The Jaipur Dialogues, with its first edition to be held on 19 and 20 November aims to be a platform which furthers a self-confident and proud narrative among Indians, without erring on the side of jingoism. Sanjay Dixit, chairman of “Jaipur Dialogues forum”, which runs the brand “The Jaipur Dialogues”, explains the story behind the dialogues in detail in this interview with Swarajya.
What is The Jaipur Dialogues all about?
The Jaipur Dialogues is a live discussion forum to discuss the emerging narratives in the context of the new India of the 21st century. It is an attempt to channelize focus and energy into subjects which either do not find space in the mainstream media or find a mention only in passing.
There is a significant disconnect between the digital space and the mainstream space which our endeavor attempts to bridge. The objective is to foster pride in India, that is Bharat, in every Indian citizen of every description. It is only a confident country, proud of its past and present that can become a major power in the world. The Jaipur Dialogues attempts to inculcate this confidence and pride among Indians, without erring on the side of jingoism.
2. The Jaipur Dialogues is described as a conclave on hard and soft power of India, can you expand on this?
The conclave is an event of Jaipur Dialogues Forum, which is the organisation promoting the brand “The Jaipur Dialogues”. The conclave is its annual event, as also its debut one. Besides this, there will be many smaller events, including digital events, lecture events, and several public events.
This year’s conclave seeks to focus on India’s actual and desired strategic compass in the 21st century, contextualizing it in the soft and hard power options available to the country in a comprehensive and systematic manner.
3. Why do you think the hard and soft power of India need The Jaipur Dialogues’ platform?
The hard and soft power of India is for all to see and behold. However, there has been a feeling among many who love the idea of India as a great power, that India has punched way below its weight in the past seventy years. Countries like China have marshalled the genius of their civilization better and have been dealing with the world on their own civilizational terms for some time now. Military power serves to supplement that narrative. In India, we have been very shy about projecting the genius of the Indian civilization, which is perhaps the greatest soft power in the world.
Somehow, a feeling has gripped the collective mindset of the Indian elite, who percolated it to the masses, that India only arrived on the scene on 15th August 1947. This is a serious disconnect with the Indian masses who have lived and breathed the Indian culture for many millennia. The Indian movement for independence had a significant cultural underpinning, which is why the masses dubbed Gandhiji as Mahatma and he took on the garb of a sadhu.
However, in spite of a violent partition on the basis of religion, the Indian State has remained defensive on the Indianness or Bharatiya aspect of nationalism. Pluralism is etched deeply into all nine major philosophical streams of India. Inclusiveness comes to such experiential philosophies naturally, but the national discourse adopted a different definition of pluralism, which was artificial and created separate vote banks.
This has naturally caused many distortions, not the least in the school curricula. The post-independence education, particularly from the English speaking schools, has produced a self-loathing individual, which has also occupied most of the policy space creating an apologetic and confused Indian identity. Our children must know that we belong to a great civilization, which has had its many self-correcting mechanisms and numerous renewals, renovations and reawakenings over the millennia.
The situation in the nineteen-eighties came to such a sad state that only the Marxist narrative of India’s history and culture counted, though the Marxist narrative was being rejected everywhere else in the world.
As a young student taking the Civil Services’ exam in the 1980s, the way to score well was clearly defined. Read EPW, Seminar and Yojana for General Studies. Depend on Irfan Habib, AL Basham, Bipin Chandra, and Romila Thapar for History; and on Romesh Thapar, Rajni Kothari and the like for political analysis. The Aryan Invasion Theory and caste aspect of Indian society was the dominant flavour even in political and historical analysis. Constitutional history rarely mentioned Ambedkar, Sir BN Rau and the Constitutional Assembly Debates, and instead focused on the 42nd amendment. I was greatly attracted by the efforts of RC Majumdar, Jadunath Sarkar, Ram Swarup and Sitaram Goel; but they were treated like virtual pariahs.
We have to realize that the entire top bureaucracy of India has been schooled in this Marxist idiom, which makes it very important for all of us to bring in a balance of narratives to counter its distortions.
Because of this narrative, the civilizational soft power of India – encompassing Vedic sciences, intuitive Vedantic reasoning, Yoga, Samkhya, Buddhism and Jainism and the very scientific disciplines of Nyaya, Vaisheshik and Charvak – are not even known to our children. The scientific and mathematical genius of our ancestors is lost to this generation. The great arts, music and folklore of India has its roots in its ancient civilization, but is ascribed by the Marxists to the Mughals.
The Marxist narrative has been very anti-British but the Islamic colonization of India is hardly talked about as if it was a benign chapter in India’s history. It is sought to be sanitized in the name of Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb, which glorifies the rare soft aspects in the Islamic rulers of India, and downplays the harsh jihadi nature of most. It ignores the mentality that created Pakistan, and tries to make secular the very Islamic rulers like Aurangzeb that Pakistan honors for their religious piety.
By this glorification, this leftist modern narrative tries to put the onus of tolerance almost exclusively on the majority, expecting it not to react even to jihadi terrorism as a real danger. We intend to recognize and balance such narratives in our Dialogues.