Wednesday, November 14, 2012


'Ramachandra Guha : The Failure of Indian Liberalism'
13/11/2012 01:16:25  

Dr. Vijaya Rajiva

Courtesy: Haindavakeralam

Outlookindia has done great damage to historian/cricketologist/environmentalist 
and man of many parts, Ramachandra Guha. It has published an advance 
preview of his forthcoming book 'Patriots and Partisans' (Penguin) by printing 
excerpts from it. The excerpts are placed under the title 'Who Milks this Cow?' 
(Nov. 19, 2012). Mr. Guha refers to himself as a LIBERAL. It is difficult to believe 
that these excerpts were published without the knowledge of the author. It is possible
that the editor of Outlookindia was acting either with excessive liberal zeal or what 
is the more mundane explanation, he was trying to boost sagging sales with this 

The article is an astonishing collection of vituperative attacks on the Sangh 
Parivar, the RSS, the Hindutvadins, the Hindus of the diaspora, the internet 
Hindus, etc. It is astonishing because Mr. Guha seems to be quoting mainly 
from private e-mails he received from various quarters which berate him, 
rebuke him for being anti-Hindutva and so on. Now, Ramachandra Guha 
is not surely lying about these emails, he is too intelligent for that. The question 
arises as to why he is publicising these emails in the first place. One is tempted
 to say that he has been set up as a hatchet man ! Surely a historian described 
as a 'leading' Indian historian can do better than indulge in these infantile gimmicks!!

The present writer had read some of his earlier environmental work approvingly 
and when the book "India After Gandhi" came out (2008)  it seemed an impressive 
work, if only for the enormous amount of work that the author had put into it. 
Its serious evaluation still awaits, but whatever its shortcomings there is no doubt 
that it represented a serious effort in the genre of historical chronicle. It would be 
useful to compare and contrast this work with Radha Rajan's "Eclipse of the 
Hindu Nation" (2009). He begins the book by wondering out aloud as to what was 
special about the Indian achievement and why and so on.  One waited to see if
he had arrived at some conclusion, which he clearly had not by the end of the 
book. And it seems that he is still searching. The forthcoming book might resolve 
the mystery.

However, the excerpts above are not an encouraging prognosis.

But assuming that Mr. Guha was in earnest about his appraisal of the above 
movements and organisations based on some random e-mails that he received, 
one cannot help but wonder whether this promising author has begun to lose it. 
His ideological dislike, bordering on 'hatred' of anything that resembles the 
different versions of India (different from his 'liberal' versions) that have been thrown 
up, is a disappointment and an intimation of what is to come. This is 'liberalism' at its
most intolerant and vindictive mode! Its failures are harmful to the country and act 
as catalysts for discontent.

Hindutva, which is Mr. Guha's target, has been written about since the time of 
Savarkar in the 1920s. Shri Savarkar had raised the question of who is a Hindu? 
He had answered that it was any citizen of the future independent India, regardless of 
race, religion, caste, creed etc. He was one of the first caste Hindus who initiated intercaste 
dining and so on. It is this type of thinking that animated Dr. K.B. Hegdewar to establish 
the RSS (Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh) in 1925 and whose philosophy the present RSS follows 
faithfully to the letter. And if the Sangh Parivar organisations which do sterling social 
service work in the country, do have many members who are vegetarians (Mr. Guha 
was not sympathetic to this in his book India after Gandhi, and this strikes a jarring 
note in the book) then he is to be blamed, not the  vegetarians !

Indeed, apart from the fact that vegetarianism might be a good thing after all from
a health point of view, it might be useful for the reader to be informed that the latest
documentary on cattle trafficking  Their Last Journey  mentions that India is the third
 largest producer of meat in the world and that too under the most horrifying practices
which cause untold suffering to the animals. Perhaps Mr. Guha is well advised to view
this documentary (it is available at Haindava

Are these people who produce such humanitarian videos to be dismissed as Hindutvadins ?
If so, three cheers for Hindutvadins! Even by any yardstick (Mr. Guha's liberalism or otherwise)
 the job they do in publicising the plight of these animals is something that Mahatma Gandhi
himself would have endorsed. Mahatma Gandhi is a name that Mr. Guha frequently evokes in
admiration. There are also Hindu groups that work towards the protection of Hindu temples, again surely a worthwhile task when the liberal atmosphere is not conducive to such efforts. Don't Hindus have the right to protect their temples ? Should not the country engage in constructive activity that would keep the temples as World Heritage sites ? Why in a country that is predominantly Hindu should Mr. Guha display a tendency towards unpatriotic proclivities ? Is it surprising then that people write angry letters  to newspapers or even to him ? Why indeed do Indian liberals jump up and down at the perfectly respectable word 'rashtram' (of Vedic lineage). The goddess Sarasvati has said : aham rashtrii sangamani abhyudayam ( I move people towards their welfare). It is time that Mr. Guha read the Rig Vedic corpus, since no serious historian of the country and its culture can afford to neglect it.

If Indian liberalism is represented by the ignorance of the country's Sanskrit tradition it is not surprising that the Hindus of the country are in turn contemptuous of this failure. The binary opposition that Mr. Guha sets up between patriots and partisans is reflective of the limited nature of his own perspectives. Until he comes to an understanding of his own history, Mr. Guha will remain a limited writer of books that are sponsored by well known international publishers.

