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Book Folder - Guest - 01-28-2005

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Book Folder - ramana - 02-16-2005

Book Review: Rescuing Nehru by debasing Patel: The myth-making continues

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Rescuing Nehru by debasing Patel: The myth-making continues

There is a disconnect between Zachariah's views and those of an increasing number of Indians who would rather see Nehru as a politician whose tenure in office had its share of successes and failures, a mere mortal with his own share of virtues and vices <b>Kanchan Gupta </b>

NEHRU, BY BENJAMIN ZACHARIAH , ROUTLEDGE/ROLI BOOKS, Rs 350

The biography industry is lucrative business, more so in idolatrous countries like India where men and women of flesh and blood are often placed on a pedestal for a worshipful society to pay its ritual obeisance. Compared to any other developing country, leave alone the developed parts of the world, India has a far larger number of public holidays to "observe" death anniversaries and "commemorate" birth anniversaries. If Indians, politicians included, were to genuinely believe in rededicating themselves to the ideals and idealism of the country's claimed heroes, then ours would have been a robust nation, free of the debilitating diseases, many of which seem to have set in terminally, that afflict the world's largest democracy.

The large number of books on Jawaharlal Nehru, with a new one being published every couple of years, can be construed as testimony and tribute to the genius and wisdom of the man who became the first Prime Minister of independent India, and continued to hold office till his death in 1964. There is so much to Nehru and his contribution to India, it would seem, that just when we are told the definitive book on modern India's modern icon has been published, another book pops up claiming to have discovered a new facet to his life and times.

<b>A lot many of these books, of course, fall into the category of hagiographies. Others are sensible and few of them preachily, ponderously so.</b> Then there are authors like Stanley Wolpert, whose Nehru: A Tryst With Destiny was a delightful read, not least because of the wicked bits about our hero in drag and other trivia of his sex life. <b>Distinctions of scholarship, or the lack of it as is the case with hagiographers, apart, most authors of books on Nehru invariably end up telling the same tale, though their storyline may marginally differ. It must be a tough job, writing on a person who has already been much written about. That job is made all the more difficult by the fact that Nehru was a prolific writer and much of his writing is autobiographical, introspective and self-critical. </b>

Benjamin Zachariah, in his book, Nehru, seeks to tread paths not trodden before. Setting out the reasons that propelled him to put together what is a fine example of scholarship and a book that will appeal to both the initiated and the uninitiated, he says, "One of the major tasks of this book is to rescue Nehru from the mythologies that his supporters, his detractors, and he himself, did so much to create; mythologies that have been influential in academic and non-academic circles both within and outside India."

In writing this book, Zachariah sets out to separate fact from fiction. He wants to discover the real Nehru, his book is a self-confessed journey of rediscovery. <b>After all his effort, he comes up with a Nehru who already exists in many other books; in bits and pieces he reconstructs his rescued Nehru as a visionary with a remarkable worldview, an internationalist who remained with the woolly headed left much to the sniggering disdain of the right in the Congress and elsewhere, a politician who used the masses to his advantage and that of the Congress, though he never saw himself as one with the masses, and a nationalist who was never at ease with the idea of national chauvinism which has endeared him forever to those who question the legitimacy of Indian nationalism and Indian nationhood. </b>So what's new?

<b>He questions the logic and reason of others in the Congress who dared criticise Nehru or fault his thinking. Maulana Azad is rebuked for suggesting that Nehru's duplicitous stand on the Cabinet Mission plan forced Mohammed Ali Jinnah to strike an extremist posture whose immediate fallout was the horrendous massacre of Hindus by rampaging Muslim League mobs on "Direct Action Day", August 16, 1946.</b> "Azad's retrospective account, however, never questioned, nor found worthy of mention," says Zachariah, "Jinnah's opportunism in calling for something that he might well have anticipated, especially in the context of the uneasy and tense environment of 1946, would lead to violence; it would seem that Jinnah's lack of principles could be taken for granted."

In his effort to "rescue Nehru from the mythologies" surrounding him, Zachariah ends up pandering to views that have contributed to the mythmaking in the first place. <b>He is amazingly harsh on Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who would have been the first Prime Minister of independent India had Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi not backed Nehru, a move that did not enjoy the unequivocal support of the Congress Working Committee which in those days was not a gathering of individuals bereft of self-esteem.</b> There is also an overwhelming emphasis on Nehru's 'leftism', which, in his lifetime, Nehru used to construct the grand "Nehruvian model" that in the subsequent decades would push India down increasingly into the netherworld of non-development.

Piqued by an unfriendly review of his book, in which the reviewer had questioned the validity of Zachariah's criticism of Sardar Patel, he has responded angrily in an online rejoinder: "If Patel had had his way... Indian citizenship, one way or another, would have privileged 'Hindus', reducing Muslims and other minorities to the implicit status of foreigners... On Patel as a Hindu sectarian, therefore, I stand by what I wrote: among other things, he blocked Nehru's attempts to move against the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh after that organisation's involvement in the murder of Gandhi, preferring instead to incorporate its less 'extreme' elements into the Congress..." <b>Who's to tell Zachariah that what he stands by is a wholesome part of the mythology that has been carefully constructed around Nehru by fawning mythmakers? Or, that it was Nehru who invited the RSS to participate in the Republic Day parade after the humiliating failure of his China policy that led to India's Himalayan blunder?</b>

<b>There is a disconnect between Zachariah's views and those of an increasing number of Indians - most of them are not "Hindu sectarians" - who are increasingly sceptical of the mythical Nehru as repeatedly constructed by scholar-authors like Zachariah. They would rather see Nehru as a politician whose tenure in office had its share of successes and failures, a mere mortal with his own share of virtues and vices.</b> Old mythologies are no longer believed; new mythologies are unlikely to find any takers. Zachariah hates the cliché "falling between two stools", but it is truly applicable to his meandering endeavour.

<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->


Book Folder - Guest - 03-27-2005

From deccan

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->The Rationalist
With Malice Towards One and All by Khushwant Singh


Undoubtedly the most outstanding of all sub-communities of India are Chitpavan Brahmins of Maharashtra. All the Peshwas who built the most powerful empire before the British took over belonged to this community. So did Tilak, Gokhale, Agarkar, Ranade, Karve, Phadke, Veer Savarkar, N.V.

Gadgil, S.M. Joshi, Nanna Sahib Gore, Madhu Limaye. So did Bapu Gandhi’s murderer Godse. Leadership is in their blood. Whatever they do is done with fanatical zeal. They look different. They are light-skinned, handsome men and women with grey eyes. Their detr-actors call them Cobras.

Sathes are also Chit-pavans. The most eminent among them in the present generation is Vasant (born on Vasant Panchmi March 5, 1925) in Nasik. And still going strong. Recently he celebrated 1,000 full moons of his life. Even in his late 70s, Vasant is a tall gora handsome man with engaging manners. He started as a militant Hindu, was an active member of the RSS and had ambitions of becoming a fighter pilot. He wanted to fly his plane to Burma or Singapore to join Netaji Subhash Bose’s Indian National Army (Azad Hind Fauj). He converted to Gandhism, joined the Quit India Movement, almost had his leg broken by a lathi wielding policeman.

He became the President of the Students Union and then head of the workers Union and a lawyer. Mrs Indira Gandhi encouraged him to join politics and gave him a Congress ticket to fight elections to the Lok Sabha. He won the election and was Cabinet Minister.

One man who secretly resented his rise to eminence was a fellow Maha-rashtrian, Sharad Pawar, known double-crosser with the ambition of becoming Prime Minister of India. Pawar conspired to have Sathe defeated in the elections. Vasant Sathe claims he bears to grudge against Pawar but has recorded his views on Pawar in his autobiography Memoirs of a Rationalist (Stellar).

As the title indicates, he discarded belief in any religion. He writes: “The concept of God as a creator is itself a creation of the human mind. To me goodness should replace God, for goodness and godliness is a matter of our daily experience in life.” Sathe’s memoirs do not make easy reading: he goes on and on about the history of the Congress Party, speeches he delivered and long notations on problems faced by ministries he headed. And all with in a self-congratulatory tone.

