'आस्था' पर फेसबुक पर गौहर रज़ा के एक पोस्ट को ज्योति थानवी ने शेयर
किया तो मुझे अपना एक व्याख्यान याद आया जो मैंने पंजाब विश्वविद्यालय के
सांध्यकालीन अध्ययन विभाग (Evening studies) के एक कॉन्फरेंस में
दिया था। इसके लिए लंबा abstract तैयार किया था, जो संयोग से मेरे पास
है। वैसे मेरा एक अंग्रेज़ी ब्लॉग भी है, पर उस पर पोस्ट किए साल गुज़र गए
इसलिए यहीं डाल रहा हूँ। जब मैंने यह भाषण दिया था, विज्ञान के दर्शन पर
मेरी पढ़ाई शून्य के बराबर थी। बेहतरीन वैज्ञानिकों के साथ काम करने का
अनुभव मात्र था। आज दुबारा पढ़कर यह बड़ा अपरिपक्व सा लगता है, फिर
लिखना हो तो मेरी भाषा बिल्कुल अलग होगी। पर मूल सवाल और चिंताएँ
कोई खास बदली नहीं हैं। मैं अब भी यही मानता हूँ कि हमारे अंग्रेज़ी वाले
उदारवादी बंधु पश्चिमी भागम-दौड़ में शामिल होने की जल्दी में अपनी
ज़मीनी सचाइयों से अलग सैद्धांतिक समझौते करते रहते हैं।
Reading a post of Gauhar Raza on Facebook shared
by Jyoti Thanvi, I rememebered a long abstract I had
submitted for a talk in a conference organised by the
department of Evening Studies of Panjab University
twenty years ago. I have a blog in English too, but I
have not posted anything there for years, so I am
posting it here. When I spoke in that conference, my
reading in philosophy of science was nearly null. All I
had was experience of working with some of the best
minds in science. Reading it today I find it rather
immature, and if I had to write it again, I will have a
very different expression. But the fundamental issues
will remain the same. I still believe that in the rush to
join the western rat race, our English wallah liberals
compromise heavily on our ground realities.
We, Astha Ka Sawal and Science
Presented in DES conference at ICSSR, PU, Chd, Dec 1998
'Are you a believer?' - Most of us face such a question every once in a while. It used to have a clear meaning - do you believe in God, the creator, or arc you an atheist? Many of us belonging to the new tradition of liberalism developed in this country over the last two centuries have learnt to dodge the question by using words like 'agnostic' in the sense of believing in all 'Gods' or all 'religions'. In a way, it is ridiculous because many of the later religions (Judaic - Judaism, Islam and even Sikhism) do not really allow the possibility of many Gods and hence believing in one is sacrilegious from the point of view of other religions. Most typical journey of an enlightened liberal would be from being a naive believer until early teenage to a rigid atheism and back to a tolerant scientific temper. Unfortunately, we 'the liberal' in this country go beyond being tolerant, mostly against the interests of the people at large.
In answering the simple question about whether or not one is a believer there is a hypocrisy in the collective middle class culture that is prevalent almost everywhere in India. In fact, the question has grown in its implications from a matter of believing in God to believing in the hegemony of a culture of 'religion' that is determined by people who have no hesitation in using force to express themselves as well as in eliminating opposition to their views. A bit of soul-searching will reveal that essentially we are victims of a fear of this community culture that has acquired the character of a hegemony in recent times. Many of us express it as an inability to tackle the so-called 'Astha ka Sawal.' The response to the rising communalism in the eighties culminating in the fascist take over and spread of the culture of hatred in the nineties, by the liberals has been one of succumbing to this hegemony. There has been a realisation that 'religionism' (aka astha) does not constitute the beliefs of those whom the liberals have seen as the victims of a religious culture, rather it comes from the power of organised goons of a primitive culture that presents a real physical threat to survival. Thus explaining it away as a matter of someone else's faith was replaced by actually believing that it is indeed a matter of faith.
This shift in liberal thinking from opposing the obscure to not merely tolerating but going even further in explaining and justifying it can be seen in its rather indifferent attitude to events of grave significance since the beginning of this decade and all the way to the Congress president declaring that a certain kind of Hindutwa is an inherent part of the Indian ethos. We propose that this callous response to a monstrous reality has occurred simultaneously with a crisis in critical thinking that sees reality as fragmented and wrongly places the failure of reason in spreading throughout the society on a so-called 'instrumental rationality' of science and scientific thinking. We see a clear relationship between the rise of fascist nationalism that attempts to suppress the expressions of small nationalities and political formations, and the communal forces that have raised the slogan of 'astha above all' similar to the 'Deutschland Uber all' raised by the Nazis in Germany of the thirties and the withdrawal of the liberals from a serious faith in scientific thinking to succumbing to the threat from the right.
