Two centuries of British rule crystallized in the minds of English educated Indians a peculiar mindset that tended to undervalue their native ethos and moorings, and make English culture more attractive. This tendency is called the "colonial syndrome". This syndrome has infected the modern Indian elite, who abandon their cultural roots and imitating the Western ways. This situation has drained them off their intrinsic creative capabilities and rendered them less likely to make any significant original contributions to nation building.
This book, an outcome of Prof. K. Ramakrishna Rao's work as a National Fellow of Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), attempts to define and elucidate this syndrome and its ill effects on the modern Indian mindset, and suggests means to contain and overcome it. It alerts people and the leadership about the negative and cascading effects of colonial syndrome, and pleads for Indianization of education, philosophy and psychology, among others in the country. Mahatma Gandhi's concept of svaddi is the driving force here. It has no negative attributes, only positive self-assertion for common good.
Colonial Syndrome goes on to analyses Gandhi's concept of svadegi, and attempts to make clear the difference between education in India and Indian education, Indian philosophy and philosophy in India, and psychology in India and Indian psychology and emphasizes that India had its own unique standing on education, philosophy and psychology which needs to be revived and nurtured for fast social and economic development.
Professor Koneru Ramakrishna Rao is currently Chancellor of GITAM (deemed to be) University. He has the rare distinction of being National Fellow of the Indian Council of Social Sciences Research and the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, and Distinguished Honorary Professor at Andhra University. His earlier academic appointments include Professor of Psychology and Vice-Chancellor at Andhra University; Executive Director, Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man, USA; Chairman, A.P. State Council of Higher Education, and Advisor on Education, Government of Andhra Pradesh. He published 25 plus books and nearly 300 research papers.
Prof. Rao received numerous honours that include the national award Padma Shri from the President of India and Honorary Doctoral degrees from Andhra, Acharya Nagarjuna and Kakatiya Universities. He was elected as the President of the US-based Parapsychological Association three times, the only Asian to be so honoured.
WRITTEN WORD has the potential and possibility to become a statement, document or a treatise. The book Colonial Syndrome: The Videshi Mindset in Modern India implies all these. An outcome of Prof. K. Ramakrishna Rao's work as a National Fellow of the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), it has a special place and unique status at this juncture, when Mahatma Gandhi and svadegi have increasingly become very important symbols as well as instruments of change.
In many ways, the book is path-breaking. It breathes new life into Mahatma Gandhi's concept of svadegi. The "make in India" campaign of the present Government of India, as I see it, is an adaptation of Gandhi's svaddi. The colonial syndrome represents the contrary notion of svadegi. By focusing on the ill effects of the colonial syndrome on the intellectual climate of India and what it portends to the study of philosophy and psychology and educational practices in the country, Prof. Rao highlights the importance of nativity, one's cultural roots, for making significant original contributions, whatever may be the field.
Mahatma Gandhi used the svadegi campaign as an important tool for unsettling the British colonial rule in India. However, the concept of svadesi itself is a broader and more inclusive principle governing Gandhian thought. In the campaign against the British Raj, Gandhi used it as an economic instrument to fight the British, who came to India primarily for economic reasons. They bought cotton grown in India at very cheap prices and exported the cloth made out of it in the British Isles back to India, gaining in the process extensive monetary benefits. Gandhi by awakening Indians to the use of carkha and wearing khadi sought to minimize the British economic exploitation and to encourage them to take pride in what is made in their own backyard. He felt on the one hand that svaddi movement would help public awakening for the country's Independence and on the other hand it would also economically weaken the British Empire and empower rural Indians. Further, Gandhi attached to svadegi a greater and far more profound meaning. Svaddi in its fundamental sense in Gandhi refers to self-reliance. As early as in 1909, Gandhi wrote: " Svadegi means reliance on one's own strength" in addition to referring to what is made in one's own country. Gandhi saw in Svadegi, first, the "hidden secret of swaraj" and, second, a gateway to reaching out to the villages and rejuvenating their economies.
