The Congress party under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi has undertaken a Bharat Jodo Yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir as part of reinventing itself by reconnecting with the masses of India. But the Universal Solidarity Movement (USM) started Bharat Jodo programme thirty years ago, realizing the need for knitting India, a land of amazing diversities. Ever since its inception in 1993, USM has been organizing every year from December 28 to 31 Knit India programme in which students, teachers and principals from different states of India come together, live together and share their experiences of building a civilization of love. USM has realized that the strength of India remains in its diversity and the young people of India are to be motivated to accept, appreciate and celebrate diversity in order to unite India. Knit India provides an opportunity to young people from different parts of India to interact with each other and build relationships for knitting India culturally, emotionally and intellectually.
Students, teachers and USM alumni from six states of India participated in the Knit India 2022 that was organized at the USM community in Indore from December 28 to 31. The participants have realized and affirmed that diversity is the greatest strength and boon to India. At the end of the four-day programme almost all participants acknowledged that they could experience during the Knit India ‘unity in diversity’ because of the bonding created during the programme. “The atmosphere of love, care, concern, hospitality, and respect for each and every person that prevailed during the Knit India 2022 created the feeling of being in a big family,” said one of the participants. “The most important and precious memory would be the conversations we had during breakfast, lunch, dinner and other breaks. Every human has something to pass on to another person and here we did it so well,” wrote Siddhima Mishra from Prayagraj, UP, in her evaluation.
The sharing by USM alumni about the transformation taken place in them and how the values that they learned from USM are influencing and guiding their lives was a great motivation to all participants. Mr. Divij Srivastav who had participated in the leadership training organized by USM in 2011 was an enthusiastic participant in the meeting. The input sessions by persons from different walks of life enriched the participants with knowledge and wisdom and motivated them to live in such a way that they would be able to leave a legacy.
India and the world are in need of enlightened leaders whose vision is broad and inclusive. One of the crucial factors that cause division, hatred and violence in different countries, especially in India, is the failure of leadership. As the majority of the leaders who are ruling the country are controlled by an ideology that is narrow-minded, exclusive and divisive, they are not able to unite a highly diverse country like India. Against this backdrop, the focus of Knit India 2022 was motivating the participants to become effective leaders with a universal vision. The participants were encouraged to recommit themselves to the values and practices they had learned during the leadership training. Some of them are the following.
Practice and promote pluralism: As vigorous and forceful attempts are being made to convert India into a majoritarian state, there is an urgent need for reaffirming pluralism of acceptance, appreciation and celebration of diversity. Pluralism/secularism has been the millennial heritage of India and it is not a western concept as claimed by some right-wing parties. Yuval Noah Harari in his book, “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” has presented an interesting and relevant interpretation of secularism. “It is a very positive and active world view, which is defined by a coherent code of values rather than opposition to this or that religion”. This ethical code consists of the values of truth, compassion, equality, freedom, courage, and responsibility. They form the foundation of modern scientific and democratic institutions.
Be one’s own brand by recognizing one’s uniqueness and realizing it: God has created each human being unique. There are 800 core people in the world, but no one is exactly like another. It shows that each human being has a specific role to play and make a unique contribution which no one else can do. In the absence of realizing the uniqueness of a person, he/she tries to blindly copy others and it leads to unhealthy and unnecessary competition. “Copying is an insult to God; by copying God’s unique creation is distorted,” writes Varghese Alengaden. A person who has identified his uniqueness will compete with himself/herself. He/she will not aim to be the first, but will aim to do his/her best. Hence leaders who realize their uniqueness will be creative to find solutions to various problems. They will have creative ideas to lead the community/society to progress with peace and harmony.
Develop critical thinking: The young people are often misguided and misused by political and religious leaders because they have not developed critical thinking. Article 51 A of Indian Constitution which deals with fundamental duties makes it a duty of every citizen to develop scientific temper (as per clause [h]). It is the scientific temper that helps in developing secularism, humanism and spirit of enquiry and reform. According to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, “Scientific temper is a way of life -- an individual and social process of thinking and acting which uses a scientific method which may include questioning, observing reality, testing, hypothesising, analysing and communicating.” If people develop critical thinking or scientific temper, they will not blindly believe the fake news circulated on social media platforms. They will try to verify any information with facts and evidence.
