New Delhi: India has been lucky to have a
continuous political tradition of high quality original thinking that touched every aspect of human condition but much needs to be done to restore it and make it relevant in today`s
context, noted historian and writer Ramachandra Guha has said.
"India may be unique in having a long tradition of
original political and reflective thinking that has been both
continuous and continuously of high quality and touched every
aspect of the human condition," he said.
Speaking at the fourth Penguin India lecture on "The
Indian Political Tradition And Those Who Made It" based on
his new book "Makers of Modern India", Guha said here last
night that, "The big idea of India owes itself to a remarkable
set of men and women who founded and nurtured the Indian
Like in his book, Guha began with reformer
Rajarammohun Roy, describing him as one of India`s first
liberal and modernist who was a "precocious pioneer, swimming
against the current, both a thinker and an actor, a scholar
and social reformer who confronted an orthodox hierarchical
and ossified society by Western thought.
"He pointed out that unlike today, yesteryear thinkers
and makers of Indian political tradition had original,
compelling and relevant things to say about democracy,
nationalism, economic policy, religion, gender, caste,
environment and India`s relations with the world.
Giving examples of Mahatma Gandhi, Tagore, Jawaharlal
Nehru, Jaiprakash Narayan, M S Golwalker and Ram Manohar
Lohia, Guha said, "No politician or social reformer in India`s
political society thinks like them anymore...What should worry
us is not that we don`t have thinker politicians but the
leaders of today are so ignorant of the lineages they claim to
He asked whether Congress MP Rahul Gandhi had ever
read letters written by Jawaharlal Nehru to chief ministers,
whether the BSP leader Mayawati had read Ambedkar`s speeches
or whether Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav could
name a single book written by Lohia.
Finding other world leaders like French President
Nicholas Sarkozy, or British Prime Minister David Cameron or
even Sri Lankan President Mahindra Rajpakse deficient in
original political thinking, he commended US President Barack
Obama describing him as "the closest to come to a thinker
politician anywhere in the world".
Dubbing Obama`s predecessor George W Bush as
"anti-intellectual" and "anti-scholarly", Guha said even
George W Bush knew something about the American political
The historian-author who has bagged a seven-book deal
with Penguin that includes a two-volume biography of Mahatma
Gandhi described the father of the nation as "mother of all
battles concerning social reforms.
"Guha said both Gandhi and Nehru had to confront
people with ideologies different from them but they argued
During the lecture, Guha took pot-shots at himself,
fellow thinkers and also several ethnic communities in India
such as Malayalees, Bengalis, Gujaratis and the Punjabis which left the 700 plus audience in splits.
Guha concluded that the Indian political tradition
was not merely an obscurely, or antiquarian or of archival
interest but one where the multiple legacy of its thinker
activist makers was still available to fulfil and redeem the
unhonoured and unfulfilled ideals of a "remarkable political
experiment in history."