A gaping hole in his memoirs is that while he has a lot to say about the anti-Brahmin violence following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, he glosses over the massacre of 10,000 innocent Sikhs following the assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards.  Sathe does not even refer to his deposition before the Nanavati Commission. He has also been cagey about his relations with women.

He mentions his spat with Mohammed Yunus, the glorified Pathan Ardali of the Nehru-Gandhi family over Uma Vasudev. Uma had been a close friend of Yunus till Sathe came into her life. A very peeved Yunus had cards printed on behalf of Uma’s parents inviting people to their daughter’s wedding to Vasant Sathe. Vasant lodged a complaint with Mrs Gandhi. She was amused. When he told me about it, I tried to cheer him up: “Vasant, it sounds like the fourth battle of Panipat. This time the Marathas are getting the better of the Pathans.”

He was not amused. His versions of his relationships with other women also do not tally with what they had to say about it. What takes the cake is his relationship with his attractive wife, Jayshree. Vasant knew everything worth knowing about sex from seeing what his parents did at night behind the mosquito net.

He also read Kama Sutra and Kok Shastra and knew about the importance of foreplay and the art of working up women to reach their climaxes. Jayshree looked upon the sex act as something a good Hindu wife had to suffer to bear children. So no sooner she had borne him three children and Vasant had his nasbandi, she put her foot down on further intimacies. Poor Vasant got her examined by doctors.

She refused to warm up. A very frustrated Vasant sought extra medical counselling on the subject of feminine frigidity after menopause. Who did you think he consulted? No other than the lady Prime Minister of our country. She replied, no doubt coyly: “Some beco-me frigid, some don’t.” If Vasant Sathe’s memoirs had been properly edited and reduced by half, they would have become doubly readable. <!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->


Book Folder - Guest - 03-30-2005

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>In Search of Identity: Debates on Religious Conversion in India.</b>
(Book Review)

International Bulletin of Missionary Research; 1/1/2004; Singh, Maina Chawla

In Search of Identity: Debates on Religious Conversion in India.

By Sebastian C. H. Kim. New Delhi: Oxford Univ. Press, 2003. Pp. 250. Rs 840.

Identity, Hegemony, Resistance: Towards a Social History of Conversions (1800-2000).

By Biswamoy Pati. New Delhi: Three Essays Collective, 2003. Pp. 57. Rs 90 / $10.

The resurgence of Hindu right-wing groups and rising intercommunal tensions between Hindus and Muslims and between Hindus and Christians in India have brought the issue of conversion center stage in both public political debates and more private discussions among scholars, social activists, and religious groups. Conversion poses a vexing problem in contemporary India, even as the national media continue to report attacks on churches, "reconversions" of tribal communities to Hinduism, and mass conversions of lower castes to Buddhism. These two studies are therefore very timely.

Although the titles do not name a religion, both books focus on conversion to Christianity alone. Sebastian Kim analyzes twentieth-century debates about conversion between Hindus and Christians and among the Christian theologians who have espoused inculturation approaches, as well as promoting liberation theologies, to theorize on mass Dalit conversions. Kim contends that existing Christian studies analyze conversion in sociocultural, rather than theological, terms. He thus seeks to present the theological underpinnings of the arguments both for and against conversion and to "understand these within the historical dynamics of the context" (p. 9). The study also seeks to view these debates as "part of a theological debate in the wider Christian world" (p. 89).

Analyzing the impact of Gandhi, the Niyogi Report, and subsequent anticonversion bills passed by some Indian states in the 1960s and 1970s, Kim argues that Hindu and Christian understandings reveal the limitations of both perspectives. Theologians on both sides have failed to engage each other in dialogue, in any real sense of mutuality, which is an important basis of a productive exchange.

Kim's book is neatly structured, with sections of documentation followed by analysis, in the manner of a methodical dissertation. The study is informative and eminently readable, even for nonspecialists. Kim's presentation is that of a balanced researcher. Personally, though, I missed the assertion of a stronger position on the problematics of conversion, an issue that vexes many of us in South Asia today.

Biswamoy Pati's slim monograph focuses on conversions in coastal Orissa. His study demonstrates how the histories of adivasis (indigenous, tribal communities) of coastal Orissa reveal a gradual but a dearly hegemonic process of conversion and incorporation into Brahmanic Hinduism, albeit as exploited, marginalized groups. Pati draws from historical documents and oral traditions to show how British colonial policies like land distribution schemes created shifting material conditions and shifting social identities. A combination of coercive policies thus led to displacement and also engendered a slow social process among adivasis toward a "brahmanical Hinduisation," in anticipation of elevation in status (p. 6).

Among other issues that evoke a revisionist thinking on conversion, Pati stresses the paradox that the absence of a "system of conversion" within Hinduism coexists with Shudhi (purification rites), whereby one may be "re-converted" to Hinduism (pp. 2-3). Pati thus seriously challenges the pervasive idea that Hinduism is a nonproselytizing religion and therefore more humane and tolerant, arguing that such perceptions, fueled by colonial and postcolonial politics, are more recently rooted in the growing right-wing Hindu fundamentalism.

Maina Chawla Singh, Associate Professor at the University of Delhi, has published on gender and religion, particularly on American women missionaries in South Asia. Other research interests include women's activism and sexuality in South Asia.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Overseas Ministries Study Center<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->


Book Folder - Guest - 04-04-2005

<b>ICHR SCANDALS: ‘So are they all, all honourable men.’</b>N.S. Rajaram

Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud by Arun Shourie (1998). New Delhi: ASA, pages 271 + xii. Price: Rs 350 (HB).

Arun Shourie, scholar and journalist, has been a tireless investigator of the dark forces that pose a threat to India as a nation and its civilization. And for this reason he has been dubbed a ‘communalist’. His latest effort, Eminent Historians, takes on the scholars and their methodology that have led to this climate — a climate in which free debate is impossible, and anyone who raises questions about their theology is not debated but denounced with swearwords. (This is not limited to India as many American and European academics know, but seems to have reached its apogee in India.) In particular, he explores the degradation of the history establishment by Leftist scholars who have come to be known as the ‘secularists’. By highlighting the total corruption at their hands of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), he brings to light their venality, their dishonesty and the devastating effect on national life resulting from their pervasive if dwindling, influence.

Eminent Historians makes for depressing reading. It leaves one wondering as to what must be stirring in the minds and souls of these ‘eminent historians’, to make them sink to such depths of intellectual and moral degradation as would place them in the company of Lysenko and Goebbels. Their pathology — there is no other word for it — has two wings: cultural perversion and intellectual dishonesty. There is another point worth noting, though not emphasized by Shourie: their disloyalty to the nation and the culture that has sustained and nourished them, and without which they would be nothing. Unlike Indian scientists and technologists who are recognized everywhere, in the world of humanities, these ‘eminent historians’ are utter nonentities, little more than crooked reflections of colonial stereotypes. They are also shown to be dishonest to the core, caring nothing for truth and capable of stealing both money and research.

I recognize that these are strong words, but not quite strong enough as the following episode shows. In the year 1976-77, the late Dr. Paramatma Saran, one of India’s most distinguished medieval historians, submitted to the ICHR the English translation (with annotations) of the Persian work Tarikh-i-Akbari by Arif Qandhari. Soon the manuscript mysteriously disappeared from its archives until it resurfaced nearly twenty-five years later under bizarre circumstances. In response to repeated inquiries by Dr. Saran’s son-in-law, and even an official inquiry, the Deputy Director of the Medieval Unit of ICHR — one Tasneem Ahmad — reported that the manuscript was “submitted but not traceable.” The official inquiry also somehow got killed, for reasons, as we shall soon see, of the involvement of a galaxy of ‘eminent historians’, notably Irfan Habib and Satish Chandra. (These, along with Tasneem Ahmad, are names to remember. Not to be forgotten is their patron Nurul Hassan, Honorable Minister for Education.)

