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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No diktat can dilute the appeal of motherland worship – Anirban Ganguly

Dr Anirban Ganguly“Prime Minister Narendra Modi being welcomed at TCS Riyadh with chants of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, in a sense settled the issue, divorcing the debate from a denominational dimension. It is a chant that had inspired and continues to inspire generations of Indians regardless of their religious belief. No diktat or directive can dilute the appeal of that re-invigorating cry. Those who indulge in trying to mentally and physically limit its reach and power of galvanising minds and hearts are in fact indulging in a debate which has no intellectual moorings or foundation.” – Dr Anirban Ganguly

Bharat MataA number of inane debates are being forced on our national life today—debates that would have made Indian revolutionary nationalists and thinkers from the past cast an eye of dismay. None of them, for example, would have ever countenanced the possibility of having a debate on whether ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ is a legitimate exhortation to further bind the felt unity of national life and of the collectivity.

Moulvi Liaquat Hossein, venerated activist of the Swadeshi era, who, at an advanced age took to the streets of Calcutta to protest the partition of Bengal and insisted on chanting Bande Mataram and hailed the motherland as a form to be adored, worshipped and protected, would never have anticipated the inane debate that is being sought to be generated by a motivated section. For Hossein, the motherland appeared a vibrant entity, with a shared space of memories, of traditions and of living that needed to be reclaimed from a deracinating colonial yoke.

Abdul Rasul, president of the Barisal Provincial Conference in 1906, for example, led a march defying the ban on chanting of Bande Mataram and ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’. Joined by Surendranath Banerjee, Sri Aurobindo (then professor Arvind Ghose) and others, Rasul led the march which was eventually brutally broken up by the police. The struggle was not with what to chant or on what to desist from chanting, the struggle was rather for the right to worship and celebrate one’s mother country and to work for her well-being and prosperity in all freedom and liberty. It was the vision of the motherland that, for instance, repeatedly inspired Subramaniam Bharati to compose his revolutionary poems, which continue to inspire. It is only a sense of a shared civilisational space, an attachment to traditions and to those, who in the past, have struggled to preserve and pass these on to newer generations, which can bind oneself to the motherland.

One of the first things that Marxist historiography does is to try and dilute this felt emotion and connect to the space one has grown up into and a space that has been shaped by one’s ancestors, however far and remote. For the Communists, the ultra-leftists and jihadis—all of whom have struck an alliance today in the name of “azadi”—the idea of the mother-country is never sacrosanct; it is in fact non-existent. The one binding objective that links these regressive ideologies is to see an India that is fragmented, an India where an overweening national unity is non-existent and an India where each section struggles to oppress the other. In their attempt to give shape to such a rubric, they oppose and rant against any chant or action that re-affirms national unity and reiterates the vision of the motherland as a sacred entity.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi being welcomed at TCS Riyadh with chants of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, in a sense settled the issue, divorcing the debate from a denominational dimension. It is a chant that had inspired and continues to inspire generations of Indians regardless of their religious belief. No [diktat] or directive can dilute the appeal of that re-invigorating cry. Those who indulge in trying to mentally and physically limit its reach and power of galvanising minds and hearts are in fact indulging in a debate which has no intellectual moorings or foundation.

The motherland as a form for worship and propitiation is a thought that has propelled countless revolutionary nationalists to resist colonial domination and to absorb the excruciating pains of extreme torture and hardship. Hossein was thrown in prison, shackled and confined to a solitary cell. It is his memory and that of countless others like him that have essentially lent strength and shaped the aspiration of motherland worship. – The New Indian Express, 9 April 2016

» Dr Anirban Ganguly is Director, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, New Delhi. Follow him on Twitter @anirbanganguly.

Narendra Modi

Ambedkar was wrong about Hinduism and Hindu ideologues are wrong about Ambedkar – Jakob De Roover

Devendra Fadnavis

Jakob De RooverSuccumbing to a colonial orientalist discourse rooted in Christianity, Ambedkar pleads for the eradication of all characteristics that distinguish the Hindu traditions from this religion. … Consequently, no matter what they may write about Hindu unity and such like, Ambedkar and his followers are advocating one simple message: Indian culture deserves destruction. … Our cultures and our roots are all we have to save us from the loss of bearings that is overtaking the contemporary world. For India, the rediscovery of its cultural resources will be essential to its future survival. … If there is one piece of evidence that establishes the intellectual and ethical bankruptcy of India’s ideologues on all sides of the political spectrum, it must be their glorification of Ambedkar’s thought.” – Prof Dr Jakob De Roover

Arundhati RoyThe lionizing of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar is being taken to new heights today. From the Sangh Parivar to the secularist cabal, he is celebrated as a great thinker and visionary. We encounter the strangest of bedfellows here. Who would have thought that Arundhati Roy and Devendra Fadnavis would one day share glowing love declarations? The leftist ideologue tells us that “we need Ambedkar—now, urgently,” while the BJP politician calls him a great jurist and politician whose principles remain universal and relevant in the modern age. The Maharashtra Chief Minister adds deed to word by proudly unveiling a statue of Ambedkar at a Japanese university and proclaiming him “one of the world’s greatest Buddhist leaders.”

