History- Important places, persons in news

[op-ed snap] Legacies crucial for the commonsop-ed snap


Mains Paper 1: History | All syllabus

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: UPSC has been asking comparison questions between famous personalities on a continuous basis. The editorial is very important in that context


Anniversaries of Gandhi & Marx

  1. The 150th birth anniversary year of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and the 200th birth anniversary of Karl Marx went by this year
  2. Such anniversaries can become occasions of tokenism — for instance, the Indian government has set up a committee with more than 100 members to coordinate celebrations of Gandhi’s anniversary
  3. Any meaningful homage to Gandhi would call into question the very fundamentals of today’s political and economic power, and point a sharply critical gaze at the rampant abuse of religion and nationalism and so too perhaps for Marx

Legacy of these stalwarts continues

  1. The celebrations are being led by so-called revolutionary governments in those parts of the world where Leftist parties still hold power
  2. This does not mean that these two figures are of no relevance now. On the contrary, they are even more so than before
  3. Their legacy is crucial for the majority of the world’s population, marginalised by capitalism, statism, patriarchy and other structures of oppression
  4. As it is for the rest of nature, so badly abused by humanity

Resistance and construction

  1. There are many movements of sangharsh (resistance) and nirman (construction) throughout the world
  2. These movements realise that the injustices they are facing, and the choices they must make, are not bound by the divides that ideologues play games with
  • Resistance movements
  1. At any given time in India, there are dozens of sites where Adivasis, farmers, fisherpersons, pastoralists and others are refusing to part with their land or forest or water to make way for so-called development projects
  2. News that is both inspiring and depressing keeps coming from Latin America, of indigenous people standing up for their territorial rights against mining and oil extraction, and all too frequently paying the price when state or corporate forces kill their leaders
  3. There have been movements for land and forest rights, communal harmony, workers’ security and other causes in India that are not so easy to place in any ideological camp
  • Construction of alternatives
  1. Across the world, there are incredible examples of sustainable and holistic agriculture, community-led water/energy/food sovereignty, worker takeover of production facilities, resource/knowledge commons, local governance, community health and alternative learning, inter-community peace-building, the reassertion of cultural diversity, gender and sexual pluralism, and much else

Common features of these movements

  1. There is the exploration of autonomy, self-reliance, people’s governance of politics and the economy, freedom with responsibility for the freedom of others, and respect for the rest of nature
  2. While these movements do often call for policy interventions from a more accountable state, there is also an underlying antipathy to the centralised state, as there is in both Gandhian swaraj and in Marxist communism and in many versions of anarchy
  3. Private property is also challenged
  4. While Gandhi was weak on challenging capital, and Marx on stressing the fundamental spiritual or ethical connections amongst humans, these movements often tend to bridge these gaps
  5. Many of them integrate the need to re-establish ecological resilience and wisdom, some even arguing for extending equal respect to other species
  6. They also encompass Marx’s vision of a society that bridges humanity’s ‘metabolic rift’ with nature, and Gandhi’s repeated emphasis on living lightly on the earth
  7. With this they also challenge the very fundamentals of ‘development’, especially its mad fixation on economic growth, reliance on ever-increasing production and consumption, and its utter disregard for inequality

Way forward

  1. There are points of tension between Gandhi & Marx, for instance, on the issue of non-violence as a principle
  2. There are points of ambiguity in recognising that indigenous peoples have already lived many elements of their dreams
  3. But there is critical common ground amongst them if our ultimate goals are well-being, justice, and equity, based on ecological wisdom
  4. We would do well to honour their legacy by identifying such common ground and building on the struggles and creativity of ‘ordinary’ people in communities across the world

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