By Manish Uprety F.R.A.S. and Jainendra Karn *
(Patna, Bihar) 09 August, Asiantribune.com):
5th. August 2020, was a very auspicious day. While Sri Lanka celebrated the festival of democracy in the form of parliamentary elections, India celebrated the foundation stone laying ceremony of the sacred Rama Mandir by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during Abhijeet Muhurat. Ayodhya is not only the birthplace of Lord Rama but also of five Tirthankakars of Jainism.
The victory of Sri Lanka People’s Party (SLPP) in the Sri Lankan elections reaffirms the faith of Sri Lankan peoples in democracy and a belief that a strong leadership of Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister and Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the President will lead the transformation of the country toward betterment.
In the past dealing with terrorism in Sri Lanka was the Kurukshetra moment for the Rajapaksa brothers, and just like Krishna and Arjuna, the duo acted in the interest of Dharma. And after Sri Lanka dealt with terrorism firmly, the present leadership of the country gives the duo the Buddha moment to act in the welfare of the country just like the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka the Great.
King Dharmasoka of India
Asoka Piyadassi who adopted and promoted a policy of respect and tolerance for people of different faiths had declared, “All men are my children. As for my own children, I desire that they may be provided with all the welfare and happiness of this world and of the next, so do I desire for all men as well.”
It is also the need of the hour as only strong and determined leadership can help Sri Lanka sail across the shadow of COVID 19 which has shaken the whole world down to the core. Everyone realizes that soon it will be a less prosperous world, and also a more troubled one. Measures are being undertaken to secure growth by balancing the inflationary-deflationary mix.
Only through bold and decisive leadership can Sri Lanka harness its economic strengths to be a center for global trade, investment, capital, and people.
In addition, the country would have to develop policies that are Sri Lanka centric and step up trade engagements in the region, which offers potential for win-win economic gains. Such initiatives will have to be based on the very idea on which a country is rooted. For example, the idea of a new country like the US is based on American Exceptionalism whereas countries with thousands of years old civilization like India and Sri Lanka are based on Dharma.
However, during the emergency which has been the darkest chapter of Indian democracy, the words ‘Socialist’ and ‘Secular’ were added to the Preamble of the Constitution of India through the 42nd Constitutional Amendment in 1976 by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Failed ideology of ‘Socialism’
How can any nation especially a developing one which has aspiration, ambition, potential and a vision for growth be Socialist? Kristian Niemietz has discussed in detail why socialism is the failed idea that never dies. Over the past hundred years, there have been more than two dozen attempts to build a socialist society. All of these attempts have ended in varying degrees of failure.
From Britain after WWII when socialist parties were elected to national political office to present-day Venezuela is an example. In the latter case, the annual rate of hyperinflation soars at 2,219 percent. The miserable state of Kerala and West Bengal is known to all. While the “Kerala Model” has given 100% literacy, it is also the state that has the highest number of pro-ISIS cases in all of India. And the economic marshland West Bengal has become is hidden from no one.
In his lectures on the Philosophy of History, the German philosopher Hegel observed the experience and history that peoples and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.
While socialism promised prosperity, equality, and security, it delivered poverty, misery, and tyranny. Socialism does not work because it is not consistent with the fundamental principles of human behavior. It is a system that ignores incentives, private property rights, innovation, and progress.
The market capitalization of Reliance Industries Ltd. in India is now greater than its 27 states, and almost twice as Kerala. Whether it is Sri Lanka or India or anyone else, why would anyone choose failed ideologies for their future?
The taller a tree the deeper are its roots. Whether it is India or Sri Lanka, the solutions are to be found within. A petition was filed in the Supreme Court of India recently to remove the words ‘Socialist’ and ‘Secular’ from the preamble of the Constitution and to restore it to the one originally drafted by Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, the architect of Indian Constitution.
The petition states that the Communist theory of State cannot be applied in Indian context as it was not in tune with the religious sentiments and socio-economic conditions of India. Also, the very move to introduce the words during Emergency was also against the historical and cultural theme of the “great republic of Bharat, the oldest civilization of the world, having a clear concept of ‘Dharma’ different from the concept of religion.”
Noted scholar Rajiv Malhotra elaborates that “Secularism” is a Western concept, to solve a western problem. Secularism was to curtail the excessive ‘state authority’ and ‘state power’ that the Church had over the people who dissented and belonged to some other religion. The Christian Religion in Europe and in other lands conquered by western colonial powers often interfered with science and persecuted people belonging to non – Christian faiths.
Therefore secularism, as an idea, was needed because Western society didn’t have a space for any other religion. They needed a concept where people can peacefully coexist and practice different faiths. They needed an idea where science and other religions could coexist and be tolerated.
Dharma never had a posture against scientific inquiry and is pluralistic by its very nature. Basic ethics, basic responsibilities, the basic life-style of respecting oneself, family, community, animals, nature, society, the world, the environment are all part of Dharma which is an all-encompassing system of human ethics and responsibility. In his 12th Rock Edict, Emperor Ashoka made an appeal not only for the toleration of all religious sects but also to develop a spirit of great respect toward them.