A case of utter irresponsibility — one might say — but the story is only beginning. The very same ‘submitted but not traceable’ manuscript was submitted as a Ph.D. dissertation by none other than Tasneem Ahmad, the Deputy Director of the Medieval Unit of the ICHR! He even had the temerity to publish it under his own name with a foreword by Irfan Habib who showered fulsome praise on his protégé. “What it [Tarikh-i-Akbari] needed” wrote the eminent historian Irfan Habib in his Foreword to the stolen work, “was a full-scale English translation. This has been provided by Dr. Tasneem Ahmad in a very competent manner, aiming at faithful accuracy and at a critical assessment of the information here received by comparing it with that offered by other sources.”

The ‘eminent’ Professor Habib of the Aligarh Muslim University, twice Chairman of the ICHR and five times its member, did not stop there. He lauded the pilfered work as a “notable contribution to the National celebration of the 450th Anniversary of Akbar’s birth. I feel confident that it would reinforce the interest in Akbar’s age widespread among those who have a care for the long process of the creation of a composite culture and a unity that together constitute what is India.”

Of course, the thief returned the compliment from his master. As Shourie notes (p 37):

“The first and foremost [sic]” writes Tasneem Ahmad, “I express my profound sense of gratitude to, very personal regards and respects to Professor Irfan Habib, who encouraged me and guided me at every stage of the work. …”

The debt to another of these eminences is not forgotten either: “My debt to my revered teacher,” writes Tasneem Ahmad, “Professor Satish Chandra is incalculable. He took great pains in reading and correcting the work and his considered suggestions have paid me rich dividend.”

One supposes that it did not require much in the way of correction, its author the late Dr. Saran being a great Persian scholar — much greater in fact than any of these partners in crime. Their modus operandi is more like that of the Sicilian Mafia than anything found in respectable academia. “Dead men tell no tales” is a well-known motto among the Mafiosi, which seems to have been fruitfully adopted by the ‘eminent historians’ in executing what they must have thought was the perfect crime. Too bad Dr. Saran’s son-in-law should have spoiled the show.

Their pilferage activity is not limited to plagiarism. Money has not escaped the notice of these eminent historians. One example should suffice. The Government of India funded the ICHR to produce a comprehensive multi-volume work on the Freedom Movement, to be called Towards Freedom. All told the Government gave nearly two crore rupees to this project. (1 crore = 10 million.) The importance of the project is not in dispute, especially since the British produced a multi-volume work on the transfer of power giving their version of the story. But the ‘eminent historians’ of the ICHR failed to produce the work although the funds allotted to the project were spent. As Shourie points out (p 13):

An afterword is in order to this sorry tale of the Towards Freedom Project. As far as history writing is concerned, few things could have been more important than to bring alive for subsequent generations what our leaders felt and did in the long struggle to wrest freedom for the country. And just see how these eminences have handled this responsibility: a project which was to have been completed in five years and a few lakhs has been dragged for twenty-seven years, a crore and seventy-odd lakhs have been gobbled up in its name — and the volumes are still said to be on their way. This is gross dereliction — independent of what the volumes will contain, and what they would have left out.

Shourie also points out that an earlier effort on the history of the Freedom Movement headed by the great historian R.C. Majumdar was aborted by vested forces in the Congress Government itself. What was Majumdar’s crime? He refused to bend history to suit the interest of the Congress. It was given to a more pliable scholar, one Tarachand, who produced a worthless tract that no one reads. Fortunately, Majumdar had the will — and the scholarship — to produce without any sponsors the magisterial three-volume work History of the Freedom in India (Firma KLM, Calcutta). Majumdar himself observed:

… It is an ominous sign of the time that Indian history is being viewed in official circles in the perspective of recent politics. The official history of the freedom movement starts with the premise that India lost independence only in the eighteenth century and had thus an experience of subjection to a foreign power for only two centuries. Real history, on the other hand, teaches us that the major part of India lost independence about five centuries before, and merely changed masters in the eighteenth century.” (Vol.I: pp xii-xiii)

This is by the way. Returning to the Towards Freedom project, some of the details ferreted out by Shourie are most interesting. Several historians claimed that they worked on various projects in an ‘honorary capacity’, implying that they took no money for their work. This was a subterfuge. They invariably took substantial sums of money at the beginning of the project, but were not given the final installment due upon the completion of the project, for the simple reason they never did complete the project. That is to say, they took whatever money they could without doing any work. Another subterfuge was to call the payment an ‘honorarium’. But of course, money is money, no matter what you call it. This can be illustrated with a case involving a leading historian — no doubt eminent as well — Bipan Chandra.

This eminent historian was sanctioned Rs 75,000 for the year 1987-88 for the assignment entitled ‘A History of the Indian National Congress’. By 1989, he had been given Rs 57,500 with the balance (Rs 17,500) to be paid after the completed manuscript was submitted. He did not receive the balance due because he never cared to submit any manuscript. Upon inquiry, Shourie was told by the ICHR that the remaining balance is yet to be received because a “formal manuscript in this regard is yet to be received.” In other words, Bipan Chandra had taken whatever money he could without producing anything. This is not the full story however. Shourie writes (pp 15-16):

Later I learnt that the Rs 75,000/- which had been allotted to this “eminent historian” for this project — “the Oral History Project” — had been but a part, a small part of the total take. Bipan Chandra was given in addition Rs Two Lakhs by the ICSSR and Rs Four Lakhs through the Jawahrlal Nehru University. Neither institution received any manuscript from him. [1 lakh = 100,000.]

In other words, this eminent historian functioned like a scam operator, taking money promising future gains, and then disappearing with the cash. In fairness to Bipan Chandra, it must be acknowledged that he was not alone. Like plagiarism, academic scam was part of their methodology — or ‘technology’ — as Shourie calls it. Another was recommending each other’s books for translation into regional languages at Government expense and collecting royalties, though invariably called ‘honoraria’. Honor before anything else.

The sums involved will seem small when compared with the crores and scores of crores looted by politicians and scamsters. As Shourie observes, this is only because our standards have become low. In addition, these are the leaders of society who are supposed set an example for future generations through their teaching and conduct. No one looks up to crooks and politicians — the Harshad Mehtas or the Laloo Yadavs — as role models, but educational leaders are different. They serve as role models for most young people; society expects high standards from them in return for the respect that they are accorded, but these ‘eminences’ have shown themselves fit only for the company of Harshads and Laloos.

There is another point to consider: if they stole relatively small sums of money, it is only because that was all they could lay their hands on. It was not thrift but lack of opportunity that prevented them from scaling Boforsian heights.

While these eminent historians frequently pay lip service to ‘unity’ and ‘composite culture’ — meaning synthesis of Hindu and Islamic contributions — the main theme of their propaganda is a relentless attack on Hinduism and everything that is pre-Islamic. It is in effect a propagation of the Islamic view of history, which holds that the history of any place begins with the arrival of Islam, and everything before it was a dark age. So, it is not quite correct to call these eminent historians Marxists; they may borrow Marxist jargon but their methodology is based on a combination of the Islamic view of history and Goebbelsian propaganda tactics. They simply repeat their assertions at a high decibel level with the expectation that it will drown out all others. One wonders if any of them have read Marx, for their writings do not indicate wide reading. On the other hand, they come out sounding shrill and juvenile. Reading them is a torment.

The theme or the leitmotiv of their propaganda can be summarized simply: everything Hindu, and of Indian origin is evil and must be painted in the darkest hues. As a corollary, anything noble found in the Indian tradition — the Veda and the Sanskrit language for example — must be of foreign origin. This is the real reason behind these eminent historians’ fierce attachment to the discredited Aryan invasion theory, though they know the truth. They insist against all evidence that the Vedas and Sanskrit are not of indigenous origin, and stoutly deny that the Harappan Civilization was Vedic. As evidence continues to mount showing the Harappan and the Vedic Civilizations to be one, Romila Thapar stated in a national magazine that it must be resisted at all cost. In order to do this, eminent historians like R.S. Sharma resort to outright lies like “No horse at Harappa.”

