The Parliament, once a sacred bastion of democracy, has today become a laughing stock due to the shocking behavior of our Members of Parliament who at the slightest pretext try to dominate over others not by intellectual arguments but by their unruly behavior, physical assault, chronic disturbance, etc. Gone are the days when an idea was discussed rationally based on logic and reason and decisions taken on discourse and debate with mutual respect for each other's opinions.
Where are the Parliamentarians like the Kamaths, the Pais and the Dwivedis that my generation looked forward to hear and even Pandit Nehru had to appreciate and bow down to their cutting logic.
It is said that the more educated you are, the more you are supposed to listen, rationalize and be open to opposite ideas. The foundation of democracy is rational behavior of its representatives and decisions for the welfare of the masses are to be taken after civil arguments and logical approach.
Today actions are forced to be taken and Government put under pressure purely by muscle power and mob dictatorship. We are slowly becoming a State where anarchy, mob fury, irrational behavior and rude animal strength will ultimately prevail.
It is in this context to refresh our memory of our past greatness and to learn from its examples that the writer is motivated to produce some fine examples of intellectual arguments engaged in by our great leaders in the most civil manner. These are excerpts that prove the dictum : 'I disagree with your opinion but I respect and shall defend your right to say it.'
'Indeed the friendship between us (meaning Tagore and Gandhi) is all the richer and truer for the intellectual differences between us', so said Gandhiji in 1926.
You will find in these examples no case of physical pressure being applied to convert but an appeal to pure reason and intellectual thought process. The rest I leave for you to judge.
1. Poet and the Mahatma
I am indebted to the book compiled and edited by Sri Sabyasachi Bhattacharya for these excerpts.
On Mahatma Gandhi's call to the Nation for burning of foreign cloth in 1921, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore writes to Gandhi and says :
'Consider the burning of cloth, heaped up before the very eyes of our motherland shivering and ashamed in her nakedness''
The command to burn our foreign clothes has been laid on us. I, for one, am unable to obey it. Firstly, because I conceive it to be my very first duty to put up a valiant fight against the terrible habit of blindly obeying orders, and this fight can never be carried on by our people being driven from one injunction to another. Secondly, I feel that the clothes to be burnt are not mine, but belong to those who most sorely need them. If those who are going naked should have given us the mandate to burn, it would, at least, have been a case of self-immolation and the crime of incendiarism would not lie at our door. But how can we expiate the sin of the forcible destruction of clothes which might have gone to women whose nakedness is actually keeping them prisoners unable to stir out of the privacy of their homes?'
Mahatma in his simple style replies :
The poet tells us summarily to reject anything and everything that does not appeal to our reason or heart''..With all this one must heartily agree, and the Poet deserves the thanks of his countrymen for standing up for Truth and Reason''..A plea for the spinning wheel is a plea for recognizing the dignity of labour.
''''..It was our love of foreign cloth that ousted the wheel from its position of dignity. Therefore I consider it a sin to wear foreign cloth''..It is sinful for me to wear the latest finery of Regent Street, when I know that if I had but worn the things woven by the neighboring spinners and weavers, that would have clothed me, and fed and clothed them. On the knowledge of my sin bursting upon me, I must consign the foreign garments to the flames and thus purify myself, and thenceforth rest content with the rough khadi made by my neighbors''
I venture to suggest to the Poet that the clothes I ask him to burn must be and are his. If they had to his knowledge belonged to the poor or the ill-clad, he would long ago have restored to the poor what was theirs. In burning my foreign clothes I burn my shame.'
2. Pandit and the President
I am indebted Dr. Tara Sinha who has edited the Hindi book 'Punya Smaran' written by Sri Mritunjay Prasad, son of Dr. Rajendra Prasad. The following excerpts are taken from the same book.
On Pandit Nehru preferring Sri Rajgopalachari over Dr. Rajendra Prasad to be the first President of Republic India, Jawaharlaljee writes in 1949 to Dr. Prasad :
'Then comes the question of the President of the Republic'..
It is inconceivable that we should go to a contested election on the very eve of the change-over'..It would be an unseemly sight for the country and for the Congress for two of our most eminent leaders to contest against each other'.. It is patent that there are only two persons who might be chosen as President of the Republic ' yourself and Rajaji'..One of these two should, it seems to me, take the initiative in declaring that he will not stand for the Presidentship'..
Thus the only course open is either for Rajaji to make such declaration or for you to make it.
You and I and Vallabhbhai have had some talks about this'I think, on the whole, we know each other's minds. The time has come for a decision''
Dr. Prasad replies :
For some reason or other ' justified or wholly wrong ' there is considerable opinion among the members of the Assembly who insist on my accepting the Presidentship of the Republic'It appears my not accepting the offer will be looked upon by them as a 'betrayal'
I have on every such occasion protested that there is no question of betrayal or letting down as I have never put myself forward as a candidate''..The inference that I draw from this is that the election of Rajaji will not be smooth even if I were to withdraw and propose his name''While all this is to be said on one side I must not conceal from you my feeling that I find myself in a most difficult situation. I have genuine regard for Rajaji and my relations with him have always been of the sweetest and I could not suppress the feeling that I may be misunderstood and regarded as putting forward excuses for not withdrawing, as if I really am anxious to get the high honor. All that I can say is that I have searched my heart as best as I can to see if there is a lurking desire somewhere and I can say today honestly to you that there is none. On the other hand I feel that any action which I take today which is not in consonance with the will of the Assembly will be regarded by many of its members as having been dictated by you and Sardar and all my protestations to the contrary will be disregarded'You and Sardar are in a better position to judge and also to ascertain whether my reading of the temper of the Assembly is correct. I shall be happy if it is found to be incorrect. I leave the matter there and wish you, Sardar and Maulana Sahib to meet and decide as you think best. I can only assure you that I shall not misunderstand any decision that you take''