The political implications of HAF on Caste and Hinduism
ESSENTIAL PREREQUISITE KNOWLEDGE OF LARGER POLITICAL CONTEXT BEFORE FORMING AN OPINION ON HAF CASTE REPORT
Dr. Gautam Sen
The first and most blatant ideological difficulty is that Caste does not define Hinduism, but the critics of Hinduism, both Christian and Muslim antagonists and Hindus dependent on them for their livelihood, have long defined Hinduism in terms of Caste. It recalls a telling point made by Voltaire that the term Pagan, now an established ascription, was never used by polytheists as a description of themselves, but a term of abuse employed against them by Christians. In this context, despite citing Nicholas R. Dirks’ important book you [i.e. HAF] do not highlight his main contention that colonial enumeration of Caste identities to categorise Indians, to better exercise political control over them, hardened its previously fluid boundaries. – Dr. Gautam Sen
Any discussion on caste really pertains to India since it is of marginal significance for Hindus in Europe and North America.
One must therefore provide an a priori justification as to why Indians should be guided by measures recommended from abroad. This matter of principle does not concern the substance of any recommended policies, which may be good or bad, but the reason why they should be advanced by Hindus from abroad, but adopted by Indians living in India. It is a major issue of principle that cannot be evaded. And the fact that it is easy to find Hindus from within India to offer validation to proposals does not change the essential point because the initiative lies abroad.
Indeed garnering support from within India makes the enterprise even more suspect as a consequence. My own concern is that people living away from their homeland are necessarily susceptible to socialisation by local ideological imperatives though it does not mean every single individual succumbs. These ideological certainties are likely to be hostile to the interests of their country of origin and perspectives emanating from a locale like the US, which has harboured incredible enmity towards independent India and continues to do so, are potentially harmful as a result. One must therefore exercise unusual caution although there is no good solution to the issue since people of goodwill cannot be required to stop thinking and writing.
However, I suggest that, as a matter of principle, any such attempt to wade into issues with policy imperatives tagged onto them and which might amount to injunctions or, worse still, diktats are unacceptable. Only Indians living in India are qualified to initiate and make policy for themselves because the outcomes primarily affect them and that is the appropriate democratic procedure. And it is they who have the right to make their own mistakes and experience their own learning process. This is not to suggest that Indians abroad cannot and should not hold opinions on subjects that interest them, but it is beholden to them exercise more than a measure of self-restraint when they take to preaching. And it is absolutely imperative for them not to engage in cavalier fashion with issues of paramount importance to people in India because that really smacks of arrogance that could be regarded as stemming from the wealth and status enjoyed by residing in a wealthy country as a professional. I am one of these very people, who have lived away for nearly 41 years and constantly write on Indian subjects. However, I regard myself as a lowly foot soldier operating from what to me, metaphorically speaking, is enemy territory and with due respect for those whose personal interests are tied to Indian soil.
The issue that remains critical is the political context and the consequences of particular debates and proposals. Nothing undertaken is politically innocent and it is absolutely imperative to retain this reality in mind when engaging with complex issues like Caste and espousing positions and advancing recommendations. The issue of Caste is a profoundly political question and not for the obvious reason that it affects all Hindus in some way or another. Discussions on Caste are, first and foremost, ideological weapons in the wider struggle for political supremacy and domination between white Christian nations, led by the imperialist USA and its victims, Hindus. I do not mention Islam because its enmity towards Hindus is unabashed and repeated in countless Pakistani and Arab publications. The US and India have been at loggerheads since the early 1950s and those unfamiliar with this history should desist from pontificating on intellectual cleavages that are part of the arsenal in the struggle between the Hindus of India and the imperialist USA. The Church is a mere subaltern agent in this deadly contest for domination and subjugation and primarily an instrument of State policy, as it has been since the loss of its ability to dictate to European States several centuries ago. The fact that individual Christian participants in this arena may be morally upright and motivated to spread the word god, though that itself is an expression of sectarian intolerance, is irrelevant. The aggressive protagonist is unfailingly the State and as it happens in this particular competition, the US State. Hence, the idea that decent conduct and carefully delineated argument will alter the course of this contest is naïve in the extreme. The USA is a country that inserted live snakes into the private parts of captive Vietcong women and has had no compunction recently presiding over the murder of 1.4 million Iraqis. Hindus are not special in any sense in their scheme of things except that are proving difficult to subjugate, despite determined efforts for over 60 years. If living in the USA makes it difficult to swallow this harsh truth nothing more remains to be discussed.
