Yes, another India is emerging! – Makarand R. Paranjape

 

Hindu Nationalism

Makarand R. ParanjapeThe fact is that a Hindu majoritarian India may not be as bad as it is made out to be by its detractors. In fact, it may actually be a better, more wholesome, integrated, and compassionate India than the present state, that is so riven by uncivil strife. – Prof Makarand R. Paranjape

Another India? The simple answer is, yes. Or, at any rate, the emergence of another India is not at all unlikely; in fact, there are signs aplenty of its advent.

What is more debatable is what its exact ingredients or outlines might be. Even those who are supposedly in charge of the new narrative aren’t sure. At the crux of all these debates is one word: Hindu. And its varieties—Hinduism, Hindutva, Hindu nationalism, Hindu majoritarianism, and so on.

For many, especially those who were perpetrators of the older dominant, “secularist” plot, the rise of this new India spells doom, the end of the project that Gandhi-Nehru lead, and the Congress headed mostly by Nehru’s heirs brought to the present pass. Perhaps, they are right. It is the end of that kind of India, and of that kind of elite. Naturally, such people are unhappy; displaced privilege usually produces outrage if not predictions of doomsday.

But we must examine the situation on its merits. The prospect of this new Hindu majoritarian India, has got a terribly hostile press. So much so that it seems as if there is a combined opposition media party, utterly hell-bent on demonising Hindu India and its protagonists. So inveterate is the antagonism displayed by this faction that sometimes it resembles visceral hatred, while at other pathetic self-delusion.

Clutching at straws, seizing upon a Kanhaiya Kumar, Hardik Patel, or Jignesh Mevani as the youth icon, even avatar, to stop the BJP juggernaut in its tracks, this decimated opposition seems to be praying for nothing short of a miraculous slaying, metaphorically speaking, of the rakshasa called Narendra Modi.

Funnily, this lot might never use such a Hindu metaphor in the first place. The modern sector is, perforce, doomed to express its outrage in a modern idiom. When they resort to tradition they end up making fools of themselves, wearing their janeu on their sleeve, so to speak.

But all that is politics. Let’s leave it behind as we approach the end of year, even if by the Gregorian calendar. We Hindus follow multiple calendars, perhaps using each to our advantage. Why should we give up this opportunity to introspect, even meditate, over the future of our beloved country?

The fact is that a Hindu majoritarian India may not be as bad as it is made out to be by its detractors. In fact, it may actually be a better, more wholesome, integrated, and compassionate India than the present state, that is so riven by uncivil strife. Hinduism, or dharma nationalism, may actually be a better guarantor of Indian pluralism than pseudo-secularism. If we are unprejudiced, fair-minded, and truly liberal, we should be willing to give the other side, especially when it is elected by an overwhelming majority, a fair chance rather than excoriating it before its commencement so as never to let it come into being.

But in doing so, we shall fall prey to many fallacies, including considering a majoritarian nation and polity as the inherent opposite of liberalism and multiculturalism. Even in the latter, one element dominates, whether in the metaphor of melting pot, salad bowl, or mosaic. In liberal Western democracies, the dominant element is a combination of modernity and democracy, underwritten not only be science and technology, but by the culture of capitalism and consumerism. That a religious element, mostly Christian in the case of Europe, North America, and the Antipodes, endorses the national consensus is almost a given. Then why shouldn’t the Hindu cultural bedrock that informs the Indian consensus work as well as the Confucian or Shinto accord in modern China or Japan?

True, this Hindu element should not thrust itself in everyone’s face or enforce its norms coercively. It should be the broadest, most open, most compassionate kind of Hindu unity. At the same time we must recognize where its most virulent opposition comes from. Not from other religious or ethnic minorities, but from the Hindu secularist elite, which does not wish to yield power.

In other words, the problem with India at present is a life-and-death struggle between two elites, the erstwhile dominant secularist and the emergent Hindutva brigade. Who will win remains uncertain, though as of now, the latter seems ascendant. In the end, like all tussles for power, this one too may be more inconclusive than what appears right now.

The cultural rule of the interpenetration of opposites predicts that the new order may not be radically different from the old. Of course, it would be rather disappointing if it were not at least slightly better—more confident, capable, competent, prosperous, creative, and egalitarian.

For that to happen, however, we must all join hands to contribute our mite rather than being cynical nay-sayers and Hindu-haters. – Asian Age, 31 December 2017

» Prof Makarand R Paranjape is a poet, author, and English Literature professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Banyan Tree


 

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Tipu Sultan, Adolf Hitler and religious tolerance – Balbir Punj

Tipu Sultan, Karnataka, Republic Day Tableau 2014

Balbir PunjTipu Sultan is a hero to some, because he fought against the British. So did Adolf Hitler. Why different yardsticks for the two? – Balbir Punj

By the time this column is out, Karnataka hopefully would have been through Tipu Sultan Jayanti celebrations. Recently, the country witnessed former President Pranab Mukherjee paying glowing tributes to Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the founder of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and the father of Muslim separatism in the Indian subcontinent.

The occasion was the 200th birth anniversary of Sir Syed. He is a part of the trio which is described in Pakistan schoolbooks as the spiritual founders of Pakistan—the other two being Muhammad Iqbal and Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

Though Sir Syed died nearly half a century before the country of his dreams became a reality, numerous prestigious institutions are named after him in Pakistan to underline his unmatched contribution in promoting the two-nation theory which ultimately led to the vivisection of India. President Mukherjee spoke about his “vision” and several newspapers carried articles eulogising Sir Syed and recalled his “services” to the country and Muslim community.

Meanwhile knives were out last month for the BJP and Sangh Parivar after Sangeet Som, a BJP MLA from UP, committed “blasphemy” (as per secular norms) by questioning the status of the iconic Taj Mahal as a symbol of love and for doubting the patriotism of Mughals. The “secular” uproar that followed Som’s remarks forced the BJP to distance itself from the controversy.

But how can the Karnataka government and Pranab Mukherjee get away with daylight murder, while the BJP has to pay a heavy penalty even for what at worst may be merely a parking offence? Is it because the Left has enjoyed complete control over public discourse since Independence, to the complete exclusion of other valid narratives?

In this context one is reminded of a TV programme called “Alternative Views” which was a great hit in the US. It was one of the longest-running public-access TV programmes, with 563 shows telecast from 1978 to 1998. It covered news, interviews and opinions from a new and progressive perspective.

Nothing of this sort has happened in India. No wonder, we continue to suffer a doctored version of history, manufactured by the Macaulay-Marxist combine to suit its ideological ends. Ironically those responsible for this gagging have also appropriated the label of “liberals” and style themselves as “left-liberals”! An oxymoron in the Indian context.

The two celebrated “secular icons”, Sir Syed and Tipu Sultan had adopted diagonally opposite approaches to promote their community interests. Sir Syed collaborated with the British and worked to promote a Muslim-British alliance against Hindus. Sir Syed justified the alliance on the basis that both Christians and Muslims, were “People of the Book”. For his services, the British empire conferred on him various titles such as Khan Bahadhur and Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India.

Tipu Sultan, on the other hand, is hailed for resisting the British. But why did Tipu oppose the British? Not because they were foreign invaders. In fact Tipu himself sought the assistance of several foreign powers—including the French, who were manoeuvring to establish their domination in the country. The ambitious Sultan solicited the help of Muslim countries like Persia, Afghanistan and Turkey, as well, in the name of Islam. The Sultan opposed the British because they were an impediment in his endeavour to carry out “jihad” against “kafirs” and establish an Islamic state in India.