This denigration of Hinduism leads naturally to the glorification of everything anti-Hindu, and even anti-Indian — especially the Islamic onslaught — as a progressive movement. The truth of course is closer to what Will Durant called it, “the bloodiest story in history”, but our eminences have never allowed truth to stand in the way of self-interest and propaganda. This leads to falsification of the Islamic record at two levels — the doctrinal and the historical. Doctrinally, the scripture of Islam, the Quran and the Hadits, not to speak of the ideology of Jihad (Holy War) leave no doubt at all about what the Faithful must do to the non-believers. Nor does the historical record — chronicled by the Muslims themselves — leave the slightest doubt on this score. (Neither does archaeology; see the two-volume work Hindu Temples, What Happened to Them? by Sita Ram Goel, Voice of India, for the archaeological and the historical record.) But our eminent historians strain every nerve, and pervert every fact to whitewash both truths — the doctrinal and the historical. This leads to what the Belgian scholar Koenraad Elst calls ‘Negationism’ and ‘Jihad Negationism’.

This again highlights the fact that they are not Marxist intellectuals so much as Goebbelsian propagandists. This becomes clear from Chapters 14 and 15 of Shourie’s book (‘Erasure to parity to absolution’ and ‘Maybe perhaps, probably mostly… therefore’), which examines the widely used text Ancient India, An introductory outline by D.N. Jha. In Chapter 16, he also quotes copiously from a book on Indian history written in 1973 by Soviet (Marxist) scholars K. Antonova, G. Bongard-Levin and G. Kotovsky, which is free of the diatribes hurled against Hinduism by Indian historians like D.N. Jha. In addition, the Soviet authors come out as being far more professional as historians. In fact, their book would make a much better text on Indian history than what are being used in India today. Shourie quotes copiously from Jha’s Ancient India, An introductory outline to expose the dishonesty and the just plain mean spiritedness of secularist scholarship. The contrast between Jha’s Orwellian pyrotechnics and the Soviet authors’ professionalism is impossible to miss.

As we examine the work of these eminences and their modus operandi, plagiarism and corruption — though heinous in themselves — are not their worst sins. They are guilty of the far greater sin of ‘corruption of the spirit’ — as Veda Vyasa called it — of forging an ideology and methodology built around institutionalized lying. It is an ideology that simply refuses to acknowledge the existence of truth. Whatever suits their self-interest is held up as truth — and as salvation for the nation.

This also accounts for the dismal contribution to scholarship that this school has made in its fifty years of domination of the establishment. There have been important advances in Indian history, but they have come from scholars outside the establishment. This reviewer happens to be at the center of research and publishing activity worldwide, and no one — yes, no one — has asked him about the views of Romila Thapar or R.S. Sharma or any of these eminences of the JNU-AMU axis that has dominated the history establishment in India. All the interest in the world today is about Shrikant Talageri’s Vedic-Puranic synthesis, Natwar Jha’s decipherment of the Indus script and others that shed light on India and her civilization. Compared to the breakthroughs of these scholars, what the Thapars, the R.S. Sharmas and the Irfan Habibs have to offer are garbled footnotes to discredited Missionary-Marxist-Mullah ranting. Even their writing style is borrowed from them. Their ideological posturing is often little more than a fig leaf for their weak scholarship.

To take just one example, Romila Thapar is totally ignorant of Sanskrit, though it has not stopped her from posing as an authority on Vedic India! In fact, a recent newspaper column by a retired bureaucrat — which reads like a paid advertisement — goes on to call her ‘India’s most eminent historian’! It must be said in her defense that there are many like her among her eminent colleagues.

This weakness of scholarship, of which they are no doubt aware, does not fully account for their career of falsehood and fabrication. Normal people do not descend to such depths of behavior simply to protect their reputations; after all, no one steals paltry sums of money to protect one’s reputation. There must be some pathology underlying such conduct, especially their persistent whitewash of the Islamic record — a record that bears comparison with the Nazi holocaust and the Christian destruction of civilizations in the Americas. As Koenraad Elst put it in his insightful monograph Negationism in India, Concealing the Record of Islam (1993,Voice of India, pp 1-2):

In my study of the Ayodhya controversy, I noticed that the frequent attempts to conceal or deny inconvenient evidence were an integral part of a larger effort to rewrite India’s history and to whitewash Islam. It struck me that this effort to deny the unpleasant facts of Islam’s destructive role in Indian history is similar to the attempts by some European writers to deny the Nazi Holocaust. Its goal and methods are similar, even though its social position is very different: in Europe, Holocaust negationists are a fringe group shunned by respectable people, but in India the jihad negationists are in control of the academic establishment and of the press.

These are the ‘eminent historians’! — “So are they all, all honourable men” who killed Julius Caesar. Now that this brand of ‘scholarship’ is getting exposed and receiving the kind of treatment it deserves, it is necessary to raise a fundamental question. What was it that turned these ‘eminent historians’ — often coming from privileged backgrounds and enjoying the best benefits that the country had to offer — into men and women who would sink to the lowest depths of moral degradation? As Shakespeare put it:

They that have done this deed are honourable; —

What private griefs they have, alas, I know not…

A clue is offered by the fact that most of these are products of what pass for ‘elite’ institutions in India — institutions set up by the British to produce servile, soulless creatures who would lose their identity and willingly serve the oppressors of their fellow countrymen. As the great Ananda Coomaraswamy observed: “A single generation of English education suffices to break the threads of tradition and create a nondescript and superficial being deprived of all roots — an intellectual pariah who does not belong to the East or the West, to the past or the future.” When he said ‘English education’, Coomaraswamy had in mind the kind of indoctrination imparted at colonial institutions whose successors now pass for elite institutions, and turn out the likes of these eminences. This seems to lie at the heart of the problem.

Others, notably Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo also saw it. Sri Aurobindo pointed out the dangers of an educational system set up to turn out colonial slaves. In his words:

Much as we have lost as a nation, we have always preserved our intellectual alertness, quickness and originality; but even this last gift is threatened by our university system, and if it goes, it will be the beginning of irretrievable degradation and final extinction. The very first step in reform must be to revolutionize the whole aim and method of education.

So the choice before the nation is clear: break the stranglehold which this decadent elite has come acquire over education or descend into moral and intellectual morass of the kind exemplified by them. The education reform of the kind suggested by Sri Aurobindo (and Swami Vivekananda) should have begun fifty years ago, but it did not. Little improvement can be expected as long as the national intellectual scene is monopolized by an elite, which regards lying as a legitimate part of academic activity, even the foundation of its methodology. In this context, it is worth recording what Koenraad Elst had to say about Sita Ram Goel’s Hindu Temples, What Happened to Them (Volume II). Elst observed:

If this book ever gets the publicity it deserves, negationist historians will find it difficult to show their faces in public. They stand exposed, and only their control of the media can save their reputation by censoring their career-long efforts at history falsification.

The same can be said of Arun Shourie’s Eminent Historians. It is a major step in hastening the country towards that auspicious day. It deserves the widest possible discussion and dissemination


Book Folder - Guest - 04-27-2005

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><b>Can we move beyond Nehruvianism, please? </b>
Prafull Goradia , KR Phanda
INDIA'S POLITICAL ECONOMY: 1947-2004 , BY FRANCINE R FRANKEL , OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, Rs 750
Erudition, whether in politics or in economics, is well reflected in this book. This would have been expected of a scholar of Dr Frankel's stature. The reviewers must however also criticise and point out the gaps that need to be bridged. A macro lacuna in the book is that the writer has taken for granted the political and economic assumptions of Nehruvianism as well as what followed. Whether the assumptions were right or not has been neither discussed nor even questioned.

