Amish gets it!

Barkha Dutt’s new incarnation is as the host of a talk show #openmind. Ah, the irony of Barkha Dutt being associated with an openmind!

In this video she asks Amish all the usual libtard questions on caste, tolerance and women’s rights.

Amish gives quite thoughtful and well articulated responses with which I almost completely agree. He seems to get the idea of Indian Grand Narrative. Got to read his books.

He made one insightful remark on the secularism and tolerance debate

Indian society is and has always been inherently secular, but post-independence Indian state has never been secular.

Glad he mentions RTE and government control of temples as examples of state not being secular. Got to read his new book Immortal India.

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Dr Koenraad Elst’s fitting Response to Scroll.in promoting Aryan Invasion Theory

And there it is again – an article on scroll.in with an animated map of nonsense complete with ominous music in the background! Not to forget the customary hinduphobic section predictably titled “The Hindutva out-of-India myth”. It was first published on Jun 10, 2015 and updated on Jan 03, 2017. The author has solid hinduphobic credentials as evident from his regular contributions on scroll.in.

As for the present article Dr Koenraad Elst‘s response below sums it up perfectly –

Dear Mrs./Mr. Editor,

“While I don’t much mind an ignorant pen-pusher pontificating about the Aryan invasion debate, some concomitant modesty would at least be in order. Ridiculing any scepticism about the 19th-century Aryan invasion theory (AIT) merely shows that he is quite unaware of the state of the art.

“So he equates the rivalling Out-of-India Theory (OIT) with Flat Earth and Creationism. But it is very easy to find material evidence against both the latter, such as the fossil record. By contrast, your contributor is quite unable to muster any evidence against the OIT. Even Harvard professor and AIT champion Michael Witzel admits that no material evidence of Aryans moving into India has been found “yet”, i.e. after two centuries of being the official hypothesis sucking up all the sponsoring. So your correspondent thinks himself superior, successful where the greatest specialists have failed?

“A year ago I was participating in a Delhi conference on the Sindhu-Saraswati Civilization. While there, I received an e-mail from one of the world’s foremost specialists on the linguistic aspect of Indo-European origins, HH Hock, all the way from the US. Predictably, he upheld the now-dominant invasion scenario and added that no one takes the Out-of-India Theory seriously today (though it was the dominant assumption from 1786 till ca. 1820). Among linguists, this is approximately true: Nicolas Kazanas, Shrikant Talageri and myself have been in splendid isolation in those circles. But then, linguists who can competently argue in favour of the AIT are hardly more numerous. As I have verified at several specialist conferences, most concerned linguists don’t work on the problem of the origins, which has an aura of obsoleteness, and blindly follow the dominant theory because it happens to be what their textbooks contained. Which is what non-linguists like the cited team from Auckland also do.

“However, while I read this e-mail, I was surrounded by the creamy layer of Indian archaeology. Each professor read his paper presenting the findings at a particular Harappan site where he was digging, and each of them reported a complete cultural continuity, no trace of an invasion. Sitting next to me was the dean of Indian archaeology, the nonagenarian professor BB Lal. When he was young, he made his name by “proving” that the archaeologically attested Painted Grey Ware indicated the Aryans on their way into India. That “proof” is still cited till today in favour of t”he AIT, at least in India. But in reality, Lal himself has renounced that hypothesis decades ago, realizing that his posited link with Aryan invaders was itself based on a tacit acceptance of the omnipresent AIT. Today he emphasizes that there is no trace at all of any Aryan invasion.

“You choose to poison the debate by insinuating a Hitler reference into it. Suit yourself, but again it proves your ignorance, for Hitler was a zealous follower of the AIT. If the OIT has been associated with Hindutva (wrongly, for VD Savarkar, who launched this political concept, was an AIT believer), its alleged political use is at any rate only a trifle compared to the AIT. The OIT has been upheld mostly in one country for a few decades by a few scholars without any political power. By contrast, the AIT has been used politically for some 160 years by major state actors such as the British empire and Nazi Germany, and in India by Jawaharlal Nehru, the Ambedkarites (though BR Ambedkar himself emphatically rejected it), the Dravidianists, the missionaries and of course the secularists. If you don’t like the mixing of scholarship with politics, you should first of all lambast the AIT, not the OIT.

“May Allah (or Whoever serves as God to you secularists) give you the wisdom to keep your mouth shut on topics you don’t know enough about.

