My dear Pranav,
We are living in the greatest democracy of the world. Many people call
it the largest democracy in the world. They say this with a dig.
They think we are the largest only in numbers. This obviously is a
fact, which no one can deny. The total number of voters in India is
equal to the total number of voters of West European and North
American countries together. 500 million voters was our count in
Still I call our democracy the greatest. Why? Our country is full
of different languages, religions, methods of worship, dresses and
people. We are full of plurality. We are full of diversity. But
somewhere deep down we are all one. There is this unity, Vinoba says,
because Vedanta is the basis of our philosophy.
When the Constitution of India was being discussed in 1947, our founding
fathers decided on adult franchise, meaning one-man one-vote. It looks
very common today. But there are many countries in the world where
people have no voting rights at all. Even in England till 90 years
ago there was no voting right for women. Many European countries
gave the voting right to women much later. But the farmers of the
Indian Constitution started with this idea. Many people still believe
that only the educated should have the right to vote.
This idea of adult franchise is based on the concept of equality amongst
people. Equality is an ethical concept. It is not a fact. Different
people have different capacities even different heights, weights,
physical and mental strengths, educational qualifications, ownership of
things, ways, form of worships, languages and so on. Such differences
are innumerable. They are all facts. Then why should they have equal
voting power? This question cannot be logically answered. Inequality
is a fact but equality is an ethical concept.
This idea came to our leaders through their Western education. How could Pandit
Nehru and his servant have the same right to decide about his
government? How could they have equal voting rights? When this
question was raised before Vinoba, he gave a beautiful answer. He
spoke of Pandit Nehru as a great adhyatmic, who knew that his soul
(atman) and that of his
servant's were equal and hence he insisted on equal voting rights.
This is easily understood by the common villager in India, better
than the sophisticated history and development of ideas on adult
franchise in Europe.
Vinoba's genius lay in connecting modern thoughts and ideas to
age-old traditions of Vedanta and Adhyatma in our country. That is
why, Pranav, people find tele-serials of the Ramayan and the Mahabharat
gripping and relevant today. Everyone knows the epics already, but
they do not want to miss a single episode! There is no suspense,
but there is a great desire to follow our epics year after year.
If you want to understand India, you must seek your roots in all