Monarchy, Imperialism and Modernity: Munshi Premchand’s Unblinking Eye For Truth

Aseem Shrivastava in Caravan:

Munshi_premchand_vantage_the_caravan_magazine_21_august_2015Around two years ago, on 25 August 2013, my mother, a loyal reader of Jansatta—a Hindi daily—asked me to read a small piece in the editorial section of the newspaper. The piece in question was a reprint of an essay originally titled ‘Rajyavaad Aur Samrajyavaad’—“Monarchy and Imperialism”—written by Munshi Premchand, the renowned Hindi novelist. The original essay had been printed in a journal named Swadesh, in 1928. In the essay, Premchand made the argument that imperialism had proved to be no better than monarchy, and that communism might prove to be equally, if not more, dangerous than imperialism. He argued that all the perils of capitalism would also plague communism, perhaps in an even more aggravated form.

…In a few vernacular paragraphs, penned 87 years ago, Premchand depicted the modern world to be, above all, a system of power. He felt that this system was so deep and insidious that everyone was already a devotee of power and domination, and that the subjugation of countless others lower in the hierarchy was a corollary of this contagious habit. Premchand concluded his prescient essay with this paragraph: “In the time of monarchies only one individual was drunk on power. Under imperialism an entire community is consumed with this headiness, and they are capable of anything. All the affluence, all the knowledge and science, all religions and philosophies of the West are narrowed down today to one word: ‘selfishness’, and justice, truth, compassion, grace, rationality—everything is sacrificed at the altar of ‘selfishness.’”

More here.