“Yours sincerely,

“Dr. Koenraad Elst”

Ok, lets talk about Caste

This is my response to Caste in the caste, curry and cows caricature of India. Out of all the topics covered in this blog, perhaps none has vitiated the public discourse on India and Hinduism more than caste. Some of it stems simply from ignorance of history and context, but there is a good degree of malice too, particularly on the part of western indologists, Indian activists, ‘NDTV intellectuals’, and, of course, Indian politicians.

There is a lot to say on this topic and the discussion can quickly get all convoluted. Let me first say that caste discrimination in India is real and needs to be fixed. However, the solutions cannot be found till we understand the problem correctly and identify the forces which are working for and against caste discrimination. This post does not aim to be the last word on this topic, but hopes to highlight a few key points which are often overlooked.

Forces Working to Remove Caste-based Discrimination

1. Caste is much less of a problem in Indian cities than it is in the rural areas. Yes, India is still predominantly rural (67% in 2016), but it is rapidly urbanizing and by some projections the urban population may be in majority by 2050. Another factor which counters caste discrimination is education and that is also moving in the right direction. Economic development of Indian is also helping to weaken the caste divide.

2. Anecdotal evidence quickly shows up in any debate on caste. You start hearing statements like I have seen my own grandmother discriminate, or, that temple or that guru in my village does not allow people from that caste, etc. What fails to come out is stories of all the other relatives, friends, temples and gurus who do not discriminate. There are quite a few gurus out there today – Ramdev Baba, Sadhguru, Sri Sri, etc – who do not care about caste. As for temples, I have never had to declare my caste to enter in a temple. The point is that for every temple or guru who cares for caste, you would not have to go too far to find another who does not. So, just go with the one who does not! You have complete freedom to do so being a Hindu. This is where the inherent comfort of the Hindu tradition with diversity of opinion becomes important.

3. No debate on caste can escape the ghost of Manusmriti! Here, I really don’t understand what the whole fuss is about. Not only I have not read Manusmriti, I do not know of anyone else who has. Do you? I have heard temples hosting jaagran and kirtan to chant Ramayan or Mahabharat, but never Manusmriti. Have you? I know of a few translations of Gita which are commonly referred to and also where to buy them, but have no idea of about Manusmriti. Do you? My point is simple – if you have a problem with Manusmriti, just let it go. No one cares for it anyway. Again, inherent comfort and respect for different schools of thought helps here. As someone said – Hinduism is not a religion of A book, it is a religion of a library

In this context, it is also important to understand the fundamental Hindu concept of Shruti and Smriti (the master explains here). Shruti contains eternal truths and can be thought of general principles, for example, equality of all people. Smritis, in contrast, are context dependent and can be rewritten for a given society and age, for example a constitution implementing the principle of equality. In other words, Manusmriti, if you still want to read it (!), should be read in the context of when and where it was written.

Forces Propping Up the Caste Divides

Why then, instead of diminishing, caste seems to be only getting more prominent in Indian pop culture and also in academia? In western academia, caste has pretty much become a defining characteristic of Hinduism. Here are some thoughts on how we got here and who is working to deepen the caste divide, instead of healing it.

First we need to get the history right. The current version of the caste system in India is a direct result of multi-generational social engineering by the British as part of their divide-and-rule strategy. One of the key architects of this engineering was Lord Risley who institutionalized caste by making it part of the census. Over multiple censuses caste was inherited and soon one would be rigidly assigned to a caste right at birth. Caste-by-birth is a distortion of Hindu philosophy and tradition. Caste itself is a distortion and an European import, just like secularism. The closest Hindu construct is that of varna and jaati. This is a big topic, but Varna may be be thought of as division of labor in society and jaati as professional associations, like the Institute of Engineers. The relevant point is that these categories were fluid and could evolve over time and are certainly not fixed at birth. I repeat – Inheritance of caste is a distortion, and not a fundamental tenet of Hinduism. Most prominent scriptures of Hinduism, such as the Gita, completely reject the idea of ‘caste by birth’.  By the way, Lord Risley had gone further and also assigned a hierarchy to the different castes. That was the origin of the current upper, lower, scheduled, OBC and tribal categories.

Another notable Brit in this context is Sir William Jones. He interpreted Manusmriti to give Hindus their laws! My guess is that our current obsession with Manusmriti can be traced back to him.