In the battle over Ambedkar’s ‘legacy’, all political parties seem to agree that his thought is integral to their message. The Communist Party of India (CPI) national secretary calls him a ‘colossus’ and says that, as history unfolds, the enduring relevance of his thoughts and theories and his role as “the founder of secularism in this country” are revealed. In Swarajya, columnist Aravindan Neelakandan portrays the same man as a giant of cultural nationalism and natural ally of the Hindutva movement.

Though rare, we know of cases where some leader from the recent past is glorified by people and parties on all sides of the political spectrum. However, it becomes a different matter when we move to the sphere of political, legal, and social thought. Here, some level of coherence is essential to the quality and integrity of thinking. How should we then understand the apparently boundless capacity of Ambedkar’s thought to find a place in just about all ideologies circulating in contemporary India?

There are many options. First, it could be the case that Ambedkar’s ‘thought’ has as little to do with thinking, as we understand that term, as ideology has to do with science. Anyone can appropriate mushy ideological stuff, if they are incapable of thinking. Second, as a corollary, it could be the case that his pronouncements lack coherence and integrity and can be appropriated by ideologues from right to left, from Hindu nationalist to staunch secularist.

Third, the absence of coherence and integrity could also be a property of the ideologizing by Indian academics and politicians. They share this uncanny ability to embrace Ambedkar’s ideas, because their own thought consists of an incoherent collection of bits and pieces held together by strong emotions rather than sound reasoning. The fourth option is obvious: all of the above are true. In that case, the wedding of Ambedkar to the contemporary ideologues would be a match made in heaven. Especially so, if it transpires that Ambedkar’s ‘thoughts’ cloak self-seeking, narrow, and base interests in a language that glorifies them.

Not willing to deny the right to matrimony to anyone (not even in this case of polygamy), I will argue that the last option is the case. Let me explain what I mean.

Basically, Ambedkar was selling scraps from a Western orientalist and colonial story concerning Indian culture as facts about the world, much like those other marginal merchants who buy crumbs from European dining tables at steeply discounted prices to resell these at marked-up prices in India. In the course of the nineteenth century, a dominant account about Hinduism and the caste system had crystallized in Western scholarship.

In its original Christian form, this revolved around a contrast between true and false religion: false religion is the invention of men seeking to satisfy their own worldly desires by invoking the name of God, whereas true religion is the genuine revelation of God to humanity. In contrast to the universal spiritual teachings of true religion, the priests of false religion impose a set of constricting rules and rites on the believers and thus keep them in control.

According to this Western Christian story, Indian culture was constituted by one such false religion, namely Hinduism: the Brahmin ‘priests’ imposed all kinds of rites and rules as sacred commandments; thus, they manipulated and oppressed the masses. The crowning piece of their deception, so it was said, was the caste system: an immoral social hierarchy sold as divine injunction.

Over the decades, this Protestant Christian account underwent a process of secularization: its teachings about false religion were transformed into common sense ideas about Hindu religion. The predicate ‘false’ was dropped but the basic story remained the same, from the textbooks of colonial education to the treatises of social scientists: (a) ‘Hinduism’ was the dominant ‘religion’ of Indian culture; (b) it was a flawed religion that did not present a message of equality to humanity, but instead provided stifling rules for specific groups of people; (c) the variety of jatis across India B. R. Ambedkarare so many expressions of an immoral hierarchy sanctioned by religion and held in place by a priesthood.

Both Western and Indian authors endorsed this as a factual description of Indian society. But this is where the rub comes: without the support of an entire cluster of Christian theological ideas about false religion, this account of Hinduism and caste could never make sense in the first place. Now listen to Ambedkar’s famous undelivered speech The Annihilation of Caste (1936), often considered the clearest formulation of his thought on the matter:

“The Hindus hold to the sacredness of the social order. Caste has a divine basis. You must therefore destroy the sacredness and divinity with which Caste has become invested.”

“What is called Religion by the Hindus is nothing but a multitude of commands and prohibitions. Religion, in the sense of spiritual principles, truly universal, applicable to all races, to all countries, to all times, is not to be found in them …”

“Caste is no doubt primarily the breath of the Hindus. But the Hindus have fouled the air all over and everybody is infected, Sikh, Muslim and Christian.”

“You must have courage to tell the Hindus, that what is wrong with them is their religion—the religion which has produced in them this notion of the sacredness of Caste. Will you show that courage?”

Elsewhere he writes:

“Inequality is the official doctrine of Brahminism and the suppression of the lower classes aspiring to equality has been looked upon by them and carried out by them without remorse as their bounden duty. … There is no social evil and no social wrong to which the Brahmin does not give his support.”

Ambedkar’s basic message was that (a) Indian society is dominated by an all-pervading religion named Hinduism, (b) this is a bad and wrong religion, which has no universal spiritual principles, (c) its evil Brahmin priests are responsible for inventing its multitude of commands and prohibitions, (d) the caste system has its sacred foundations in Hinduism, (e) this Hindu system prevents a true nation and society from coming into being in India. To annihilate caste, one would of course have to destroy its foundations—the religion that has produced it; consequently, the annihilation of caste entailed the annihilation of Hinduism.

