INDIAN SECULARISM: a Sham
Seshachalam Dutta, Ph.D.
Edited and modified by Shree Vinekar
ARE THERE SOLUTIONS FOR CASTE BASED INEQUALITIES?
IS CASTE BASED AFFIRMATIVE ACTION A SOLUTION TO CASTE-ISM?
An attempt is made to answer these questions in this article. It should be understood that this article takes a cross sectional view of the current social, economic, and political activities as they impact the caste based structure of the Hindu society in particular and other Indians in general. While taking a bird's eye view of caste like groupings in other religious groups in India that are also not free from similar stratification, the author recognizes that the caste mentality is ubiquitous in India regardless of the religious divides. After all the "other groups," though they may delude themselves into thinking that they have originated from other biological and cultural lineage, have inescapable hold on them of the deep rooted psychology of their parent society and its customs and social practices. Caste-ism dies hard in India and certainly exists "un-named and poorly identified" in all other societies of the world.
CASTE BASED RESERVATIONS:
How did we get to this stage? Are we all Indians not simply a conglomerate of the castes as reflected in The British India Government published census in 1931, listing all the castes in India? According to that census, among Hindus, forward classes constituted about 17% and the Scheduled castes (SC) (Dalits) 16% and Scheduled tribes (ST) about 7% and there were other forward classes mostly landed gentry and nearly 3000 backward classes constituting the rest. Initially the fight for power and privilege was limited to the feudal forward classes and Brahmins in South India. The scheduled classes were economically weak, culturally deprived, and had no voice, despite active communist movement in India. The leadership was in the hands of forward classes. Before the British census (and even long after) the caste was a self certification and it continues to be one. Each group was proud of their heritage and had no reason to cross into another group even though there was no administrative or religious sanction against such miscegenation. In fact, most educated people from the families of backward classes as they acquired higher education and advanced, abandoned their backward caste title -and rightly so- adopted more forward class titles. The present reservation policy curiously tends to reverse this course. It is illegal to call a person from cobbler community a Chamar, as decided by the Supreme Court, but ironically one has to identity oneself a Chamar to get the benefit of reservation.
A serious analysis of caste problems in India was highlighted by Justice Markandey Katju of Supreme Court of India. Writing in Hindu, he believes, Caste is disappearing with education and urbanization of Indian youth, although, the facts presented by him do not justify his honest and heartfelt hope. He cites, in the article, the increase of caste consideration in vote bank politics, after all blood is thicker than all else –not to mention ideology. Voting in Bar Associations India, according to Katju, is influenced by caste; he could not mention about Bench, after all it is not far from bar. The media have tried to explode this myth that caste determines the voter's choice on the national scene. However, what is evident in the professional organizations is obvious, and therefore, one can extrapolate that when the caste is known either by the "name" of the candidate or by the selection process of the candidates, voting along the caste lines is naturally the course for the par.
We may add to this list certain academic Departments in Andhra, for instance, which were either completely or predominantly manned by the Brahmins (Mathematics and Physics). Some were predominantly Non-Brahmin (Geology, zoology]. In Tamilnadu Vivekananda College supported by Ramakrishna Mission has been accused of being predominantly Brahmin, whereas Patchiappa college was predominantly Non-Brahmin.
Many groups are demanding reclassification as backward classes for getting reservations and at times submit fake certificates. Katju traces the origin of various castes becoming land owners or farmers having lost their professions with the advent of British Colonialism. British are blamed for concretizing the caste; the present Governments of India have further institutionalized it by the reservation system which no longer allows movement from one caste to another, for in doing so would result in loss of Reservation privileges.
Justice Katju’s optimism that education and urbanization will eliminate caste is unfortunately unfounded. Education and even immigration to the West would not eliminate caste. Prime examples are immigrants from Andhra to the U.S.A. Most of the Immigrants from Andhra came to the U.S in early 1960's and 70's. Most of them, as is true with feudal classes, subscribe to Congress Ideology, Nehruvism, and phony "socialism" and so called "secularism" in their expressed beliefs, but are in reality unashamedly cast communal.
