Excerpt from the 2nd Justice Krishna Iyer Memorial Lecture delivered by Mr. Gopal Krishna Gandhi, Trivandrum
Justice V R Krishna Iyer was, in one word, incredible.
For a Brahmin with an urban upbringing to become a lawyer and then a judge was nothing unusual. And he became that. But the route that he took to that position via radical politics as an MLA and minister pioneering landmark legislation was more than unusual ; it was exceptional. Having given radical judgments, memorable as much for their judicial originality as for their literary unusualness, for him to become an amazingly active public intellectual and a conscience-keeper to the nation was , again, extraordinary. He was not the traditional twice-born but a multiple avatar. But what was even more extraordinary than the great transitions in his life was the running thread through all those incarnations of a passion for justice, for equity, for fairness.
His multiple identities went to serve a certain important public purpose as well. They showed what a multiplicity India herself is in her varied aspects, facets, dimensions and what a multiplicity of being and belonging every Indian is. The very name of Justice V R Krishna Iyer says – or rather, proclaims –this : India is diverse, heterogenous, plural. And with each generation, is becoming more and more diverse. Anyone who tries to homogenise India, standardise its variety, paint it in one chrome, is attempting the definitionally impossible. That someone might as well try to turn all flowers into a lotus, all fruit into the mango, all birds into a peacock, all trees into the banyan. And perhaps all bovines into the cow. We all believed the cow was not to be touched for it was sacred. We now know the bull is not to be touched in Tamil Nadu for it is makes for sport. Something or the other is just not to be touched in India. Sanctity is a constant, the object of sanctity highly varied.
India is an anthropological work-in-progress, Bharat a multi-volume sociological opus of which we have just about seen the first volume. And Hindustan is that gulistan of which the flowers yet to bloom outnumber the myriad varieties we know.
And yet there are those who would have this India of constant variety cast in stone, one stone, with one predominant identity, one dominant language, one mega book, one overarching mountain, one mother river, one pre-eminent song, one favoured medicine system, one preferred health cure, one all-found basis to one’s identity in one number into which all other numbers will flow and flux. And of course, one supremo.
Godi mein khelti hein jiski hazaron nadiyan, is how Iqbal described India’s innumerable rivers. Linking them into one riparian horror, perhaps to be called the Ekaganga or Amaraganga, is equally untenable, ludicrous and reprehensible.
If Pakistan or Bangladesh make their people speak only one language, read only the Holy Quran, sing only their national anthem ,that would be equally ludicrous and equally reprehensible. A great Sri Lankan, the veteran communist Colvin Silva said to those who propagated the Sinhala Only policy in that island : “One language two countries ; two languages, one country”.
Monoculturism cannot work in India, nor its cousin, majoritarianism. But they can work havoc in society. They are doing so already.
Who rules India, such an India ?
Can anyone rule India, our India ?
And yet a nation as a nation-state does get to be impacted by some predominating factor or factors.
I have said ‘who’ ; I should really say ‘what’.
What is that what ?
There is not one but , to my mind, three main ‘rulers’ of India’s mind.
The first is fear.
Fear rules India.
The other two are distrust and money.