Ok, so the brits messed it up big time. But that was nearly 70 years ago. Why was it not fixed after independence in 1947? Well, this is one of the biggest puzzle for me about our history. Not just caste, British messed up our education, legal system, religious harmony, and on and on. Why then, in spite of wide spread nationalism following the freedom movement, was there not a move to review and break free of everything that the British did? On the contrary, instead of turning to be deeply skeptical of the west like Chinese today, Indians seemed to have become anglophiles. Again, right after independence! Beats me!

Speaking specifically of the caste system, from a public policy point of view, since Independence no steps seem to have been taken to make the government and the society “caste-blind”, for example, by undoing what Lord Risley started. On the contrary,  our politics seem to have gone is exactly the wrong direction. Who would deny that caste-based reservation is a bad idea and Mandal commission in the 90s was a monstrosity? Vote-bank politics by politicians like Mulayam Singh Yadav and Laloo Yadav is working to deepen the caste divide. Of course they claim to champion the cause of the downtrodden.

Such politicians are supported in not small measure by Western indologists like Sheldon Pollock, their leftists Indian sepoys in universities like JNU and Jadhavpur, social activists like Arundhati Roy and of course biased media like NDTV. Through muddled up interpretation of scriptures, selective presentation of history, exaggerated reporting of discrimination and deliberate suppression of efforts to remove caste divides, these people are effectively legitimizing caste-based politics and even providing ideological ammunition for it, again all under the veil of championing the cause of the ‘weaker’ castes. So next time someone expressed their dismay over caste discrimination in India, just ask if they would call for complete repeal of caste-based reservations, and replacing it with need-based reservation. If they say no or avoid the question, then call out their hypocrisy. It is the same as an animal rights activist eating meat.

[By the way, if all this sounds like one big conspiracy theory to you then all I can suggest is that you read Rajiv Malhotra’s book Breaking India. If even that doesn’t change your views, well, then see you in the next life!]

Conclusion

Hindu society in India is naturally evolving to remove caste divides, and there are plenty of forces within Hinduism working toward it. There is no need for importing western constructs of human rights, or conversions to other religions to free India of caste issues. What is needed is, first, a recognition that the current caste system is inconsistent with core values in the Hindu philosophy, and then working to heal the divide by appealing to those core values. An analogy would be that of slavery in the west. Slavery was initially not considered inconsistent with Christianity, but later the anti-slavery movements employed a different interpretation of Christian ideas to appeal to the masses. Finally, all the forces that are working to prop up the caste divides, regardless of what their motivations are, must be exposed and curtailed.

Further reading

  • Views of another master on this topic – Subramanian Swamy
  • In this video, in response to a question, Rajiv Malhotra explains in detail why the caste system as it exists today has nothing to do with Hinduism. He also explains jaati and varna.
  • I added this post on Ambedkar.

[note to readers: please share any additional material on this topic, particularly talks or writings of RM. I will try to weave it into the above narrative.]

 

 

FAQs: Is this relevant for me?

Having read the previous FAQs posts in this blog, you may be inclined to ask: alright, lets say you are right – the system is messed up, first the Brits and then the Indian Left and Congress are responsible for it. But how is all this relevant for me today? I am just an aam aadmi going about my daily life untouched by any of this. I will give two arguments for how it matters to youfirst a mundane one reflecting on the current state of Indian politics, and then a philosophical and civilizational one.

Current State of Indian politics

This blog should be relevant for any Indian who is bothered by the rise of Kejriwal, the resurgence of Laloo and the perversions of the reservation system.

[And if you are not bothered you should watch this discussion of RM with former AAP members recorded in April 2014 while Modi was running his campaign. They spill the beans on Kejriwal, Shishodia, Medha Patkar and Prashant Bhusan and many non-AAP members too. They basically provide ground evidence for the various Breaking India forces that RM has been speaking about for a while now.]

There is no way of understanding the divisions in the Indian society today and the sorry state of Indian politics without a proper understanding of the history of India, especially the colonial period. Proper understanding of the Hindu Dharma is part of it.

Some of you may be wondering that things are different now given that Modi is in power. I don’t think Modi came to power because of a mass revival of Hinduism or because his positive message of development hit home. The most significant factor contributing to Modi’s success was the mess that the previous UPA government created for 10years! There are striking parallels with the election of Obama in the US. Obama too ran an extraordinary campaign but were it not for the previous 8 years of Bush Jr or McCain’s Palin blunder, I don’t think Obama would have made it.