Early immigrants to U.S from Andhra were predominantly from two feudal communities, Reddys and Kamma Naidus, since they had the means and, most importantly, political influence to get into much coveted professional education like Medicine and Engineering before the days of Caste based reservations. They formed Telugu Association called TANA in 1960s dominated by Kamma Naidus. A few years later the two Castes fell out with each other and the Reddys formed a rival organization, ATA dominated by the Reddys. To preserve the caste, they had set up matrimonial bureaus for arranged marriages, annual youth retreats to facilitate matchmaking and courting or selection of partners from the same castes and a journal of each group. Despite these exertions, the practice of endogamy within the caste fell apart for true reasons. For one, the caste as tribal concept is so fragile, devoid of any substance, and could not withstand the dynamism of Western culture. The first generations found it too restrictive, depriving the wider choice of a mate. And secondly, Indians for the most part are color conscious preferring light skinned partners and naturally the lightest are the White people. The story of Indian marrying a black as in Mississippi Masala is only a fiction. While Blacks keep their culture with the slogan of black pride “Black is beautiful,” there is no such idea as “Brown is beautiful” among the Indians. These organizations could not think in terms of broader based religion (Dharma) or culture, for they are mostly politically affiliated with Indian Congress and its false ideology and indoctrination of so called secularism and hence they fought vehemently movements like VHP and other Hindu Nationalist organizations, which were trying to broaden the base of Hindu community. Some of them who are interested in Hinduism, are supporters of temples which are unattractively orthodox, at times cult like, resistant to reform and fail to interest young people. Thus the caste system of immigrants will predictably perish over a time, accompanied by the disintegration of their cultural identity as Hindus. Extensive acculturation of first generation Hindus has already occurred.
ESCAPE OF CASTEI-SM BY CONVERSION:
Does conversion to Christianity help? No!
History tells us that religious conversion does not offer protection from discrimination as converted Jews even after three generations were massacred by Nazis. The plight of the African Americans or the Native Americans converted to Christianity did not improve by virtue of their conversion alone.
Andhra had three converted Christian Chief Ministers, but they all carried the title of Reddy, a predominant social class title. They would not abandon the caste title or intermarry or carry their Christian first names. More than 70% of the Christians are converted from Dalits and mostly from former untouchable classes. After 60 years of preferential treatment through reservation in education and Government employment their lot did not significantly improve. The higher caste converts would still discriminate against them and there is no homogeneity in the converted Christian groups. In short there is no Christian Brotherhood. Christians from Kerala are high caste converts and would not marry other Christians whom they considered lower class. Thus only benefit of conversion, “brotherhood in faith” is denied to these miserable lower caste people who tried to escape from the age old social segregation. Thirty percent of high caste Christians control 90% of the religious endowments in India.
We would discuss briefly here the Muslim Brotherhood and explore the Muslim heterogeneity among the converted. Apart from real theological differences among Muslims like Sunni and Shia, caste differences have been retained by consanguinity and discrimination persists among the Indian (and also Pakistani and Bangladeshi) Muslims. People of Turkish, Arab and Persian origin are considered as of superior birth and are called Ashrafs whereas the Hindu converts, mainly from skilled professions like weavers, potters, barbers are Ajilfs. Not only there is no intermarriage among these two groups, the Ajilfs were called by Ziaudin Barani pejoratively as “low born bazaar people, base, mean, worthless, plebeian, shameless and of dirty birth.” Barani advises Sultan Tughlak, “They should not be given any education other than just enough of the rules of prayer, fasting along with some chapter of Quran. Otherwise, it is like thrusting precious stone into the throat of a dog and putting a collar of gold on a pig.” Recently the Ulema (Muslim religious council) had to confront this issue of accepting converted Muslims as equals, when they planned conversion in Tamilnad, which is making it difficult to advance their plans, not that there is any great resistance by the Hindus. Of course, there are Arzals who are untouchables among the Muslims.
While the caste-ism among Christians and Muslims is the problem of enthusiastic converts and their leaders to solve, it is no consolation for Hindus; we are for the moment concerned with disintegration of Hindu society. Closer to the heart of the Hindus is the religion of Sikhs, which was a great reformation of Hinduism like Jainism and Buddhism... Hindus who became Sikhs retain their caste alliance. For an example Jat Sikh would marry Jat Hindu rather than Aurora Sikh. Caste supersedes religion.
