Whenever someone asks me about where I stand on the political spectrum, my reply changes according to their definition of the ‘Left’ and the ‘Right’. Because the Indian Right could, by no means, be more misunderstood.
The terms ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ are believed to have originated during the French Revolution of 1789 when members of the National Assembly divided into supporters of the King to the President’s right and those who promoted revolution to his left. At that time, the ‘Right’ were seen as the ones loyal to religion and established institutions while the ‘Left’ represented free will and progressive liberalism. But it was not until the early twentieth century that the terms came to be associated with political ideologies. Eventually, the western ‘Left’ came about to represent ideas like progress and reform while the ‘Right’ became a symbol of order and tradition. European ‘tradition’ during this era largely meant authoritarian regimes, the concentration of power in the hands of the clergy and the monarchy and was in dire need of ‘reform’. Hence it is no surprise that the Left was hailed as progressive and even the saviour of humanity at times.
Even today, the western Right is seen as a group of religious conservatives, patriarchs, racial supremacists, and a bunch of people who sometimes reject basic scientific propositions such as evolution, climate change, and other matters where science tends to disagree with the Bible. The idea of left-right partisanship has largely boiled down to those who are religious and those who are supposedly secular if we just go for the sheer lexical definition of it.
But what if your ‘religion’ is open to ‘secularism’? Will you be called religious or secular? What if the traditions you ‘conserve’ is ‘progressive’? Would you be called a progressive or a conservative? What if ideas that are generally categorised as leftist seem to become rightist in your culture? Would you be called a right winger or left?
Let me explain.
The very philosophy of Hinduism, the supposed religion that the Indian Right is said to back, is progress. Yes, it might seem hard to digest that a religion can be progressive. But Hinduism is not just a religion. It never was! In fact, the term ‘Hinduism’ did not even exist until recent times. It was always ‘Sanatana Dharma’, the timeless and ever-existing principle of good conduct and morality, which was misinterpreted as religion in a bid to divide and conquer our motherland. And how can morality ever be against the flow of progress?
The west, which has seen a surge in the supposedly leftist idea of feminism only in recent times and has not even succeeded in completely achieving it, has no right to blame the Indian culture of being oppressive towards women. Examples of feminism, equality and women’s rights in Sanatana Dharma are as old as time itself. Man is incomplete without his female counterpart and so are the Gods. Shiva is incomplete without Shakti. Krishna is only completed by Radha. Rama and Sita are never seen apart! Anyone who has heard of Gangaputra Bheeshma, Kuntiputra Arjuna, or Radheya Karna would understand that a society where the greatest of warriors were known by their mother’s name can never be called patriarchal. And to anyone who might accuse these names of being mythical or fictional, let me remind you of the valiant queens of Indian history like Rani Lakshmi Bai  or Rani Durgavati  who are very much real. Does feminism still qualify as a leftist idea?
Let us go back to the French Revolution again. Ideals of democracy and secularism were against the established order and religious doctrines and hence were classified as leftist. But in Indian context, these ideas are very much aligned with both traditional institutions and scriptures. Mentions of democratic ideas can be found even in the ancient, revered Rig Veda. In Mahabharata, the kingdoms of Lichhavi, Vaishali, and Dwarka have been recorded to have followed a constitutional monarchy. The first king of Vaishali is said to have been an elected one even! And while we are at it, secularism, i.e., the separation of State and church, was never even required in India.
On a completely different note, the fights for LGBTQ+ rights are a raging topic in the West nowadays and are largely leftist ideas. But in India, such topics are quite well promoted by tradition. Stories and concepts mentioning these ideas like that of Ardhanariswar, Mohini, Ila, and Shikhandini to name a few date back to eras. For westerners, basic natural phenomena like sex and menstruation used to be taboo for a long time; the shackles of which they are trying to break away from only now. And in India? Take a stroll through the Konark Sun Temple and tell me Indian tradition is conservative! And anyone who accuses that menstruating girls are not allowed to visit temples should know that these rules are misinterpretations only. Indian culture celebrates menstruation! The western leftist idea of ‘openness’ doesn’t seem leftist anymore, right?
Ideas like these which are deemed progressive may be new concepts for the western society. But Sanatana Dharma has always embraced these ideas with an open heart. Not only that, most of the major scientific innovations that are attributed to Europe today, had actually been studied and developed to an unbelievable extent in India eons ago! Keeping all this in mind, does the fine line separating the left wing and the right wing still seem clear? Indian culture has always been progressive. Conserving these traditions will never make one conservative. If we keep all the pseudos aside for a while, the Indian Left and the Indian Right are one and the same because both strive towards progress and harmony. And once we understand this and keep aside our petty divisive ideas to unite for the true development of our motherland, no one can stop our mother, our Maa Bharti from snatching her well-deserved crown of Vishwaguru.
After all, call it utopian society or call it Rama Rajya, both represent a single idea.
References: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left-right_political_spectrum  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rani_of_Jhansi  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rani_Durgavati  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ardhanarishvara  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohini  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ila_(Hinduism)  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shikhandi  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raja_(festival)
#LeftWing #RightWing #IndianRight #Hindutva #CulturalNationalism #SanatanaDharma
[author title=”Megha Satapathy” image=”https://goachronicle.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/IMG_20210205_095950.jpg”]Intern, Goa Chronicle[/author]