The Left, however, would say it is all false propaganda, part of the British design to create a rift between Hindus and Muslims. Here are excerpts from some letters which Tipu had sent to his army commanders.

1. March 22, 1788, to Abdul Kadir: “Over 12,000 Hindus were ‘honoured’ with Islam. There were many Namboodiris (Brahmins) among them. The local Hindus should be brought before you and then converted to Islam.”

2. December 14, 1788, to his army chief in Calicut: “I am sending two of my followers with Mir Hussain Ali. You should capture and kill all Hindus. These are my orders.”

3. December 21, 1788, to Sheik Kutub: “… 242 Nairs are being sent as prisoners. Categorise them according to their social and family status. After honouring them with Islam … dress materials may be given to the men and their women.”

4. January 18, 1790, to Syed Abdul Dulai: “With the grace of Prophet Mohammed and Allah, almost all Hindus in Calicut are converted to Islam. Only a few are still not converted on the borders of Cochin state. I am determined to convert them also very soon. I consider this as jihad.”

5. January 19, 1790, to Badroos Saman Khan: “Don’t you know that I have achieved a great victory recently in Malabar and over four lakh Hindus were converted to Islam.”

Lewis Rice, a historian, who wrote a much acclaimed book on Mysore after going through various official records, said as follows: “In the vast empire of Tipu Sultan on the eve of his death, there were only two Hindu temples having daily pujas within the Sreerangapatanam fortress. It is only for the satisfaction of the Brahmin astrologers who used to study his horoscope that Tipu Sultan had spared those two temples.”

The Sultan could not even tolerate the Hindu names of certain regions. Therefore, Mangalapuri (Mangalore) was changed to Jalalabad, Cannanore (Kanwapuram) to Kusanabad, Mysore to Nazarabad, Dharwar to Quarshed-Sawad, Gooty to Faiz-Hissar, Ratnagiri to Mustafabad, Dindigul to Khaliqabad, and Calicut (Kozhikode) to Islamabad. Tipu is a hero to some, because he fought against the British. So did Hitler. Why different yardsticks for the two?

» Balbir Punj is a former Rajya Sabha member and Delhi-based commentator on social and political issues.

Tipu with his mistress

Tipu Sultan was no freedom fighter – R. Sampath

Tipu Sultan

Tipu Sultan was guided by selfish motives in his so-called “freedom fight” against British rule. The very fact that Pakistan has named three of its war ships as PNS Tipu Sultan speaks volumes of his “secular” credentials. – R. Sampath

With an eye on the upcoming Assembly elections, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah is only stirring the communal cauldron by organising official functions in memory of Tipu Sultan. The government is doing this for vote bank politics and to spite the main opposition party in the state, the BJP.

Siddu of course would not have failed to take the nod of the Congress high command before celebrating with pomp and glare the birth anniversary of Tipu, who according to him, was a “freedom fighter”. Tipu did fight against the British rulers. But it was with an intent to drive them away and not to usher in a secular rule. He was interested only in expanding his kingdom.

It was certainly not his intention to liberate and carve out a “free India”. He cannot be considered a “freedom fighter” at all. In fact, he sought an alliance with France, to not only fight against the British but also to use the French army to invade and settle scores against the Maratha, Malabar, Carnatic and Travancore kingdoms.

The pages of history can’t be simply obliterated by Siddu according to his convenience and advantage. Tipu had the dubious distinction of being an epitome of religious intolerance. He forcibly converted lakhs of Hindus to Islam after his war against the Malabar. Tipu had destroyed the Milagres Church in Mangalore built in 1680. In fact, he did not spare Christians as well.

He had imprisoned at least 60,000 Catholics, suspected of being British spies. Siddu’s suddenly-turned-secular-icon Tipu made the captive Christians walk all the way to Mysore without any food or water. Thousands perished midway. Tipu always engaged himself in expansionist attacks against his neighbours. Though he always remained a rancourous enemy of the British Raj, it was only to perpetrate his own regime where he ruled. He had no love lost for the secular ethos.

The Karnataka CM is eulogising Tipu who was squarely guided by selfish motives in his so-called “freedom fight” against the British rule. The very fact that Pakistan has named at least three of its war ships as PNS Tippu Sultan speaks volumes of his “secular” credentials. If Pakistan and the Congress party were to share a “secular icon” in Tipu Sultan for their own reasons, they certainly have the right and no one can stop them from doing so.

As for the BJP, it has valid, genuine and sensible reasons to keep away from Tipu Jayanti celebrations, as otherwise it will amount to compromising its known consistent stand against Tipu Sultan. – The New Indian Express, 28 October 2014

» R. Sampath reports for The New Indian Express in Chennai.

Louis XVI receives the ambassadors of Tipu Sultan in 1788.

Brahmin-bashing has an agenda – Maria Wirth

Brahmin boys in a Vedic school

Maria WirthWhy are the so-called atrocities of the caste system so hyped? The reason may well be to divert the attention from those who actually should feel guilty about what they did and still do to India. … The goal is to make Vedic knowledge disappear in India, because it poses a danger for Christianity and Islam. – Maria Wirth

Common people in the West know hardly anything about India. But one thing they all know: India has an “inhuman” caste system, which is an important feature of their religion, Hinduism. Most also “know” that Brahmins are the highest caste, which oppresses the lower castes, and worst off are the untouchables.

I learnt this already in primary school, but knew nothing at that time about the concentration camps of Nazi Germany only a few years earlier or about the atrocities of slavery or colonialism. Yet the Indian caste system with Brahmins as villains was part of the curriculum in Bavarian schools in the early 1960s, and it still is today: some time ago I asked three young Germans in Rishikesh what they associate with Hinduism. Their prompt reply was, “caste system”.  Surely, they also had learnt that it was most inhuman. In all likelihood, all over the world school children are taught about the “inhuman” caste system. Why?

There is likely an agenda behind it.

Yes, the caste system exists, and untouchables, too. And it exists all over the world. Curiously, “caste” (casta) is Portuguese for race. It is not even an Indian term. The ancient Vedas mention four varnas—Brahmins, Kshatryas, Vaishyas and Shudras, which form the body of society, like the head, arms, thighs and feet form the body of a human being. It is a beautiful analogy which implies that all parts are important. True, the head will be given more respect, but will you ignore your feet? Not everyone is made for intellectual work, fortunately, because a society without farmers, traders, workers won’t be possible. All have their role to play. And in future lives, there are likely to be role reversals.

Varna was not hereditary originally. It depended on one’s predominant guna (quality of character) and one’s profession. The job of Brahmins was specifically to memorise the Vedas and preserve them absolute correctly for future generations. They had to have predominately satwa (pure) guna and had to stick to many more rules for purity than any other caste.

Brahmins were the guardians of the purity of the Vedas. So it is understandable that they would not touch those who for example remove the dead bodies of animals or clean the sewers, though a society needs people who do these jobs too. In the West, people also wouldn’t shake hands with them. But no issue is made out of it.

Due to their satwa guna, Brahmins were least likely to be abusive to other groups in society. Usually it is the group which considers itself socially just above another group, which looks down on those lower. This trait is there in all societies, but it is true that in India, unfortunately over time, the four varnas were inherited by birth. There are today many Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Shudras, who do not follow their dharma any longer and therefore should not consider themselves as belonging to their inherited varna.

