The Ministry of External's Affairs' website is a trove of many treasures. For example, did you know, that the ministry selected Son Of Sardar in 2012 to be screened at its overseas posts and missions? Or that, in 2015, it was the turn of Prem Ratan Dhan Payo to be screened at some of its foreign offices?
Adding to this list of gems is a book that the external affairs minister says has been put together with hard work by her ministry. It's a volume called Integral Humanism and revolves around the life and work of RSS ideologue Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya.
The Wire was the first to point out that it had been uploaded in e-book format on the MEA website. The book is placed in the 'In Focus' section under the 'Media/Documents' tab on the website. Apart from it, the most recent entries in that section are effusive praise for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's various foreign visits and the diplomatic achievements embodied by those visits.
The foreword is written by minister Sushma Swaraj, who informs readers that the book has been published by her ministry to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of Upadhyaya.
The book attempts to define culture, freedom, nation and nationalism through the words of Upadhyaya. It also tries to distinguish between what it calls 'Bharatiya culture' and the 'West'. Speaking about individual rights and freedom, it states: "Where other person's freedom is likely to be encroached upon, my freedom ends."
The first thought that crosses the reader's mind while reading this is perhaps that these lines are a critique of the idea of the 'beef ban', one person's religious freedom encroaching upon another's right to food. But, in next couple of lines, Upadhyaya explains religion in a way that completely rationalises the beef ban.
"Similarly, every religion has the freedom to exist. But this freedom exists only as far as it does not encroach upon the religion of others," the book says.
The 'introduction' says, "Only the party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, developed by him, became the political alternative." The sentence follows a narration of the history of elections in India during Upadhyaya's time.
The conclusion of the book urges readers to celebrate Upadhyaya's ideals. Speaking about how humanity and nature are inter-connected, the conclusion — possibly put together by the MEA — says, "this is the essence of Hindu thought, Bharatiya thought". It adds, "Deendayaljee named this thought only integral humanism" (sic).
While the MEA is justified in celebrating a cultural figure by compiling a book about his work, one is compelled to wonder why they would add a postscript calling 'Hindu thought' the default 'Bharatiya' thought. Especially when the excerpts from Upadhyaya's own ideals don't explicitly spell it out.
Upadhyaya draws heavily from Hindu scriptures to talk about nation and individuality, but his ideas mostly allude to the spirit, body and the mind.
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