India in 1947 was underdeveloped and over-populated with a great many of them very poor. Poverty, therefore, should have been the obvious first target of a Government that had declared its intention to soon hold a general election based on universal adult franchise. Employment was the obvious antidote of poverty. The scale of unemployment or under-employment was so colossal that the organised sector, however expanded, could not possibly have an answer.

Of the four sectors of the economy, a concern for the India of 1947 and for a long time thereafter, was the primary sector. Farming, mining and fishing evidently should have been the targets for generating employment. As former Prime Minister Charan Singh lucidly argued, agriculture is an activity which has unlimited potential for engaging more workers and increasing productivity as long as the particular crop has the potential to sell well in the market place, whether at home or abroad. Mechanised farming is good for cereals and allied grains but the more sophisticated the crop, whether flower or fruit, the more farmers it can help engage.

The tertiary sector had to be slow to develop in the early economy. Nevertheless, no great attempt was made. Instead, the Nehruvian concentration was on the secondary sector namely manufacture. Be it Nehru, Mahalanobis or any other economic planner, none was sufficiently conscious that manufacture was the employment of the machine and not of the man. Even for those years of the '50s and the '60s, at least Rs five lakh had to be invested in a machine to create one direct job. This is not to argue against the manufacture of goods or against the laying of an industrial infrastructure. It is only to point out that these were not the means to provide employment to large numbers and therefore not to alleviate poverty in the short run.

The fourth sector, like tourism, was not thought of. To this day India lays no stress on tourism. In fact, then Prime Minister Deve Gowda had gone to the extent of saying that India was too big a country to worry about tourism which, incidentally, can be a big employer of people. We have enumerated the points of diagnosis but the root of the disease also needs to be recorded. Jawaharlal Nehru had visited the Soviet Union and, over the years, built a mindset that what he saw in Russia was the best way to uplift the poor.

He overlooked that Russia was not over populated and therefore manufacture suited it. What is amazing is that most economists in India who assisted Nehru also fell for the Soviet model. To this day one question has not been raised: Which economy in the world has prospered with the help of a planning commission? No developed country has had either the Gosplan or the planning commission. Dr Frankel herself quoted how JRD Tata and GD Birla recommended the discontinuance of planning.

The other question we cannot help raising with Dr Frankel is a political one. Why has she not questioned that what might have been perceived as necessary for the first half of the 20th century India, was wholly irrelevant for the second half. Ever since Sir Sayyed Ahmad Khan of Aligarh and Dr Amir Ali of Calcutta talked about Hindus and Muslims as being separate nations, there was a lurking, although implicit, fear amongst many Hindus that society, not just the country, would be divided. Muslims therefore had to be placated so that they did not go their separate way. This at least was the widespread belief after the advent of Gandhi on the Indian scene in l916. At the root of Muslim appeasement was the fear, however subconscious, of Partition. Rahmat Ali's theory of Pakistan came later. So did MA Jinnah's Lahore resolution of 1940.

As it turned out, Muslim appeasement proved futile. The country was divided and over one fourth of its territory went its separate way.

Surely, political commonsense demanded that with Partition all hopes of Hindu-Muslim unity had been belied and that the curtain should be drawn on the drama of Muslim appeasement. Yet, this point does not emerge from this volume.

Dr Frankel has been uncritical in her acceptance of the Nehruvian assumption even on the subject of secularism. She assumes that the Constitution was secular whereas until 1976, there was no such mention. Indira Gandhi introduced the word by an amendment during Emergency.<b> The author also goes along with the common gossip in the media that a Hindutva mindset is a threat to national coherence.</b>

Nevertheless, coming from a distinguished scholar, the book fully deserves to be read. It helps catch up with India's eco-political history, especially for younger peopl
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Book Folder - acharya - 05-10-2005

BOOKS

The idea of India

C.T. KURIEN

India Studies in the History of an Idea, edited by Irfan Habib; Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, New Delhi, 2005; pages 270, Rs.500.

"WE are all Indians" is a cliche that is frequently heard. But what is India and who are "we"? India as a geographical entity can be seen in an atlas, but it is well known that what is shown as India now is quite different from what was seen under the same name prior to 1947. Pre-1947 India consisted also of territories that are today depicted as Pakistan and Bangladesh. But while pre-independent India was geographically larger, it was politically not quite one entity: it consisted of British India, part of a much larger British empire, owing allegiance to the British monarch, and some 600 native states - some large and some tiny - that were quasi-independent and whose populations owed greater loyalty to the local rulers than to the distant monarchy or its Indian representative, the Viceroy.


This brief narrative shows that the question "What is India?" is not as simple as it may first appear. There is a deeper issue. While Indians can be said to be those who are citizens of India, different groups of Indians may have widely divergent perceptions of what India is or should be. In this sense "the idea of India" is not easy to comprehend and define.
PSY OPS ARTICLE

The book under review is the attempt by a group of historians to deal with a set of questions relating to this complex theme. Says the preface to the book: "What India means may elicit different answers from different people today. The answers that might have been given a thousand, two thousand or three thousand years ago would have been possibly quite different. This volume explores how notions of India have grown."

It may appear that a landmass bounded by one of the tallest and longest mountain ranges on one side and by the sea on all other sides is carved out by nature to be a country. However appealing and visually familiar that perception may be, there are difficulties about that formulation. For one, even the geography is not that simple. That description overlooks the fact that the boundaries in the northeast and the northwest are not so natural at all. And, if natural boundaries are the defining criterion, the peninsula known now as South India, separated in the north by another mountain range, should have had a greater geographical claim to be a country. But for long, that landmass consisted of several distinct kingdoms, none of which was considered to be a part of India.

Hence we must look more into history than into geography to see how India, with its geographical boundaries changing frequently over time, evolved as a separate country. Here again, there are some apparent paradoxes. Today, whatever may be the nature of India, its Indianness is what those who are within it provide, cherish and defend. But in the distant past India as India was seen by those who were outside its territory and Indianness, too, was the description provided by those who came from outside.

On that basis this volume, which contains 16 independent essays and an introduction by the editor, traces the idea of India as seen by the Greeks, the Chinese, the Arabs and the Persians in the ancient past and the Dutch and the French in the more recent past. Most of these outsiders saw only parts of the territory that finally emerged as India.

Of that territory, what the Greeks knew best was the region around the river Sind or Sindhu. (Rivers came to have names long before land territories.) This region could have been part of some empire of which the Mediterranean was also a part. According to the usages of the Greeks and the Iranians, from Sind came Ind and Hind. The Persians used the suffix -stan to refer to large territories and so the land around and beyond the Sind or Hind became Hindustan and the inhabitants of the region came to be known as Hindus. The term was in use in the B.C. centuries. Its restricted use to refer to a religious group came much later, after Muslims established themselves in large parts of Hindustan. Says Irfan Habib: "But by the Hindus themselves the name was not accepted till the latter half of the fourteenth century, being obviously an alien imposition" (page 5).

<b>While Hind, Hindustan and Hindu came from the Persians, from the Greeks, who were familiar with the Indus basin, came the name "India", possibly between 500 and 400 B.C., and the associated term "Indians", referring to the inhabitants of the region. However, there was a lack of clarity about the region: a writing of the same period referred to it as neighbouring Ethiopia (page 47). The geographical knowledge of India was not much better even in the time of Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), who thought that the Indus was the upper Nile. Alexander set out on his campaign of India also with such a notion. One of the most informative accounts about India came from a Greek, Megasthenes, who was the Greek envoy to Chandragupta Maurya's court in the third century B.C.</b>

The Chinese interest in India began in earnest only after the spread of Buddhism to China. The Chinese monk Hiuen Tsiang visited India during A.D. 630-44 and produced a splendid geographical, cultural and political survey of India. The Chinese knew India under three names, Shin-tu, Hien-tu and In-tu. According to Hiuen Tsiang, people in the country preferred the third, which meant the moon and from which the name India was derived, adding that even this name was not used widely. There were different names in different parts of the territory, whose description would suggest that Hiuen Tsiang equated India broadly with the Indian subcontinent, possibly including a part of Afghanistan.