Arguments against Caste based reservations:
Various commissions launched by the government have recommended reservations in government jobs and educational (mainly professional) institutions and their recommendations be implemented by the States. There are vigorous arguments advanced on both sides of reservation issue. The opponents of reservations argue that reservations should be based on the income alone or the level poverty, and not be based on the caste. Caste based reservations lead to reverse discrimination, which indeed has happened in many states, especially in South India and in Tamilnadu in particular. Unfortunately this does not correct the long standing segregation and the complex factors of what social scientists call “culture of poverty” that would keep the oppressed (Dalits) from being elevated into upper classes, as we have seen after sixty years.
Centuries of discrimination and social segregation caused the untouchable to be deprived both culturally and economically, not to mention educationally. Even if economically the group makes some advances, cultural deprivation would hold them back. Consider the example of a Dalit student whose father earns enough to be on par with more forward classes economically, but he is a drunk who comes home and beats his wife every night, or tells his son to take the cow to the pasture for the day and skip the school. Cultural deprivation denies the boy association of motivated peers and his parental expectation and family role models may be less encouraging for motivating him in the educational ventures. The young man is indeed culturally deprived regardless of his economic standing. Unless the Dalits are fully integrated socially, it may be argued that economic recovery becomes impossible for them. Economic uplifting, however, does not guarantee assimilation in the higher castes nor cultural advancement. Culture sets the foundation of success. Thus the cultured poor when given the opportunity seem to gather momentum than the culturally deprived rich. The Western education with a strong liberal educational emphasis and all round development in the educational institution and adopting a more refined English language adopted to be spoken at home and also in the public is an equalizing process in the English speaking world but still color and ethnicity interfere with integration in the "higher" society except for the exceptionally talented. At one time Nadars of Tamilnad were devastate and became poor after the dominance of Nayaks, but revived their status in a few years. Therefore, it must be argued that the support for the Dalits (suppressed castes) has to be continued indefinitely until they recover both economically and culturally. Indian constitution provided support through reservations initially for ten years, but after sixty years, there is no measurable improvement in this group. All things being equal there should not be any reservations: but since all things are not equal, reservations are justified.
Leaving aside the feudal Castes, there are various degrees of backwardness, not quite uniform and difficult to categorize. Before the advent of British, it was said that 30-40% people were in skilled professions. For instance, the weavers were of good economic standing and the colonial Government destroyed their profession forcing them to take to farming. Thus various groups became economically poor and showed differing degrees of cultural backwardness discriminating against each other’s caste and sub-caste. The case is well made that they are not well ahead of the Dalits and they too need help through reservations. Sachar commission categorized as backward castes comprising of 54% of the population and listed some 3000 of such “backward castes.” This group in India who form the majority of the Hindus as well as the majority of the Indians poses the challenge to the present political system.
MOVEMENT ACROSS THE CASTE LINES:
Movement across the caste lines occurred among the other backward classes, who were mainly small farmers, who became farmers by loss of professions, barbers, iron smiths, and other home grown industries which were estimated to account for 40% of the population before the advent of British Colonialism. More recently as the middle class got educated and economically advanced, the old caste identification was abandoned as men from lower socio-economic Communities changed their identity. The reverse is true with Gujarati Immigrants to African continent. Many sub-castes have coalesced and a few, erstwhile prosperous groups as Naidus in Andhra upscaled themselves by acquiring new caste titles like Chowdhary, a phenomenon previously unknown in Andhra. For example the Central government Minister Renuka Choudhary is a former Naidu, never mind the grammar; she should be Chowdharani to be grammatically correct!!
The “other backward communities” (OBC), since liberalization of the economy, have made significant economic advances and, especially, in urban areas have acquired middle class status, leading to considerable independence from the traditional landed aristocracy. Indira Gandhi attributed the growth of BJP for this middle class development. Regardless of the accuracy of her analysis, it is a fact that the traditional establishment is losing grip over the country. Kansi Ram in UP organized coalition of Dalits and OBCs and thus defeated Congress. Congress which relied on Muslim vote bank came short. The OBCs which never had political clout have surfaced to challenge the establishment. The Maoist leadership in Andhra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh comes from this group. There is considerable cross over among the castes in this group, since there is nothing gained by identifying with their original caste. Many of the other backward classes have converted to some denominations of Christianity. Mulayam Yadav and Mayavathi recently traveled outside their native State to promote such a coalition of OBC’s and Dalits. These developments are alarming, posing a threat to National security. This statement does not need elaboration here. Many are converted by political design to Buddhism (Navabuddhas - New Buddhists) who can be easily converted subsequently en mass to Christianity. These groups seek political opportunism, luring Muslims and Maoists to join them. In UP Mayavathi was successful in courting even discriminated Brahmins to join her.