But why is the structure of the society in India constantly decried, when nobody accuses for example the nobility, the highest “caste” in the West, that it does not mingle with workers and won’t live in their neighbourhood?

Why is nobody upset that the British allowed only “whites” into the club of Madikeri town in Karnataka and probably all over the country, as an old Indian gentleman told me? If I remember right, he said that the sign at the club read, “Dogs and Indians not allowed”.

Why is nobody upset that the agriculture policy of the British colonialists starved some 25 million Indians to death? 25 million men, women and children slowly dying because they had nothing to eat in a country that was one of the richest before the British took over…. There are terrible pictures on the net of Indians only being skin and bones, barely alive.

Why is nobody upset that the British, after slavery was abolished, sent indentured labour from India all over the world in cramped boats, where a big number died during the journey already (and were spared the torture in the sugar cane estates)?

Why nobody talks about what the Muslim invasions did to Hindus and especially to Brahmins? How cruel they were? How many Hindus were killed or made slaves? How many Hindu women committed mass suicide by jumping into fire so that they won’t fall into the hands of the Muslim troops?

Nowadays, due to ISIS we can well imagine what happened then, yet the Leftists and even “respectable” British parliamentarians are not concerned with all this. They are concerned with the “most inhuman caste system” of India. It can be safely assumed that the colonial masters tried to drive a wedge between the castes by “fixing” the former fluidity of varnas in their census from 1871 onwards. And today, their democratic successors, though without political power in India, try to drive a wedge with the help of manipulative media and even parliamentary legislation in their own country.

My point is: what Brahmins did by segregating themselves from others or even snubbing others is negligible in comparison what Christian colonialists and Muslim invaders did.

So why are the so-called atrocities of the caste system so hyped? The reason may well be to divert the attention from those who actually should feel guilty about what they did and still do to India. It’s not the Brahmins. Many of them suffer today, mainly due to reservation and, though poor in many cases, by being excluded from benefits which are given to religious minorities or lower castes.

But this is not the only reason why the caste system and Brahmins are being bashed worldwide. Another important agenda is to shame Brahmins, to make them feel guilty about their forefathers and to make them reluctant to follow their original dharma of learning and teaching the Vedas. The goal is to make Vedic knowledge disappear in India, because it poses a danger for Christianity and Islam. It can easily challenge their so-called “revealed truths”. Vedic knowledge makes sense and is therefore the greatest obstacles for Christianity and Islam to expand over the whole world.

Unfortunately, a lot of Vedic texts are already lost. The former Shankaracharya of Kanchipuram, Sri Chandrashekarendra Saraswati, says in his book “The Vedas” that out of 1180 shakhas, into which Veda Vyasa divided the four Vedas some 5000 years ago, only eight are still in use. (Just wondering: would a search in England, Germany and other countries rediscover some of this treasure?)

It is about time to stop this Brahmin bashing and stop portraying the Indian caste system as the worst that has ever befallen humanity. It sounds so fake, especially when ISIS gets neutral treatment by just mentioning facts, like, “ISIL burns 19 Yazidi women to death in iron cages because they refused to have sex with fighters” without any emotional colour or condemnation.

Some time ago, I saw an old Brahmin couple in a temple in south India. They had dignity, but were very thin. When prasad (sacred food) was distributed, they were in the queue before me. Later I saw that they joined the queue again…. It was in all likelihood due to poverty.

Brahmins don’t need to feel guilty about their forefathers. They can be proud of them, because it is only thanks to them that India is the only country that has preserved its precious, ancient wisdom at least partly. Yet others should indeed feel guilty, but those others are brazen and won’t. They rather vitiate the atmosphere with unjustified hatred for Hinduism and anti-Brahmanism.

» Maria Wirth is a German author and psychologist who has lived in Uttarakhand for many years.

Caste-based Reservations

See also

Nehru, not progeny, is the problem, Mr Guha! – Punarvasu Parekh

Jawaharlal Nehru was the archetypical Indian brown sahib

IconA society divided and unsure of itself, an economy grossly performing far below its potential for decades, a large but powerless nation in the world, a country at odds with its own roots—that is the legacy Nehru left, for which we are now expected to feel suitably indebted. – Punarvasu Parekh

President Ram Nath Kovind’s pointed omission of Jawaharlal Nehru and his progeny in his first presidential speech to parliamentarians has not gone down well with Congressmen and other secularists. Congressmen have availed of this opportunity to exhibit once again their loyalty to their first family, while some secularists have sought to remind us of Nehru’s greatness, such as it was. Court historian Ramachandra Guha  (“Rescue Nehru from his descendants”, The Hindustan Times, 30 July 2017) argues that Nehru’s legacy should be separated from mistakes and misdeeds of his progeny and respected properly with due gratefulness.

Essentially, the argument is that “Nehru contributed enormously to the making of modern India, by promoting universal adult franchise, linguistic and religious pluralism, and modern science. However, the actions of his descendants have deeply damaged his reputation.”

Guha is wrong on both the counts. Nehru’s contribution to the modern India is largely negative, and his descendants have only followed the lead given by him, though in a more crass and cynical manner.

Nehru’s biggest failure was his inability to appreciate the role played by Hinduism in defining and unifying India. He borrowed, through Marx, the colonial view of Indian society, Indian history and Indian civilisation. According to this view, Indian society is a loose conglomeration of disparate groups divided along every conceivable line (caste, community, ethnicity, language, religion, wealth and income, to mention a few) which is struggling to evolve some principle of unity. For him, this ancient land with a glorious civilisation running through millennia was a “nation in the making”. India’s history, according to this view, is a record of its conquest by successive groups of marauding invaders. To Nehru, Indian civilisation, at least at practical level, was a hotchpotch of irrational superstitions, empty rituals and meaningless metaphysics.

This view of India (now glibly flaunted as Idea of India) is not unexpected in a man who said that “by education I am an Englishman, by views an internationalist, by culture a Muslim and I am a Hindu only by accident of birth.” Nehru failed to see the cultural and spiritual unity reigning supreme over social divisions, a unity which makes it imperative to read Indian history as a vast and variegated narrative of a single people through the ages, and Indian civilisation as an elastic but unbreakable bond that held its people together despite their mind-boggling social diversity. No wonder he came to the conclusion that “to talk of Hindu culture would injure India’s interest. The ideology of Hindu Dharma is completely out of tune with present times and if it took roots in India it would smash the country to pieces.”

This suspicion of and disdain for everything that was Hindu propelled him to strenuously oppose India’s return to her roots after independence, saying that he did not want India to become a “Hindu Pakistan”, whereas, in fact, it was he who behaved like a Muslim monarch ruling over a Hindu kingdom.

Nehru is said to have promoted pluralism through secularism. However, Nehru’s secularism was an alien concept borrowed from the West, divorced from Indian tradition of respect for other viewpoints. Owing to his defective view of Indian society, history and civilisation (not to mention vote bank politics), secularism turned into a united front of anti-Hindu ideologies (Islam, Christianity, Communism) and became a powerful tool to suppress Hindu aspirations.

Nehru’s admirers project him as a world class visionary. They should explain why his foreign policy was such a disaster. His handling of the challenges posed by Pakistan and China was inept, to put it mildly. His quest for glory on the global stage led him to set up a talking shop of beggars better known as the Non-Aligned Movement and isolated India from countries that could and would have helped her in areas that mattered. It was no surprise that after four decades of that foreign policy, India stood friendless, voiceless and insignificant in the comity of nations.