This is what Ambedkar stood for. He echoed such utterances as though they constituted a rational and moral analysis of a culture; in reality, these were discarded scraps of an old Christian theology of false religion now presented as facts about the world. If our ‘colossus’ had even an inkling of the Protestant Christian framework which produced the judgements he reproduced, he could have spared himself the effort and summed up his harangue in one simple sentence: “Hinduism is false religion and it needs to disappear.”

What, then, can one say to the people who try to present Ambedkar as a great thinker and humanitarian visionary? Imagine a preacher in today’s world who insists that a particular religion is false and evil and needs to be wiped from the face of the earth. He would not be considered a paragon of humanitarian vision but a dangerous fanatic. Ambedkarites make an exception for Hinduism, which indeed needs to be wiped out according to them, but that is because they truly believe it is a false and evil religion. Their hatred is not only inspired by centuries of preaching Western Christian stories about India as God-given truth, but even more so by decades of emotional investment and vested interest. They are among the dangerous fanatics of today.

S. Aravindan NeelakandanBut what about the Hindutva ideologues who have joined the bandwagon? In his piece “Hindutva and Dr. Ambedkar” (Swarajya, 12 September 2015), Aravindan Neelakandan writes [from behind a paywall], that the academic activists in the West are responsible for reinventing Ambedkar as “the icon against the Indian State in general and Hinduism in particular;” the left in India merely embraced this “reinvented image.” According to him, the truth is that Ambedkar’s “life, work and philosophy were built on an Indic sensibility, a passionate desire for Hindu unity, and cultural nationalism.” This denial of truth in the name of truth is sickening.

Neelakandan’s thesis goes something like this: Ambedkar claims that all of India has a strong cultural unity, but this homogeneous unit was divided by caste. To become a nation, India has to find ‘spiritual unity’ and this is prevented by the Hindu caste system, which stands in the way of Hindu unity (sangathan). In Neelakandan’s own words:

“His vision of Hinduism is a united strong Hinduism—battle-ready and prepared to take on Abrahamic religions. To realize this vision, there is only one major crucial obstacle and that is caste. So it has to go, not only for Hinduism to survive but for it to prosper.”

Indeed, Ambedkar claimed that caste consciousness is the reason why neither the Hindus nor the Indians can be said to form a nation or a society. How sensible is this? If we leave aside the Protestant Christian conception of ‘the Hindu caste system,’ which is anything but scientific, we can make one simple observation: it is characteristic of Indian culture in general and the Hindu traditions in particular that they accommodate a tremendous variety of jatis and other groups, which follow their own traditions and have their own swamis, temples, and mathas (or similar such institutions).

People are part of the jati in which they are born; mostly, they continue the practices transmitted to them by their ancestors and taught to them by their parents; they go to their swamis for guidance and to their temples to do puja. Now, what is wrong with this?

Of course, there has been discrimination and conflict among members of these groups. But how does this prevent nationhood or national unity? In every nation under the sun, there was and is discrimination and conflict between groups that are not just social classes. In the United States, for instance, we see ethnic groups, linguistic groups, and religious denominations, which are discriminated from each other and have known conflict. In India, there are jatis. In America, apparently, the existence of such empirical groups and the undeniable discrimination among them do not prevent nationhood. How could caste (and caste discrimination) then prevent India from becoming a united nation?

Only one framework can make sense of this idea that members of a nation should all belong to one and the same community without discrimination: namely, the notion of the nation intrinsic to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Each of these religions claims that their believers are united as a community in God, where they relate to each other as equals: the chosen people of God for the Jews, the communitas or ecclesia for the Christians, and the ummah for the Muslims. As such, in these religions, all are equally part of the same community and this is what makes them a nation. Hence also, Christianity and Islam developed a typical condemnation of Hinduism: it does not create this kind of community and instead chops up the believers into a hierarchy of castes; this shows that it is a false divisive religion that denies the equality of believers before God.

This condemnation was reproduced in a ‘secular’ form not only by Western scholars, but also by colonized Indians like Ambedkar. Stripped of rhetoric, factoids, and anecdotes, his writings on caste say one thing over and over again: Hinduism is not (like) Christianity; it should become (like) Christianity. But this is what the missionaries and colonials had been saying all along. Inevitably, our supposed ‘fighter for Hindu unity’ also peddled the accompanying Western Christian moral judgements about the Hindus: they are anti-social, inhumane, and indifferent to others’ suffering; they are slaves of their religion and its priesthood; they have ‘fouled the air all over.’

In the name of taking on the so-called ‘Abrahamic religions’, then, Ambedkar and his acolytes are selling out to these religions. If Neelakandan is right about the natural alliance between Ambedkar and Hindutva, there is only one conclusion we can come to: Hindutva can be neither Hindu nor Indian. Succumbing to a colonial orientalist discourse rooted in Christianity, Ambedkar pleads for the eradication of all characteristics that distinguish the Hindu traditions from this religion. The other non-Christian and non-Muslim traditions of India—including the Buddhist traditions—also share most of these characteristics. Consequently, no matter what they may write about Hindu unity and such like, Ambedkar and his followers are advocating one simple message: Indian culture deserves destruction.

