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April 1, 1998


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The Rediff Business Interview/S Gurumurthy

'MNCs have fooled India'

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Swadeshi is the buzz word of the Bharatiya Janata Party government. One organisation that has for long argued against foreign investment is the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Shobha Warrier met SJM convener S Gurumurthy in Madras. Excerpts from the interview:

What is going to be the role of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch in the BJP government?

We will have no role in the BJP government.

I did not mean an active role but your role in influencing and shaping the economy.

S Gurumurthy We believe we have to influence the society, we have to influence the polity. No government can do anything today unless it is supported or supportable by society. Ultimately an organisation like the Swadeshi Jagran Manch will work with the society and mould society.

What exactly do you mean by work with society?

For example, we don't believe in short cuts for our country, not even for the world. We believe that the present Western civilisation is unsustainable in the long run.

Why do you feel that way?

Environmentally and on economic terms. In terms of resources that the world has, it is unsustainable. If we are wrong, we are wrong. Nobody can certify whether anyone else is right or wrong. It is a matter of our conviction and our conviction is that the Western civilisation is unsustainable. Acquisition, conquering, overpowering, dominating, interfering -- these are unsustainable.

By acquisition, do you mean materialistic acquisition?

I don't say that. Our society is much more materialistic than the western society. But it is tempered by dharma (right path). Western society is not tempered by anything. Our material, temporal desires are tempered by dharma and by the State, the government, or the police. It is there in society even at the lowest levels. Dharma is what sustains this country.

Take for example, the unemployed in the country. Are they sustained by the State or the family? Are the aged sustained by society's dharma or the social security in India? Why haven't people thought of it? Can you replace the dharmic elements in the society which itself is an institution of the State? These are far-reaching questions. We want people to be conscious, to be aware that the Western system is so unintegrated that the Western mind produces highly compartmentalised thinking and focal vision. It can be sharp, but it can't be wide.

So, swadeshi means these convictions for you.

It is conviction based on experience, it is not conviction based on dogma. We feel the public space occupied by the society, by the family, by various communities, by religion, should not be transferred to the State through the market. Now in the West, only two things operate: the State and the market. There is nothing called dharma, nothing called society, nothing called family; there is no community. See the difference. You can see it in the ratio of policemen to population. Our villages have fewer policemen.

The complaint is that there are not enough policemen here.

What is the need? In a village, everybody knows everybody. Crime prevails only in a faceless society.

What is the purpose of your Manch? To make people aware of all this?

First, they must become aware of themselves.

What can your Manch do to make people aware of themselves?

We don't think we are the only organisation. We believe there are thousands and thousands of organisations which are already working on different components of what we are thinking. Our idea is to provide an intellectual and socio-economic overview to the whole thing. For example, the family. It is seen as the socio-biological unit. We give cultural and economic meaning to it.

How do you give economic meaning to an institution called family?

Because our old people are sustained. We don't recognise it at all. Parents are taken care of, the aged grandmother is taken care of, the unemployed brother is taken care of.

Do you feel the dharma that you are talking about has started deteriorating in our society now?

Certainly with Westernisation, it has deteriorated.

Is Westernisation the only reason for that?

It is a dominant reason, leading to the loss of faith in your personality, culture, and tradition.

Is not the cynicism that prevails in today's society a major reason for the deterioration?

Cynicism is the result. What is the cause? Ultimately, every society has to find its civilisation. Without civilisation, there is no society. There is nothing called world citizenship.

Does that mean we have to think at the micro level alone?

You feel that the world has a certain direction and you are related to the whole world. But that is again one dimension. You are related to nature, you are also related to the whole cosmos. Even with that view, you have to live in your own locality. Your neighbourhood, your locality -- all are sacred places. And politics cuts right through into it. It divides localities, religion, families, brothers, friends. So, there is a conflict between the western orientation and the way we are used to living.

Is there anything wrong in the political system which like you said cuts through the society?

See, there is no politics without economics and there is no economics without politics. They interfere in every damn thing starting how you should get married, how you should do this, how you should do that. All these things you may leave to the society. Let society regulate all this.

Since you talked about the role of society, let me ask you, are you against implementing the uniform civil code?

I talk against it. What is the need for a uniform civil code? Because there is a recognition of minorities. If there was no minority, there would not be any uniform civil code. They are also a part of the society. So what is the need to aggregate the minorities in the country? Let them live in a locality.

What is the need to have uniform civil code when the society can decide all that?

Aggregation necessities uniformity. If you allow the society to live in local ways, there wouldn't be any problem.

Do we need caste, religion, etc in a society?

It is a package. Without it, there can be no society. There is no society which is yet to be conceived without God.

How significant are religion and caste in a society?

They are far more dominant than a government.

Now they are, but should it be that way?

When did caste cease to be dominant in a man's life? For me, my father, mother, my family, my God is far more important than the prime minister of India. Even kings in India derived their power because they were ruling by dharma.

So, there is no material aspect which can be separable from other aspects. I don't believe in the material and spiritual aspects, which again is a Western orientation. It is a sum total. They are interlinked like the rainbow division. There is no black and white. So, where your materialism ends and spiritualism begins and where your family ends and society begins are impossible to define. Our view, the Hindu view, is the integrated view of life.

Is the purpose of your Jagran Manch to awaken people?

This is what we are telling them. The role of a government is defined. For example, take privatisation. Why do you have to vacate the public space and hand it over only to corporations. You can leave it to the society in some areas.

But somebody from society should do the work.

But why are you killing the existing institutions? Why do you want to give old age pension? It should be given to the family. There must be family pension. Why do you want to talk about old age? You must leave it to the family. You must strengthen the family, you must strengthen the dharmic sense of society. You must have television programmes like that, you must have literature like that. You must award the families which are taking care of their parents.

Instead, you are giving old age pensions. So, old age people do not respect the youngsters and the youngsters think the elders are the responsibility of the State. How much can the State do? Society has to do all this. That is why we say, the self-renewal of the society is necessary to overcome the challenge.

S Gurumurthy interview, continued

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