As the late Girilal Jain observed so perceptively in his The Hindu Phenomenon, under Nehru’s influence we mis-defined the nature of the Indian state on several fronts. “Nehru saw himself as an arbiter between rival camps in the Cold War in disregard of the horror that was communism, just as he saw himself as an arbiter between Hindus and Muslims in the country. Obviously, the cost on both counts has been quite heavy. If non-alignment has meant isolation of India from true centres of power in our era, secularism has meant the moral disarmament of Hindus. Pakistan and China could not have posed the threat they have to our security if we had made common cause with the West and the Muslim problem would not have remained wholly unresolved if we had not mis-defined the nature of the Indian state”. (p.13)

Modi’s India is struggling to correct that mistake, however clumsily and ineptly, and that has rattled the secularist class.

Guha suggests that universal adult suffrage was Nehru’s gift to India. That is like suggesting that the sun rises because the cock crows. Nehruvians have long flaunted their democratic credentials. But their record is one of nepotism and lust for power. Their stranglehold on Congress has vitiated our polity.

The manner in which Nehru managed to sideline Sardar Patel to become Congress president in 1930 and prime minister in 1946 should put paid to his love for democracy. No doubt as prime minister he showed respect to his party colleagues, but then they were stalwarts in their own right, having risen from the ranks and passed through the crucible of the freedom struggle. They did not owe their rise and survival in politics to Nehru’s sufferance. Also, Nehru never missed an opportunity to cut his potential rivals to size. Witness the Kamraj Plan.

Nehru’s social policies have proved divisive and disruptive. Even at the height of his popularity, this votary of modernity did not oppose caste-based reservations. Nor did he dare touch the Muslim personal law while driving the Hindu code bill. Like an ordinary politician, he chose the line of least resistance. That is the not the mark of a visionary.

Nehru nurtured a deep hostility to private enterprise. In an effort to control this “evil”, he handed over the economy to control-minded planners and corrupt bureaucrats. The planned economy stifled innovation, discouraged enterprise and punished initiative.

Many people credit him with promoting science and scientific temper, but the bureaucratic state and restrictive policies suffocated growth and prompted migration of people of talent, either in industry or science. Indians prospered everywhere except in India, and Nobel Prize in Science was won by Indians who had left the country for good years ago to pursue research.

Nehru’s economic policies inspired by half-baked Fabian socialism kept the country poor, backward and underdeveloped in spite of a large, young and highly talented population, vast territory, rich mineral resources and willingness of other countries to help and cooperate. Followed faithfully for four decades, they drove the country to the brink of default on international loans.

It is not an accident that the country embarked on a high-growth path only after Nehruvian policies were dumped. And, that course correction is still hobbled by two pillars of Nehru’s approach to economic problems: state control and populism (mai-bap sarkar).

Nehru created an interventionist state which claimed to know better than the people what was good for them and sought to mould society, economy and polity in a pre-determined structure. The project was bound to fail since the conceived structure was anti-growth and alien.

The Babri mosque of Nehruvian edifice had three domes: secularism, socialism and non-alignment. Socialism kept us poor and backward in the name of growth with social justice. Secularism kept us divided and distrustful of each other in the name of communal amity. Non-alignment rendered us ineffective and friendless in the comity of nations. A society divided and unsure of itself, an economy grossly performing far below its potential for decades, a large but powerless nation in the world, a country at odds with its own roots—that is the legacy Nehru left, for which we are now expected to feel suitably indebted.

India cannot regain its rightful place in the world until Nehru’s legacy is undone and forgotten. That process has been on for some time now. President Kovind deserves to be complimented for according formal recognition to it.

» Punarvasu Parekh is an independent senior journalist in Mumbai.

Jawaharlal Nehru and Hindi Chini Bai Bai

Compradors out to destabilise India – Anirban Ganguly

Protesters in New Delhi (2017)

Dr Anirban GangulyThe efforts of these academic and political conglomerates have been directed at trying to stymie India’s growth. These compradors especially become active when a sturdy and accepted nationalist dispensation takes position in India. – Dr Anirban Ganguly

In his discussion on cultural self-alienation among a section of present-day Indians, social and political philosopher Ram Swarup makes an interesting description. He talks of a satellite ideology, a local satellite ideology that is derived from a dominant imperialist ideology, and then works through its advocates and mouthpieces in its own country and among its own people to undermine any effort that leads towards national consolidation. Such a satellite ideology, argues Swarup, shapes and gives birth to “not only economic and political compradors, but also to intellectual compradors” whose sole objective is to retard any forward march and confuse our discourse and direction.

During the heyday of communism, these intellectual compradors spoke for world communism, decried India as a whole, denigrated her past, heaped calumny on her society and people, and carried on a relentless campaign against the tenets of Hinduism, against Hindus as a whole and in general against anyone who spoke for India. The staple fare that they dished out and which earned them resources and recognition was “that India was not a nation but only a name for a geographical region occupied by successive waves of invaders, that its past was dark, its religion degraded and superstitious, and that its social system was a tyranny of castes and creeds.” As Swarup noted, “Started by the British, this intellectual programming received powerful reinforcement from Marxism, a new ideology arising in the West. In fact, it was old imperialism, establishing itself under new slogans. It was a new name for old facts. In the new dress it became even more effective, it remained about the same in its larger aims, yet it acquired a radical look into the bargain.”

Over the years, these intellectual compradors have managed to keep themselves afloat by aligning with certain political interests and by being the mouthpieces and advocates of certain political and academic conglomerates across the globe, especially in the West. The efforts of these academic and political conglomerates have been directed at trying to stymie India’s growth. These compradors especially become active when a sturdy and accepted nationalist dispensation takes position in India. Such a dispensation invariably faces their wrath, more so if it happens to be one led by the likes of PM Narendra Modi, who has, in no uncertain terms, made it clear that India’s national interest is paramount to his political worldview and that it is ‘India first’ which propels his actions.

Those who had gathered last week [July 2–8] in Delhi’s Jantar Mantar in someone’s name were in fact members of that class of intellectual compradors, whose sole objective, since May 2014 had been to hurl invectives on the choice that people made, in terms of electoral mandate, that summer. These intellectual compradors—all advocates and carriers of a satellite ideology, which has reshaped itself in the present times but with its core philosophy of seeing India degraded and depleted intact—have in the last three odd years not been able to come to terms with this decisive mandate that was given to and earned by Modi. Their sole objective and relentless pursuit, therefore, has been to project India, like their ideological ancestors did in the past, as a country in an advance stage of decay and degradation. Their outrages are selective, and it is this which gives away the plot and exposes the deeper conspiracy behind their acts—a conspiracy whose sole objective is to see India destabilised. – The New Indian Express, 8 July 2017

» Dr Anirban Ganguly is with the Vivekananda International Foundation. His areas of expertise include Civilisational and Cultural Studies, Indian Political Thought, Contemporary Indian Political History, and the Philosophy of Education.

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Audrey Truschke and academic bullying – Koenraad Elst

Aurangzeb and his apologist Audrey Truschke

Koenraad ElstLike Truschke herself, I am neither Hindu nor Indian, yet I can read for myself with what explicit glee the Muslim chroniclers described temple destructions and massacres of unbelievers. – Dr Koenraad Elst

Audrey Truschke is a Professor of Religious Studies in Stanford, California, and has gained some fame with her work on the patronage of Sanskrit by the Moghuls. In order to get that far, she had to toe the ideologically mandatory line: neither in America nor in India does the Hindu-baiting establishment allow a dissident to get seriously established in the academic world. Predictably, we see her elaborating the same positions already taken by an earlier generation of academics, such as whitewashing Aurangzeb. Not that this was a hard job for her: one gets the impression that she is a true believer and really means what she says. Then again, she may have done an excellent job of creating the desired impression all while secretly knowing better.