To promote the annihilation of a culture and its traditions without any understanding is one of the worst things one can do to humanity. Our cultures and our roots are all we have to save us from the loss of bearings that is overtaking the contemporary world. For India, the rediscovery of its cultural resources will be essential to its future survival.

Yet, instead of taking this seriously, the country is witness to the rising celebration of a ‘thinker’ whose ‘thought’ stands diametrically opposed to this endeavour. If there is one piece of evidence that establishes the intellectual and ethical bankruptcy of India’s ideologues on all sides of the political spectrum, it must be their glorification of Ambedkar’s thought. Does that make him into the ‘jewel of India’, the Bharat Ratna? – Swarajya, 30 September 2015

» Dr Jakob De Roover is a professor at the Department of Comparative Science of Cultures at Ghent University, Belgium. He is a member of an international research group that does research in the comparative study of Indian culture and Western culture.

B.R. Ambedkar statue at Ambedkar Park

The native Sahib vs the Hindu – Vamadeva Shastri

Sonia Gandhi and Congress MPs

David Frawley“India appears like a nation without nationalism or at least without any national pride or any real connection to its own history. Self-negativity and even a cultural self-hatred abound. The elite that dominates the universities, the media, the government and the business arenas is the illegitimate child of foreign interests and is often still controlled by foreign ideas and foreign resources. It cannot resist a bribe and there is much money from overseas to draw upon. Indian politicians do not hesitate to sell their country down the river and it does not require a high price.” — Pandit Vamadeva Shastri

Robert VadraA defeatist tendency exists in the psyche of modern Indians perhaps unparalleled in any other country today. An inner conflict bordering on a civil war rages in the minds of the country’s elite. The main effort of its cultural leaders appears to be to pull the country down or remake it in a foreign image, as if little Indian and certainly nothing Hindu was worthy of preserving or even reforming.

The elite of India suffers from a fundamental alienation from the traditions and culture of the land that would not be less poignant had they been born and raised in a hostile country. The ruling elite appears to be little more than a native incarnation of the old colonial rulers who haughtily lived in their separate cantonments, neither mingling with the people nor seeking to understand their customs. This new English-speaking aristocracy prides itself in being disconnected from the very soil and people that gave it birth.

There is probably no other country in the world where it has become a national pastime among its educated class to denigrate its own culture and history, however great that has been over the many millennia of its existence. When great archaeological discoveries of India’s past are found, for example, they are not a subject for national pride but are ridiculed as an exaggeration, if not an invention, as if they represent only the imagination of backward chauvinistic elements within the culture.

There is probably no other country where the majority religion, however enlightened, mystical or spiritual, is ridiculed, while minority religions, however fundamentalist or even militant, are doted upon. The majority religion and its institutions are taxed and regulated while minority religions receive tax benefits and have no regulation or even monitoring. While the majority religion is carefully monitored and limited as to what it can teach, minority religions can teach what they want, even if anti-national or backward in nature. Books are banned that offend minority religious sentiments but praised if they cast insults on majority beliefs.

There is probably no other country where regional, caste and family loyalties are more important than the national interest, even among those who claim to be democratic, socialist or caste reformers. Political parties exist not to promote a national agenda but to sustain one region or group of people in the country at the expense of the whole. Each group wants as big a piece of the national pie as it can get, not realizing that the advantages it gains mean deprivation for other groups. Yet when those who were previously deprived gain power, they too seek the same unequal advantages that causes further inequality and discontent.

India’s affirmative action code is by far the most extreme in the world, trying to raise up certain segments of the population regardless of merit, and prevent others from gaining positions however qualified they may be. In the guise of removing caste, a new castism has arisen where one’s caste is more important than one’s qualifications either in gaining entrance into a school or in finding a job when one graduates. Anti-Brahminism has often become the most virulent form of castist thinking. People view the government not as their own creation but as a welfare state from they should take the maximum personal benefit, regardless of the consequences for the country as a whole.

Sundar Pichai at Stanford (1994)Outside people need not pull Indians down. Indians are already quite busy keeping any of their people and the country as a whole from rising up. They would rather see their neighbours or the nation fail if they are not given the top position. It is only outside of India that Indians succeed, often remarkably well, because their native talents are not stifled by the dominant cultural self-negativity and rabid divisiveness that exists in the country today.

Political parties in India see gaining power as a means of amassing personal wealth and robbing the nation. Political leaders include gangsters, charlatans and buffoons who would stop short at nothing to gain power for themselves and their coteries. Even so-called modern or liberal parties resemble more the courts of kings, where personal loyalty is more important than any democratic participation. Once they gain power politicians routinely do little but cheat the people for their own advantage. Even honest politicians find that they cannot function without some deference to the more numerous corrupt leaders who often have a stranglehold on the bureaucracy.