The strategy of these coalitions is to divide the OBC and Dalit groups among themselves. In Andhra, for example the Chief Minister Rajasekhar Reddy (Christian Reddy) promised one group of Dalits (Chamars) Madiga to reclassify them in order to get them better share of reservation which sets them against another untouchable group Mala. Traditionally each caste, even the backward castes, looked down upon the next lower with disdain if not in contempt; for instance cat eaters are superior to rat eaters, crab eaters are superior to frog eaters and of course vegetarians are the uppermost and all non-vegetarian Hindus of all castes are covertly considered of lower caste status regardless of their higher socio-economic class. The Hindu narcissism is peculiarly focused on what they eat. The non-vegetarians even among the organizations driven to unite the Hindu community are secretly looked down upon and vegetarians openly and covertly take pride in their unspoken higher status. It is easy to divide the people politically when they are lacking in educational sophistication and are divided on the basis of silly dividing factors that don't amount to any ethnic, biologic, or even cultural differences. These minor differences amounted to what they eat or what they wear or where they hail from or what minor differences are there in the dialect they speak, until many groups acquire new identity with higher education and independent employment. There is no need to identify one with blighted caste as for example that of Devadasis (artisans or temple girls) or Chamars. There was an instance of someone addressing a person as Chamar and the case went all the way to Supreme Court and it was decided objectionable to address one as a Chamar (shoe maker). Strangely one has to call oneself a Chamar to get the benefit of reservation! The same will apply to those who belong to the caste of Devadasis. Thus reservations become anti-progressive and fossilize the caste divisions. In what country would a son or a descendant of a prostitute required to officially and repeatedly declare his "socially" looked down upon identity and genealogy publicly to gain government favors?
Vote Bank Reservations and Muslims:
In order to garner sectarian support, the secular advocates promote reservations based on the minority status for Muslims. They cannot be called backward because of the distribution of wealth falls along the same range among them as among the Hindus, except none are comparable to Dalits. Besides, Muslims are the former rulers of some parts of India and ruled India (Hindus) for over six hundred years. The narcissism of the ruling Muslims was significantly mitigated by the Maratha empire but the British even further demoted them as a class. The "lower class" Muslims are not created by the Hindu majority as is widely publicized. There have been other factors causing their backwardness like in many other Muslim countries but it is not the topic of discussion in this article. No Muslim would accept that he is culturally backward, although many indeed are by all standards, as my long time Muslim friend used to say that his people are better than Brahmins because they eat with a spoon and a Brahmin eats dipping his fingers into rice. Who are the “minorities” in India any way? A Brahmin in Tamilnad is in minority, so also in Karnataka and Kerala. Since there is nothing as Hindu to be counted as a single unified group even for the national census since the time of the British and the definition of Hindu by the British was based upon the elimination criteria, Hindus being divided by the British on warring caste lines, taken singly any Hindu caste obviously and admittedly becomes technically a minority. In this regards a Muslim can be in fact an effective majority in many places and even in India can be seen as 150 million strong though flaunting as a "minority" demanding even privileges that hard to come by indeed for many "Hindu minorities" because Hindus are deeply divided with caste lines. This is the real basis for courting the Muslims in vote bank politics as divined by the crafty politicians who are the wolves in the sheep skin. If and when Hindus assume the super ordinate identity as Hindus that supersedes the caste identity, however, they may have a voice in the governance as "Hindu constituency" which the Hindu leaders lack. Hindus will have a similar situation like the Indian Mulsims and Hindus then will matter as a "vote bank" for the politicians who know now that Hindus don’t mean anything in the election politics, only the castes have the power to help them elect. So the Hindu politicians like those of BJP leanings have a great difficulty uniting Hindus across the caste lines to support them with sufficient majority. Even the BJP seems to be loosing its steam on the Hindu agenda under these circumstanes. There is no use crying over the spilt milk as Hindus too had sixty years to bring their house into order and they have failed miserably. Therefore, it is tempting for the BJP leaders also to use the power house of the castes politics to win the elections. Besides, it is high time that the BJP realize that it actually represents a conglomerate of minorities smaller than the Muslim minority and not the 80% "majority" as the BJP leaders are deluded into believing. Neither is their political performance over the last fifteen years prove that they (the BJP leaders) are truly protecting the interest of the Hindus and they have been viewed as letting the Hindus down when the moment of truth arrives as for example not empathizing with Varun Gandhi and looking into what he was retorting about and what was the situation of injustice and atrocities in his constituency he was reacting to. Instead, the BJP leaders felt he needed to be vociferously corrected with moralistic preaching or they felt they needed to focus on the lack of freedom of speech or criticize their own for being too mouthy.