Neither is the issue of who can presume to speak on behalf of the Hindus of India is not an abstract matter of principle alone though I regard the principle involved as paramount. It is a conviction that stems from direct personal experience of the serious problems that arise when Indians abroad seek to act on behalf of their brethren in India. On two separate occasions, during the last decade or so, Hindu activists in the UK sought to sign accords with the Anglican Church concerning what legitimate forms religious conversion could take. I was staggered when the already initialled document was sent to me by a lawyer opposed to it. The document could have been regarded as laughable had it not entailed the potentially serious consequence of politically compromising Hindus permanently.
The accord amounted to acceptance of conversion as legitimate, provided there was no coercion involved. Of course what amounted to coercion was undefined and it contained choice phrases like 'freedom to share one's religion', which is a standard Church code for legitimating evangelical activity. There was no recognition that it is the legitimacy of evangelical activity (as distinct from religious conversion, per se) that is in insurmountable dispute, closely tied as it is to coercion, when the latter is carefully enumerated. And nor is it an established right under Indian law, though evangelists constantly assert to the contrary. But this was being bartered away by people who did not have command over the English language and could not comprehend the many loaded phrases the document contained. They were all virtually semi-literate, which I state as a matter of fact rather than mere prejudice though I do not deny the latter sensibility when dealing with such nonsense. The signing was vetoed by the late Seshadri-ji of the RSS and I earned the ire of many British Hindu activists. I subsequently learned that an American Hindu 'convert' of some considerable public fame had been counselling them to sign the accord. I therefore concluded he was an intelligence infiltrator and that should surprise no one. Hindus are at war, a reality difficult for many to swallow, and the enemy is engaged in a no-holds barred effort to dis-empower Hindus. Caste issues are a handy weapon being deployed by them as it has in the long history of deadly conflict between Hindus and Christian militarism.
Let me add that virtually an identical attempt was made yet again in the recent past by the very same people to sign almost the same accord on religious conversion. This time it was unceremoniously halted by an unambiguous imprimatur from the most senior leader of the VHP. I am therefore led to believe that some of these earnest British Hindus active in official bodies had been compromised by local intelligence services (a good number are engaged in VAT fraud and susceptible to blackmail) and/or in receipt of bribes from Church quarters. Let me remind you once again that the most prominent Hindu political activist in Europe had once publicly proclaimed that in the event of war between India and the UK, Hindus should fight for their country of adoption, Britain. I won't repeat my earlier political and sociological analysis of this remarkable statement, but only point out that any invasion of India, resulting from military conflict, would occur with Pakistani help through Karachi and into Gujarat. It is poignant to imagine members of Britain's East African community emerging from barges en route to kill their own kin! The simple fact of the matter is that there can be no dialogue with any Church denomination or Islamic institutions despite the penchant of so many Hindus for something called interfaith dialogue. Neither of these two dispensations has officially and formally affirmed the legitimacy of Hinduism and thus all interaction with them is in utter bad faith.
They first need to make a grovelling apology for their legion crimes against Hindus and polytheists and amend their founding texts before they dare engage us! And Hindus should acquire spiritual, political self-confidence as well as the coercive means to dispense with the need for certification from their duplicitous sworn enemies, the Church in all its forms and Islam.
I regret that the HAF document fails in its basic duty of care (reason enough to be struck off practising medicine for anything analogous) and demonstrates a lack of essential knowledge and elementary logic. The first and most blatant ideological difficulty is that Caste does not define Hinduism, but the critics of Hinduism, both Christian and Muslim antagonists and Hindus dependent on them for their livelihood, have long defined Hinduism in terms of Caste. It recalls a telling point made by Voltaire that the term Pagan, now an established ascription, was never used by polytheists as a description of themselves, but a term of abuse employed against them by Christians. In this context, despite citing Nicholas R. Dirks’ important book you do not highlight his main contention that colonial enumeration of Caste identities to categorise Indians, to better exercise political control over them, hardened its previously fluid boundaries.