The point is that in both cases a good fraction of voters stepped out of their comfort zones to vote for Modi and Obama. In the case of Obama the reluctance was due to race, and for Modi it due to his perceived non-secular character. It is not that the race fault lines in the US suddenly healed or that the 80% Hindu population of India suddenly discovered their Hinduism is not anti-anyone.

What this means is that all those voters who reluctantly voted for Modi may flip back, as has already happened in Delhi and Bihar state elections. It won’t take long for the country to relapse into old habits. Therefore, it is incumbent on us to educate ourselves on the  real state of affairs, not what is reported on NDTV.

By the way, in case you haven’t closed this window yet after labeling me a right-wing Modi supporter, in spite of the title of this blog :-), let me set the record straight about my political leanings. Yes, I am an unequivocal Modi supporter. But I am not completely sold on BJP. I don’t think most BJP leaders and workers have the perspective that I outline in this blog; they are just doing good old petty vote bank politics.

The Civilization Argument

Any serious and unbiased student of Indian history would appreciate that the Indian civilization is built on some amazingly profound ideas.

Ideas that are at par, if not much grander than the modern western conception of freedom, liberty, scientific spirit, economic and social justice, and environmental conservation. I will provide supporting evidence in this blog. And ideas are timeless, just like even  thousand years from now the atomic hypothesis or general relativity would be considered a triumph of human intelligence. I believe it is in this sense of timelessness of ideas that the Hindu Dharma is called sanatan (eternal) dharma.

But, you may say, the atomic hypothesis is now more of a great idea of the past with little relevance beyond a pedantic one. There are much more sophisticated theories today. Indian philosophical ideas may be in the same boat today.

Possible.

But I don’t think so. Once again, my views are not based on a nostalgic or a romantic idea of the past.  I invite the reader to do his own research and decide for himself. It would be a travesty if the grand civilizational ideas of India die out due to apathy of Indians.

The over arching goal of this blog is to reduce the barriers to such self inquiry.

For new readers ..

To get the big picture, new readers of this blog are encouraged to start with the posts labelled FAQs and in this order –

FAQs: Why this blog?
FAQs: Who is the target audience?
FAQs: Why now?
FAQs: Why this title?
FAQs: Why are you anonymous?
FAQs: Is this relevant for me?

I have tagged some posts as RedFlag to highlight people, initiatives or media outlets which I have personally found to promote the outsider view on Indian history and Sanskriti. Not everything that the RedFlag people have written or said may be problematic, but beware!

Also, I keep updating the post whenever I find new material or a different way of saying the same things. Even the title may change! So be warned if you plan to link to a post. But  check back frequently. 🙂

A (censured) comment on an article in thewire.in

This is a comment on this article in thewire.in titled “Swadeshi Indology and the Destruction of Sanskrit”. The authors are: Sanjay Krishnan is Associate Professor of English at Boston University and Teena Purohit is Assistant Professor of Religion at Boston University. They seem to be from the Pollock cabal.

I had submitted this comment on 11 March, 2016 but it was not posted for 5 days. I sent an email to the editors. No response! An example of censurship by the “liberal” media!

Having read Rajiv Malhotra’s critique of Pollock in “The Battle for Sanskrit”, impartiality is not the adjective I would use for Pollock. Infact Pollock himself has admitted using a political lens to look at Indian scriptures. He invented ‘political philology’, for crying out loud!

As for Pollock’s scholarship, his method appears to be to cherry pick data to fit his theories. In other words, data and logic are secondary for him. To make his theories work he can even go as far as manipulating historical chronology! In physical sciences, that would be called out as academic misconduct. Standards of western indology seem to be different.

Nevertheless, I would absolutely not want Pollock and his cabal to be silenced. In fact I would like them to respond to the issues raised by RM.

In that spirit, I welcome articles like this since it gives an opportunity to put forth an alternative point of view. Although I doubt that the authors would be open to considering the alternative, but some of the readers here might be more open minded. To them I would strongly recommend Rajiv Malhotra’s book and also articles associated with the petition.

The petition per se has been unsuccessful since Pollock continues to be at the helm of Murthy library. However, it has been incredibly successful at spreading awareness about this topic, impact of which might be even greater than if Pollock had been removed.