Changing people's mindsets

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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By Justice Markandey Katju

Changing people's mindsets

Our national aim must be to transform India from a backward country to a modern industrial giant, like USA or China, for only then can we abolish the great curses of massive poverty, unemployment, hunger, lack of proper healthcare and good education for the masses, etc. which have plagued us for centuries.

In my opinion, we cannot achieve this goal unless we transform the feudal mindsets of the vast majority of our people, which are full of casteism, communalism, and superstitions, and make them rational and scientific.

But how can that be done? Most people are conservative by nature, and do not like to change their views, and will strongly oppose attempts to change them.

It is easy to change the physical environment, like constructing a building, a road, or a bridge. It is 10 or 20 times more difficult to change the mindsets of people. That will require tremendous patience and perseverance on the part of our small, patriotic intelligentsia, who will often have to face abuses and brickbats by the bigoted people,

We may recall the decades-long struggle in France and other European countries in the 18th century against feudalism and religious bigotry by the thinkers of the Enlightenment like Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, and the French Encyclopedists, many of whom had to run from country to country to escape persecution.

Most people are religious, though the truth is that all religions are superstitions, and the truth lies in science, which is never final but ever developing.

So how will the feudal mindsets of most Indians be transformed and made modern and rational?

I submit it will be by a chain reaction, as in an atomic bomb. But unlike an atomic bomb which explodes almost instantly, the transformation of feudal mindsets into rational ones will be a long-drawn, protracted affair lasting over a decade or two. Let me explain.

When the small enlightened people put forward a rational idea e.g. against the caste system, it is likely to receive tremendous hostility by the upper castes, and even many OBCs, who and their ancestors have been living with feudal mindsets for centuries. Despite this hostility, the small enlightened section must patiently persist in explaining the truth, as given below

Most people will not accept the logic in the above article, as they have closed minds, but a few, who though still casteist, have a somewhat open mind, and are willing to listen to new ideas. Some of these may change their views, and develop modern mindsets.

These in turn may persuade other feudal-minded people to change their views, and these in turn may persuade yet others, and so on. So it will be like a chain reaction, as in an atomic bomb, though of course, the process will be much slower.

One may recall Copernicus' heliocentric theory of 1543 ( that the earth goes around the sun ) which was accepted only after initially facing intense hostility in Europe for decades as it was against the geocentric Biblical theory ( that the sun goes around the earth ).

A heavy responsibility lies on our tiny patriotic intelligentsia in this connection, but I am confident they will do their duty.

(Justice Katju is a retired judge of the Supreme Court. These are his personal views.)

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