The year 2017 started in Bihar on a good note. The cities of Patna and Gaya were hosts to the Sikh and the Buddhist festivities. The Sikh pilgrims representing all over the world congregated at the Gandhi Maidan to celebrate the 350th birth anniversary of Guru Govind Singh; the Buddhists had their Kalachakra (Time-Cycle) celebration in the august presence of the world class religious leader, the Dalai Lama.
Very seldom Bihar gets international attention in this way. Biharis ought to be proud of their land.
From the media coverage of the Sikh event, Prakash Utsav, however, all I gathered was that the former Congress Chief Minister of Punjab solicited the Bihar CM to come down to Punjab and campaign for the Congress; the Shiromani Akali Dal CM who heads a coalition government with the BJP in Punjab assured that his government wasn't facing any imminent danger of falling.
The news on the birth anniversary celebration of Guru Govind Singh was also dominated by the side stories that Lalu Yadav was made to sit on the floor, against which one of his cronies fumed. Also, the Prime Minister along with a federal minister and the Bihar CM sat on the stage, exchanged pleasantries and gave rise to the speculation that Nitish was warming up to the BJP.
What a series of priorities in the news coverage!
Nowhere did I find any mention of the life story of Guru Govind Singh or that of the significance of the Buddhist concept of Kalachakra coming out from the speeches of the notable leaders or from the writings of the journalists.
Among other reasons, it may also be because there are no consumers for such "heavy stuff."
In this age of constantly degrading morality in public life, however, it's absolutely important that the lives of eminent men and women or meaningful spiritual philosophy must be held out to derive inspirations from. It should also be useful to evaluate, hold the feet of the present day leadership to fire, shame them and demand accountability.
Imagine what kind of steel the mental or physical personality of Guru Govind Singh was made up of. On 11 November 1675, at the age of nine, he saw his father and the 9th Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, beheaded by the Mughal regime of Aurangzeb. Installed as the 10th Guru of the Sikhs on 29 March 1676, he grew up trained in literature and martial art, founded Khalsa, Panj Pyare and fought against the tyranny of the Mughals.
Guru Govind Singh had seen his father taking up the cause of the Kashmiri Brahmins who were brutalized into accepting Islam. Against his shocked - wailing mother and wife - he sacrificed his four sons - the younger two, aged five and eight, were buried alive into a wall, and the eldest ones, 13 and 17 died in the battlefield fighting for his father (in December 1704). Only four years later, on 7 October 1708, at the age of 41, Guru Govind Singh himself succumbed to the knife wound of his enemy assailant. Such a gallant story of idealism and sacrifice!
The politicians of today -- their conscience so deeply troubled -- would not dare to recount a martyr's story from the stage and try to inspire people. They know deep in their heart they have committed so many immoral acts and are ever ready to do so even more to advance in their life. Reduced to a life of servile sycophancy, they have lost the moral standing to lay out any path of real leadership or righteousness.
In the realm of religion too, the political leadership aims at enhancing its visibility at religious rallies to cash in terms of votes. Their purpose is not to enlighten the generation spiritually or to vouch, as Mohandas Gandhi did, that there's a healthy relationship between politics, public life and spiritualism.
The result, unfortunately, in Bihar is that our current leaders are self-centered to the point that they have stifled the growth of the next generation leadership as well.
As the New Year (2017) has begun, let's ask a simple question: In Bihar, if a father has to refer to his children the example in the present of a leader in the public, educational or administrative arena, who will he point to?
A moral revival of Bihar is urgently called for that will take inspirations from the lives of Buddha or Guru Govind Singh and a host of leaders Bihar has produced.
With the admission that Bihar is hopelessly fragmented into hostile social segments, the leadership among the affluent upper forward castes will have to contribute to the development of the under-privileged; the lower backward castes will have to come out of the mentality of "social and political revenge" against their former oppressors. The minority Muslim brothers and sisters will recognize that their ancestry or lineage is from the Hindus, Bihar or India and will fight against communalism of any sort.
Bihar calls for a revival of ethics and morality in private or public life by a completely new generation of leaders who by example will inspire confidence and hope for the future -- as the lives of Guru Govind Singh and Buddha do.
Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). A former UGC teacher fellow (at JNU) in India and Fulbright scholar in the USA, he has taught politics and authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India, and Canada.
Dr. Prasad administers a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OverseasBihari and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.