Monday, December 5, 2022

Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya: An Indian political philosopher par excellence

Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya is one of the greatest ever visionary political thinkers of India. He has been extensively admired for the decolonisation of Indian political thoughts. His political ideology is coined as Integral Humanism and it is the official political doctrine of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party of today. In modern India, many right winged intellectuals often compare him as good a visionary as Mahatma Gandhi. His whole philosophy was for the upliftment of the oppressed class of the society, especially the Dalits and the downtroddens. He also opined for the Muslim upliftment. As per the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Upadhyaya expressed that Muslims should not be treated as different people. Neither to reward them, nor to rebuke them, but simply empower them by considering them as our own. This essay is an introduction to Pandit Upadhyaya and his thoughts to the enthusiasts.
Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya was born on 25th September 1916, in a village of Mathura district of United Providence, British India. He was called ‘Deena’ by his family and friends. He became an orphan at a very young age and so, was brought up at his maternal grandfather’s place. Young Deendayal was a very brilliant student during the school days. He had his schooling at different places and he stood first in the board examination as well as in the intermediate examination (1937) of Rajasthan. He got a BA degree in first division from Sanatan Dharma College, Kanpur in 1939 and pursued his master’s degree in English literature from St. John’s College, Agra which he didn’t complete. He obtained his B.T. degree also from Prayag thereafter. He also qualified the civil services examination, where he got his nickname as ‘Panditji’ for appearing in the examination hall wearing traditional dhoti-kurta and cap. However, he did not join the service.
Pandit Upadhyaya came in contact with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS) in 1937 at Kanpur and gradually became a lifelong pracharak of the Sangh after coming in close contact with Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, the founder of RSS. In 1951, Dr. Syama Prasad Mukherjee founded Bharatiya Jana Sangh(BJS) as the right winged Indian political party.
Upadhyaya entered into active politics by becoming the first General Secretary of Uttar Pradesh branch and later, became the all-India general secretary. For 15 long years, he was serving as the general secretary of BJS. In 1965, his thoughts were adapted as the official doctrine of the BJS and later BJP. He became the president of BJS in 1967. His tenure was very short as President as he was found dead by a railway track in Mughal Sarai Station on February 11, 1968 under mysterious circumstances. He was only 52 at that time.
Upadhyaya was a prolific writer. He started his career as a free-launch journalist in Rashtra Dharma, a Hindy daily. Then, he became the editor of Panchjanya, a weekly chronicle and Swadesh, a daily newspaper in Hindi. Both were published from Lucknow. His editorials in both of them were extremely thought provoking. He wrote a Hindi drama on Chandragupta Maurya. He also wrote a biography of Adi Shankarcharya in Hindi. He translated a Marathi biography of Dr. Hedgewar also.
Upadhyaya is best known for his “deshi political philosophy” of Integral Humanism as an alternative to the western capitalist individualism and the Marxist socialism. He analysed both capitalism as well as socialism from western perspectives but made a mixed approach of both of them with Bharatiya values. Integral Humanism basically states that there are four major existential traits of every human being. They are body, mind, intellect and soul. These four attributes correspond to four universal objectives. They are : I) dharma, the moral duties ii) artha, the wealth iii) kama, the desire for enjoyment and iv) moksha, the total liberation or salvation. The western thought presumes the mind, the intellect and the soul collectively as a single entity. So, both, the western capitalism and socialism consider only two aspects of human life namely, body and mind. Hence, both these schools of western thoughts are confined to the materialist objectives of desire and wealth only for human life. Integral Humanism utterly rejects the social systems in which individualism is of supreme importance. However, it also rejects communism as in communism, the rights of the individuals are totally subdued by a small supreme powerful entity in the name of the society. This supreme entity acts as a “heart less machine” to crash the individual’s aspiration.
Integral Humanism accepts the society as a “natural living organism” with a definitive “social soul” into it. It doesn’t endorse the theory that the society is formed by the social contracts between individuals. Society is actually metaphoric to the individual in the sense that it also has four collective objectives and four corresponding features. Like the individuals, society is a living being and it also has an inner soul.
The inherent source of integral humanism is taken from advaita vedanta (non-dualism) of Upanisad. Advaita Vedanta sees everything as the equal or same. It states that the body and the mind may remain distinct while not actually being separate. This is the essence of Indian philosophy and culture and it is the unifying principle of everything in the Universe. The integral humanism is best known for “a classless, casteless and conflict-free social order”. It talks about the integration of indigenous “Bharatiya” culture with the social, political and economic fabric of the nation. It has many traits common to Gandhian principles such as sarvodya & antyodaya (maximum progress for everyone), swadeshi (domestic), Gram Swaraj (village self rule) and samanvaya (synthesis of conflict free values) and dharmarajya (justice for all) as the basis of the citizen’s life in the society.
Upadhyaya, of course, was critical to Nehruvian economic policies. Pandit Nehru emphasized the increase of material wealth through rapid industrialization which in turn, would invoke western consumerism in Indian society. Upadhyaya was critical to this policy because it would borrow the uncertainty and restlessness of the Western world which might thwart the evolving nature of Bharatiya society. So, there should be a striking balance between the traditional Indian thoughts versus modern western thoughts while adopting policies for the nation. Then only, the issues of social disparity, poverty and regional hegemonic imbalances could be tackled for the national interests. Thus, he opposed unbridled consumerism by putting restraints on one’s desires for surplus material advancements and advocated spiritual contentment through Indian ethos
Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya was not discussed much earlier as an intellectual, especially during the former regimes. However, after BJP assumed the central stage of the politics in India, their ideological Guru, Upadhyaya naturally got lime-lighted focus. The BJP government has launched several schemes in honour of him. The BJP believes that Deendayal Upadhyaya’s philosophy needs a fresh interpretation. Some of the BJP ruled states have included chapters on him in the academic curriculum.
Of course, some critics point out that he was “biased” against the Muslims. Some also criticised him for not explicitly vocal against the caste system. Whether we agree with his philosophy or not, he was surely one of the greatest political thinkers of all time in India and we all should be aware of his “deshi thoughts”. Let us explore him with great reverence.
Ranjan Das, Assistant Professor, Patkai Christian College

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