28 Feb 2008, 1739 hrs IST,
What does it mean to leave a newspaper one has grown with for several decades and join a political party's think-tank? Leaving Panchjanya is like giving up a part of my body, a whole world of love and affection and unstinting support from those who kept the flame of my conscience alive. It's rare to become the second youngest editor of a journal which is widely regarded as the voice of the largest Hindu movement on earth and survive so long there. Working in an ideological paper elevates. But it binds too. It's unbelievable that in my nineteen years as editor, there was not a single moment when my RSS bosses called me and said: “Look, this is not done. What you have published is wrong in our eyes, better correct or...” Never. We committed mistakes, published what hurt our own, and took immense liberties. When L.K. Advani was Deputy. Prime Minister and Home Minister, we wrote an editorial severely criticizing his Kashmir policy. We were not de-listed. And Atal Bihari Vajpayee was not only my first editor, but first reader too. Many of our issues were warmly appreciated and severely criticized by him. He would call even when he became Prime Minister to say what we have published is good or simply intolerable. He didn't like criticising opponents personally and would always advise: “Oppose as vehemently you can, but on policies and programmes. Refrain from personal attacks.” We started publishing film reviews more freely, a women's column with a picture of a beautiful lady and news and views of all our opponents in a paper that was widely perceived as conservative and archaic. Everyone who opposed our ideological stand was published honourably without a single cut, from Somnath Chatterjea to A.B. Bardhan and D. Raja to Shahabuddin and Bukhari. IPTA's theatre new items got published along with Sanskar Bharati's. It shocked our opponents but pleased our friends – it showed the strength of our commitment to what we believe in – dialogue. That's Hindutva and not the Siberia-ism or creating of a Gulag on every news desk by the so called 'independent', 'objective' and 'fearless' journalists of the secular hue. There were moments when the Sarsanghchalak (RSS Chief) would simply walk in without prior notice to see how we were working and have a cup of tea or nimbu pani . We all worked at very low salaries put in the longest hours without complaining or demanding overtime; the mission kept us alive. It's difficult, if not impossible to work in a Hindi journal to cater ideological arsenal to the faithful when the entire intellectual discourse has been confined to just one language – English. You end up creating more foes than friends. But as Rajju Bhaiyya (Prof. Rajendra Singh), my mentor and the fourth RSS chief used to say, take the challenge head on and look into the eyes of your opponent fearlessly. You will emerge a winner. Be willing to self-correct and believe only in one god – your ideology with a 200 per cent commitment. Everything else, including the top leaders, is secondary to ideology. He would add that if you are going to Thiruvananthapuram, don't get into a squabble at Jhansi station. Once he said: “Never go too close to leaders you adore” , adding that sometimes proximity turns you from idolatrous to iconoclastic, citing the examples of Nehru and Narsimha Rao.
Too many years at one station makes one yearn for a change and new challenges. Going to Zanskar on a 10-day Wangchuk Chhenpo chaddar trek or getting lost in the Indus source region in Nyari province of western Tibet are some of the things I wanted to take up while exploring new avenues and vistas of Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya's Integral Humanism as a student. I also had to honour my commitment to my Chinese friends to write a book on bilateral relations. It took exactly three years to have my work station changed. In the history of Panchjanya I got the best farewell ever given to an editor. What else would a journalist dream of? Some felt happy and a couple of friends emailed me – “Oh! Sorry to see you joining a political set-up... It's a world where old tea planters of the butchery inclinations have been replaced by 'news planters' pocketing media sources to back stab a colleague, in whose appreciation a book might have been released by the same politician hours before. In contemporary polity, talking ideology is not exactly an 'in' thing. Ideologies look collapsed and are fast replaced by a polity of wealth and deceit. Though it might be a general perception, the basic values of simplicity and commitment have survived and always find a patient audience. