Ideological struggle like Voltaire, Rousseau’s needed in India: Katju

An ideological struggle similar to that launched by thinkers like Voltaire and Rousseau is the need of the hour in India before great political changes can happen, says former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju.

“In India, a powerful attack in the realm of ideas has to be launched against feudal ideas and customs to sweep away the centuries of feudal and irrational filth and falsehood, which is widespread in the country. And this is the job of patriotic, modern-minded intellectuals,” he argues.

He says Voltaire, Rousseau and the French encyclopaedists launched a powerful attack on feudal institutions, customs and ideas then prevailing, which helped in the transition of feudal Europe to a modern Europe.

“Before great political changes can happen in India there has to be a sustained, long drawn ideological struggle, like that waged by Voltaire, Rousseau, etc. in Europe,” he writes in his new book “The Shape of Things to Come: An Impassioned View”.

In a chapter titled “Where are our Voltaires and Rousseaus?” he asks where the Indian intellectuals are today.

“There seems to be a total intellectual vacuum in India. Where are our great writers like Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Premchand, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Subramania Bharathi, Faiz, Manto and others today?”

For centuries, Katju argues, Indian people have been “brainwashed by the caste and religious ideology of the feudal system which existed in the country, and by vested interests which want to keep our country backward with myths, nonsense and falsehood. All this needs to be swept away if great changes are to take place in India”.

The book, published by HarperCollins India, has Katju”s views on topics ranging from economy, politics, judiciary and religion to Kashmir, gender issues and language.

Katju, also a former chairman of the Press Council of India who is known for his outspoken views and unconventional opinions, claims that with the country witnessing increase in caste, communal and regional strife, along with violence and chaos, the future seems gloomy.

“The national aim must be to make India a highly industrialised and prosperous country with all its citizens enjoying a high standard of living, as in Western countries. But considering the present political and social conditions, this much-needed goal appears far from the horizon for now,” he writes.

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