Our Common Heritage

From a speech at Trichur, December 26, 1955

As you have just heard from the Chairman of the Municipality, I have visited Trichur many times earlier. The first time that I came here, I think, was twenty-five years ago, and now that I have come again, this past quarter of a century passes before my eyes. I see how after a long struggle we achieved freedom and independence and how since then we have engaged ourselves in an even more difficult struggle, the struggle to achieve economic well-being and higher standards for all our people. Everyone will agree with that objective of economic well-being. Why then do we differ in many ways? Why are there various parties? It is good to have various parties because when there are different approaches to a problem, more light is thrown upon it. I do not believe in all people being regimented to think in one way. I want free flow and free exchange of thought and out of that we sometimes find a bit of the truth.

Nevertheless, why do we differ often and quarrel with one another about the way and the path to be pursued? I want to say a few words about that to you. Wherever I go I lay stress on something that is obvious, with which everyone should agree. I lay stress on the unity of India, not merely the political unity which we have achieved, but something far deeper, the emotional unity, the integration of our minds and hearts, the suppression of feelings of separatism. While all people agree about the unity of India, there are many people and even some parties that act in a way which can only result in breaking the unity of India. Why they do so I do not know.

While, on the one hand, we, the people of India, are bound together by strong bonds of culture, common objectives, friendship, affection, on the other, unfortunately, there are inherent in India separatist and disruptive tendencies which raise their head whenever some new question arises. We talk about the reorganization of States. By all means let us discuss it. But why this passion and fury? What does this separatism ultimately mean? Not your affection for your fellow-man, but your dislike of others. I have no objection to people coming together because they like one another, or to nations coming together because they like one another. But I have the strongest objection to people coming together because they dislike and hate somebody else. The coming together to hurt somebody else is bad. That is why in the international field we are against these military alliances which are not the coming together of people who like one another, but are meant to be aimed against another country or group of countries. Anything is bad the basis of which is hatred and dislike and enmity, international or national.

We must be on our guard against the disruptive tendencies in the country which raise their head whenever an occasion offers itself. Among these disruptive tendencies are some which come under the name of communalism—politics under some religious garb, one religious group being incited to hate another religious group. Then there is provincialism or ‘stateism’. There is casteism, perhaps the most insidious and dangerous of all in our country. When the caste system came into being it may have been very good, but for the last few hundred years it has weakened us nationally and socially. It has divided us up into small groups. It has separated us into hierarchies of people, some calling themselves high caste and some middle caste and some low caste and some no caste at all. And so we have this inequality perpetuated, one group being exploited by another. I think that was the main reason for India’s weakness and India’s downfall.

We have before us all these lessons of history. We have seen how, repeatedly, in spite of our many virtues and our great abilities, we have fallen in the race of the nations, and because of this lack of unity amongst us the entire community of India has been separated into castes and creeds which do not pull together. Therefore, I lay stress everywhere on the unity of India, and on our need to fight communalism, provincialism, separatism, stateism and casteism.

So far as I am concerned, and I hope, so far as you are concerned, there is no division between North and South and East and West of India. There is only one India of which all of us, you and I, are inheritors. It belongs to all of us. This southern part of India or this State of Travancore-Cochin is not your private preserve. I have as much right to it as you. Likewise, the northern States of the Himalayas are not our private preserve. They are your inheritance also. They belong to you as much as to anybody else in India. So the whole of India from the North to the South is the common heritage of every Indian, and all India’s history, from thousands and thousands of years till today, is our common heritage. All the culture of India, whether it comes from the North or the South or anywhere else, is our common heritage, and what is more, the great future that spreads out before us is going to be our common heritage.

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