As India nears its diamond jubilee of independence this year, the country also gets further from the struggle for independence, with collective memories of the unified fight for freedom fading slightly from our consciousness. On account of this, Professor Vidyabhushan Arya, one of our esteemed faculty members, spoke to batches 2022 and 2023 on the 15th and 16th of March— coincidentally, he points out, in the same month that the Dandi March took place, 91 years ago.
Currently, a professor of Media and Communication here at Symbiosis Centre for Media and Communication, Mr Arya has over 18 years of industry and academic experience and is specialised in print and electronic media. He was an Assistant Media Director to Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan for the state of Maharashtra, and was also associated with Indian Express, Times of India and ETV News at Ramoji Film City, Hyderabad. He worked with MIT School of Government to train aspiring political leaders and has taught at IAS coaching institute in Pune. He has also worked as a political consultant, and at the moment, is pursuing his PhD in ‘Spiritual Content on social media and its use by Indian Youth’.
Professor Arya began the lecture by impressing upon students the need to be aware of our history, driving his point home with a quote by philosopher George Santayana— “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. He spoke about issues existing in society today, attributing them to the roots they have in the past. “History has a continuous link, chain, to the present,” he said.
He also talked about the need to have an open mind while delving into the past, and touched upon four main streams that originated before the freedom struggle, shaping politics as we know it today. The first stream was the forming of the Indian National Congress, which was initially created to act as an intermediary between the masses and the British, but evolved for a very different purpose. It became a people’s party, resting on pillars of secularism, inclusivity and socialism, and now, is the opposition party in our government.
The second stream, said Professor Arya, was that of the Muslim League. It was created in 1906 with a hidden but clear view of wanting a new Islamic state, which worked for Britain’s divide and rule agenda. We see the effects of that today with the independent states of India and Pakistan. The third stream was the emergence of right-wing Hindu nationalists, with an exclusionary ideology of Hindutva— very unlike the tolerance and plurality that characterizes Hinduism itself— that birthed groups like the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha. The ramifications of this stream show themselves in our parliament today, with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
Professor Arya identified the fourth stream as communism. While not as popular with the people, it exists and has existed since before independence, today taking the form of parties like the CPI (M) and Naxalite groups.
Towards the end of his talk, Professor Arya spoke about how studying these streams and going back into history will help us understand what questions need to be prioritised and given an answer to in our society. The rich tradition of our freedom struggle has inspired leaders and movements the world over, especially the Gandhian philosophy of nonviolent protest. This is the gift of the Indian freedom struggle, he said, that you cannot win the struggle with arms and violence, and if you do, the victory will not be long-lasting. Professor Arya’s talk definitely had its intended effect on the students as they considered the completion of 75 years of independence with fresh eyes, history put back into context.
Nibedita Mondal and Shruti Menon