Politicians divide the country into warring vote banks and place one community against another. They offer favours to communities like bribes to make sure that they are elected or stay in power. They campaign on slogans that appeal to community fears and suspicions rather than create any national consensus or harmony. They hold power based upon blame and hatred rather than on any positive programs for social change. They inflame the uneducated masses with propaganda rather than work to make people aware of real social problems like overpopulation, poor infrastructure or lack of education.

Should a decent government come to power, the opposition pursues pulling it down as its main goal, so that they can gain power for themselves. The idea of a constructive or supportive opposition is hard to find. The goal is to gain power for oneself and to not allow anyone else to succeed.

To further their ambitions Indian politicians will manipulate the foreign press to denigrate their opponents, even if it means spreading lies and rumors and making the country an anathema in the eyes of the outside world. Petty conflicts in India are blown out of proportion in the foreign media, not by foreign journalists but by Indians seeking to use the media to score points against their own opponents in the country. The Indians who are responsible for the news of India in the foreign press spread venom and distortion about their own country, perhaps better than any foreigner who dislikes the culture ever could.

The killing of one Christian missionary becomes a national media event of anti-Christian attacks while the murder of hundreds of Hindus is taken casually as without any real importance, as if only the deaths of white-skinned people mattered, not the slaughter of the natives. Missionary aggression is extolled as social upliftment, while Hindu efforts at self-defense against the conversion onslaught are portrayed as rabid fundamentalism. One Indian journalist even lamented that western armies would not come to India to chastise the political groups he was opposed to, as if he was still looking for the colonial powers to save him!

 Laloo Prasad Yadav & Mulayam Singh YadavLet us look at the type of leaders that India has had with its Laloo Prasad Yadav (ex CM Bihar), Mulayam Singh Yadav (ex CM UP) or Jayalalitaa to mention but a few. Such individuals are little more than warlords who surround themselves with sycophants. Modern Indian politicians appear more like colonial rulers looting their own country, following a divide and rule policy, to keep the people so weak that their power cannot be challenged. Corruption exists almost everywhere and bribery is the main way to do business in nearly all fields. India has an entrenched bureaucracy that resists change and stifles development, just out of sheer obstinacy and not wanting to give up any control.

The Congress Party, the oldest in this predominantly Hindu nation, has given its leadership to an Italian Catholic woman simply because as the widow of the last Gandhi prime minister, she carries the family torch, as if family loyalty were still the main basis of political credibility in the country. And such a leader and a party are deemed progressive!

The strange thing is that India is not a banana republic of recent vintage but one of the oldest and most venerable civilizations in the world. Its culture is not trumpeting a militant and fundamentalist religion trying to conquer the world for the one true faith but represents a vaster and more cosmic vision. India has given birth to the main religions that have dominated East Asia historically, the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh, which are noted for tolerance and spirituality.

It has produced Sanskrit, perhaps the world’s greatest language. It has given us the incredible spiritual systems of Yoga and its great traditions of meditation and Self-realization. As the world looks forward to a more universal model of spirituality and a world view defined by consciousness rather than by religious dogma these traditions are perhaps the most important legacy to draw upon for creating a future enlightened civilization.

Yet the irony is that rather than embracing its own great traditions, the modern Indian psyche prefers to slavishly imitate worn out trends in western intellectual thought like Marxism or even to write apologetics for Christian and Islamic missionary aggression. Though living in India, in proximity to temples, yogis and great festivals, most modern Indian intellectuals are oblivious to the soul of the land. They might as well be living in England or China for all they know of their own country. They are isolated in their own alien ideas as if in a tower of iron. If they choose to rediscover India it is more likely to occur by reading the books of western travelers visiting the country, than by their own direct experience of the people around them.

The dominant Indian intelligentsia cannot appreciate even the writings of the many great modern Indian sages, like Vivekananda or Aurobindo, who wrote in good English and understood the national psyche and how to revive. It is as if they were so successfully brainwashed against their own culture that they cannot even look at it, even if presented to them clearly in a modern light!

Kanchi Acharya Jayendra SaraswatiGiven such a twisted and self-negative national psyche, can there be any hope for the country? At the surface the situation looks quite dismal. India appears like a nation without nationalism or at least without any national pride or any real connection to its own history. Self-negativity and even a cultural self-hatred abound. The elite that dominates the universities, the media, the government and the business arenas is the illegitimate child of foreign interests and is often still controlled by foreign ideas and foreign resources. It cannot resist a bribe and there is much money from overseas to draw upon. Indian politicians do not hesitate to sell their country down the river and it does not require a high price.

Fortunately signs of a new awakening can be found. There is a new interest in the older traditions of the country and many people now visit temples and tirthas. Many young people now want to follow the older heritage of the land and revive it in the modern age. The computer revolution and the new science are reconnecting with the great intelligence of the Indian psyche that produced the unfathomable mantras of the Vedas.

Slowly but surely a new intelligentsia is arising and now several important journalists are writing and exposing the hypocrisy of the anti-Hindu Indian elite. Yet only if this trend grows rapidly can there be a real counter to the defeatist trend of the country. But it requires great effort, initiative and creativity, not simply lamenting over the past but envisioning a new future in harmony with the deeper aspirations of the region.