Bullying

Her position in the article “The Right’s problem with history” (DNA, 26 Oct. 2016) is summed up as: “Unable to defend a fabricated history of India on scholarly grounds, many foot soldiers of the Hindu Right have turned to another response: bullying.” It would be normal to compare secularist historians and their Western dupes with people of the same rank, namely different-minded historians, in this case belonging to the “Hindu Right”. These are not exactly numerous, having been blocked systematically from academe by the single permitted opinion in both India and America, but they exist. Yet, they and their output are absent from her paper. From a street bully, I would expect a denunciation of street bullies, and from an academic a polemic against her own peers.

Hindu Nationalists : Banner image accompanying Truschke's article in DNA The photograph accompanying the article tells it all. If it had been about her own school of history, the picture would have shown established historians involved in this debate, such as Wendy Doniger or Sheldon Pollock. But now that the opposition is at issue, it shows a group of non-historians, not in an air-conditioned college hall but in a street demonstration exercising their freedom of expression. The reader is expected to recognize them as representatives of the “Hindu Right”, and as “bullies”.

She testifies to verbal attacks she herself has endured “from members of the Hindu Right”, and which she evaluates as “vicious personal attacks on the basis of my perceived religion, gender and race”. Correction: she could have maintained the very same religion, gender and race and yet never be attacked by those same Hindus (indeed, most Jewish female whites have never experienced such attacks), if she had not belonged to the “scholars who work on South Asia” and who have earned a reputation as Hindu-baiters. She has been attacked on the basis of what she has written, nothing else.

But it is true, and deplorable, that an uncouth but vocal class of people clothe their denunciations of an ideological position in foul personal attacks. It so happens that I know her plight very well, for I too receive my share of what some would call “hate mail” when I express skepticism of beliefs dear to Hindu traditionalists (e.g. the eternity of Sanskrit, the supernatural origins of the Vedas, the Rama Setu, or the Krishna bhakti verses in the Gita). And also when going against the dogmas of her own school, such as that Muslim rule in India was benign, or that Sanskrit has an origin of white invaders oppressing black natives. Nothing dangerous, though, and I doubt her claim of “physical attacks” on Indologists, unless she means the egg thrown at Wendy Doniger in London.

From the start, Truschke tries to capture the moral high ground by citing one of her lambasters as tweeting: “Gas this Jew.” In America, such reference to the Holocaust is absolutely not done, and Indian secularist circles adopt the same sensitivities once they see these as valid for the trend-setting West. To the Hindu mainstream, this hyper-focus on anything associated with the WW2 is not there, and they had no history with antisemitism; but still this quote would be unacceptable there, for regardless of what Jews exactly believe, Hindus tend to respect other faiths.

However, her claim might be correct (not sure there), for there are indeed some Hindu hotheads who have adopted this kind of rhetoric. In pre-internet days, they would brew their own conspiracy theories, but now the access to websites carrying elaborate Western conspiracy theories, starring the Zionist World Conspiracy, entices them into using this kind of language. Certainly deplorable, but not at all representative for the “Hindu Right”: hardly even for its bullies, not for its leaders (both V. D. Savarkar and M. S. Golwalkar described the Jews as role models for loyalty to one’s own roots) and not at all for the “Hindu Right” scholars whom she is carefully ignoring.

Academic bullying   

This “bullying” had best been compared to the “bullying” on the other side. Like, for instance, the two attempts by Leftist students to silence me, as a twice scheduled speaker, at the Madison Wisconsin South Asia Conference in 1996 and a private event preceding it, hosted by Prof Andrew Sihler. Or the successful protests against the Dharma Civilization Foundation’s offer to fund a chair at UC Irvine, when so many US chairs are comfortably being funded by the Saudis.

But on Truschke’s own side, the dividing line between bullies and academics is not so neat. Why stoop to street bullying if you have tenure? It is far more effective, then, to resort to academic bullying. Thus, in their intervention in the California Textbook Affair, where Hindu parents had sought to edit blatantly anti-Hindu passages, the explicitly partisan intervening professors even managed to get themselves recognized as arbiters in the matter. This would have been unthinkable if those bullies had not been established academics. (And this I can say even though my criticism of the Hindu parents’ positions exists in cold print.) Her focus on street bullies has the effect of misdirecting the reader’s attention, away from the more consequential phenomenon of academic bullying.

I myself have been barred from several Indologist forums by active intervention or passive complicity of the same professors who otherwise clamour “censorship!” when anything at all happens to a book they favour. Thus, they are so very sensitive that they dramatically talked of “threats to freedom of speech” when … Three Hundred Ramayanas, a book belittling a Hindu scripture, was not selected as required reading in Delhi University, though otherwise, it remained freely available. They claim to champion “freedom of speech!” when Wendy Doniger’s error-ridden book Hinduism was withdrawn from circulation, though it was never legally banned but was left available for another publisher; who did indeed come forward, so that the book is again lawfully omnipresent. But when I appealed to them to intervene for annulling my banning from the Religion in South Asia (RISA) list, which had been done in violation of its own charter, they all looked the other way.

A recent example. In 2014, I read a paper on the Rg Vedic seer Vasishtha and his relative divinization in a panel on “divinization” at the European Conference for South Asia Studies in Zürich. My paper was enthusiastically received, also by the panel’s organizers when I sent in the final version for publication. First, they accepted it, but then, I received an embarrassed e-mail from the organizers stating that they could not include my paper, without any reason given. Upon my enquiring, the half-line reply said that it did not fit their project. In all its insignificance, this still managed to be a blatant lie, and their earlier acceptance confirmed that this could not have been the reason. But some higher up had warned them that I am to be treated as excluded, just like on many other occasions.

Far more seriously, both in America and in India, scholars suspected of pro-Hindu sympathies are blocked in their access to academe, and their work gets studiously ignored. For India, a tip of the blanket over this hushed-up phenomenon was lifted by Dr A. Devahuti: Bias in Indian Historiography (1980). It is seriously in need of an update, but I am given to understand that one is forthcoming. For America, a start was made by Rajiv Malhotra with his books Invading the Sacred (2007) and Academic Hinduphobia (2016).

Hinduphobia

Coming to contents, Truschke accuses “Hindu Right-wingers” of attacks on “academics”. I would have expected them to attack “anti-Hindu Left-wingers”, and indeed I learn that this is exactly how they see it—and how they see her. If she doesn’t like being characterized this way, she is herewith invited to stop calling her adversaries similar names. The binary Left/Right is at least problematic here, yet for a quarter century I have seen this scheme used to explain matters. Except that the Left doesn’t call itself Left: it treats itself as the natural centre, and anything to its right is deemed politically coloured: “Right” or very easily “extreme Right”.