To suggest that anyone can provide a simple solution for the caste problems, which had eluded the best of the Hindu brains, is preposterous. It is only by the serious, dedicated, and combined efforts of leadership, social, religious and political that a true strategy to end the dominance of casteism in the Indian society can be formulated. Even then implementing it in reality will present a great challenge. There is a great inertia in the Hindu and Indian society to emerge out of the caste classification of people regardless of the religion they practice in India.
Patriotic people like Communist P. Sundaraih (Secretary of Communist party of India) never used his Caste title Reddy. They should not only abandon the use of caste titles, but actively insist on not naming their children with such titles. Caste based reservations for all castes should be eliminated. An attempt should be made to forge a new identity for Hindus as Hindus based on Hindu Nationalism otherwise called Hindutva; if the phrase is shopworn they may use another term.
It is clear by now that there are stong arguments in favor of reservation and these are matched by equally strong arguments against the caste based reservations. The compromise may be to adopt the reservation policy based purely on socio-economic class and actual economic status of the students.
HINDUTVA OR HINDU NATIONALISM VS CASTE SECULARISM
Hindutva focusing on the Hindu majority is dubbed as “communalism” by the secularists who are indeed the caste communalists that are also focused on the minorities. Hindutva is recognized all over the world, even by those who resent it, as Hindu Nationalism, albeit conservative or extreme. Cultural Nationalism is not new. The Jewish movement of Zionism united all Jews from different parts of Europe. Those countries that support Israel are in effect supporting cultural nationalism. Alarmed at the demographic assault on American soil, the debate is raging on the limits of multiculturalism, demanding that the multiculturalism can be allowed only so far and no further and the country should be Judeo-Christian centered. This has come to be main focus by recent demands by Muslim Jihadists in England and France to force the state to recognize their cultural distinction in schools and public places and finally even demanding the rule of Sharia for themselves and later for others too!! The Muslim cultural nationalism is demanding its place in many Western and Eastern coountries. However, the Hindu cultural nationalism has no place in its own home land. It is regrettable that the secular caste communalists seek to equate Hindu nationalist leaders with Christian (Christists) proselytizing evangelists and Jihadists. It is a shameful assault on Hinduism if it is called Fundamentalism; the only religion which is not fundamental, since there is not a single scripture or single religious head defining anything fundamental for the Hindus. That Jesus is the only savior and only through him you go to heaven or else you burn in eternal hell is a prime example of fundamentalism. Do they want to equate Hinduism with this or with Jehadi concept that Mohammad is the final messenger of God and every word he uttered came from God which should not be even translated independently. Then if one does translate or transliterate the word of Mohammad one can be beheaded and that women be kept under veil and can be stoned to death for violating Sharia? That is what is meant by fundamentalism. Hinduism which is and has been pluralistic for several millennia can never be equated with any such fundamentalism by any stretch of imagination. If the secularists oppose Hindutvavadins who oppose conversion with concern for the demographic onslaught, over a time their alternative will be the widespread resurgence of Christist evangelism and Jihadi religion all over India. The choice is theirs. There is no other alternative. There are dissenters from this view. However, common sense would lead to the conclusion that the non-proselytizing majority can be reduced to a mere minority within a matter of decades by the proselytizing religions as it is a one way street for the converts and they cannot go back to their Hindu fold. In addition, the Hindus practice or are open to practice birth control but majority of the Christians (Catholics for example) and all of the Muslims are opposed to birth control. Given this situation the secularists’ refusal to accept the fear of extinction of the Hindus (because of undeterred heavily financed mass conversions in India) foreseen by the Hindutvavadins is self defeating in the longer run except if they mean that secularism has no objection to Christian and Muslim majority rule in India by reducing Hindu into minority in their own land. That will be the end of true secularism. Show us one secular Muslim country. Secularism now thrives in India only because of the Hindu majority and the basic Hindu ethos. (See the article, “Dhee: Essence of Hinduness” on http://www.swaveda.com/ )
To cite two examples of non-political intellectuals who had launched blistering attacks against Hindutva are Amartya Sen and Pratap Bhanu Mehta, both received their under graduate education in England and mostly spent their developmental years in the West and therefore it is difficult for them to appreciate Hindu ethos.