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Hiren Mukherji, Ram Manohar Lohia, Rajendra Prasad and Sardar Patel can be named among hundreds of such people who are still adored and inspire. Ideological apartheid should give way to a shared commitment to an idea called India. My take is: never compromise on your commitments. It's your actions alone that save. Ultimately you have to bear your own cross. As a Hindu, the life and soul are immortal, only the attire, the body, perishes and a new life awaits. So why fear? M.S. Golwalkar, the spiritual fountainhead of the RSS, would warn: never be hasty in forming a government without ideological commitment. I feel indebted not only to those whose colour I wear, but to those as much whom we have been attacking and hopefully will continue to oppose for their different hue of ideas. Some of the best friends who taught me the real meaning of understanding and intellectual honesty are those who are across the fence and they are Muslims, Christians and hardened Communists who make me envious of their unabridged commitment. They have enriched my life and opened new windows. To cap it, we went to Vaishno Devi on 25th Feb and it taught me strength of higher values, of ideology overpowering micro-identities. If life was just bread and butter, pilgrimages would be a non-starter and music wouldn't have been described as ennobling. In times of precipitated intolerance against each other based on parochial and religious identities, the pilgrims' progress shows the strength of nobler bonds. There were Marathis and Biharis, UP- wale bhaiyyas and Gujaratis mingling with Malyalees and Punjabis of all shades – amdasis, Sikhs and Monas (Hindus) and Buddhists from Leh and Sikkim .All melted in one colour - Jai Mata Ki. Each one helps the other to walk miles of steep climb and encourages the other to keep at it. They may be complete strangers and none notices if the other is well dress or poorly attired. A billionaire and a cobbler walk the same path with the same confidence and commitment. That's the miracle of sharing and believing I saw during the Ramjanmabhoomi movement where provincial, caste and language identities were completely submerged in the broader, higher goal of rejuvenating the bruised national icon of Sri Ram. During the Kargil war too, the same spirit of harmony was exhibited extraordinarily and it bound Indians of all faiths with a thread of patriotism. This can be achieved only through ideology of purpose and not through personality cults. It was an ideology that gave us Buddha who inspired people the world over, instilling universal values of acceptance and inclusiveness. Today he represents the soul of India more than anyone else. Life revolves around ideas. Bricks, mortar, reproduction and sumptuous meals play a supplementary role: essential yet not the whole. A stream of ideas encompassing a world view, woven around ennobling values and defining the relationship between the known and the unknown often forms an ideological way. Those who have chosen one are blessed. Today the battle is ideological being fought by ill-equipped warriors of different hues. Some understand it a personal play and keep their organization a private limited corporate business trading votes for some considerations. The long-term players with ideological commitments can wait patiently to find the opportune time for the final victory. That alone will help and not the impatience leading to unsavoury compromises. There has to be a paradigm shift in our approach and idioms that we use to address the youth. That alone is going to lead the war of ideologies. The myth of Aryan invasion, a Dhimmitude directing our polity and actions, intense hateful assaults on anything Hindu and spineless responses by an ill-informed crowd that represents the durbari class of Raibahadurs of the colonial period, absence of unity of purpose and the threat of barbaric intolerance can be faced with an uncompromising and unapologetic pride in being Indian inheritors of a great Hindu civilization. Being a Hindu should be an elevating and enriching factor of our life instead of making us feel embarrassed. Sri Aurobindo had clearly and unambiguously defined our nationalism as Sanatan Dharma, the eternal righteousness that defines what people understand as Hinduism. None has ever said that Sri Aurobindo was communal, so why do have fear today? He believed in the great destiny of India and gave us a path that was universal yet distinctly Indian. Why hesitate to redefine it and adopt for contemporary polity? Defeating ideologies incompatible with the contemporary values of egalitarianism and plurality should form our foundation of nationalism which strives for material progress and ecological safeguards too as an essential part of Hindu dharma. As much as 1.25 lakh sq km of our land is in enemy possession; this, as well as two flags for Kashmir fluttering over Srinagar Secretariat and the killing and uprooting of patriots should hurt us, give us sleepless nights and steel our resolve to undo the wrongs. Our entire approach to science and technological advances has to be tested on the touchstone of ecological safety and human happiness with an integral approach to all creations, overwriting the consumerist approach. Those who fear war get war and those who are ashamed at being what they are get nothing but shame from everyone. Never say yes when you ought to say no and never compromise on basic issues. That's what those who have an ideological commitment declare. Rest, simply pass time.