Can there be an ethic of India?
To define the ethics of India requires the precision of Socrates, the intellect of Immanuel Kant and the stamina of Hercules. The task of trying to understand the underlying breath of the nation through unified beliefs and practices seems almost impossible in a multicultural nation like that of ours. Moreover, Indian ethics have never been looked at as a gestalt; there have always been the ethics of Indian religious practices, the ethics of India’s politics, and the ethics of Indian society but there has never been an attempt to formulate a singular definition that pronounces India’s identity clearly and diminishes the apparent paradoxes that seem to exist.
My endeavor begins with an inquiry of whether or not there is a similitude of thought amongst the youth of this nation. It could be rather easy for us to determine the emerging ethics of the country with this as the first step, as the youth comprises of 1.25 billion of India’s population. With the current system of education evolving in India, one can discern that India’s youth is being trained to be more critical and technical as thinkers and citizens, as compared to the previous generations. Even though the structure of the education system at its roots is quite unequal, yet at the level of higher education the government provides institutions that enable a distinct process of growth in individuals. Be it the IITs, the IIMs, the medical institutes, the universities or any other institute, there is at least an opportunity for one to grow out of their deprivations. The standard of education might not be as great as that of some developed nations but it is still providing an arena for sprouting a thought process that is more refined, technical, progressive and global.
The education perspective does not convolute the idea of India’s ethics, but the sociological stratification surely does. India is predominantly defined by its multiple identities due to multiple cultures and divisions within the society. The cliché ‘unity in diversity’ ideally does define the nation’s principles but it is a matter of great complexity to find the common thread that connects one Indian to another. Is it the power of tolerance, is it the belief in democracy or is it purely in the name of patriotism? Why is it that we associate our existence to land? The constitution has a simple answer to this question, which is that we are all citizens of this land bound to certain rights and duties, which is what brings me to the next step; is the constitution of India the bible to India’s ethics?
One can take our bulky constitution to be the blueprint of our dos and don’ts and our functionality could be said to be validated through it. But, it could also be interpreted as a mere prescription without any powers of enforcement. On paper, India has stood as a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic for over 65 years but in actuality there is a rage of anti-constitutional activities that shakes the skeleton of India very often. So, can we define the ethics of this nation to be in the hands of its leaders, its politicians, policy makers, etc?
This answer to this question would have been a yes in the case of many other nations but with India it cannot be the case. If looked at theoretically then India’s right wing is not the extreme of the right and India’s left wing is pretty close to the centre. Our core political values do not match any of these theories, per se. What it does acknowledge is the fact that political parties in India cannot be analyzed on a horizontal line. In reality, the actions and beliefs of all parties in India irrespective of their region, religious bent or who they represent; have all the same ambitions and similar plans of action.
This gets further complicated as we conclude over the social, political, cultural and religious perspective of it but we can still not separate the concoction of India’s ethics from this humungous load of other principles. However, I believe that India does have an ethic of its own. We are that nation which survives the outbursts of innumerable religions, we are that nation which believes that capitalism has the potential to eradicate poverty, we are the people who believe in virtues like justice and also believe that justice can be bought if not given the just way, we are this nation which welcomes people from everywhere as we have succumbed to the conditions they could possibly create, we are this nation which actually believes in free speech, we are the sorts that want to protect our tigers and most importantly, we are this nation which is optimistic about its future, we stand proud thinking of the day when this nation would be a global superpower.
About the Author
Priyam Mathur is a philosophy graduate, living in and out of Delhi and Mumbai. Her current focus is to build a ground of reconciliation for herself, modern politics and concepts in philosophy. The things that most interest her include existentialism, Indian myths, food and music. She is currently pursuing her internship with Alexis Centre for Public Policy and International Relations.