Writing in the wake of Narendra Modi’s election, Pratap Bhanu Mehta (head of a think-tank in India) bemoaned the fate of India because of Hindutva resurgence and stated that “while Indians are respected all over the world India is not”. While I am not sure how Indians are respected apart from their National and ethnic origins, the reason, if it is true that they are not respected, is not because they are Hindu Nationalists. We can give other cogent explanations even presuming that his argument is true that Indians are not respected. He should understand, the lack of self-respect in the Indians and how they themsleves make them cheap. Their clear lack of identity as identity as belonging to a proud Nation, hypocrisy of lecturing to world on religious tolerance, and above all slavish idolatry of Nehru dynasty in the name of democracy (demonarchy) of which Mehta, in spite of his prolific writing on democracy has not brought himself to condemn are a few good reasons which blighted India as a mature Nation to be taken seriously. Monarchic succession of Sonia Gandhi and in fact of Nehru progeny has been compared in the Western press to the ascent to the power of Sukarno Putri, Mrs. Bandaranayke, and Benazir Bhutto and her and son. At least any one of them is capable of facing foreign press whereas Sonia has to be shielded from the press by her sycophants when she visited America because of her incompetence in facing the world-press... Indian citizens have to witness even one press conference given by Sonia on the television. She can read speeches written by others but has no courage to stand on her own toes to defend her policies or governance of her party to sharp reporters. Asking the U.S Government to deny Visa to Narendra Modi, a man who one day could be the Prime Minister of India, regardless how hateful some groups are of him, is the zenith of indignity towards Indians. Can any one imagine an American group regardless of their religious affiliation and opposition to his religous group gathering and agitating to deny visa to Henry Kissinger in another foreign country as some believed that he should have been tried in an International court, or to Dick Cheney, whom many critics in the U.S regarded as an International Criminal who violated the Principles of Geneva Convention? A proud expatriate American would never engage in such activity to shame his own country and a fellow countryman with or without any basis. Indians whether in India or abroad may not, therefore, be respected for their lack of self-respect, sycophancy, and obsequiousness. The elected leaders of India need to be respected though challenged to defend their views, policies and performance. Why would anyone respect Indians if they don't respect themselves and their own. While Indian immigrants, NRI’s are insulted under the guise of academic freedom by Michael Witzel, the Chairman of the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies (Eurasian Language Research group) at Harvard as “Non_Returning_Indians,” Government of India without registering its protest with Harvard University on behalf of its expatriate citizens sets up an endowed chair at Harvard University costing millions of dollars, in the name of Nehru, who was not even a scholar of economics but a garden variety socialist. At least there is something to be said about Gandhian economics but there is no Nehruvian economics. Could the Government of India not insist that Harvard faculty not publicly demonstrate its bigotry towards Indians before giving millions to establish an endowed chair? Indian leaders have no pride in their own institutions. Mehta tells us how nice Indian Muslims are on the authority of a New York Times Journalist, Tom Friedman. Indians don’t need a New Yorker to testify for Indian Muslims; Indians know them quite well. He also has the gall to scare all non-Muslim Indians that, if only Muslims of India should turn violent, they would be uncontrollable. He forgets the history that on call from Jinnah for Direct Action, blood flowed on the streets of Indian cities from Kerala to Punjab. India did control them, where they could not, Pakistan was formed, and there is no need for further paranoia of Muslim uprising.