Writings about India and its people by several Arab and Persian visitors are available from the 10th to the 14th centuries. Some of them stayed on for fairly long periods and their writings marked the transition from a rather vague notion of India to a more precise awareness of its geographical regions and the customs of its people.

Of such writings one of the most notable was by the Arab scholar and scientist Alberuni. He gave a fairly dependable description of the country, its rivers and major cities. He studied Sanskrit and made a conscious attempt to understand Indian culture and convey it to the Arabic-speaking world. His accounts portrayed India as a single cultural tradition, carrying within its folds a variety of faiths, languages and social formations. There was also Amir Khusrau, born in Etah of Uttar Pradesh in A.D. 1253, son of a Turk who had migrated to India from Uzbekistan. Khusrau wrote extensively about India, which he considered as the earth's Paradise. He was impressed by the linguistic variety in India and the versatility of Indians. He was of the view that while men of letters could be found in many parts of the world, nowhere else was wisdom and philosophy so well written as in India.

The writings by some Europeans in the 17th century are also commented upon in the volume. The documents of the Dutch East India Company contain many observations about the country and its people, but understandably most of them relate to trade and commerce. The French writer Francois Bernier spent several years in India in the second half of the 17th century and wrote extensively about the country, contrasting India with Europe, and producing a general thesis about "oriental tyranny".

THE attempt made in this volume to show how the idea of India has evolved over long centuries is certainly commendable. Those who are not familiar with this history may not have even suspected that outsiders played such a crucial role in that evolutionary process. However, by concentrating so heavily on the role of outsiders, and almost completely ignoring internal factors in that process, particularly of the early periods, the volume gives a slanted picture.

The internal factors are not omitted completely. Six of the 16 chapters deal with what may be described as internal aspects. One is about the evolution of a regional identity with reference to Kerala, which, for long, did not figure in any external account of India, and has some widely held beliefs about the creation of the land itself. Another deals with the vision of a free India in the Bengal renaissance and a third with Swami Dayanand's Aryavarta. Through the works and thoughts of Pandita Ramabai and Rameswari Nehru, another essay argues for a more just India for women. There is a critical chapter on Veer Savarkar's (and those of his followers') attempt to establish that "India must be a Hindu land, reserved for the Hindus". And, finally, there is a chapter that spells out the rationale of Jawaharlal Nehru's vision of a democratic, secular and socialist India.

Each of these essays makes a useful contribution to our understanding of the idea of India. But the gap between the treatment of the ancient days (as seen largely by outsiders) and of the present (as perceived by insiders) is quite glaring. Some continuity of treatment could have been ensured by (for example) an account of the internal factors that contributed to the political unification of the geographical territory that constitutes India, the frequent disruptions of that unity, subsequent reunifications and the final division of the Indian subcontinent.

Similarly, while there are occasional references to the cultural plurality that prevailed in medieval India and emphatic assertions about the need to protect it today, some discussion of how what prevailed once was lost would have been useful. And, of course, to show the role of the external-internal interaction in the continuing evolution of the idea of India, a discussion of the changing notion of Indianness today as a result of globalisation would have greatly enriched the volume.


Book Folder - Guest - 05-12-2005

Review of Mani Shankar Aiyar'S book
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Aiyar logic, weaker argument
In his defense of secularism, Mani Shankar Aiyar fails on two counts - his poor arguments for secularism, as well as his scant attention to his party's role in creating the economic conditions for communalism. Ashwin Mahesh reviews Confessions of a Secular Fundamentalist.


30 March 2005 - "Why should we not have a Uniform Civil Code? Why should Hindus adopt family planning when Muslims resist it? What justification can there be for overturning the Supreme Court verdict in the Shah Bano case? Why do Indian Muslims cheer Pakistani sports teams? Why should we make such a hue and cry over secularism when no Muslim country practises it?" Mani Shankar Aiyar is happy to answer these and other similar questions, in his book, Confessions of a Secular Fundamentalist. Aiyar's answers are formed from his view that it is not enough to be secular; instead in the Indian context, one must also be anti-communal. This purposeful advocacy and defense of secularism he calls <b>'secular fundamentalism'</b>.

It is unfortunate that these questions and his answers appear in the Appendix, for they should have formed substantially more of the body of the book itself. <b>Aiyar's view of minority communalism is that its alleged travesties are exaggerated</b>, that in any community there will always be examples of extremism, and that the excesses of the extremists cannot be quelled by outsiders, but instead must - and will - be reined in by members of the minority communities themselves, who after all have a strong personal and communitarian interest in such reform.


Each of these views is plausibly true. The difficulty with this conclusion, however, is that the same claims can be made about majority (Hindu) communalism too - namely, that the excesses are perpetrated by a smallish faction, whose most significant days are in any event now behind us, and that a growing tide of disgust among the Hindu majority itself will eventually render such extremists truly irrelevant.

But secularists, whether of Aiyar's hard school or the softer variety attempted lately by others in the Congress, don't believe anything of this sort. Indeed, <b>Aiyar's conviction is that majority communalism cannot be left to die the death that minority fundamentalism would, and must instead be tackled more actively. </b>

Why this distinction? The by-now-familiar answer from <b>secularists is that minority communalism is at worst marginal, whereas majority communalism is far more dangerous and carries a much higher potential for damaging the nation.</b> But the numbers-based distinction cannot apply to his fears alone, it must apply to his hopes for a solution as well. Certainly, there are very many more of the majority communalists than minority ones, but is it not also true that there are very many more majority secularists too to join the battle? After all, with Hindus being such a majority in the country, there is a large pool of citizens available to confront the communalism of the Hindu right publicly, whereas if we left Muslim or Christian communalism to be fought by the minority secularists alone, then we may find too late that they are too few in number and not up to the challenge.

Secularists who see Hindu communalism to be far worse than its minority opposites are also forgetting history. Looking at modern India, with its overwhelming Hindu majority, it may seem reasonable to conclude that external religious influences have not substantially altered its fundamental Hindu nature - one that Aiyar himself accepts is tolerant and welcoming to many religious persuasions. But he forgets that this fundamental nature was once true in large territories that are no longer part of this nation, and in those territories too non-Hindu influences were certainly small to begin with. The case for anti-communalism, when it is based on the majority of the majority, cannot explain why the Hindu ethos was greatly diminished - and now nears extinction - in the lands that eventually became Pakistan, and to a lesser degree, Bangladesh.

Aiyar is certainly right to urge a passionate defense, even advocacy, of secularism. But any objective analysis of communalism cannot begin with the presumption that its practice by some is worse than by others; instead Aiyar must demonstrate this to be case. His far-too-quick leap over this territory is ultimately what makes the book unhelpful to the secular agenda. Confessions is very readable, in true Aiyar style - his penmanship remains at par with the best in the nation - but it is difficult to imagine that the book would change many minds or hearts.

Perhaps his mistake is assuming that individuals who share similar motivations will reach the same conclusions about secularism. Aiyar's arguments are based on his acceptance of Gandhian secularism - tolerance of the Other, and liberalism to reform one's own community. Indeed, he argues that being secular, he would concern himself more with Hindu problems than with Muslim ones, in the same way that Gandhi did. But the Mahatma was a Hindu, and quite certain of it. Aiyar, in contrast, tells us that he is an atheist - a confounding confession at the very end of a book arguing that reform of communities should be left to their members. One is immediately tempted to ask if Hindus and Muslims alike should consider his views a non-secular intrusion into their affairs.


A couple of hundred pages spent arguing that there is no such thing as a Hindu Muslim or a Hindu Christian (as the religious right-wing would want our minorities to regard themselves) are undone by his own embrace of Hindu atheism, without which he couldn't possibly give himself the freedom to lecture the Hindus! <b>The irony is that his views as an atheist may be more pertinent to secularists in the coming years, as increasing numbers of young people of all backgrounds turn away from religion. </b>

There is a second contradiction within Confessions' pages. Aiyar correctly notes that the perennially poor are too busy eking out an existence to be communal; instead it is those who have "known better lives and now find the good life snatched from them for no fault of theirs" who are fodder for communalism. He is further correct to argue for an economic agenda to fight this, one that "requires giving top priority not to fancy new-tech industry ... not disinvestment in favour of the obscenely rich, but investment in favour of the despairing poor".