One must also not forget that the English-educated elite represents only about three percent of the country, however much power they wield. The remaining population is much more likely to preserve the older traditions of the land. Even illiterate villagers often know more of real Indian culture than do major Indian journalists and writers.

Meanwhile overseas Hindus have become successful, well-educated and affluent, not by abandoning their culture but by holding to it. They see Hindu culture not as a weakness but as a strength. Free of the Indian nation and its fragmented psyche, they can draw upon their cultural resources in a way that people born in India seldom can. Perhaps they can return to the country and become its new leaders.

However, first this strange alienated elite has to be removed and they will not do so without a fight. The sad thing is that they would probably rather destroy their own country than have it function apart from their control. The future of India looks like a Map of Bharatvarshanew Kurukshetra and it requires a similar miracle for victory. Such a war will be fought not on some outer battlefield but in the hearts and minds of people, in where they choose to draw their inspiration and find their connection with life.

Yet regardless of outer appearances, the inner soul of the land cannot be put down so easily. It has been nourished by many centuries of tapas by great yogis and sages. This soul of Bharat Mata will rise up again through Kali (destruction) to Durga (strength). The question is how long and difficult the process must be. – Hindu Human Rights, 2 September 2013

» Pandit Vamadeva Shastri (David Frawley) is a guru in the Vedic tradition. In India, Vamadeva is recognized as a Vedacharya (Vedic teacher), and includes in his scope of studies Ayurveda, Yoga, Vedanta and Vedic astrology, as well as the ancient Vedic teachings going back to the oldest Rigveda. His website is here.

Congress secretary Rahul Gandhi parties after Mumbai attack in 2008.

India’s first anti-colonialist uprising predates Mangal Pandey’s by 274 years? – Mayabhushan Nagvenkar

Festival of Sontreo (Procession of Umbrellas) at Cuncolim

Mayabhushan Nagvenkar“Congress Rajya Sabha MP Shantaram Naik, who has been a part of the campaign to put the Cuncolim revolt as the first landmark on the map of India’s nationalist history, said he was confident eventually the central government would formally acknowledge the event as India’s first recorded revolt against a European power.” – Mayabhushan Nagvenkar

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mangal_PandeyConventional wisdom has it that lowly-ranked sepoy Mangal Pandey became the catalyst for India’s first uprising against Western rule in 1857 after he revolted against the alleged use of cattle and pig lard smeared on bullet cartridges used in Enfield rifles issued by the East India Company.

But here’s what you perhaps do not know. 

Jesuits at Akbar's courtA sustained campaign is on to haul back the date of India’s first rebellion against Western colonialism by a good 274 years—from Barrackpore in eastern India to what is now Goa.

The campaign, which is endorsed by historians, freedom fighters, elected representatives and local residents, wants the central government to officially endorse as the first real rebellion the prolonged, defiant struggle of five south Goa villages—Cuncolim, Ambelim, Assolna, Veroda and Velim—against the Portuguese colonists which saw bloodshed and non-payment of taxes.

“The residents of the five villages, led by Cuncolim, had, beginning from 1583, defied Portuguese taxes after Christian missionaries destroyed five temples in the area to bring the villagers into submission and also killed over a dozen of our chieftains,” Oscar Martins, who traces his lineage to one of the slain chieftains, told IANS.

Many of the claims made by Martins find echo in Church records and historical accounts of the time.

The struggle, in which several lives were lost, dates back to 16th century when early Christian missionaries along with their Portuguese armed escorts tried to convert the residents of these five villages to Christianity.

Jesuit priests killed at CuncolimWhen the attempts largely failed, the missionaries destroyed nearby temples, which enraged the villagers, resulting in the massacre of some priests including Fr. Rodolfo Acquaviva—an Italian Jesuit who had also held position at Emperor Akbar’s court and has since been beatified—and their colleagues on July 15, 1583.

In retaliation, the colonists proposed a parley, which ended in yet another bloodbath.

“Sixteen chieftains from Cuncolim were called for a truce to (nearby) Assolna fort. They were ambushed and shot to death by the Portuguese soldiers as retaliation. One of the chieftains managed to escape and tell the story,” said Martins, who now heads the Cuncolim Chieftain Memorial Trust.

After the bloody feud, the five villages stopped paying taxes to the Portuguese rulers for eight years from 1583—centuries before Mahatma Gandhi started his “no tax” campaign against British colonists.

Congress Rajya Sabha MP Shantaram Naik, who has been a part of the campaign to put the Cuncolim revolt as the first landmark on the map of India’s nationalist history, said he was confident eventually the central government would formally acknowledge the event as India’s first recorded revolt against a European power.

Shantaram Naik“For that, the state government will first have to include this incident in our history books to convey Goa’s formal recognition of the event. We also need to give the central government rigorously researched material to back our claim. We are confident that the  will get its place in history that it richly deserves,” Naik told IANS.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led ruling coalition had promised three years ago to appoint a committee to study the matter for the Cuncolim revolt to be included in school books, but Martins claimed it would need persistent lobbying and reminding because history “cannot be hidden for a long time even if the government neglects it”.

