What is India? That is a question which has come back again in and again to my mind. The early beginnings of our history filled me with wonder. It was the past of a virile and vigorous race with a questing spirit and an urge for free inquiry and, even in its earliest known period, giving evidence of a mature and tolerant civilisation. Accepting life and its joys and burdens, it was ever searching for the ultimate and the universal. It built up a magnificent language, Sanskrit, and through this language, its arts and architecture, it sent its vibrant message to far countries. It produced the U panishads, the Gita and the Buddha.
We have all these ages represented in us and in our country today. We have the growth of nuclear science and atomic energy in India, and we also have the cow-dung age.
In the tumult and confusion of our time, we stand facing both ways, forward to the future and backwards to the past being pulled in both directions. How can we resolved this conflict and evolve a structure for living which material needs and, at the same time, sustains our mind and spirit? What new-ideals or old ideals varied and adapted to the new world can we place before our people, and how can we galvanise the people into wakefulness and action?
In India, as elsewhere, two forces developed - the growth of nationalism and the urge for social justice. Socialism and Marxism became the symbols of this urge for social justice and, apart from their scientific content, had a tremendous emotional appeal for the masses.
Living is a continual adjustment to changing conditions. The rapidity of ,technological change in the last half century has made the necessity of social change greater than ever, and there is a continual maladjustment. The advance of science and technology makes it definitely possible to solve most of the economic problems of the world and, in particular, to provide the primary necessities of life to everyone all over the world. The methods adopted will have to depend upon the, background and cultural development of a country or a community.
Internationally, the major question today is that of world peace. The only course open is for us to accept the world as it is and develop toleration for each other. It should be open to each country to develop in its own way, learning from others, and not being imposed on by them. Essentially, this calls for a new mental approach. The Panchsheel, or the Five Principles, offer that approach.
There are conflicts within a nation. In a democratic apparatus' with adult suffrage, those conflicts can be solved by normal constitutional methods.
In India we have had most distressing spectacles of conflicts based on provincialism or linguism. In the main, it is conflict of class interests that poses problems today, and in such cases vested interests are not easy to displace. Yet we have seen in India powerful vested interests like those of the old princes and of the big jagirdars, talukdars and zamindars being removed by peaceful methods, even though that meant a break-up of a well-established system which favoured a privileged few. While, therefore, we must recognize that there is class conflict, there is no reason why we should not deal with it through these peaceful methods. They will only succeed, however, if we have a proper objective in view clearly understood by the people.
Extracts from ‘India Today and Tomorrow’, Azad Memorial Lectures New Delhi, February 22 and 23, 1959, published by Indian council for Cultural Relations.