I can see that you were protesting the other evening against the idea
of suraaj or, what Mahatma Gandhi used to call, Ram Raj. To quote his words,
"By Ram Raj, I do not mean Hindu Raj. I mean by Ram Raj Divine Raj, the Kingdom of
God. For me, Ram and Rahim are the same deity".
To answer your protest, let me be more direct and tell you that surzaj is not in any
way visualised as a Hindu state or a theocratic polity. The concept merely
represents an ideal state.
Nevertheless, if you were a Muslim cleric, perhaps your mind would flash to the idea of
Darul Islam. Or what is also often described as Nizam-e-Mustafa (the system
of the Prophet), an ideal which was born with Islam and has lived with most devout
Muslims. Similarly, many a socialist intellectual looks upon the call of Ram Rajya as
a bugle of revivalism. This would be a case of reading a Hindu ideal with a Marxist mind.
If you agree with what I have said, I request you not to read a Hindu ideal with either a
Marxist or a Muslim mind. Your other fear was that Ram Rajya means reviving a state
which last existed several thousand years ago since when life has become unrecognizably
Now let me submit how a Hindu with a modern mind would view Ram Rajya of the
future. The expression Ram Rajya denotes an ideal state to Hindus or rather most
Indians. Ram personifies dharma. Whereas rajya means the state whose essential
function is to enable each citizen to perform his dharma without let or hindrance by other
people. Every citizen would be assured of justice. Dharma is the trinity of faith, duty
There is nothing particularly Hindu about dharma. After all, which civilised human
being would deny that he has a faith to keep and a duty to perform? Or, shall we say, an imaan
to cherish and a fare towards others. Each citizen has the right to follow his dharma.
At the same time,he/she has the obligation to allow every other citizen to abide by
his dharma. The fundamental function of Ram Rajya, as I see it, is to ensure that
every citizen has the freedom to fulfil himself and at the same time, not to obstruct any
other citizen from fulfilling himself. That is justice.
For one citizen to be just to another, he should be prepared for some
self-denial, if not also sacrifice, from time to time. Ram was the epitome of sacrifice.
As a gesture of his duty towards his father, he gave up fourteen years of his life in
exile or vanvaas. For the sake of his principles, he gave up his wife, Sita. The
king or the queen could not afford to carry any blemish. Remember that a washerman had
cast doubt on her chastity during her custody at Lanka.
The moral of Ram's sacrifice was that the higher placed the person, the
greater the demand on his conduct. He should not only behave ideally but also be seen to
be ideal. So as to ensure credibility without which a king or leader cannot command
implicit respect. And without which no state can aspire to be perfect. Surely, there is
nothing religious, communal or Hindu about this.
The essence of Ram Rajya would be the rule of dharma. The
higher a citizen is placed, the greater is the demand on his probity. For example, for
anyone it should be sufficient to be honest. But for a minister it might be essential to
be seen and known to be honest. If any reasonable doubt is cast even on the integrity of
his associates, however near or dear, he must distance himself from the persons. As indeed
Ram did from his beloved Sita. Yet, as a tribute to his faith in her fidelity, he did not
marry again, nor allowed any other woman to occupy a place in his life.
The conscientious soul that he was, Ram must have experienced
exceptional agony. But the duty of kingship superseded the love of a husband for his wife.
Ram has been criticised as being unfair not only to Sita but also to his mother Kaushalya
who was so devastated at Ram's exile that she wanted to accompany him in vanvaas. But,
he turned down her wish to share his travails and left her behind at Ayodhya. If he were
only a husband or a son, the criticism would bejustified.
But the call of the king and country is greater than the duty to mother
and wife. This in fact is the core of the difference between the rule of dharma and
the rule of law which the Anglo-Saxon world of the British and the Americans are so proud
of. The rule of law insists on everyone, high or humble, being equal before the law;
whereas dharma differs from person to person, for king and commoner.
Justice should be progressive and not equal because people are not
equal. The karma of each soul is different; so is his or her bhagya or taqdeer.
If the deeds are different so must be destiny. Each individual has the liberty to
excel in his karma, there being no limits or ceilings on good deeds. At the same
time, no one's endeavour to excel should be allowed to curb the efforts of others. Nor
should an evil doer be permitted to disturb the karma of the other citizens. The more
powerfully placed a person, the greater his ability to distur bothers. Progressive justice
must therefore be demanding on the powerful, the well placed wrong doer and, at the same
time, protective of the commoner.
Another outstanding feature of suraaj would be a clean public
life, as clean as is humanly possible. If the rule of dharma expects those in
positions of power to be not only upright but also to be seen to be upright, the least
that mere ordinary citizens could do is not to be corrupt. A major cause of corruption is
the assumption of excessive functions by the state. More the functions a state assumes,
more shall be the number of officers, not all of whom might be above temptation. Lord
Acton had said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Suraaj would
therefore find an answer in providing a minimal government to the people.
In any case, the Hindu ethos is based on the liberty of the individual
to perform his karma to the best of his ability. A welfare state or a socialist
state are western concepts emanating from the Christian belief that God made all men equal
but society renders them unequal. The endeavour of a Christian's conscience, therefore, is
to try and reform society and to make men equal. If you cannot make all a person rich, at
least try and teach his children free or cure his sickness. Charity is an endeavour in
Liberty has to be curbed for the sake of trying to achieve equality. To
that extent, liberty and equality stand at opposite ends of the scale. For Indians, suraaj
would be a state inspired by liberty, which means not only a democracy with complete
freedom of expression but also a government which does not breath down the necks of its
citizens. Nor does it do business or run industry, all of which could offer temptation.
Liberty should not be confused with licence for citizens to do what
they like. There is a clear dividing line between liberty and licence. The former is the
freedom for every citizen to perform his karma. The latter is to tolerate a wayward
citizen stepping on the toes of fellow citizens and obstructing them. There should be no
licence. Minimal government provided by suraaj would be slim and strict. So that no one is
permitted to disturb the liberty of others to do their karmic best. A number of states
were categorised by Gunnar Myrdal, the famous Swedish writer of Asian Drama, as soft. What
he meant was that such a state had a weak government which is either run by corrupt
leaders or which atleast could not control corruption. Nor could it ensure the enforcement
of law or order. Suraaj should be the opposite of a soft state.