concept of renaissance in its historical sense. Historians refer to renaissance as the period in Europe’s past as something that happened along with the Reformation. In other words, this is the term used to refer to the phase when Christians challenged the authority of the Roman Church and set out to protest several sermons that were handed out to the rulers and the ruled. The challenge was not just restricted to the political sphere (though it all started from there and took the form of the political state asserting against the domination of the temporal state) and instead affected all walks of life. They called themselves Protestants and eventually formed themselves as another temporal authority over the lives of the people!

Renaissance, tied up so closely with this larger process, manifested itself in the blossoming of art, culture, theatre and a whole lot of human activity and in all this, the fundamentals of religion, as it was held at that stage, were turned upside down. It was, indeed, a phase in the history of Europe where the plebian and the commoner began asserting against the priest. And as the renaissance era unfolded, European society was turned upside down. I will even go on to say that the French Revolution of 1789 was a logical culmination of the process that was set rolling with the Renaissance.

In India too, social historians have located some sort of a Renaissance in various stages in history. The Charvaka tradition, the Bhakthi movement, the blossoming of poetry represented by Thyagaraja, Muthusami Dikshitar, Shama Sastri or the emergence of the commoner as represented in our own Silapadhikaram and Manimekalai (or even in Thirukural) are all seen by historians as reflecting and representing the renaissance in Indian history. The point is that Renaissance is referred to as the stage or phases in the history of a people where the human being is presented on the centrestage rather than celebrating the Kings and the Gods and the Priest.

This is where one finds the call for a Renaissance by Subramanian Swamy and that too in the company of the RSS and such men who inspire the worldview it represents as a problem. The problem is because this notion of Hindu identity attempts to restrict any form of questioning of whatever is handed down as faith leave alone a revolt as it happened in Europe after the middle ages. This notion of Hindu identity places the priest as the ultimate arbitrator between the common man and the God and also places religion at the centre of the scheme.

This notion of religion and identity is the same as conveying that men, born in a particular caste, are destined to do only those jobs that the traditional caste system ordains them to. It is the same as endorsing the odious view that women are expected to remain subordinate to the men. All these cannot lead to a renaissance in any sense of the term. And Swamy’s mission now cannot be seen as anything similar to the tradition that is known as Renaissance.

Having said this, it is necessary to add a few lines about Subramanian Swamy. He began as a Bharathiya Jan Sangh MP and was a known supporter, even then, of the cause of free market economy. He then joined the Janata Party, like all others in the Jan Sangh. But refused to get out of the Janata Party like the other Jan sangh men did in 1980. And was seen as a trenchant critique of the BJP and teamed up with Chandra Shekhar in 1990 to become a Union Minister. This Government that lasted for 4 months was supported by the Congress. He almost joined the Congress party in 1995 but his moves were aborted by a few senior Congress leaders who found him undesirable.

In Tamil Nadu, after running a campaign against Jayalalitha, he became her alliance partner to win from Madurai (in 1998), teamed up with her to topple the BJP-led NDA in 1999. He was shown the door by Jayalalitha in 1999 and he abused Vajpayee and the BJP in as vulgar words as anyone can. And is now in the same place where he began! Well that is Subramanian Swamy.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Prasanth K said...

Interesting... enjoyed your perception and understanding of Renaissance.

10:55 AM  

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