Then again, Mr. Guha's pet peeve seems to be Hindus in the diaspora. Many of these whom he maligns not only contribute to the foreign exchange reserves of the country, they also put their money where their mouth is, by supporting worthwhile causes such as the education of girls , or the education of tribal children and so on, which also happens to be organised by the Sangh Parivar organisations. Or is Mr. Guha saying that only the people that he authorises,puts his stamp of approval on, are allowed to undertake such philanthropic works ? Here again is liberal narrow mindedness at its worst!

Now to the question of caste ? If, as he says in the excerpts above, his family divested themselves of the sacred thread, is it mandatory for all Hindus in that category to follow suit. Indeed, this much abused section of Hindu society in recent times, has been responsible for the preservation of ancient rituals from Vedic times. A good example(but not the only one) would be the Nambudiris of Kerala who have maintained the Athiratram Yagna  rituals unchanged since Vedic times. It is to the scholars from this  caste and community that Hindus owe the faithful transmission of Sanskrit texts and traditions. Is Mr. Guha saying that they should all follow in his family's footsteps and throw out Hindu sacred rituals from the Vedic homa onwards and consign Hindu sacred literature to museums ? Indeed all over India it is this community which has through thick and thin , through barbarian invasions and atrocities kept the Hindu Agni alive. Sadly, Mr. Guha in his new found role as the Grand Inquisitor has forgotten his history.

With regard to the Dalit question his family's service in helping them is to be commended. But his further assumption  that this is the only effort being made in India is ludicrous. Both the GOI and the NGOs (which include the Sangh Parivar organisations) and ordinary individuals have worked to alleviate the situation of the Dalits ? En passant, it should be pointed out to him that it is one of his much disliked Hindus in the diaspora  who has written an excellent recent  monograph on the topic. He is well advised to read Dr. Rakesh Bahadur's 'Equality and Inclusion : Progress and Development of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes In Independent India' (2010).

As for the question of minorities, he rightly raises the question of violence, but is selective in pointing out only that which is committed by the Hindus and is silent on the atrocities committed by the minority community (in this case the Muslim) both historically, in recent times and at present.

Outlookindia may unintentionally  be doing a service to the nation by the preview. Readers can expect to read more of the same and are forewarned. Far from being the work of a contemporary Indian intellectual it might turn out to be a diatribe against Hindus in general. The inquisition against the Hindutvadins is usually that.

(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university)

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 Satish Chandra
14/11/2012 11:39:28
Outlook Is Jehadi Outlook
Outlook has a Political Editor - Saba Naqvi and another newly appointed Deputy Editor - SNM Abdi - both are staunch anti-Hindu as is evident from their writings.
In every issue there are anti-Hindu articles - but you would never find any article on terrorism or love jehad or different criminal activities of terrorists - in fact it has often tried to justify those terrorists arrested on different anti-India charges as innocent Muslims framed on false charges.
It is a pity that Outlook's Editor Krishna Prasad and Vinod Mehta - turn a blind eye to such anti-India and anti-Hindu propaganda in its magazine.
All Hindus should now start boycotting Outlook.
Dr.Vijaya Rajiva
14/11/2012 03:54:05
Your suggestion of boycott may not work on a large scale, sufficient to affect the fortunes of Outlookindia.

The Indian upper class is addicted to Macaulayism .

May I suggest that you continue to send a blitz of criticisms to these magazines?

We have to do it each time and all the time. As Arun Shourie put it once : we did not ask for this struggle, it has been imposed on us.

Hence, unknown to us the cumulative effect of our polemical responses will add up in the end.

I was watching a program on
Sunderkand on the eve of Deepavali. Hundreds of people sitting there of both sexes and devoutly listening.

On such occasions I feel that this is why the asuric forces have not been able to defeat Hinduism. For all their faults and follies Hindus continue to honour their traditions.

While on the subject of the Ramayana, there was an interesting program on CNNIBN hosted by Sagarika Ghosh debating whether the Ramayana is still a relevant part of the Indian ethos.

People like Ashis Nandy made some interesting points : Rama is an epic hero and as such has faults and foibles which he overcomes in the end.And so on. Ofcourse it is not what the believing Hindu would say. The believing Hindu would say: he is an incarnation of Vishnu. End of story !

But Nandy was okay. So were one or two other participants. But they had Kancha Illaiah who was shocking and said on public television that Rama was a murderer and a killer etc.

It was shocking because even though we know what his views are from his writings, to say this repeatedly on national television is indeed shocking. The anchor had the right to intervene and ask him to be moderate since he was offending the majority of Hindus ! She did not.

Guha by the way, is in my opinion, a gifted person who has taken the wrong route simply because he is not familiar with our Hindu heritage. He will remain a competent historian (some have unkindly called him a court historian)and so will not be a great one because of
13/11/2012 17:01:34
Decency. demands.....
It was decent of Mr.Guha not to reveal such names the immature and emotional emailers who fill his mailbox. Such decency should be appreciated and not pilloried. For example, we are left to guess who was the juvenile-sounding 'patriot' e-mailer, 'the PhD from Western Ontario Canada', mentioned in Guha's book?
13/11/2012 15:35:49
How about boycott
All valid points, Dr. Rajiva, and Outlook India is not the only one to publish it. The Hindu (what a misnomer!) published similar articles, and I have just now submitted my comments to the same.

Why not lets start a boycott initiative and throw out any subscriptions of magazines like Outlook which are doing a monstrous disservice to Hindu society.

I for one stopped reading 'The Economist' after I found articles severely denigrating Hindu worship. Even after repeated attempts by people requesting them to edit denigrating parts, the editor chose to believe in 'Wikipedia' as the supreme source of all, and chose to rely on it. Hence my voluntary boycott.

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