Furthermore, HAF’s eagerly announced opposition to Caste-based discrimination, a phrase that recurs constantly in the text, is not defined except to occasionally conflate it with untouchability. This is very important because in all types of discrimination between social groups, some are types of discriminatory conduct are unethical and others illegal, but they are not identical and India has outlawed virtually all conceivable acts of discrimination susceptible to legal remedy. It appears what you might have in mind is more accurately identified as segregation. Paradoxically, in opposing Caste discrimination you are effectively opposing the positive discrimination in favour of Dalits and other supposedly backward groups in Indian society that dates back to the 1930s. All the contemporary legislative discrimination (don’t use a term that instantly controverts your fundamental stance) is against the demonised upper Castes, already in itself the counterpart of anti-Semitism because of its egregiously indiscriminate and timeless
ascription of alleged crimes of oppression to whole groups of people. No matter how impeccably an individual member of the upper castes may behave in their personal life they are imputed the alleged criminality of their forebears, stretching back to time immemorial. This is how it was for Jews throughout their history, with accusations of cannibalism to poisoning wells that ended in genocide. You also appear to believe such Caste discrimination is widespread in rural India, a typical urban prejudice though actual variations in the prevalence of Caste consciousness are most clearly geographical, least prominent in Bengal, the Punjab and Maharashtra and urban conurbations increasingly.
The mundane and vicious politicisation of India's Caste politics, long promoted by the very evangelists you approvingly credit with mitigating Caste discrimination, has made a mockery of the carefully engineered social change sought on behalf of Dalits by its original protagonists, including the astute B. R. Ambedkar. Perhaps your proposal to end all Caste discrimination is intended to favour disadvantaged children of the fifty or so Brahmin public latrine cleaners in Delhi who might then be treated like human beings and allowed entry into higher education on par with those of wealthy OBC Yadav ministers! Often their crime is to emerge from modest socio-economic backgrounds to excel in public examinations, of which Muslims complained bitterly even in the late nineteenth century and demanded quotas. The assumption that Brahmins were always privileged oppressors is an evangelist Christian libel that one should absolutely refute without compelling empirical evidence to the contrary. A study by Cambridge historian Anil Seal, a reliable informant in this regard since he holds no brief for India or Hindus, being unscrupulously hostile to them both, found that half the Brahmins of Calcutta in the first decade of the twentieth century were cooks, for reasons that were clearly religious in origin. But hardly the profession of a powerful oppressor group, deserving of the ugly pogroms that targeted Brahmins in Maharashtra after 1948!
But is there such ignorance that it cannot recognised that the same Christian Churches that seek to deploy India's Caste fractures to promote the political goals of their own home governments, had little trouble with lynchings in the America south only forty or so years ago and South African apartheid? Nothing Hindus have done compares with the role of the Catholic Church in the genocide in Rwanda during 1994 and its massive perpetration of paedophilia across the world. And why are Christians not demonstrating outside the White House against the scale of imprisonment of African Americans within their own Christian country instead of shedding crocodile tears about alleged Casteism? The need for Hindus today is to be ruthlessly lucid and politically focused in the way Stalin’s generals were as they faced the threat of physical extinction as a people and responded with merciless determination against the Nazis as well as enemies within.
It is imperative to note that Christian evangelists never refer to the massive social changes that have overtaken India during the twentieth century and the relentless efforts of Hindu reformers (many of the them upper caste) for the upliftment of the downtrodden in their midst, beginning with Gopal Krishna Gokhale (not Mahatma Gandhi as it happens) and Ram Mohan Roy earlier. But the efforts of Hindus themselves to combat the evil of untouchability and social iniquity and the political empowerment of Dalits in Indian states like UP and the fact of OBC-dominated polities across Indian is studiously ignored. They are an inconvenient reality when the main purpose is to harvest souls because Hinduism is beyond the pale and cannot do anything for itself. And the moment Christians (or Muslims) are in a majority in any part of India (e.g. Nagaland and Mizoram, parts of Bengal) the celebration of Hindu rituals is prevented by armed gangs of Christians and Muslims, their co-conspirators when it comes to shafting Hindus! As one Mizo Christian woman in Delhi explained to me politely last year: 'they are uncomfortable with the Hindu ethos'.
