As I glanced across the morning Sunday news from my first floor balcony biting the cold breeze , I overheard my daughter preparing for her social studies exam . She was reading on the Mauryan dynasty….
Chandra gupta maurya was a street kid from a peacock charming clan in Pataliputra who over threw the Nanda dynasty and established the Mauryan empire. After Chandragupta abdicating his thrown and settling down into the reclusive Jain enclave in Shravanbangola, his son Bindusara became the King. Bindusara was extravagant and lived on the spoils of his father and his pleasure seeking pursuits made the kingdom shaky, prompting his son Asoka who was the governor of Taxila to take on the reigns of the Mauryan Empire. Emperor Ashok’s life and actions changed the course of the then India’s social, religious and political life. Not much is known of the Mauryan rule after the times of Ashoka, However as per my historian wife, since the time of Ashoka , Mauryan empire enforced the strict principles of Buddhism which was called Dhamma and prohibited extravagant rituals, animal sacrifices etc, which hit the underbelly of Brahmanism forcing the Brahmin Chief of maurayan army Pushyamitra sunga to kill the king Brihadrata and establish the Sunga dynasty. This happened in 185 BC and was a classic case of divide between the secular and communal forces in the political landscape of Ancient India .
Exactly 2198 years later today when I gazed at the newspaper report on Rahul Gandhi being elevated to the number two position in the congress party, I understand that much water has flown since then , through the rivers of the northern plains of India, but , its sour contents ,of dynastic rule and politico-cultural divide remains the same .
The dhamma of secularism is still the corner stone of our political divide between the congress and the BJP with the former proclaiming themselves as the torchbearers of secularism. While Ashoka conceptualized Dhamma and engraved its meaning in the monolith rock pillars, the emperors of modern India engraved secularism in the pillars of our constitution. Dhamma was well defined and practiced, but secularism- even though a noble concept imported from Europe- was a convenient means for our dynastic rulers to create fear and then appease the minority community whose population is now much more than an average European country. Administrative measures are taken with vote bank politics in mind, like special status to institutions runs by minorities or their reservations in education and employment and these are labelled as secular practices but no legislations are made like enforcing uniform civil code, regulating religious conversions, enforcing nationalistic and modern educational practices in madrasas etc. Through Dhamma the Mauryan rulers enforced the principles of right living, but protagonist of secularism in India , do not mind forging alliances with Muslim league and the Hyderabad based communal outfit MIM -now more known as Akbaruddin Owaisi’s party-
As a reaction to this the BJP talks of another dhamma called Hindutwa without a clear and logical discourse on the same confusing the majority of liberal minorities in our country, and there by encouraging speculative politics. While dynastic congress have one Raja or a Rani with a sycophantic praja , the BJP has many kings or no kings making its own praja search for a Sultan in Gujarat as their leader who was hitherto portrayed by the secular congress as some sort of a modern Chengiz Khan, only to create fear among those special species called minorities.
As we move on to 2014 for the General elections, political divide in India is thus cantering around secularism, hindutwa, youth and leadership and the elevation of the new prince in the congress dynasty should be looked upon in this context. Whether he becomes an enlighten Ashoka preaching his own dhamma or dwarfs into a brihadata only to be defeated by a communal Pushyamitra Sunga is yet to be seen.
As the Jaipur meet of the congress party concludes wishing the new King a good battle ahead.
Bad politics is always good History.