What Made India a Free Nation - Colonialism or the Bible? - Revelation Movement

What Made India a Free Nation – Colonialism or the Bible?
Making India a Great Nation – Part XI ©
by Vishal Mangalwadi

One of India’s top broadcast outlets, NDTV, celebrated India’s 66th Independence anniversary with a TV Dialogue on “Nationalism.” It was broadcast on August 18, 2013. The panelists were BJP leader Jaswant Singh, academician Professor Ashis Nandy, poet and Bollywood lyricist Javed Akhtar and senior journalist Swapan Dasgupta.
NDTVdialogues295x200Jaswant Singh began the dialogue by confessing that Independence India adopted a European concept of nation, which had never existed in India:  “I personally think that nationalism is an adopted word. It really got born as a concept in Westphalia, before that there were states . . . Which is why until the East India Company came on the scene, there is not a single map of India that you can find. There is no map.” He was right, no Hindu, Muslim, or Buddhist ever made a map of “India”, before the days of British rule because no one ever thought in terms of a nation called “India.”
None of the other panelists disagreed with Jaswant Singh.  In fact, Swapan Dasgupta affirmed his view, saying: “I think the extent to which European influences have played a role in shaping India have subsequently been underestimated by a lot of people. In the first flush of freedom we thought that really we’ve achieved it ourselves. But the extent to which, what we are today, as being defined by the European influence, is tremendous. Just to take two or three minor examples: the notion of trust, the notion of Government by trust. Government should exist …. for all the people, is something that is …… from the 1688 glorious revolution in Britain. That concept did not exist in India before this. Similarly, the term nationality was very much a European import, particularly, at the turn of the century.”
Shashi Tharoor, the Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram concurs with the BJP intellectual, Jaswant Singh. He is the Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development, and has served as UN’s Under Secretary-General. In an Op-Ed piece for NDTV (March 12, 2014) he wrote, “The Idea of India as a modern nation based on a certain conception of human rights and citizenship, vigorously backed by due process of law and equality before law, is a relatively recent and strikingly modern idea.”
So, where did this idea of a free India come from? What made India a free nation?
The idea of a free nation came not from the Colonialists but from the Bible. It is a compilation of 66 books, which began to be written 3,400 years ago. One objective of the early books was to reveal God in order to transform 12 tribes of Hebrew slaves coming out of Egypt into one free and great nation in the land of Canaan, an area now within the state of Israel.                        .
carey66William Carey (1761 – 1834) is the father of modern Christian missions and modern Bengali. He began giving the Bible to Indians in our own mother-tongues. Before he knew that he would be coming to India as a missionary, he supported his manifesto of missions with the argument that the Bible is the seed that would produce civilized and free governments in the non-Christian world, just as it had done in Europe. Responding to the objections that lawless communities will kill missionaries who teach foreign religions, Carey wrote: “Secondly, as to their uncivilized, and barbarous way of living, this can be no objection to any, except those whose love of ease renders them unwilling to expose themselves to inconvenience for the good of others.”  Carey’s view and his commitment to India changed world history!
He went on to say: “It was no objection to the [Christian] apostles and their successors, who went among the barbarous Germans and Gauls, and still more barbarous Britons! They did not wait for the ancient inhabitants of these countries, to be civilized, before they could be Christianized, but went simply with the doctrine of the cross; and Tertullian could boast that ‘those parts of Britain which were proof against the Roman armies, were conquered by the gospel of Christ’—a cordial reception of the gospel produced those happy effects which the longest intercourse with Europeans, without it could never accomplish. . . Can we hear that they are without the gospel, without government, without laws, and without arts, and sciences; and not exert ourselves to introduce amongst them the sentiments of men, and of Christians? Would not the spread of the gospel be the most effectual mean of their civilization? Would not that make them useful members of society?
Englishmen, who did not take the Bible seriously, disagreed with Carey. Yet, the morality of his mission triumphed. A year before Carey’s death, in 1833, Hindutva’s most hated colonial icon Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay, won the moral argument in British Parliament that Britain must rule India in such a way as to prepare Indians to govern themselves as a free nation – a biblical legacy of national freedom and independence.
Famous constitutional lawyer, late Mr. Nani Palkhivala, summarized Macaulay’s work in his book, We, The People. “If India is a free republic today, that is also a consequence of the British rule. Indians fought, and fought valiantly, to get rid of foreign domination. But it is probable that, up to now, India would not have shaken off the domination of Indian rulers but for the notions of freedom imbibed from the days of the British rule. Macaulay foresaw this development. He said, ‘By good government we may educate our subjects [so] that they may in some future age demand European institutions [of freedom]. Whenever such as day comes, it will be the proudest day in English history.’”
macaulayHere is the context of Macaualy’s moral argument, in his own words, for India’s freedom that won the day in British Parliament: “Are we to keep the people of India, ignorant in order that we may keep them submissive? Or do we think that we can give them knowledge without awakening ambition? Or do we mean to awaken ambition and to provide it with no legitimate vent? Who will answer any of these questions in the affirmative? Yet one of them must be answered in the affirmative, by every person who maintains that we ought permanently to exclude the natives from high office. I have no fears. The path of duty is plain before us: and it is also the path of wisdom, of national prosperity, of national honour.”