Anyway, she calls “alleged Hinduphobia” nothing more than “a strawman stand-in for any idea that undercuts Hindutva ideology”. The term was made popular by Rajiv Malhotra, whom I have never known to swear by “Hindutva”, a specific term literally translated as “Hindu-ness” but now effectively meaning “the RSS tradition of Hindu nationalism”. At any rate, one does not have to follow Hindutva, or even be a Hindu or an Indian, to observe that American India-watchers utter a strong anti-Hindu prejudice in their publications. Not to look too far, I can find an example in myself: I have written a number of publications criticizing both Hindutva as an ideology and the Hindutva organizations, yet I can off-hand enumerate dozens of illustrations of Hindu-baiting by supposed India experts in the West as well as by their Indian counterparts.

At most, one can criticize the term “Hinduphobia” for being etymologically less than exact. Words in -phobia normally indicate an irrational fear, and fear is not the attitude in which Hinduism is approached. The term was coined on the model of Islamophobia, a weaponized word meant to provoke hatred, yet now a thoroughly accepted and integrated term among progressive academics. A phobia is normally a psychiatric term and its use to denote political adversaries is of a kind with the Soviet custom of locking up dissidents in mental hospitals. And indeed, people shielding Islam from proper enquiry do treat their opponents as mentally warped marginals. But the core of truth in the reprehensible term “Islamophobia” is at least that it points to “fear of Islam”, a religion which its critics do indeed diagnose as fearsome. Hinduism, by contrast, has been criticized as cruel, evil, superstitious, ridiculous, but not as a threat. It is only Hindus who flatter themselves that the “Abrahamics” want to destroy Hinduism because they fear it as being superior and more attractive.

The use of the term Hinduphobia is predicated upon the already existing acceptance and use of the term Islamophobia. If the UN, the governments of the US and EU, etc., and the pan-Islamic pressure group OIC, were to give up this ugly and vicious term, then the Hinduphobia term so disliked by Truschke would lapse with it and get replaced again by the older and more accurate term Hindu-baiting. But until then, it throws the Islamophile and Hindu-baiting scholars of Truschke’s persuasion back on the bare fact that they themselves have and display the kind of prejudice against Hinduism of which they accuse the Islam critics.

History

According to Truschke, “a toxic combination of two realities fuel the Hindu Right’s onslaught against scholars of South Asia: Hindu nationalist ideology rests heavily on a specific vision of Indian history, and that version of history is transparently false.”

Now it gets interesting, with two competing views of Indian history, one true and one false: “Hindu nationalists claim that India’s past featured the glorious flourishing of a narrowly defined Hinduism that was savagely interrupted by anybody non-Hindu, especially Muslims. However, the real story of Indian history is much more complicated and interesting.”

A “narrowly defined Hinduism” is only projected into the Hindu past by semi-literate non-historians who do indeed man the middle ranks of the uniformed RSS ranks. No serious Hindu historian, not the lamented Jadunath Sarkar, R. C. Majumdar, Harsh Narain or K. S. Lal, nor contempory scholars like Bharat Gupt or Meenakshi Jain, would be foolish enough to simply deny the “diversity and syncretism” that Truschke sees in India’s past. But here again, we see how Truschke has chosen not to address the scholars of a competing persuasion, but the village bumpkins.

In one sense, however, even the most sophisticated historians will affirm that India’s past was indeed “glorious”. And it was not at all “complicated”: India was simply independent. Yes, ancient India had its problems too, it had local wars, it was not paradise on earth, but in one decisive respect, Indians under Muslim or British occupation correctly remembered it as “glorious”: it ruled itself. When the British told Mahatma Gandhi that his hoped-for independence would only throw India back into its headaches of casteism, communalism and the rest, he answered that India would, of course, have its problems, “but they will be our own”. Compared to being under foreign tutelage, such self-rule is nothing less than glorious.

This brings us to Truschke’s own field of research: “Especially problematic for Hindu nationalists is current scholarship on the Indo-Islamic rule, a fertile period for cross-cultural contacts and interreligious exchanges. This vibrant past is rightly a source of pride and inspiration for many Indians, but the Hindu Right sees only an inconvenient challenge to their monolithic narrative of Hindu civilisation under Islamic siege.”

Note how two issues are artfully mixed up here: the questionable monolithic view of Hinduism and the very correct view of a Hindu civilization besieged and raped by Islam. It is true that non-historian “Hindu nationalists” are rather inaccurate in their “monolithic narrative of Hindu civilisation”; but it is not true that the period of “Indo-Islamic rule” is a “source of pride and inspiration”, nor that it is contested only by “Hindu nationalists”. Her notion of “current scholarship” is of course limited to her own school of thought, heavily over-represented in academe, partly due to its aggressive policy of exclusion vis-à-vis others.

There are admittedly those who identify with foreign colonizers: many Indian Muslims identify with Mohammed bin Qasim and with the Moghuls (whom Pakistan considers as the real founders of their Indo-Islamic state), and many Nehruvian secularists share and continue the British opinions about India and Hinduism. But those who identify with India, even if they admit some good aspects of these colonizations, do not take any pride at all in having been subjugated. Yes, there were instances of collaboration with the colonizers, such as the hundreds of thousands of Indians whose sweat made the “British” railway network possible, or the Rajputs whose daughters filled the Moghul harems in exchange for their fathers’ careers in the Moghul army. But those instances are at most understandable, a lesser evil in difficult circumstances, but not a source of “pride and inspiration”.

A few episodes of Muslim occupation were indeed “vibrant”, viz. after Akbar’s realistic appreciations of the existing power equations persuaded him to rule with rather than against his Hindu subjects. Then, as everybody already knew, Hindus did indeed give their cultural best, rebuilding the temples which the Sultanate had demolished (and which would again be demolished by Aurangzeb)—a tribute to the vitality of Hindu civilization even under adverse circumstances. And some Muslims did indeed engage in “interreligious exchanges”, such as Dara Shikoh translating the Upanishads into Persian; later, he was beheaded for apostasy.

But even then, academics had better use their critical sense when interpreting these episodes, rather than piously taking them at face value. In the Zürich conference already mentioned, I heard an “academic” describe how contemporary Hindi writers praised Aurangzeb, the dispenser of their destinies. Well, many eulogies of Stalin can also be cited, including by comrades fallen from grace and praising Stalin even during their acceptance speeches of the death penalty; but it would be a very bad historian, even if sporting academic titles, who flatly deduces therefrom that Stalin was a benign ruler. Govind Singh’s “Victory Letter” to Emperor Aurangzeb was, in all seriousness, included among the sources of praise, leaving unmentioned that Aurangzeb had murdered Govind’s father and four sons. Every village bumpkin can deduce that Govind hated Aurangezb more than any other person in the world, and that he was only being diplomatic in his writing because of the power equation. Academics laugh at kooks who believe in aliens, but it took an academic, no less, to discover an alien who actually admired the murderer of his father and sons.

According to Truschke’s admission, a lot of Hindus are “happy to underscore the violence and bloodshed unleashed by many Indo-Islamic rulers”, but she wrongly identifies them as “Hindu Right”. It doesn’t require a specific ideological commitment nor even any religious identity to observe well-documented historical facts. Mostly documented by the Muslim perpetrators themselves, that is. Thus, like Truschke herself, I am neither Hindu nor Indian, yet I can read for myself with what explicit glee the Muslim chroniclers described temple destructions and massacres of unbelievers.

The mistake of plagiarism

“In contrast to the detailed work of academics, the Hindu nationalist vision of India’s past stands on precarious to non-existent historical evidence. As a result, the Hindu Right cannot engage with Indologists on scholarly grounds. Indeed, the few Hindutva ideologues who have attempted to produce scholarship are typically tripped up by rookie mistakes—such as misusing evidence, plagiarism, and overly broad arguments—and so find themselves ignored by the academic community.”