Adopt possibility-thinking and make experiments in life: God has created human beings with creativity and hence, immense possibilities. The scientific and technological revolution the world is witnessing today is the result of the creativity God has instilled in human beings. Hence, all human beings, especially young people, should be ready to make new experiments in life. When the Wright brothers asked themselves, “why can’t we fly as birds?” when they observed birds flying, and they made bold experiments to fly. The result is the invention of aeroplanes that has made travel quick and less time consuming. Many seemingly impossible things happened in the history of the world because of possibility-thinking adopted by some people.
Never quit and make ‘Ho Jayega’ an article of faith: Struggles and crisis are part of life. Some people become disappointed and disillusioned whey they face crises. On the contrary, some people with positive thinking convert crisis into opportunity. Mr. Deepak Choudhary, an industrialist and philanthropist from Gujarat, motivated the participants of the Knit India 2022 by sharing the lessons he learned from his own life experience and how he overcame crisis by adopting an approach of ‘Ho Jayega’ and got out of a deep crisis that was about to sink his business. The learnings he shared with the participants are: 1) Don’t think that you are a victim of a crisis, but it is an opportunity that God has given you to test your strength. 2) Make gratitude with a smile a powerful tool. 3) Think what is happening to you is very insignificant in comparison with the misfortune to many other people. 4) Trust in God, especially through meditation at least 15 minutes a day. 5) Don’t give up your smile and 6) Believe that crisis is for growth.
Do digital fasting by avoiding excessive use of mobile phone and the internet: Internet and mobile phones are a great blessing for humanity. They have increased manifold the speed of communication. At the same time, they have caused a new type of addiction. Because of the addiction to the internet, people, especially young people, have no time for exercise, games, interaction with others, reading and reflection. Their life becomes imbalanced. Some people get addicted to online games which involve the risk of identity theft, account take over, data breaches, phishing emails and cyber-bullying. Many young people who take part in the one-week leadership training in USM resolve to use mobile phone and the internet only for an hour a day. Jinesh Sharma, a USM alumni, while giving testimony said that as a result of being part of USM he could considerably reduce the use of mobile phone.
Read a book thirty minutes daily: The Internet cannot replace books. Because of the overuse of social media by many people, interest in reading books is being reduced. Books, besides enhancing knowledge, ignites our thinking. Books, especially biographies of great men and women, have the capacity to inspire people. During the one-week leadership training, a short biography is given to the participants for reading and writing a review of it. As a result, at the end of the training many participants make a resolution to read a book once every two months. During the Knit India 2022 the participants were reminded to read books.
Read newspapers daily at least for half an hour: Leaders must be aware of the developments taking place in India and the world. Reading newspapers and news magazines is an effective means to update oneself on various events, issues and policies of the governments. Besides news, the newspapers carry articles by experts on various issues. During the leadership training the participants are motivated to read newspapers, especially editorials and articles and write letters to the editor.
Daily review of life by spending 15 minutes in silence and writing journal: Learning from one’s own book of life is an important means to bring about change in oneself. Review of life at the end of the day is found to be an important means for learning. Review helps a person to go through what happened throughout the day and draw insights. These insights can be applied to one’s own life in view of improving oneself. In the light of the review one can take resolutions. Therefore, USM encourages its members to spend at least 15 minutes for introspection or contemplation. It is also a time to dialogue with oneself and God. USM encourages its members to write the main observations, insights, applications and resolutions, if any, in the form of a journal.
In order to unite India, opportunities are to be provided for people belonging to different religions, languages and cultures to come together, interact with each other and learn from each other in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect. This is the most significant lesson one can learn from the Knit India programme. Imposing uniform laws on people will only emotionally divide the people of India.