Beyond Left and Right: The Compass of Dharma

Author: Shruthee MS

Author’s Note : Is the left vs right divide in India complicating things? Here I discuss the impact of reductionist identities’ on India.

The left versus right battle is not visible just on the screens of idiot boxes, but has acquired a domestic, industrial, artistic, and what not value today. People, once identified with either of the terms, invest their lives in it. This binary ideological battle, occupies centre stage in the current global scenario. New words and definitions are added to the left and right connotations everyday, to further embellish them, since after all, this battle is all about which side appears more “reliable”. Ideologically invested people from both the camps, are ready to work day in and day out, to make sure that their beliefs get the approval. Polarities are increasing and people too, have an increasing level of hallucinations of an ideal world shaped by their ideas of idealism, which they believe, belongs in their camp.

India’s battle of the left versus right is vigorous, ugly yet different from the western world. Binary perspectives of the world is strange to a plural, diverse country like India. Abrahamic societies of the world, evolved in a fundamentally different fashion from an Eastern world, owing to the nature of belief-systems, religion and history. India has its own framework of a society, rooted in its civilisational pattern. Trying to understand an Indian society, through a contextually non-applicable strategy, is foolish. Binary frameworks are totally alien to an Indian. But western societies have a binary approach. A very simple example; it’s impossible to be a Christian and an atheist, but it’s possible to be a Hindu atheist. Rajiv Malhotra’s book, Being Different explains the fundamental differences between Abrahamic and Dharmic traditions in a very concise manner.

The ideological binary categorisation as left and right, owes its allegiance to western history and civilization. Western ideologies, like capitalism, Marxism and socialism, which happened at different times of the past, based on needs, are reductionist in nature and are not eternal. Capitalism happened at the height of scientific age, Marxism and socialism provided a counter to that. They eventually got into a categorization as left and right. Abrahamic faiths, which are very institutionalized, controlled by the church, a single book, rigid belief systems that have little or no adaptability to changing times, faced its own revolutions, and this created isms like conservatism, liberalism etc. These eventually got mapped into the binary framework as left versus right..  The tragedy was that this got imported lock, stock and barrel into India where the lived reality was devoid of these binaries to begin with. And today, unfortunately, its commonplace to to sit in India, and argue which of these western ideologies are eternally useful to us.

Reductionist isms applied to a diverse country, do more harm than good. The effect that one can observe, is a lack of integral, continuous, all-compassing approach towards issues. Isms and a foreign approach enhances creativity and perception, but it’s not the answer. Indigenous approaches must be strengthened and this can happen only if people have an understanding of their own civilization. This is the reason, the British strategically destroyed Indian education system and replaced it with a Western one. Their ideas of how Indian society should be, got imposed and were thrust upon the people. Post independence, Marxist controlled academia has done more damage to the minds of people.

Today the Indian youth face undue pressure from the surroundings, to belong to either the left or the right, even if it makes no sense. Ideas are too swiftly categorized into an insensible binary divide, thus stripping off its value. One of the biggest problems of this western approach, is the creation of extremist, intolerable, and rigid subscribers of ideologies. Extreme polarity thrust upon an Indian society has inflicted several problems and is one of the root causes of communalism. Therefore, rather than hosting left versus right debates, it’s time we look for context-based solutions to a crisis.


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