This was no lofty-empty rhetoric. India’s freedom and true liberty was a mission because Jesus, the Messiah, came to this earth to break every yoke of oppression and to set the captives free (Isaiah 58:6). Quoting the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4: 18). In 1838, Macaulay’s brother-in-law, Charles Trevelyan, spelled out missionaries’ practical, educational strategy to set India free. In his book On the Education of the People of India, Trevelyan wrote:
“The existing connexion between two such distant countries as England and India, cannot, in the nature of things, be permanent: no effort of policy can prevent the natives from ultimately regaining their independence. But there are two ways of arriving at this point. One of these is through the medium of revolution; the other through that of reform . . . [Revolution] must end in the complete alienation of mind and separation of interests between ourselves and the natives; the other [reform] in a permanent alliance, founded on mutual benefit and good-will. The only means at our disposal for preventing [revolution] and securing . . . the results [of reform] is, to set the natives on a process of European improvement. The natives will have independence, after first learning how to make use of it; and we shall exchange profitable subjects for still more profitable allies . . . trained by us to happiness and independence, and endowed with our learning and political institutions, India will remain the proudest monument of British benevolence . . . .”
For six decades our people have been nurtured on myths such as ‘India became a free nation because of Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent agitations such as the “Quit India” movement.’ The reality is that Gandhi’s contemporaries such as Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar saw the Quit India movement as hypocrisy. One of Gandhi’s real agendas was to side line his rivals such as Subhas Chandra Bose. In his attack on Dr. Ambedkar, Arun Shourie writes that during the Gandhi-led Quit India Movement,
As Congress leaders rotted in jails, Ambedkar was broadcasting on behalf of the British Government . . . Instead of harping on “Quit India”, Ambedkar declared, the emphasis should have been on “a New India”. The demand that Independence be declared as a condition for support of the War effort was not understandable, he said. It could have been justified only if there had been ‘any sudden conspiracy to rob India of her right to freedom. But there is no evidence of any such conspiracy,’ he declared. ‘If India’s Independence is in the balance,’ he said, ‘it is because of disunity among Indians. The enemies of India’s Independence are Indians and no others,’ said Ambedkar from his perch in the Council of the British Viceroy (Arun Shourie, Worshiping False Gods, New Delhi: ASA Publications, 1997, pp. 102–3).
Ambedkar clearly saw what Shourie wants us to overlook: by 1942 the British had fully committed themselves to India’s independence. The delay was due to disunity among Indians. It was not just the distrust between Hindus and Muslims. It was a conflict between feudal princes and democrats that erupted during the Second Round Table Conference. It was the deep divide between the upper castes and the backward classes. Gandhi’s biggest headache was disunity within the Congress; the rift between radicals and conservatives as between Bose and himself.
The Theological Background of India’s “Self-Determination”
Rosevelt - ChurchillBy August 14, 1941, American President, Franklin Roosevelt, had already persuaded British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill to give up the pagan/Roman concept of Empire in favor of the biblical idea of Nation. Their agreement, known as the Atlantic Charter, affirmed that at the end of the Second World War victors will not colonize defeated nations; rather they will give to all the colonies the right to self-determination.
This principle of national “self-determination” (In German, Selbstbestimmungsrecht der Völker) was first hammered out in Germany in 1555, at the end of the conflicts between Roman Catholics and Lutherans. During the terrible “Thirty-Year Wars” (1618–1648) this doctrine of “self-determination” was refined and articulated by theologians such as John Amos Comenius, the last bishop of the Moravian Brethren, better known as “the father of modern education.” His case for every nation’s right to determine its own political style and destiny was grounded in the Bible (Genesis 10–12; Deuteronomy 32:8; Acts 17:26, etc.) that teaches that nations are sacred because they are not historical accidents. They are created by God so that they may seek Him.
Nationalism can be a virtue only if nations are sacred. It was this biblical concept of “nation” that resulted in the “Peace of Westphalia” referred to by Jaswant Singh in the NDTV discussion. That peace became possible because, in spite of their many differences, Calvinists, Lutherans, and the Catholics accepted the Bible’s authority.  In 1648, this biblical idea of nation became the theological basis for the formation of Holland. Until then “Holland” was 12 or so provinces ruled by Spain.  A hundred and twenty years later this doctrine led to the creation of the United States of America as a nation independent of the British Empire.
Through the Atlantic Charter, Roosevelt universalized the Bible’s idea of nation. That is why WWII ended with creation of United Nations, rather than United Empires. Terms such as “national self-determination” have no meaning unless nations (like families and churches) exist as real entities before God, capable of making choices that ought to be respected.
Subhas Chandra Bose, an Indian nationalist, thought that teaming up with Adolf Hitler was the easiest way to get rid of the British. Mahatma Gandhi thought that since America had joined the war, Hitler could not win. In any case, violent conflict would shed unnecessary blood, because the British had already committed themselves to give the right to self-determination to every colony. In order to get freedom it was enough for Indian masses to come out on the streets and make their desire known to the British rulers.
Mahatma Gandhi needed the Quit India movement in order to retain his control over the Congress – not in order to drive out the British. He had to appear more radical than the radicals like Bose. Leaders such as Dr. Ambedkar did not see Gandhi’s antics as lofty nationalism, because historically they had little to do with India’s freedom. Their objective was to get power in the hands of his political party.
Vishal Mangalwadi, LLD, is Honorary Professor of Applied Theology
in SHIATS, Deemed University, at Allahabad

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