Prof. Ramakrishna Rao coins the term "colonial syndrome" to carry the contrary meaning of svadegi. He expounds the view that though India was politically decolonized seventy years ago, it still continues to suffer from the colonial mindset, which overvalues the things and ideas from outside and undervalues one's own. This, he believes, has crippling effects on originality and creative thinking of the victims of that syndrome. This seminal thought has profound implications for policy making and educational reforms in the country.
Prof. Rao himself is an educator of eminence. Not only has he written extensively on matters of education, he himself has been actively involved in educational practices as a teacher of many years standing, Vice-Chancellor of a major university in the country, Educational Advisor to the Government of Andhra Pradesh and the founder and Chairman of the Andhra Pradesh State Council of Higher Education. Currently Chancellor of GITAM (Deemed to be University), he continues to be active at eighty-five with tireless body and an ageless mind, expounding timeless ideas.
TWO CENTURIES of British rule crystallized in the minds of Indians, educated in English, a peculiar mindset that tended to undervalue their native ethos and make the English culture more attractive. We call this the colonial syndrome. The colonial syndrome infected the modern Indian elite, resulting in the neglect of their own cultural roots and encouraged the tendency to imitate the Western ways. This drained them of their intrinsic creative capabilities and rendered them less likely to make any significant original contributions. This is a frightening situation that stirred up my interest in understanding this syndrome and finding ways of containing it. This has led me to fallback on my studies of Gandhi.
I have been a student of M.K. Gandhi for over sixty years. Mahatma Gandhi and his writings have been a source of great inspiration in my work. I did my doctoral work on Gandhi nearly sixty years ago. With continued interest in Gandhi, I published since several papers and a few books that include Gandhi and American Pragmatism (1968), Gandhi and Applied Spirituality (2011) and Gandhi's Dharma (2017) by Oxford University Press.
I happen to think that violence has become increasingly irrelevant to make and keep peace on the planet. War is no longer limited to countries waging it. Terror groups exist and operate not only within but also across states. The Middle East, as we all know with deep anguish, is now a hotbed of terrorism. The horrors of terror are exported to other countries and continents with impunity. It is now generally recognized that terror may not be contained or countered by counter violence alone. No less important are non-violent ways of pre-empting and limiting terror. In this context, the philosophy of non-violence propagated by Mahatma Gandhi and the practices he championed have become more relevant now than during his lifetime. The crucial result of practicing non-violence consists in boosting one's self-confidence and self-esteem without the burden of the ego. All these thoughts are embedded in Gandhi's concept of svadegi.
Gandhian way, it appears to me, is no longer an option but a necessity. We attempt in this book not only to define and describe the colonial syndrome and its ill effects on the modern Indian mindset but also make an attempt to find ways of containing it. This exercise has the objective of alerting our countrymen and leadership to the negative effects of the colonial mindset in undermining the creative contributions of Indians and pleading for Indianization of education, philosophy and psychology among others in the country. There is no chauvinistic motivation behind this, just as Mahatma's svades'i has no negative attributes, but positive self-assertion for common good.
This book is an outcome of the work I carried out during the period when I was the National Fellow of the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR). I am grateful to the ICSSR for their initiative, which started me on this project. The work was carried out at GITAM (Deemed to be University), Visakhapatnam. I had the benefit of enjoying the facilities and services available at GITAM. I was greatly encouraged by its President Dr M.V.V.S. Murthi. The staff of the School of Gandhian Studies, especially Dr Rositta Joseph, who did much of the copy-editing and the Librarian, Ms Ramalakshmi were of much help. I am grateful to all of them. I also record my thanks to my secretary Smt V.K.V. Prasanna Kumari for her assistance.
If there is any merit in this work, most of it is what I learned from others. Any shortcomings that exist are entirely my own. If this modest contribution could bring some awareness among the Indian academia about the colonial syndrome its adverse effects, and how we may overcome it. I would consider it worth the effort.
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