By Justice Markandey Katju-
(Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own)
I am 77 years old, and do not know how much longer I have to live.
But of one thing I am sure: My country India (in which I include Pakistan and Bangladesh, for we are really one country, only artificially separated, but which are sure to reunite one day), will one day awaken from its long slumber, and emerge as a modern, highly industrialised giant, with its people enjoying a high standard of living and decent lives, and take its rightful place among the comity of nations.
This idea has since long been an obsession for me, and haunts me day and night. There is really little else I think of.
A great nation with a known history of 5000 years, which had built mighty civilisations at a time when most Europeans (except in Greece and Rome) were living in forests, which had made outstanding contributions in science (e.g. the decimal system in mathematics, plastic surgery in medicine, etc), literature, philosophy, etc, which at one time had 25-30% of the world’s wealth and trade, is today lying in the grip of massive poverty, unemployment, malnutrition. lack of proper healthcare and good education, religious and caste conflicts, etc.
How could such a catastrophe happen? And what is the way out? These thoughts torment me all my waking hours, and all my thinking, all the knowledge I acquired over the years, is devoted to finding solutions to our problems, and how to end the nightmare we are passing through.
My search for solutions led me to startling discoveries e.g. that India is broadly a country of immigrants, like North America, which explains our tremendous diversity. Therefore the only correct policy we must adopt is giving equal respect to all religions and communities, the policy of suleh-e-kul of the great Emperor Akbar, whom I regard as the real Father of the Indian Nation.
Therefore I came to the conclusion that unless we unite we can never solve our problems; for, by fighting each other on caste and communalism we waste our resources and weaken ourselves. All my effort is therefore directed to promoting unity among Indians.
When Napoleon conquered and subjugated the German states, and Germans were lying distraught, dejected and downcast, the German philosopher Fichte (1762-1814) wondered what was the cause of such a terrible calamity. He found it in the lack of patriotism among the German people.
In his famous ‘Addresses to the German Nation’ delivered in Berlin in 1807-8, Fichte explained to the German people what they were, and that German patriotism was needed for them to get out of their distress.
Similarly, genuine patriotism is necessary if India is to rise again, and this does not mean Hindu patriotism (which is propagated by some today) but Indian patriotism, which means a burning desire among our people to abolish the curse of poverty, unemployment, malnutrition, lack of healthcare and good education, casteism and communalism, and to develop the scientific temper.
We must have patriotic, selfless, secular, modern minded leaders who are determined to rapidly modernise and industrialise the country, and raise the standard of living of our people, and give them decent lives.
How this will be achieved, and when, one cannot say. But I am confident it will happen one day, though it will require long, arduous struggle and tremendous sacrifices.
By Justice Markandey Katju-