Excellent, but how does his precise identification of the economic origins of communalism square with the actual economic agenda of the government in which he is today the Petroleum Minister? Who, if not the Congress, initiated disinvestment in favour of the obscenely rich in the guise of reform? Whose voices, if not that of the Congress, do we hear arguing loudly that an employment guarantee for millions is unaffordable?

Perhaps it is easier for Congressman Mani Shankar Aiyar to speak of communalism only in terms of religious nationalism, where the enemy is easily labeled and ridiculed. <b>Analyses of political parties' economic agendas, on the other hand, would show the Congress to be not very different from the BJP, and thus equally to blame for creating the conditions for communalism</b>. Indeed, if mounting insecurity in the new economy is where the problem lies, then it can safely be said that his party first opened the doors to communalism, and even today keeps them firmly open.

Confessions, thus, fails on two counts - its poor arguments for secularism, as well as its scant attention to the role of the author's party in creating the economic conditions for communalism. Taken together, these render it a well-intended, but ultimately blunt, addition to the secular arsenal in the battle for India. With charitable judgement, one may regard this work as no worse than incoherent advocacy by the author. But ideological battles are not won with good intentions alone, and secularists would do well to disregard this work. Aiyar's fine prose, his long stint in the Foreign Service, and his insider's familiarity with Congress history of the last two decades are good reasons to pick up the book, but when the last page is turned, one cannot help but feel that what he has delivered isn't a confession, but a sermon. And in his avoidance of the economic policies of the Congress, there is even a hint of the very thing that marks most confessions - the certainty of more sin. ⊕

Ashwin Mahesh
30 Mar 2005

Ashwin Mahesh is a co-founder and editor at India Together.
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Book Folder - Guest - 09-16-2005

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->September 16, 2005
Book review (To appear in the Quarterly Journal of Mythic Society)
National Resurgence in India, P. Parameswaran (Chief Editor),
2005. Published by Bharatheeya Vichara Kendram, Thiruvananthpuram, Kerala.
Pages, 296. Price Rs 400 (HB), Rs 350 (PB).

Reviewed by N.S. Rajaram
The volume consists of presentations made during the orientation course on "Research for National Resurgence" organized by the Bharatheeya Vichara Kendram held on August 21 - 23. As the Chief Editor P. Parameswaran observes in his introductory essay, the orientation course was organized because it was felt: "It is necessary not only to restore the academic health of the universities in Kerala but also to analyze and suggest solutions for the maladies eating into the vitals of the state."

From this statement two things become clear. First, it had a regional, more particularly Kerala focus; and second, the course was intended as a corrective measure to perceived maladies in the academic climate. But as the Chief Editor notes, the Kerala situation is not an isolated phenomenon, but part of a national malaise.

To address this somewhat general issue-not a specific area, but the more nebulous goal of improving the academic climate in Kerala, the organizers brought together a wide spectrum individuals ranging from the senior leader Murli Manohar Joshi and commentator S. Gurumurthy, to well-known academics like V.R. Panchamukhi and Chandrakala Padia as well as the enthusiast and popular writer Michel Danino. An immediately visible result is loss focus in trying to do too many things.

Such workshops and seminars can serve a useful purpose. Two notable examples, both organized by the Mythic Society in Bangalore come to mind. The first, a seminar on the Aryan problem 25 years ago, and a more recent one on the astronomical dating of the Mahabharata War. (The proceedings of both the seminars have been published by The Mythic Society.)

The next question is- do such programs add value? In the case of the two seminars just noted, the answer is an emphatic affirmative. They contain contributions by active researchers in the field and remain valuable sources even today. That is to say, they have stood the test of time.

In the case of the volume under review, the question of added value is harder to answer. To begin with, it is too recent, and secondly, the program was not a seminar with a topic but a general exhortation to initiate a national resurgence, and more particularly, Kerala resurgence. Nonetheless, this review will try to identify areas in the presentations that may continue to be relevant and a useful resource for the future.

The very goal of the program, of resurgence, proclaims unhappiness at the current state of intellectual life and the direction which it is taking. So it is no surprise that many of the contributions have a strongly defensive tone. A theme that underlies the whole program is the continued unhappiness at the Aryan invasion version of history. It is surprising this should be so, even in Michel Danino's paper (pages 71 - 98), the longest in the volume, when there is ample scientific and even literary evidence to demolish the whole thing. Since neither Danino nor any other contributor has mentioned it, here is a summary of the latest situation.

In the whole of the Rigveda, consisting of ten books with more than 1,000 hymns, the word "Arya" appears fewer than 40 times. It may occur as many times in a single page of a modern European work, like for example, in Hitler's Mein Kampf. As a result, any modern book or even a discussion on the "Aryan problem" is likely to be a commentary on the voluminous 19th and 20th century European literature on the Aryans having little or no relevance to ancient India.

This is simply a matter of the sources: not only the Rigveda, but also the whole body of ancient literature that followed it have precious little to say about Aryans and Aryanism. It was simply an honorific, which the ancient Sanskrit lexicon Amarakosha identifies as one of the synonyms for honorable or decent conduct. There is no reference to any "Aryan" type.

A remarkable aspect of this vast "Aryanology" is that after two hundred years and at least as many books on the subject, scholars are still not clear about the Aryan identity. At first they were supposed to be a race distinguished by some physical traits, but ancient texts know nothing of it. Scientists too have no use for the "Aryan race." As far back as 1939, Julian Huxley, one of the great biologists of the 20th century, dismissed it as part of "political and propagandist" literature.

Recently, there have been attempts to revive racial arguments in the name of genome research, but eminent geneticists like L. Cavalli-Sforza and Stephen Oppenheimer have rejected it. The M17 genetic marker, which is supposed to distinguish the "Caucasian" type (politically correct for Aryan), occurs with the highest frequency and diversity in India, showing that among its carriers, the Indian population is the oldest.

<b>It is not without reason that knowledgeable scholars today are calling the whole enterprise not AIT (Aryan invasion theory) but AIP (Aryan invasion propaganda). A similarly rigorous analysis of linguistic claims not only demolishes the linguistic version of Aryan theories, but also casts serious doubts about the assumptions that underlie the whole of Indo-European linguistics.</b>

Unfortunately, neither Danino not anyone else mention these recent epoch making findings. What we get instead are recycled arguments and polemics based on old, mostly European sources. The same participants who complain about Eurocentric distortions keep on using European sources, pitting one opinion against another. This leaves the reader to choose the particular authority that he or she happens to agree with!

The problem is unfamiliarity with the primary sources and not keeping up with progress in science and their implications for history. Only Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, a scientist and former academic unequivocally states that persons aspiring to study India must master Indian languages, especially Sanskrit, and also science. As he pointedly notes- if we can learn English, we should certainly be able to learn Sanskrit.

Another weakness of the program, one that seems to run through other programs with similar goals and themes, is excessive emphasis on what is termed 'spirituality.' This often amounts to little more than religiosity or a religious view as understood by the follower of one or other particular mystical cult. It may be Sri Aurobindo or Ramana Maharhsi-both great souls no doubt-but it is seldom made clear how one could use them to inspire the youth today to undertake research for resurgence or anything else.

As far as the specific contributions are concerned, the reviewer found three that went beyond the routine fare that is the staple of well intentioned but poorly focused programs: (1) "Maladies in our social science research programs" by V.R. Panchamukhi; (2) "Decolonizing social sciences and women's studies" by Chandrakala Padia; and (3) "The Indian tradition in science and technology," by M.D. Srinivas. These contain valuable insights and research pointers that need further exploration.

In summary, national resurgence, including Kerala resurgence, cannot be brought about by adopting a defensive mindset and lamenting past injustices. It needs a positive approach and a willingness to come to grips with the challenges-and the opportunities-today. Every challenge is also an opportunity.