Church representatives in the UK and their shameful Hindu/Sikh collaborators have been active since last year, seeking to outlaw, by including 'Caste discrimination' (the very unfortunate phrase HAF employs) within the all-encompassing Equality Bill that will conform to a host of broader EU directives. Outlawing of alleged Caste discrimination in the UK, for which there is no evidence whatsoever, is clearly a conspiratorial prelude to its official repudiation by the UN, a measure being mendaciously thrust forward by the deracine ex-Hindu, South African High Court judge, Navi Pillay of the UNHRC. One particularly malicious Indian member of the British parliament has been mobilising alleged Sikh Dalits (a non sequitur) against mainstream Sikhs, falsely accusing their Gurdwaras of ‘Caste discrimination’ though Caste issues are of infinitesimal significance within Sikhism. This vile conspiracy is not an accident or misunderstanding since that is exactly what the Church has been doing for centuries to demoralise Hindus and occupy their country permanently. Ask yourself why Korean Buddhists, who have become a minority in their own home, are up in arms today about the deliberate abandonment of their public rituals in what is now effectively a Christian country? For them it is always, ‘I am the way’ and the only way! There is absolutely no point for Christian evangelists to engage in discussion of Caste unless its enables the harvesting of souls and the political subjugation of Hindus to white Christian imperialism, namely the USA. I am waiting to have a Hindu from the US correct me on this score by berating me for not recognising that these vicious evangelists are only trying to reform Hinduism, an underlying implication of the deeply troubling HAF praise for their work in India.
The British and American governments have actively promoted Khalistani terrorists in the past and their leader, Jagjit Singh Chauhan, declared independence from British soil (the city of Birmingham) the day Dhaka fell to Indian forces and the surrender document was extracted from the defeated Pakistani army by General JFR Jacob. Creating lethal divisions within Sikhism would open another devastating front inside the Indian body politic on behalf of Pakistan by its Anglo-American patrons. And I see no compelling evidence of a change in Anglo-American policy despite the expectations of many to the contrary in the aftermath of 9/11. In case you are unaware, the Khalistani bombers who downed Air India’s Kanishka over the Irish Sea were sent from Pakistan to the US and trained by the CIA (confirmed on camera by a senior CIA official and the evidence is in the possession of the GoI). As a consequence, the inference of one interlocutor that this flawed mea culpa on Caste will prompt invitation to the HAF by the US Congress is naïve in the extreme. The US Congress is an organ of a racist, imperial power and their invitation to vicious nonentities like Angana Chatterji (whose hostility towards US institutions does not deter invitations to the US Congress because she is specifically tasked to undermine Hindus) and John Dayal is not the product of ignorance or inadvertence. Such anti-Hindu creatures are chosen with care because they promote an evangelical agenda wholeheartedly supported by most US Congressional members.
I am elaborating this material at some length because the political context is vital when the real or imagined ills of a society are publicly scrutinized in conjunction with third parties that are actually your enemies. For the first time in its independent history, the government of India has failed to officially oppose the egregiously deadly proposal floated by the lowly Navi Pillay of the NHRC to condemn Caste as a form of racism, presumably because India has been seized by a Catholic dynasty from within. Is this the company HAF has inadvertently ended up joining by virtue of sheer ignorance and political cupidity? Is HAF unable to recognise that at this moment Hindus are fighting for their very survival as a religious dispensation under the shadow of the Nehru dynasty and in a way that had not occurred even under the sword of Aurangzeb because that asuric demon was successfully confronted on the battlefield by Maratha, Jat and Sikh warriors?
White Church representatives are in Iraq and Afghanistan at this very moment, supporting their own governments, engaged in something akin to genocide in the case of Iraq, with a 1.4 million dead (John Hopkins study, using US DOD methodology) owing to the Anglo-American invasion.
