Slaves, Servants & Rulers

Moorthy Muthuswamy, September 2003

Last 50 years have seen various nations emerging from occupation by foreign civilizations. Their social dynamics during the occupation reflected one of people who were either treated as slaves or servants by the occupying powers. The occupying powers, no longer colonizers, are still the leaders when it comes to many indicators of progress and achievement, while their former colonies, to the most part, continue to struggle.

Where is India placed in this evolving dynamics? For the discussion here, I am going to categorize people broadly in terms of belonging to Slaves, Servants and Ruler category. As we will see, this is a useful characterization.

The Fijian Experience

The British rulers brought along a large number of Indian plantation workers (in the Servant category) to the Fiji islands. Coming decades saw Indians move into commerce and get their children better educated. When the British left the islands eventually, Indians, constitution about 45% of the population (almost all of the rest were native Fijians), were dominating the bureaucracy, education, and commerce.

When the British were ruling Fiji they constituted no more than 5% of the population. But Indian population, constituting more than 40%, allowed the country to be ruled by the natives. Also, there was hardly any Indian representation in the Fijian military; it was in complete control of the natives.

The natives, slow to catch up with the ways of modernity were resentful of the Indian domination. When Indians formed a government, displacing a native led government for the first time, the natives fought back with the native controlled Fijian army taking over the reigns of power.

What had happened?

The Indian population in Fiji never had any ruling experience – it was in the process of trying to come out of the Servant category. If Indian population had the ruling experience it would have made sure that the natives wouldn’t dominate the Fijian military. Also, it would have built bridges with the native community.

Ruler Class

When can one assume a country to have a significant population belonging to the Ruler category?

In my opinion, a country is acknowledged to have such a class if it can market a consumer product at the international level that requires complex engineering. The idea is that by being able to do so, it has class of people that can dictate terms or "rule" so to speak.

It can be seen that only with the recent advent of being able to compete in the area of information technology, India has generated a class of population in this Ruler category. But the bad news is, this level of competence is yet to permeate among most other institutions, including its political and governing class, and its military.

The seeds of generating this Ruler category was formed in the 1950s when quality engineering institutions of higher learning were formed. This shows the importance of education in converting a nation from Slave/Servant category into a Ruler one.

Outside of India, Mauritius and Caribbean, with very substantial Indian populations have yet to form pockets of Ruler class. This is probably because they lack quality institutions of higher learning.

Thugs not Rulers

Pakistan is a nation that continues to take "initiatives", especially when it comes to terrorism. Where does it fall?

Lacking in an educated and skilled population, it clearly doesn’t fall into the Ruler category we just discussed. It in fact acts like a thug vis-à-vis India and takes on the role of servant when it comes to Western countries or even Saudi Arabia -- its terrorism benefactor.

Indian Diaspora in America

The Indian Diaspora in America started off in the professional category, owing to immigration requirements and now even has a substantial entrepreneurial component. Hence to the most part it is in the Ruler category.

This expatriate Ruler population has played a major role in the recent developing of Ruler class among the Indian software industry – by acting as a bridge between America and India.

Many of the NRI have come to understand the extraordinary challenge India faces in developing its economy in one hand and fight off the draining and expensive terrorist war waged by Islamic groups. In the coming years, I see more of them actively involved in trying to help their extended families, by helping India win this war. To let the Islamic fundamentalist thugs win would reflect badly on all of us, not speak of the human tragedy such a win will lead to.

From Servants to Rulers?

The Fijian experience should be an eye-opener, especially for Hindus. You are only as strong or as weak as your community. The massive ethnic cleansing of Hindus from every Muslim majority area of South Asia confirms this observation. For a weakly institutionalized religion such as Hinduism, its strength lies in transforming its population into a predominantly Ruler category.

The current generation of aging Indian leadership represents leftovers from the Servant age. Nothing indicates from their background that they have progressed into a Ruler category on their own. This team’s mode of operation has been tentative and apologetic – a hallmark of belonging to the Servant class.

Indian approach to the war on terror reflects the fact that the Servant class leads it. A leadership belonging to the Ruler class would show initiative, focus, and be strategic in his/her approach (New Ideas for a New War). After all, by definition, the Ruler class knows what it takes to compete. Only a Servant ruling class would overlook the significant military and economic advantage India has over Pakistan and allows itself to be dictated and terrorized.

Among the new generation politicians, Narendra Modi speaks and acts like a leader in the Ruler category. A man of vision, and a competent one at that. Jayalaitha Jayaram is one other individual who falls in this category. Praveen Togadia of VHP, a doctor by profession, too comes across as an insightful leader.

For India to sustain a strong economic growth -- a necessary requirement to convert most of its population into the Ruler category -- it has to be able to put a stop to Islamic terrorism. But to achieve that India needs a real leader.