BY HEIGRUJAM PREMKUMAR
Excerpts from a talk by Prof. Avijit Pathak on a seminar on Indian Modernity. 14 October, 2011. Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
There is no single modernity. Rather, there are multiple modernities. Besides, it’s always necessary to look at two important questions related to modernity: modernization of tradition and traditionalization of modernity.
When we talk about modernity in India, we need to understand the context of colonialism in India: the building of new universities, new education system etc. by the British utilitarians.
Invoking Tradition/Engagement with Modernity:
There are complex responses from Indians in the debate on the question of modernity in India.
Sir Aurobindo Ghosh talked about the “crisis of the age of reason.”
Gandhi in Hind Swaraj spoke of the need for looking inside the “soul force” instead of looking outside the brute force of colonialism.
Rabindranath Tagore wrote about the crisis of civilization, collapse of the narcissism of modern nation-states of Europe. Tagore widely wrote and spoke that India must not repeat the mistake that the Europe made.
On a different aspect, B. R. Ambedkar had a quest for Buddhism, for liberty, equality and fraternity. He asked for economic equality and individual freedom.
The period between 1947-1970s is the Nehruvian era of nation-making or Nehruvian era of modernity. Nehru was trying to build up an India on the basis of new industries, new technologies etc. We see the unitary feature of the federal state, planning system, mixed economy model of Nehru.
It can be said that there was a richness of the debate about modernity, about West during that time.