The session started with a recollection of the conversation that Jerry Rao had with the Chancellor of Asoka University, Rudrangshu Mukherjee. The said conversation centered around the current academic scenario in India with the bombardment of ideologies of the Left as opposed to the inculcation of conservative ideologies in the academic world. Excerpts from this conversation includes incessant requests by Jerry to inculcate conservative ideology in the minds of the young through a string of lectures that he would posit upon the students. This was met with an agreement and these meandering set of lectures were turned into the book ‘The Indian Conservative’. The book explores the legitimacy of the conservative ideology and its claims through contextualization of different kinds.
The theme of the book revolves around the right wing ideology and its persistence in Indian history. In the session, Jerry Rao spoke of how political ideologies and its concepts such as Left and right are fairly recent in the macrocosm of history. He then discussed India and its ideology in contention in isolation, as he claims that there is an indigenous tradition of conservative thinking throughout Indian history. This claim is made with specific reference to the practices that revolved around equity. Jerry further alludes to the two texts that set the groundwork and are considered to be the foundational texts that set the tone for the Indian strain of conservatism; Shantiparva (the book of peace) by Vyasa and Tirukkural by Thiruvalluvar. These two texts act as the nucleus of the conservative ideology that seeps through the territorial boundaries of India and its citizens since its publishing. It has been part of the Indian political thinking and philosophical thinking. Considering that the philosophers of the ancient times were berated on their agenda of personal benefits and gains, Jerry defended their ideologies stating that their priorities were selfless and they mainly focused on social issues rather than personal gains.
Through time, India had developed two main strains of conservatism within its territorial boundary, they were the Burkean or Traditionalist conservatism which emphasises the need for the principles of a transcendent moral order, manifested through certain natural laws to which society ought to conform in a prudent manner. Raja Rammohan Roy was an ardent follower of this strain of conservatism. The other strain of conservatism was adhered by Bankim and his Hindu nationalist philosophy which emphasized on the expression of social and political thought, based on the native spiritual and cultural traditions of the Indian subcontinent.
Post this, the idea of a utopic realm came into question to which Jerry said “belief in utopia leads to a dystopic outcome.” Further continuing his speech on the concepts of conservatism, Jerry brought out the differences between religious conservatism and non religious conservatism in which the former believes that creating a heaven on Earth is the responsibility of God and the latter claims the opposite, referring to the attempts of Pol Pot and Joseph Stalin in bringing heaven to Earth but the misconstrued ideology turned detrimental for humanity.
There is a collective conservative skepticism towards the idea that group rights and beliefs supersede individual rights due to their association and belief in the concept of dharma, which is esoteric to an individual. In the Indian context, Rajadharma existed well before the introduction of the Magna Carta and its sole reason for existence was to eradicate the pervasive matsya nyaya (law of the fish). It is the fundamental law of nature that small fish become prey to big fish or the strong devour the weak. It can be equated to the ‘Law of Jungle’. In simple words, the strong will prevail over the weak.
The idea of India as Bharat is an ever-present one whose legitimacy according to Jerry, is similar to that of the Jew’s laying claim to the Holy Land, thus emphasising on India being a “sacred land.”The ideology of Bharat and its unifying ideologies existed before the preamble was written, thus securing its status on this dispute.
Jerry spoke of his distaste towards the permeating ideologies of Marxism, Postmodernism and Freudian theories in the academic sphere and further berates the ideas of Derrida and Foucault, claiming that they are charlatans that make an attempt at brainwashing the minds of the young with their ideologies. He also discussed the challenges of being a conservative philosopher in the streams of academia and journalism as it is essentially dominated by the left that is totalitarian and elitist in its nature and spoke of the response he usually gets when he alludes to the Shanti Parva, stating that “I would be called a fundamentalist, a Hindutva practitioner if I used these works.”
Jerry also explored the defining qualities of democratic politics, which is the definition of an identity. (eg, the Akali Dal is a party for the Jaat and Sikh). Economy and philosophy are just add ons to the political idea as they aren’t prioritised for sustenance.
Jerry concluded that there needs to be an influence in the nucleus of the several democratic political parties in India in order to create a shift to conservatism and thus prospering in the future.
About The Author:
A self proclaimed meme lord that barely makes any but laughs at many, all Vishal Bhadri does is read, listen to music and cry during both the activities. Vishal has a poetry blog called Memory Palace that has all of his two poems in it. He is doing his triple major in Communications, Literature and Psychology at Christ University. He currently writes for TheSeer.