While head-on opposition to the fascist right has no meaning, looking for a source of the political reality of communalism in 'belief systems' is equally void and if anything, it merely exposes the bankruptcy of the liberals. Responding to claims based on confused mixing of myths and history in terms of evidence and documentation is merely an attempt to approach objectivity. If lack of objectivity does not hurt anyone, it may be allowed. For instance, the simple belief in solace from devotion to one or more Gods does not cause injury to anyone. It is, indeed, ridiculous to question this kind of 'belief.' To invoke words like 'rationality' or its antonym for every such instance is being insensitive. However, when 'worship' means early morning decibel-blast from places of worship or taking over public property (as for instance, in this university an ex-VC used his office to lay the foundation of a temple), this hurts the interests of people at large and should very clearly be called a crime. There are cases of a religious group dictating how we must look at old works of literary relevance as historical works and simultaneously revere them. In many such instances, we find an entire class of liberals bowing down to the hegemony of religionism and simply accepting the crimes as a matter of beliefs of some people.
Scientific temper is often misread as a rigid intolerant response towards spiritual beliefs. Science is accused of being based entirely on a reductionist methodology. In reality, the reductionism of science is limited to procedural simplification of complex data or phenomena to simple terms. After fragmenting a natural system into its various components that interact in complex manners, science attempts to build up theories of irreducible wholes. In fact, nothing can be more spiritual than a scientific quest for the origin of natural forces and the universe. There are serious debates within science about holistic and reductionist approaches. The search for a grand unified theory of interactions is the search for a holistic science. Reductionism has its own merits and practitioners of science can give numerous examples of how the two approaches are not exclusive of each other.
Interestingly, while the liberals, who started off as believers in scientific temper, went through the undesirable tempering and eventually fearing to express their belief in science, the reactionary religionists have used the results of scientific endeavour to the fullest. Every place of worship has the latest equipment for loud music. It is the believers of Rama-Rajya, who went to the extent of celebrating the insane nuclear explosions and later massive enhancements of the military budget to show their goals and that they would stop at nothing to achieve them.
A large number of mainstream scientists belong to this liberal intelligentsia. They practise science and yet they participate in such obscure things as rituals and community activities in the name of religion. Most of these activities have become a nuisance to civil society and yet there can be no opposition to them because of the hegemony of religionism. It is such scientists who have celebrated the nuclear explosions though many more sensible minds showed courage to express their opposition to the bombs.
The year 1998 witnessed the bizarre concept of a nation of millions that go hungry every night and have no notion of shame in living like animals, risen to fight the monopoly of the nuclear club. The hollowness of this claim became obvious pretty soon. What became clear during the misinformation campaign launched by the Government immediately after the nuclear explosions is that the liberal intelligentsia has completely surrendered itself to the fascist nationalism of the communal forces.
It is ironic that the obscurantists are probably going to be swept away eventually by the reality of gross poverty on the one hand and the irreversibility of globalisation and the advent of technology and market forces. As people's movements prepare to struggle for meaningful alternatives to market globalisation and for the preservation of the 'local'. we need to ask ourselves how we look at the role of liberals in this period of rapid transition to a new era.
Many of the problems of our nation-state are centered around the question of secularism and its opposite - communalism (in whatever sense these words make). Our problems with our neighbours are often related to this very dilemma. The issue of Kashmir has remained a contention between India and Pakistan not merely as an issue of territorial sovereignty, rather it has been an integral part of the tension between religious communities in this country. It is now obvious that there cannot be a solution to the problem within the conventional paradigm of nationalism. Facing the rising pressure from people to end hostilities and address the burning questions of basic need and development, the solution that the Governments of India and Pakistan are probably attempting to impose on the Kashmiris is a status-quo division of the state. It is unlikely to be acceptable to the people of the state. Globalisation of the economy, on the other hand, necessitates investment in sectors like literacy, basic education and health care, rather than on military spending. What should be the position of the liberals on this question? Should we not reconsider the notion of nationalism and lead the people in understanding that it is not a large territory, but fulfilment of basic needs of citizens that makes a country great? Possibly we could argue for a solution which could reduce the military budget drastically and shift national investments to sectors of greater priority and at the same time ensure lasting peace in the region. The only solution is open borders between the greater South Asian subcontinent with open trade similar to the European Union with a single currency and passport. Such a commonwealth can accommodate Kashmir as an independent participant. Is it possible for the liberals in this country to accept such a solution and fight the reactionary right that would rather keep our people starving and fighting with each other than lose an inch of territory where at present no peace loving citizen can step in?
We attempt to raise such questions in this presentation as we approach the coming century.