Bharat’s new parliament and women empowerment

India’s new ‘sansad bhavan’ is an attempt to revive and awaken our cultural and civilizational ethos.

By Om Prakash Dwivedi

There is a rich passage in Kalidasa’s Abhigyan Shakuntalam that talks about amnesia and recognition. By using the metaphor of a chariot in which Dushyanta is leaving Kanva’s ashrama for his capital, Kalidasa conjures up an intriguing synergy of tradition and modernity. While Dushyanta’s body is moving to the capital his heart and mind are reminiscing Shakuntala throughout the journey. At the top of the chariot, we find a flag that moves forward only to be blown backward the next moment by the strong wind. Dushyanta’s mind and the flag remind us that one needs to strike a balance between our past and future. At the cost of modernity, one should not disown the past, but there is a greater need to be aware of our past, while we carve out the future pathway. 

How one wishes that such anecdotal wisdom could have been ingrained in our nation-building exercises. Our postcoloniality was busy building castles in the air, totally divorced from our civilizational moorings and knowledge traditions. Evidently, the rhetoric of modernity gained more importance than the rhetoric of harmony ignoring Gandhi’s caveat ‘The masses in India are awakening and it is too late to persuade them that good alien rule is better than bad indigenous rule.’

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Inaugurated on the auspicious occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi, India’s new ‘sansad bhavan’ having a seating capacity of 888 Lok Sabha members, is an attempt to revive and awaken our cultural and civilizational ethos that was apparently put out of sight due to the nonchalant and myopic vision of our postcolonial leaders.

“Today India has awakened with a new consciousness,” Modi pointed out before leaving the old parliament building for the new one, followed by members of all political parties.

It took 75 years to start our cognitive moment of decolonization. This moment of revival led by PM Modi accounts for the advancement and promotion of institutions having Bhartiya lineage. While India renders an identity value, Bharat instils civilization values. An identity devoid of civilizational moorings becomes “a nowhere man”, even “a trishanku”. PM Modi’s moves pivot around Bharat. By churning out civilizational narratives, he is quickly becoming the face of the Global South. As the old Hindi song says, “Bharat ka rehne wala hoon, mein Bharat ki baat sunata hoon”

Eulogizing this exceptional moment of decolonization, Akhilesh Mishra, the Ambassador of India to Ireland, comments, “The new Parliament reflects not only the antiquity, diversity and richness of Bharat but also the self-confidence, self-pride, ambition and aspirations of the dynamic people of the ‘Nav-Bharat’. In Bharatiya tradition “naming” is extremely important; names are not arbitrary sounds/ nouns attached to something or someone. Names have “meanings”. In Sanskrit, names are assigned based on a profound understanding of the attributes of the object concerned. The word “Bharat”, figures in Vedas, epics, and ancient literature, it echoes the glory of an ancient, glorious, vast nation sprawling from the Himalayas to the Oceans, not narrowly identified with one border river “Indus”.”

Mishra’s rendition of the ‘Nav-Bharat’ rightly embraces its past. In fact, it is energized and guided by our ancient civilizational pedagogy. Guided by the past, it delivered what our leaders in the last 75 years had failed to do. Within a day, the Lok Sabha passed the long-pending women’s reservation bill, ‘Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam’, which proposes to reserve a third of seats in India’s lower house and state assemblies for women. Of course, it will be in effect once the census exercise is done. But Modi has already sown the seeds of “women-led development” in the new parliament building. “On this historic occasion in the new Parliament building, as the first proceeding of the House, the beginning of all the Parliamentarians opening gateways for women power is being done with this crucial decision,” said Modi. 

Torn between Nehruvian modernity and Gandhian ideology, the Congress demonstrated a democratic deficit. It is, therefore, not surprising to see its members trying to lay their claims to this bill. It is a pity that the Congress party that had owned Gandhi failed to understand some of his ideas. One needs to understand that ideas matter only to the extent they get translated into action. For example, ‘charkha’ (the spinning wheel), which Gandhi described as a “life-giving sun” that would “illuminate the planets of other handicrafts” was just restricted to our flags and became an annual ritual. It is, therefore, refreshing to see the “charkha” set in motion by the present government. 

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The new parliament is expected to espouse a striking balance between Bhartiyata and Indianness. The journey has already started.

Contributing Author: Om Prakash Dwivedi tweets @opdwivedi82. His interests lie in the field of postcolonial theory.

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