The Trust has engaged a documentary maker to produce a historical film on the subject. “We did not want to wait for the government to take a decision. We do not want to lose time in giving the Cuncolim revolt its rightful place in history,” Martins said. – The News Minute, 19 July 2015

» Mayabhushan Nagvenkar is a journalist in the Panaji area of Goa who writes for various media. He can be contacted at mayabhushan.n@ians.in

Our Lady of Health Church in Cuncolim

Excavations show Harappan civilisation died as Saraswati dried up – Utpal Kumar

Saraswati River

Rakhigarhi resident looks over ancient siteRakhigarhi, or Rakhi Garhi (Hindi: राखीगढ़ी; Rakhi Shahpur + Rakhi Khas), is a village in Hisar District in the state of Haryana in India, situated in the north-west about 150 kilometers from Delhi. In 1963, archaeologists discovered that this place was the site of the largest known city of the Indus-Sarasvati civilization, much larger and ancient than Harappa and Mohenjodaro sites. It is situated on the dry bed of the Sarasvati river, which is believed to have once flown through this place and dried up by 2000 BC. According to the archaeologists, Rakhigarhi is an ideal nucleus from where the Harappan civilisation began in the Ghaggar basin in Haryana and gradually grew from here and slowly expanded to the Indus valley.” – Wikipedia

Priest-King of Indus CivilisationThe Indus Valley civilisation, popularly known as Harappan civilisation, has been a puzzle for several decades now. But with the ongoing excavation in Rakhigarhi, history is on the verge of being rewritten.

“After Rakhigarhi, we can say that the Harappan civilisation was at least 1,000 years older than earlier thought. 

“And contrary to our long-held, conventional understanding, it first emerged in the east and then moved west, originating as it did in the heart of the Ghaggar-Hakra basin, regarded by many as the place where the Saraswati once flowed,” says Vasant Shinde, vice-chancellor of Deccan College who heads the team of archeologists — the largest Harappan site overtaking Mohenjo-daro in Pakistan’s Sind province. 

What’s going to ruffle quite a few feathers, is Harappa’s supposed Saraswati connection, especially the way the drying up of one probably led to the decline of the other. 

Prof Vasant ShindeRewriting history 

Shinde says that prior to his excavation it was believed that Rakhigarhi had all the three phases of the Harappan culture – ‘Early’, ‘Mature’ and ‘Late’. 

“Our work proves that this place doesn’t have the Late Harappan phase. It collapsed around 2000 BC,” says he, adding: “I believe Rakhigarhi’s sudden demise can be explained with the drying up of the Saraswati in 2000 BC.” 

Amarendra NathShinde’s claim is supported by Amarendra Nath, former ASI archaeology director who had carried out an excavation in Rakhigarhi between 1997 and 2000

“The ASI has so far discovered over 2,000 Harappan sites spread over Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat. 

“Of these, about 1,400 can be located in the Saraswati belt alone, while the Indus belt doesn’t have more than 300-400 sites,” he says, adding: “We, in the ASI, had reached this conclusion long back. It’s just that this information is coming out now.” 

But not everyone is impressed. A Delhi University professor, wishing to remain anonymous, thinks this entire saga can only be analysed through the politico-ideological prism, rather than the academic. 

“For me, Saraswati is a mythical river and nothing more. It’s not a mere coincidence that all these things are coming up soon after the BJP came to power. 

“It’s an attempt to rewrite the history, the Aryan history,” says he. 

Shinde seems circumspect on the Aryan migration issue

“It’s for historians to decide. But as an archeologist, I can say with confidence that for at least 7,000 years, there has been no migration into this region. 

“You go to the village today, and you will feel you are walking through the same, old Harappan civilisation thriving 5,000 years ago. The style of pottery is similar. So are the food habits,” he says. 

Prof Irfan HabibNath is more direct. 

“There will always be a set of historians who will continue to deny the existence of the Saraswati — to meet their ideological and personal requirements. 

“They can afford to do that as history can be interpretational. (But) Not archaeology, which is based on solid evidences and facts. 

“And evidences for long have been supporting the existence of the Saraswati in the region. Satellite imageries have proved beyond doubt the existence of a ‘mighty’ river drying up 4,000 years ago,” Nath says. 

Michel DaninoMichel Danino, author of The Lost River: On the Trail of the Sarasvati, reminds us of the dilemma . 

“If we accept the Vedic hymns’ description of a river flowing from the mountain to the sea and located between the Yamuna and Sutlej, the Ghaggar remains the sole candidate. 

“But as we now know, this description can only apply to the third millennium BCE or earlier, an epoch that does not fit with the conventional scenario of a second millennium Aryan migration into India,” says the French author. Nath has a solution to bridge this ‘historical’ divide. 

“Why don’t the historians objecting to our claims set up their own body of archeologists and excavate these sites? Facts don’t change with the change of experts. 

“Sadly, they won’t come up with such initiatives,” he says. 

