Social Change

Spiritual freedom

Children should be provided spiritual education from a very small age. If you can, teach them the Bhagavad Gita and Ramayana, the government cannot have any say in that. Today educationists say that until the places of education provide spiritual training from a tender age, the society will not reform, because reforming society means reforming the individual. Until the individual is balanced, society cannot be balanced. There is nothing called ‘society’; a collection of individuals is society. What is the definition of society, or of country? It is the individual, you and I, who can be defined. You are a person and I am a person, we can be defined; a country cannot be defined. Fifty years ago India included Pakistan; today India does not consist of Pakistan. There is no definition of country, and there is no definition of society. Therefore, every individual should be free to pick whatever religion they wish to pick.

If I want to teach Koran in school, there should be facility for that and if I want to teach or study the Bible, there should be facility for that also. If we want to pray to Hanumanji, there should be facility for that in the school. But it is wrong to say that the entire population of India should be taught only the Hanuman Chalisa, or the Bible or the Koran. This is not realism, this is not right. There should be freedom of religion because all religions say the same thing about God. The only difference is that one performs last rites through cremation, another through burial. There is difference in wedding ceremonies, in clothes, language, social systems, but there is no difference in the subject of God. Religion is related to God, customs are a social matter.

There is freedom of religion in India and this is not a fact of today. We read that in the very basis of Indian culture lies freedom of religion. No ruler is allowed to interfere in your religious preference. The king cannot dictate how you perform your worship. There has always been freedom of religion in this country, and if a king or any other authority has tried to enforce religion upon people, it has been strongly opposed. It is not the same in other countries. It is essential that all religions sympathize with each other, help each other. No one should think that only one religion should prevail. How is it possible that there will be only one road to Deoghar?

Beyond insularity

The mode of thinking in India is: if we throw someone out, they will find shelter in another house. The society that is insecure remains fearful. It is afraid of foreigners. And the society that is safe is fearless and unafraid of foreigners. We are not afraid. Historically, in every city of India from Kashmir to Kanya Kumari and from Arunachal to Kuchh, people of many different races have lived together. They have come from different places, speak different languages, follow different cultures and systems, and they have been living there for thousands of years. Under such circumstances, this country has become used to diversity.

India is a multinational country. A well-known thinker, Will Durant, said that India is a conglomeration of many countries. It is a nation of nations. That is correct. If you see the languages here, the rituals, the ways of thinking, then certainly we are flowers of many different trees. This is a garden where you will find many different flowers. You will find different natures; the Bihari’s nature is different from that of a Santhali, a north Bihari is different from a south Bihari. Differences and diversity are a reality. In fact, diversity is also the definition of unity. Unity means to bring diversities together at one junction. Diversity is the nature of this country. Most countries do not allow other races to establish themselves in their territory. It is essential for every nation that it allows all races to come in.

The psyche of nationality

Some intellectuals think that the kind of nationality that exists in India is the best. When Mahatma Gandhi raised the voice for freedom, every Indian joined him. No one stayed behind, no race stayed behind, no caste stayed behind. But it is not right to bring nationality into everything; nationality is not always a useful thing. A knife is an object of everyday use, but a sword is not an object of daily use. In the same way, nationality is such a philosophy that unites people in times of danger. However, you cannot bring in the clause of the nation in the everyday problems of a nation such as corruption, bribery and thefts, and expect that people will reform. Nationality should be used only when there is danger upon the country. Many books have been written on the subject. Dante said that nationality is such a call that should be used only when the state of a country becomes very precarious, such as when Gandhiji used it.

In a democracy, the common people carry the burden of the nation. The man who walks on the street – the cart-puller, labourer and farmer – bears the burden of the nation. The history of the last ten or fifteen thousand years is before us. They are the people who overthrew kings and religions. It was the common man who did it; I saw it happen in 1947. Those who sit in the parliament, the politicians, are a legal necessity, a constitutional necessity. The parliament is a constitutional necessity, but the fate of a country is decided by its citizens, the common people, and what the common people need is the means of livelihood. What impacts upon the life of a nation is the state of the common man.

Education

Until everyone in India is provided education, until everyone can stand on their own feet, until the social, political, legal and constitutional structure with regard to women does not change, the problems of the country will not be solved.

In India 50% of women are completely illiterate and victims of superstition. Their men keep them safe, provide food and clothing, so they can subsist; they cannot subsist on their own. Half of India’s population is not capable of self-reliance. What can you expect from a society whose population is so weak, so lame that it cannot walk without help from others? This is a matter of great disappointment.

Education is such a thing that it gives the third eye to a nation. If the countries of the West have been able to establish their eminence over the world, it is on the basis of only one thing: education. Education is the foundation of man. Education is the basis of life. Qualification is the basis of life. If a country is qualified, its problems will be solved on its own.

—28 May, 2000

Reach out to the villages

India has been an agricultural country. This means that for most people in India the means of living is agriculture-based. And these people have been completely neglected in the last fifty years. Agriculture is related to villages, while market is related to cities. In such a situation it is essential that the government invests in villages. Right now, the distribution of money to villages is miniscule. Therefore, agriculture and farming do not get a good foundation. That is the truth.

If you go to the western countries, you will find that the governments employ huge funds in villages. In a village like Rikhia you will find two or three five-star hotels, swimming pools and banks. Until the government pays attention to villages the problem of poverty will not be solved. Every nation must watch out for its spine. If your spine becomes weak your entire body becomes weak. The spine of India is its villages. The condition that we have in India today is because the government has completely ignored villages.

I have been to such villages in Europe where during excessive snowfall people are airlifted on helicopters. Does the government of India consider its villages that important? What is the percentage of its spending in villages? How do you expect that a villager will have money and facilities? The future of India lies in villages, not in cities. Not just of India, but for the whole world the future lies in villages. Human civilization grows in villages. Therefore, think about this and act so that 70% investment is made in rural areas.

In India money is not generated in villages, but in the western countries money is generated in villages just as in cities, and in huge amounts. If money does not generate in the villages, why will the government invest there? It is normal logic. In the West, the urban and the wealthy people are encouraged to live in villages. In Australia all who live in villages are wealthy whereas here all who live in villages are poor. They cannot even buy a pump to drill water, they cannot feed a pair of bulls. Why is there no money here? Because money does not get generated here. India should give priority to its villages if it wants political, social and economic eminence in the competing global market. In a global economy there is greater possibility of unemployment and concentration of capital. To prevent this we should bring the American, Swiss, German or French systems in the villages because the villages will continue to exist. No villager in India is ready to leave his village or land. That is a good thing. But the concentration of investment is not in villages. This is what we have to do. We should go towards villages.

If someone opens a factory in this region, they will open in Deogarh because the railway line, electricity lines, telephone lines, the collectorate and all such facilities are closer. They will not open it in Rikhia because transport is difficult, access to electricity is difficult. This attitude, this mode of thinking is short-sighted. If someone opens a large, Rs 2000 million industry within 20 miles of this place, the concentration in Deoghar will reduce. That will be good. The local law and order situation will improve. There are many things like these that come under re-planning, which is not happening in India as yet.

—27 August, 2000