Amartya Sen like Mehta, avowed atheist, is author of "Argumentative Indian" who received his undergraduate education in England and earned a Nobel Prize in economics. For India Nobel laureates are precious as they are only one or two in a century from their country and therefore, they are reluctant to criticize them. But Sen had the habit of dabbling into areas in which he has little expertise, like Indian History and contemporary politics. His visceral hatred for BJP is understandable considering his bias and it is his prerogative as to which party he prefers, but his hatred extends to Hindutva proponents en mass. Unfortunately, Amartya Sen reminds us of another Nobel Laureate in America, William Bradford Shockley, the inventor of the transistor who revolutionized the electronic age, but could not resist his temptation to scientifically prove, although not qualified by his academic training, that Blacks are intellectually inferior. He finally disgraced himself, and alienated his colleagues and family. The comparison of Sen with Shockley is valid in so far as to transferring his reputation from one field to another and especially in a confrontational stance, which discredits his fair name. Amartya Sen’s forays into the subject of politics and history, although viewed with benign indifference in India, outside the country the critics are not less sanguine. He is particular in praising the generosity of Muslims and even equating them with the Hindus in their broad-mindedness. Commenting on Sen’s historical dissertation on Maimonides being generously treated by Muslim Saladin, Foud A. Ajmi excoriates how Sen traverses the world, with limited knowledge and points out, “history cannot bend to his good cheer.” Bending history to his fancy is what Sen does, when he compares Akbar to Ashoka, a comparison at best flimsy and at worst vulgar. In his recent book “Argumentative Indian,” he sets his prejudices against BJP, VHP and even RSS and advocates his own style of secularism. Leaving aside all the hyperbole of Akbar’s interests in comparative religion, if his intention was to impress the Muslims, he ought to have known that the most celebrated of the Muslim Intellectuals of India, the theoretician of Pakistan creation, Muhammad Iqbal set Alamgir Aurangzeb and not Akbar as the ideal for Indian Muslims. Sen's views have no takers among the Muslims in any case. His prognostication of defeat of BJP as lasting is belied by its victory in Karnataka and again in Gujarat. In living so long in England, he ought to know that, in a mature democracy, elections are not fought merely on ideology and if it were so there would be no need for elections every five years. He makes flippant comments that Hindutvavadins do not have scholarship in Sanskrit, ignorant of the fact that whatever Sanskrit is taught at the grass root level in general public in India today is by Sangha parivar through Sanskrit Bharati; before that Sanskrit learning was an exclusive province of Brahmins. He has so much to write about Hindutva, but little about the demonarchy of one family in India erected in power and sustained by sycophants for nearly sixty years. If Sen wants to get into the gutter of partisan politics and fight BJP, he should not expect his outstanding credentials in economics to immunize him from the criticism of his sophomoric and outlandish pronouncements. He is out of touch with the current political landscape in India and his ignorance is evident when he calls Shyama Prasad Mukherji “Mukhopadhyaya.” He is not aware that naming Godse as a member RSS was the cause of legal action by that organization, except they are likely to be more generous and ignore him. (The historical fact is that RSS prevailed in the Supreme Court of India on this issue and its leaders were exonerated when made political prisoners on false charges. The Supreme Court even debarred Nehru for several days to make a point that Nehru had acted unconstitutionally).
Why are some Hindu elite so hysterically against Hindutva- not necessarily against organizations which advocate Hindutva? We have no issue with them for critiquing BJP or Shiva Sena or any other organization promoting Hindutva, which is not exclusive province of these groups. Hindutva is not an intellectual property of these organizations. Only conceivable explanation is that these intellectual critics are from the privileged castes and are happy with status quo. Hindutva that emphasizes not only public morality but also private behavior is annoying for them. There is a streak of righteousness among the Hindutvavadins that is offensive to the so called modernists, especially to the dialectical secularists. All proud Hindus are essentially Hindutvavadins and it is not necessary that they speak for the RSS, BJP, Shiv Sena or Bajarang Dal. There is a silent majority in India that is strongly Hindutvavadin and Hindu nationalists are not necessarily affiliated with the political parties that are identified with this school of thought. The Hindutvavadins are not any less secular or less tolerant than the so called Secularists. The professors at Harvard do not have this knowledge.