The inclusion of “plagiarism” among her list of “rookie mistakes” gives away that she is fulminating specifically against the work of Rajiv Malhotra, whom she is careful not to mention by name. For his book Indra’s Net, he was famously accused of plagiarism (by a mission mentor), for he quotes the American scholar Andrew Nicholson’s book Unifying Hinduism, in which he concurs with the same position that Hinduism had elaborated its common doctrinal backbone long before the Orientalists “invented Hinduism”. In fact, he only used Nicholson as a source to prove that Westerners too could acquire this insight, there was nothing “Hindu nationalist” about it. And he amply quoted him in so many words, though a few times, for the flow of the narrative, he merely rephrased the theses of this much-quoted author. By that standard, most papers contain plagiarism; but what passes unnoticed elsewhere becomes a scandal when done by a self-identifying Hindu.

Yet, numerous Indologists started a holier-than-thou tirade against the “plagiarism”, a comical drama to watch. Malhotra then walked the extra mile writing Nicholson out of his narrative and quoting original sources instead (thereby incidentally showing the amount of plagiarism that Nicholson himself had committed, though no Indologist ever remarked on that). But this inconvenient development was given the silent treatment, and Truschke still presupposes that there ever was a substantive “plagiarism” case against Malhotra, and by extension against the whole “Hindu Right”.

Malhotra has indeed been “ignored by the academic community”—until he found the way to make his critique non-ignorable. That indeed shows a lot of skill in dealing with the way of the world, for until then, Hindus had only painstakingly proven themselves right and the “academics” wrong, but had had no impact at all. By contrast, Malhotra, by personalizing his argument into specific dissections of the work of leading scholars such as Wendy Doniger, Sheldon Pollock or Anantanand Rambachan, has earned a session at the annual conference of the trend-setting American Academy of Religion. On Indological discussion forums, his input is frequently mentioned, though the academics mostly keep up their airs of pooh-poohing that interloper, in a bid to justify their ignoring his actual critique of their own work.

By the way, notice my term: a “self-identifying Hindu”. As the case of Malhotra has amply exemplified, it suffices to stand up as a Hindu, or to own up Hinduism, in order to be dubbed “Hindu Rightist”, “Hindutva ideologue”, as well as “fanatic”. “rookie” and all the fair names Hindus have been called by Prof Truschke’s august school of thought. To them, the acceptable Hindu, or what Malhotra calls a “sepoy”, is one who never identifies as a Hindu, but rather as “Indian” (or better, “Bengali”, “Malayali” etc.), “low-caste”, and ideologically “secularist”. The exception is when countering criticism from self-identified Hindus, for then, he is expected to say: “But me too, I am a Hindu!” That way, he can fulfil his main task: as long as there are Hindus, he must deny them the right to speak on behalf of Hinduism and to give it a presence at the conversation between worldviews.

History debates

Most Hindu scholars had or have not found the way to impose their viewpoint on the sphere of discourse yet. In the case of objective scholars among non-Hindus, this would not have mattered. It is, after all, their own job to trace any material relevant to their field of research, including obscure works by other scholars, even adversaries. But in this case, there are some cornerstones of the Indological worldview which tolerate no criticism nor alternatives, so these are to be carefully ignored.

Thus, Shrikant Talageri’s case against the Aryan Invasion Theory, the bedrock of the “academic” view of ancient Hindu history, is painstaking, detailed, voluminous, factual and well-formulated, yet Truschke’s own entire tribe of “academics” simply goes on ignoring his case without bothering to refute it. (Well, there are two articles talking down to him, but we mean actual refutations, not mere denials.) If academics were to live up to the reputation they have among laymen, they would have set aside their current business to deal with this fundamental challenge to their worldview.

Or take A Secular Agenda by Arun Shourie, PhD from Syracure NY and stunningly successful Disinvestment Minister in the A. B. Vajpayee Government, when India scored its highest economic growth figures. It was a very important book, and it left no stone standing of the common assumption among so-called experts that India (with its religion-based civil codes and its discriminatory laws against Hinduism) is a secular state, i.e. a state in which all citizens are equal before the law, regardless of their religion. Though the book deconstructs the bedrock on which the “experts” have built their view of modern India, they have never formulated a refutation. Instead, they just keep on repeating their own deluded assumption, as in: “The BJP threatens India’s structure as a secular state.” (Actually, the BJP does not, and India is not.) They can do so because they are secure in the knowledge that, among the audiences that matter, their camp controls the sphere of discourse. Concerning the interface between religion and modern politics, the established “academic” view is not just defective, it is an outrageous failure.

Or consider historian Prof K. S. Lal’s works on caste and religion, refuting with primary data the seeming truism, launched by the Communist Party ideologue M. N. Roy and now omnipresent in the textbooks, that the lowest castes converted en masse to Islam because of its claimed message of equality. Islam mainly won over the urban middle castes (and not because of equality, a value rejected as ingratitude towards the Dispenser of destinies in the Quran, but because of the privileges vis-à-vis non-Muslims), not the Untouchables. Again, the silent treatment has been the only response the “experts” could muster.

The Ayodhya affair

It is uncommon for Audrey Truschke and the opposite school to have any kind of direct debate at all. In the US this was, until Rajiv Malhotra, unthinkable for lack of any pro-Hindu school willing and able to stand up to the overwhelming anti-Hindu bias among those Indologists willing to wade into any controversial subject. But in India, there have been a few such confrontations. And on those occasions, the “academics” did not cover themselves with glory.

One consequential instance in India was the Ayodhya scholars’ debate in the winter of 1990-1991, organized by the Janata (Left-populist) government headed by Chandra Shekhar. This was won hands down by the scholars affirming the existence of a Hindu temple underneath the Babri Masjid, first against a delegation of Muslim leaders unfamiliar with historical methodology, selected by the Babri Masjid Action Committee, then against a group of Marxist academics called in by that same Committee for saving the day. The latter’s position was but an elaboration of the official orthodoxy created by a group of academics from JNU when they issued a statement, The Political Abuse of History (1989), denying the existence of temple remains underneath the Babri Masjid. It had been taken over as gospel truth by most of the academic and journalistic India-watchers in the West, including Truschke’s mentors. They kept the lid on the debate’s outcome.

More detail about the controversy can be found in my paper The Three Ayodhya Debates (2011). But since I do not hold an academic chair, she might not take me seriously, so let that pass. Instead, I may refer her to the excellent book Rama’s Ayodhya (2013) by Prof Meenakshi Jain of DU. No Indian or Western academic has refuted it or even formally taken cognizance of it. After court-ordered excavations in 2003 had definitively confirmed the existence of the temple, acknowledged in the court verdict of 2010, they have all turned conspicuously silent on Ayodhya.

Indeed, what insiders knew all along, has now become official: the stance of the “academics”, both Indian and Western, has been an outrageous failure. It relied entirely on the authority of a few “experts” already known for their anti-Hindu positions. Their “expertise” fell through completely once they were cross-examined on the witness stand, as amply documented by  Prof Jain.

That those “experts” didn’t manage to uphold their case against the temple was a surprise only to their dupes, including the American India-watchers. At least, I assume these were dupes and had genuinely swallowed the no-temple claim (“concocted by the wily Hindu fundamentalists”). The alternative is that they were deliberate accomplices in the Ayodhya deception, an artificial controversy that killed thousands and brought down several governments. I would prefer not to think such things about scholars like Audrey Truschke and her mentors.