And Dharma is most conducive to the notion of a Republic. India had Republics prior to the oldest known Republics of the West such as like classical Athens (508 – 322 BC) and Roman Republic (c.509 – 27 BC). The Vaijjian confederacy in Vaishali (in Bihar) around 600 BC in the times of Lord Buddha was a Republic, and there is recurring evidence of republics in India since then.
The Buddhist Canon, both in Sanskrit (in which much of Mahayana Buddhist literature was written) and in Pali (in which much of Hinayana literature was written) and The Mahanibbana Sutra has extensive reference to Republics in India, e.g. the Lichchavi city of Vaishali. The Sangama literature also delves about Republics when it mentions about the polity.
In 1830, Sir Charles Metcalfe, the then acting Governor-General of India wrote, “The village communities are little republics, having nearly everything they want within themselves and almost independent of any foreign relations.” These self – contained, self – governing village republics have ensured the continuity and survival of the great Dharmic civilization which even the mightiest of empires could never penetrate.
In Chapter 107/108 of Shantiparva in Mahabharata, Pitamah Bhishma states that when there is unity among the people of a Republic the Republic becomes powerful and its people become prosperous. Such people are intelligent, brave, enthusiastic, honest, and trained in the use of arms. They do not cheat each other, and help those in distress. This way they prosper. He further states that Republics are destroyed only by internal conflicts between the people and therefore Republics should always seek to maintain good relations among the people.
But in India, Nehruvian infatuation with totalitarian Marxism had created a situation where Indian education became colonized by Marxism. Noted columnist Tarek Fatah has observed that only in India one is systematically taught to hate one’s heritage and glorify the invaders who came to destroy it, and this absurdity is called “secularism.”
‘Buddhism Bashing’ in Sri Lanka’s Media
We find from our research that the same is now true in Sri Lanka. Foreign-funded NGOs and scribes in the pay of foreign embassies have infiltrated the mainstream media and write as Columnists or under fictitious names, eternally engaged in ‘Buddhism bashing’, ‘Sangha’ (monks) bashing, and devaluing everything that Sinhala Buddhist majority in Sri Lanka holds dear.
Why the Sri Lankan State should continue to tolerate English language Newspapers that unceasingly provide a platform for op-ed articles attacking Buddhist doctrine and practices, using pseudonyms such as ‘Don Manu’, is amazing. No other country especially western countries would tolerate scribes openly attacking the religion and culture of the majority day after day in the name of ‘secularism’ and ‘freedom of the press’ as we find in India and Sri Lanka.
During his address on Buddha Purnima, Prime Minister Narendra Modi linked India’s success with Lord Buddha’s teachings. The four truths given by Lord Buddha namely compassion, mercy, equanimity towards pleasure and pain, and accepting everything as it is, has been our constant inspiration. These truths are behind the self-realization with which India is working in the interest of the world and the entire humanity.
Equity, opportunity, and prosperity for all and appeasement of none should be the Policy of the State whether it is India or Sri Lanka. The abolition of Article 370 and a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) has been the demand of the Bharatiya Janata Party for decades to set Constitutional wrongs of the past right and to meet the needs of healthy democratic governance of the contemporary times.
One Country, One Law for Sri Lanka
Legislation in the nature of a ‘Uniform Civil Code’ (UCC) would also seem to be necessary for Sri Lanka in the light of the Easter Sunday attack last year which clearly showed that the rhetoric of ‘Multiculturalism’ and ‘Reconciliation’ has failed completely and that pluralism is being used as a cunning ploy by Jihadists and terrorists to deceive the public until their terrorist attacks are successful. Special privileges for one community undermine the faith in the Constitution of Sri Lanka which clearly specifies in its Article 12 that ‘Everyone is equal before the law’.
It is a brave new world in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union. 9/11 was a watershed moment not only in US history but also of the humankind. Islamic terrorism has affected not only the Islamic countries but also democracies. The blasts in Mumbai, London, Paris, Ansbach, Pulwama, and 2019 Easter Bombings in Sri Lanka are an example that countries not only face threats from without but also from within.
To deliver effective security to the peoples of Sri Lanka and to secure growth and prosperity for the nation in the times of COVID 19 would be a pressing issue for the Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The IMF estimates the global economy to shrink by over 3 percent in 2020 – the steepest slowdown since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Will a synergy of the best concepts from the East and the West paved the way for Sri Lanka to deal with challenges? Will the double helix of Dharma and Democracy deliver development, governance and empowerment to the peoples of Sri Lanka?
Is turning the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka into the Dharmic Buddhist Republic the answer? When Muslim majority multicultural countries such as Pakistan, Turkey, Iran etc. can call themselves Islamic Republics, what would be wrong if Sri Lanka identifies itself as the Dharmic Buddhist Republic? It is a very profound question and is for the peoples and policymakers of Sri Lanka to decide.
** Manish Uprety F.R.A.S. is an ex-diplomat and Jainendra Karn is a Senior BJP Leader.
– Asian Tribune –