Critiques of Hindutva take a broadside that Hindus should think in terms of universal brotherhood and should include Muslims in consideration of reform. Universalism is the utopia enshrined in Hindu culture which advocates Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (world is one family), but such broadmindedness is possible only for the people of high-mindedness (udara charitanam), not low-minded (laghuchetasam). Utopia is only an ultimate goal until, in a practical sense, there is no alternative to promoting nationalism based on culture. One of the greatest experiment in modern times was that of the Soviet Union based on geographic nationalism which miserably failed despite seventy years of Marxist indoctrination and teaching Russian. It could not tame the flames of Muslim fanatic fervor within their own borders. It should, therefore, be the realistic goal of Hindus to unite all the castes by focusing on Hindutva. Uniting Hindus is for their own welfare and survival and not against some other community as the detractors are quick to attribute. The secularists, who are against cultural nationalism, are adamant about limiting their vision to geographic boundaries; for instance Sen calls Panini, the great Sanskrit grammarian, an Afghan! Then should Buddha be regarded a Nepali?
As the agrarian aristocracy of upper and forward castes advances and acquires industrial wealth, as indeed is happening in India, the backward classes (OBC) which are 54% numerically strong and the developing middle class will nurture hatred and the conflict is in the offing. This is what we witnessed with the Maoist group in Orissa riots during which they joined evangelical converts, a seemingly unholy alliance but for the bond resulting from lower class nexus between these groups. Phony liberalism of the secular pretenders will encourage evangelization and mass conversion of the Hindus assisted by foreign money. This is an ultimate demographic assault. This is already occurring in the State of Kerala. The people who support religious conversion in the name of so called freedom of religion will rue the day when Hindus become ultimate minority, where people like Sen, a avowed atheist will have no place. It is a strange mix of Christist, Muslim and Leftists that is emerging in India and the uprising of the 54% majority joining this nexus is an alarming thought. There would be no free country nor any secularism if this scenario becomes a reality. Why would anyone want to trade a pluralistic religion which allows worship of a bald stone or a cross without losing one’s identity to a proselytizing denomination? Hinduism in India is the only true tolerant Religion (espousing the values of Dharmasahishnuta and Sarvadharmasamabhaava) and even accepts atheists. It has demonstrated it in practice for millennia without loudly preaching it. It cannot be compared with any other religion including the all inclusive Baha'is. Religion is a highly personal matter for the Hindu although public celebration of religious festivals and participation in group prayers is available to all Hindus. Hindus comprehend the right of an individual, therefore, to have his/her own spiritual or religious preferences. Such religious tolerance of the Hindus should not, however, be confused with acceptance of forced religious pluralism or acceptance of conversions amounting of demographic attacks on the Hindu society at large. The former is graciousness and the latter a mass suicide. If other religions behave as if their tooth brush is the best and the only toothbrush in the world designed for the humans and Hindus must give up their own set of tooth brushes designed variously and use those designed and provided by other religions instead, it would be considered absurd. But the God of some non-Hindu religions is being sold like the best tooth brush in the world in the "spiritual" market of India. "Secular Nation" is not a free market for selling "God-toothbrushes" by coercion, deceit, and allurements, further fragmenting the already fragmented society. Social evils can be eliminated purely on humanistic grounds and with consciousness of the human rights and do not require proselytization to combat and eradicate them. Change in religious beliefs enforced on any society cannot be expected to eliminate STD's for example. Muslims do not need to be converted to become Hindus so they can educate themselves or learn to rationally practice birth control. The tooth brush salesmen of proselytizing religions offer their religion as a solution to the age old problem of casteism and economic deprivation. It is high time the Government of India, if not lured by the influx of foreign exchange, and the vested interest of the leaders in the governance, put a stop to religious conversions.
The challenge of historic proportions for the, social, political and intellectual Indian leadership is how to integrate the castes into a Hindu Nation (Rashtra), before more favors are doled out in the form of reservations based upon caste and minority cleavages in the society rather than on affirmative action based upon Socio-economic classification further petrifying or fossilizing the caste and religion based divisions exacerbating the present fragmentation in the Indian society which will be heading towards destructive confrontation with bickering over a conundrum of facts and figures and misleading statistics. The logistics for implementing affirmative action and creating a National Identity in India remains a major challenge and the peculiar meaning given to the word “secularism” in India is not forging a National identity but is causing a breakdown in the Indian society. Such breakdown will lead to more destruction than compromising to accept the pluralistic Hindu Nation philosophy that allows for acceptance of diversity and equality before the law. The promulgation of the view that the Hindu Nation is anti-secular is emerging from the vote-bank vested politics. The concept of Secular Hindu Nation needs to be clearly understood and is a necessity of our time for forging a consolidated National Identity.
II Vande Mataram II
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