It is worth recalling that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s envoy to the Lebanon in 1987 turned out to have been hand in glove with Anglo-American intelligence services, held hostage himself when the kidnappers of the journalist whose release he was sent to negotiate, found a tracking device in his matted hair! The various Church denominations are all pretty much integral to the Western state system and their imperialist activities (is this something HAF declines to recognise as a historical phenomenon?) and have been from the time of Emperor Constantine. The Vatican was and remains a state that had armies, participated in wars throughout its long and ugly history and illegitimate heirs of supposedly celibate Popes often succeeded to rule. Their great thinkers, including both Thomas Aquinas and the dissident Martin Luther, approved torture and brutal murder of apostates and pagans and that is exactly what the Portuguese followers of the former practised with blood thirsty enthusiasm on invading Goa, burning, flaying and spearing alive Brahmins and their families with abandon. They were extinguishing the leaders of Hindu society and then quickly enslaved the supposed victims of Caste oppression once the conquest had succeeded. Condemnation of alleged Caste oppression by a basically powerless group, the Brahmins, living under the shadow of brutal Islamic rule, was a handy ideological weapon. Today, the dominant political forces in India are OBCs, Dalits and Muslims, for whom communists are quite openly surrogates (Maoists praised the 26/11 massacre and only regretted that Muslims also died) and the real nerves of political power at the Centre reside with covert representatives of the Vatican. The ideological ruse of denouncing Upper Caste oppression remains alive and well though it is now couched in drawing room politesse, but on the entry of imperial soldiery into a conquered country old-fashioned mass murder, rape and mayhem will resurface.
To return to what appears to me to be the essence of the HAF’s apologetic mea culpa on Caste, which in the way it is articulated seems not-so subliminally addressed to a racist Christian audience. I use the term racist very consciously because I wish to counter pose it ideologically to Caste though the latter is not its Hindu counterpart as the repository of a virulent creed. White races still wield most instruments of political, military and ideological power in the world that imposes their hierarchic racist vision of social and economic organisation. Although racism has gone underground somewhat in the past two decades, supremacist racist ideology absolutely defines Western European culture regardless of its geographical locale and is always ready to reassert its inhuman prerogatives. The reach of this self-serving ideological perspective of a racially defined Western human architecture is almost universal and not merely confined to white societies, which means that even small town India has been penetrated by its pervasive distorted ideological consciousness. Non Europeans unthinkingly echo and repeat the dominant white ethos that affirms their own subalternity. Indeed both Caste consciousness as well as the resistance to it derives from the profound impact of colonisation itself. And virtually every Indian social science academic in Anglo-American universities constantly reiterates a critique of India and all things Hindu prompted by the writings of British colonialists or American Cold warriors. It is not so very complicated at all.
In this context it should be recognised that many of the documents on Caste to be found on the Internet, adorning innocuous institutional affiliations and titled academic respectability, seem to be generated from the same evangelist database. I sense an echo of their calculated machinations in the HAF report since they are easily picked up by scribes looking for quotes and information with which they are unfamiliar themselves. In addition, the paradox of the HAF plea on Caste is that it espouses a set secular sentiments and prejudices unconsciously inspired by socialisation within the instrumental Western political paradigm of domination and its associated intellectual milieu. And it seeks to validate them through an extremely superficial reading of Hinduism and without any serious grounding in the complex secular intellectual discourse on Caste and practice that it wants to influence. Since others have pointed out the gross intellectual failings of the HAF exegesis on Caste I reserve myself to expressing surprise that the august experts, who have supposedly examined it thoroughly, have made a multiplicity of faux pas in their scholarship. Mention is made of M. S. Srinivas and Nicholas R. Dirks on Caste, though why not the theorist G. S. Ghurye is unclear, but nothing is said of their central contentions on Caste, suggesting they have been cited to insinuate intellectual legitimacy without really bothering with what they have had to say. For example, Srinivas highlighted the fluid and dynamic essence of caste as a social institution and also rejected the notion of a rigid, pan-Indian caste system and these aspects of his analysis are pertinent to the idea of Caste discrimination. The most elementary blunder has been the failure to consult more widely, which suggests both ignorance and over confidence. In passing it might be noted that the literature on the phenomenon of white Christian domination I refer to is vast and need not detain us here. However, anyone interested might wish to consult Franz Fanon’s writings and the Afro American civil rights literature of the 1960s, all of which remains imperative for contextualising the cynical discourse on Caste.