A remarkable aspect of the experts’ fall from grace was the smugness with which they took the witness stand. They had not deemed it necessary to brush up their knowledge of Ayodhya, or to give their ill-founded statements of opinion a more solid basis at least after the fact. They had for so long publicly pretended, as Truschke now does, that the Hindu side merely consisted of a bunch of deplorables, that they didn’t see the need to gear up for the confrontation.

Iconoclasm

The Ayodhya controversy was part of a larger issue, viz. Islamic iconoclasm, which victimized many thousands of places of worship in India and abroad, starting with Arabia. Or at least, that is how historians like Sita Ram Goel and Profs Harsh Narain, K. S. Lal, Saradindu Mukherji saw it: turn this one controversy into an occasion for educating the public about the ideological causes of the iconoclasm that hit Hindu society so hard and so consistently for over a millennium. But the RSS-BJP preferred to put the entire focus on their one toy in Ayodhya, and obscure or even deny the Islamic motive behind it. (The ideological impotence and non-interest on their part provides yet another contrast with the academics’ imaginary construction of a wily, resourceful and highly motivated Hindu movement.)

As part of his effort, Goel published a two-volume book giving a list of two thousand purposely demolished temples, mostly replaced by mosques. The part on the theology of iconoclasm proved irrefutable, and has never even been gainsaid on any of its specifics. The list of two thousand temples equally stands entirely unshaken, as so many challenges to the reigning school that tries to downplay the tradition of iconoclasm pioneered by the Prophet. Ever since, the dominant policy has been to disregard Goel’s work and carry on whitewashing the record of Islam regardless.

Since stray new proofs of Muslim temple destruction keep popping up, that school has developed an alternative discursive strategy to prevent such cases from suggesting their own logical conclusion. It now preaches that a few temple destructions have indeed taken place, but channels this admission towards a counterintuitive explanation: that Hinduism is to be blamed for these, not Islam. The core of truth is that a handful of cases have been documented of ancient Hindu kings abducting prestigious idols from their adversaries’ main temples, just as happened in Mesopotamia and other Pagan cultures. These are then presented as the source of inspiration for Aurangzeb’s wholesale destruction (documented in his own court chronicles) of thousands of temples and many more idols.

Not that any of the many Muslim iconoclasts ever testified that such was his inspiration. Their motivation, whenever explicitly stated, and whether inside or outside of India, is invariably purely Islamic. Since the negationist school is unable to document its thesis, let me show them by example how to do it.

Kashinath Pandit’s book A Muslim Missionary in Mediaeval Kashmir (Delhi 2009) contains a translation of the Tohfatu’l Ahbab, the biography of the 15th-century Islamic missionary Shamsu’d-Din Araki by his younger contemporary Muhammad Ali Kashmiri. After describing the many temple demolitions Araki wrought or triggered in thinly populated Kashmir (many more than the “eighty” which the secularists are willing to concede on Richard Eaton’s authority for all of India during the whole Muslim period), the biographer gives Araki’s motivation in practising all this iconoclasm.

Does he say: Araki then recalled the story how a Hindu king ran off with an idol and thereby felt an urge to do something entirely different: destroy all the idols and their idol-houses with it? No, he recounts the standard Islamic narrative of the Kaaba: it was built by Adam and rebuilt by Abraham for monotheistic worship (thus yielding a far more authoritative precedent than idol theft by an infidel king), until unbelievers made it “a place for the idols and a house for the statues. Some Quraish chieftains (…) turned this House of God into the abode of devilish and satanic people. For innumerable years, this house of divine light and bliss became the worshiping place for sorcerers and depraved people and the centre of worshippers of idols (made of stones).”

Fortunately, this injustice didn’t last, neither in Mecca nor in Kashmir: “When the last of the prophets (Muhammad) saw this situation, he lifted Imam ‘Ali Murtaza on his shoulders so that defiled and impure idols and images were struck down in the House of God. (…) In the same manner, Kashmir was a den of wicked people, the source of infidelity and a mine of corruption and aberration.” (p.258)

And then the enumeration of Hindu sacred places levelled and mosques built in their stead resumes. An extra detail of interest for all those who idealize Sufis is that the text lists many occasions when “Sufis” and “Derwishes” participated in massacres and temple demolitions.

At any rate, that is what a Muslim testimony of the motive for temple destructions looks like. At least in the real world, not in the make-believe world of our “academics”. I had already challenged Richard Eaton (the originator of this thesis, a self-described Marxist) and his followers to come up with such evidence in 1999, but nothing has ever materialized. Come on, Prof Truschke, you can make an excellent career move by producing this proof.

To sum up: on the one hand, we have Islamic icononoclasts and their contemporary supporters saying in so many words that Islam made them do it. Moderns who highlight this evidence are, in Truschke’s estimation, “bullies”. On the other, we have no evidence at all for the claim that the Islamic iconoclasts, intent on destroying Hinduism itself through its icons, took inspiration from Hindu icon-stealers, who installed the icon in their own temple for continued worship (as if abduction, wanting to have something close to you, were the same thing as murder, i.e. wanting something to disappear from this world). This claim is nothing more than special pleading. Yet, people who propagate it are, in Trusche’s description, “academics”.

Conclusion

The bourgeoisie sets great store by status. Scholars go by a different criterion: knowledge. They know, through learning or personal experience, that for some of the great insights and discoveries we are indebted to outsiders and amateurs; and that quite a few of their colleagues have big titles and positions not corresponding to their actual knowledge. They also know that holding (or at least uttering) the required opinions can make or break an academic career: either formally, as when a non-Anglican could not get admission to Oxford University, or informally, as under the reign of progressivist conformism today.

To think highly of the academic world presupposes a link between scientific achievement and academic rank, and this largely makes sense in the exact sciences. In the humanities, especially in the social “science” and literature departments, this link is also deduced, but only as a parasitical extension of the conventions in the exact sciences. Much of what passes for scholarship these days is only ideology wrapped into jargon. Some sophomores take it seriously: having just gained entry into the academic world, they idealize it and are proud of their belonging to a higher world distinct from lay society. And most laymen believe it: over-awed by status, they assume that academic status presupposes both knowledge and objectivity, the basis of academic authority.

There exists a test for objective knowledge: a good theory predicts. Physicists who know the relevant parameters of an object in motion, can predict its location at future times. Well, how about the predictions by the academic India-watchers? In the mid-1990s, when the BJP’s imminent coming to power was a much-discussed probability, top academics predicted that a BJP government would turn India into a Vedic dictatorship, whatever that may be. They were put in the wrong even swifter than expected: in 1996, BJP leader A. B. Vajpayee was prime minister for 13 days, then lost the vote of confidence, and instead of seizing power for good, he meekly stepped down. Academics predicted the victimization of Dalits and women, gas chambers, “all the Indian Muslims thrown into the Indian Ocean”, and what not. Well, the BJP has been in power from 1998 till 2004, and since 2014: where are those gas chambers?

Scholars of modern India, as well as historians of fields relevant for contemporary political debates, have a lot to be modest about. They may have academic positions, but their record is not such that they are in a position to talk down to outsiders, the way Audrey Truschke now does. – Pragyata, 30 November 2016

» Dr Koenraad Elst is an author and Indologist based in Belgium.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple replaced by Aurangzeb's Gyanvapi Mosque, Varanasi (James Prinsep 1834)