Neelesh Jadhao, co-director of the excavation, is excited that Korean forensic experts would conduct DNA tests on the excavated skeletons

“This time we have ensured skeletons don’t get contaminated. We would know for the first time what the Harappans looked like, what they ate, what was the colour of their skin or hair, etc. It will add a new perspective to the Harappan study,” says he. – Mail Online India, 22 May 2015

Archaeologists and scientists of Deccan College, Pune, examining a full-length skeleton of a male excavated from a Harappan burial site in Rakhigarhi in March. Photo: Deccan College, Pune

Rakhigarhi Graphic

Rakhigarhi Dig Siteplan

Sindhu Saraswati Civilization

Hedgewar’s actions hold future lessons – Rakesh Sinha

Prof Rakesh Sinha“Nation-building cannot be accomplished by manifestoes or speeches. It demands sacrifice and realisation of the responsibility of living and dying for a larger cause. It is this widening of the self that is known as ‘character-building’ in RSS shakhas. Hankering for power and using larger causes for self-aggrandisement hardly serves any purpose.” – Prof Rakesh Sinha

 Keshav Baliram HedgewarNetaji Subhas Chandra Bose visited RSS founder Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar on June 20, 1940 to solicit his support to re-polarise anti-imperialist forces. Unfortunately, conversation didn’t happen as Hedgewar was on his deathbed—he passed away the next morning. This fact unravels many things that history textbooks have selectively omitted. The reason isn’t complex. Most textbook writers, steeped in communist ideology and hatred for RSS, have made history textbooks uninspiring, boring, ridden with selective facts and manipulated ideas and events.

Had Hedgewar lived on, Bose might not have gone to Germany and Japan to seek an alliance against British imperialism. Three decades later, Jayaprakash Narayan sought RSS support to fight Indira Gandhi’s naked authoritarianism. Notably, both Bose and JP came from the Congress Socialist Party, sharing similar political moorings.

The British weren’t unaware of the Sangh’s hidden agenda behind its military training, camps and indoctrination of young minds. Their military intelligence’s first report on RSS in 1930 stated that “RSS has the potential to become a terrorist organisation”. The immediate objective of RSS was liberation of the country. This was endorsed in a different way two years later when Hedgewar along with hundreds of swayamsevaks joined the Civil Disobedience Movement. This led the intelligence to blame Hedgewar for reviving the dying movement in Central Provinces and Berar.

Hedgewar’s actions were an exposition of the definition of nationalism that need to be part of history textbooks. For him, nationalism excluded any compromise with imperialism for personal or circumstantial reasons. It had to be pure-spirited, with Bal Gangadhar Tilaksacrifice, if needed. Nationalism was his philosophy of action. By 1920, Hedgewar emerged as a young radical inside the Congress. During its 1920 Nagpur session, he opposed Vijayaraghavachariar’s candidature for presidency because of the latter’s presence at the Governor of Madras’ tea party, even as the nation mourned the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Hedgewar’s puritanism challenged politics based on elitism and convenience. Earlier, during WWI, when the British enticed nationalists to cooperate in their war effort, Hedgewar, himself a follower of Lokmanya Tilak, broke ranks with senior leaders, including Dr B. S. Moonje, long considered his mentor. Hedgewar’s views split the Rashtriya Mandal, an organisation of Tilakites; he formed Nagpur National Union which opposed mobilisation for the war. His slogan was ‘Revolution, not Cooperation’. It was this nationalism that led him to form the RSS. He found two maladies to be the bane of Indian life—individualism and conscious amnesia of our civilisational role. Thus, while showing solidarity with the Congress, he widened the horizon of nationalism from anti-imperialism as its beginning to cultural nationalism. The RSS bore the responsibility of resurrecting civilisational values of nationalism.

These core issues have been missing from any discussion on the RSS, particularly among its critics who view it as a power-centric organisation with majoritarian perspective. Hedgewar believed that only cultural nationalism can generate peacetime nationalism and restore the importance of Bharatvarsha.

India MapNation-building cannot be accomplished by manifestoes or speeches. It demands sacrifice and realisation of the responsibility of living and dying for a larger cause. It is this widening of the self that is known as ‘character-building’ in RSS shakhas. Hankering for power and using larger causes for self-aggrandisement hardly serves any purpose. Mahratta, an English daily, in its editorial on June 28, 1940, aptly defined Hedgewar’s personality: “We use the word ‘selflessness’. Dr Hedgewar’s career gives it a reality which few have realized…. Dr Hedgewar was the prophet of Hindu Rashtra. He was no mere dreamer engrossed in flights of imagination, but a man of action who knew how to build lofty structures with human material.”

Hedgewar’s vision and action is not merely a thing of past, but holds exciting possibilities for the present and future. That is why while others’ shadows are shrinking, Hedgewar’s imprint is increasing by the day. The Mahratta’s title of page one news “Dr Hedgewar’s Sangh Still Going Strong” on June 28, 1940, transcends the limit of title. His 125th birth anniversary is the apt occasion to correct the discourse. – The New Indian Express, 23 MArch 2015

» Prof Rakesh Sinha is Hony Director of India Policy Foundation. Email rakeshsinha46@gmail.com

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