This reviewer would suggest that workshops like this can serve a useful purpose, but only if properly planned and organized. But they must offer more than platitudes and polemics. They must add value, meaning they must produce something that will remain useful to researchers a few years hence.

In order not to leave on an entirely critical tone the reviewer would suggest a workshop on two major areas of current activity: (1) epigraphy and paleography and their implications for ancient Indian history and chronology; (2) findings in natural history including genetics, which are revolutionizing our views of ancient populations and migrations. Even tutorials by experts would be invaluable.

The reviewer hopes that the suggestion will be taken up by individuals and organizations in a position to organize such programs. The youth should be brought into any such programs, which at the present time seems to be limited to veterans some of whom are no longer actively engaged in research. <!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->


Book Folder - acharya - 09-26-2005

The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (Paperback)
by Philip Jenkins "


A false Christianity will arise in the future, as foretold by biblical prophecy. The world at large, both the secular and the deceived religious, are heading for a global unity in government and religion. This global government that will dominate all people, and every aspect of religion, commerce, politics, and every day life, will be ruled by one central powerful leader. The Bible calls this person Anti-Christ. We don't know his name yet, but in due time he will be revealed, when the prophecies foretold of will have come to pass, fulfilling this great event. Christianity is already being forced into this global movement, although most Christians don't realize it. New age religion is slowly creeping into and being taught by the mainstream church ("The Purpose-driven Church" and "The Purpose-driven Life"), both protestant and Catholic. A global mind-set is being embraced, a move that defies the call of scripture and brings deception on many who are unaware or "sleeping." We already have one of the first openly new-age bible versions: the parphrase called The Message. Already many professed Christians cannot see that this book does not align with their traditional Bible which has been translated from original Greek and Hebrew text. They are already falling into the global trap. Christ said for born-again Christians to come out of the world and its contrary teachings and philosophies, and not become united with it. Those who wake up and realize that they are supposed to be rowing against the current, are going to be martyred by those who believe they are actually doing the will of God. If they had been reading what their Bibles tell us will happen in the "last days", then they would know that globalism is not the answer and that they are not supposed to partake in it. Jesus said "the gait is very narrow that leads to eternal life, and very few will find it." Therefore, if Christianity becomes one of the world's largest religions--even to rival Islam--then is it really the true Christianity, the true way that Jesus spoke of? "Broad and smooth is the path, and straight is the gait that leads to destruction..." Christians need to wake up and cast off the global lie, recognize it in scripture, and remember what Jesus said, that this world is not their home. We are sojourners in the land and we are only passing through it...Our home is in heaven, forever with our Savior Jesus Christ.


Book Folder - Guest - 10-14-2005

Acharya, you had asked for some books from india by arvind sharma onHinduism. well what had happened wasi had sent them by sea mail along with some other books and they just arrived after six months. if you dont want them i will donate them to the local library. they include

classical hindu thought
Modern Hiindu thought
Hinduism for our times


Book Folder - Guest - 10-14-2005

Kaushal,
I can have them.


Book Folder - acharya - 10-15-2005

I want them.
I will send you an email


Book Folder - Guest - 10-15-2005

<!--emo&Sad--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/sad.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='sad.gif' /><!--endemo-->


Book Folder - Guest - 10-21-2005

<b>Recommended Books to Understand Jihad And Dhimmitude</b>


Book Folder - Bharatvarsh - 11-10-2005

A new book "FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION Secular Theocracy Versus Liberal Democracy" has been updated at VOI:

http://voi.org/books/foe/pre.htm


Book Folder - Guest - 11-21-2005

Ambedkar love letters anger Prakash
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->New Delhi: A collection of love letters written to Dr B.R. Ambedkar by British woman Francis Fritzgerald and being published by Roli Books has upset his grandson, Mr Prakash Ambedkar.

<b>The grandson, a former member of Parliament, has reportedly lodged a complaint with the Delhi police to prevent the publication of the letters. According to the complaint, the publication of these letters "could hurt dalit sentiments in the country".</b>

When contacted, Mr Prakash Ambedkar refused to comment on the issue. "I don't want to talk about it," he said. Roli Books publisher Pramod Kapoor, confirming the police complaint, said he has decided to "go ahead with the publication of the book despite the complaint".

The book, authored by Prof. Arun Kamble, a Marathi professor in Mumbai University, is a collection of love letters written to Dr Ambedkar by Francis, who was a typist in Britain's House of Commons and also worked in India House in London. The correspondence spans over 20 years, from 1922 to 1943. The address from where Francis wrote to Dr Ambedkar, as given in the letters, was 10, King Henry's Road, Hampstead, UK. Claiming that the letters were "authentic", Prof. Kamble said they were given to him by Dr Ambedkar's librarian, Mr S.S. Rege.

Mr Pramod Kapoor of Roli Books said, "There is nothing secretive about them. These are original letters."

He added that the police came to his office in early November on the basis of a complaint lodged by Mr Prakash Ambedkar. They were told that the collection of letters, if published, could "incite the dalits in the country".

However, Mr Kapoor made it clear that there was "nothing illegal and publishing the book would take at least 10 months".

Speaking to this newspaper from Mumbai, the author justified the publishing of the letters: "I am an Ambedkarite. This is purely research work. We know so much about him and his contribution to the nation. The publication of these letters will show more about his life and philosophy."

Reiterating that there was "nothing wrong" in publishing the letters, Prof. Kamble claimed that Dr Ambedkar's biographer, C.B. Khairmode, has also "written about Francis". He added that Dr Ambedkar's personal assistant, Nanakchand Rattu, had talked of Francis' letters in another book. "So you see, there is nothing new about this relationship," Prof. Kamble said. He maintained that Dr Ambedkar had dedicated his book What Congress and Gandhi Have Done to the Untouchables to Francis. In the preface of this particular book, Dr Ambedkar wrote: "To, F — In thy presence is the fullness of joy..."

One letter from Francis to Dr Ambedkar reads: "My darling Bhim, I was happy when I knew you were coming and I thought that we should always be together, and now you have left me again and I hear it, you will come back soon my darling... I want to you to kiss me, I want to feel your strong arms holding me tight."


http://www.asianage.com/?INA=2:175:175:193545
© 2005 The Asian Age

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Book Folder - acharya - 01-10-2006

<b>Transforming India : Social and Political Dynamics of Democracy (Paperback)
by Zoya Hasan,
</b>


This volume provides a cross-disciplinary analysis by leading Indian social scientists of the transformations unleashed by the introduction of egalitarian and liberal principles of government within the context of the colonial legacy, hierarchical social order, group-based identities, and plural cultures.
'


Book Folder - acharya - 01-18-2006

Subject: Outlook and Indian Express review of "India Stinking",

KANCHA ILAIAH, *Outlook*, 16 January 2005

Instead of creating a technology to remove human excreta from houses, the
pandits took the easy way out by condemning a particular caste to do the job.<b>
Even when the technology was available, our Brahminical bureaucracy was
unwilling to abolish manual scavenging. How the combination of caste and
urbanisation has contributed to the persistence of the most inhuman of jobs is
revealed in this small but significant book.</b>

Gita Ramaswamy's book evolved out of her work in the campaign to demolish the
infamous dry latrine system that still prevails in Andhra Pradesh, home to over
two lakh dry latrines. Despite being banned in '93, manual scavenging persists
even in the 21st century.

The book brings out the ideological hang-ups that encourage manual scavenging.
It points out the limits of Communist ideology, so long as it remains
caste-blind. It shows how this abominable system was allowed by every successive
ruling party because of the Gandhian understanding that the Bhangis were born to
do this work - just like a mother cleans her child's nappies. It cites
Ambedkar's argument that if this work was/is so sacred, why don't the upper
castes take it up? This book needs to be read by every civilised citizen of
India.

* *

By Scharada Bail, *New Indian Express on Sunday, *8 January 2006

*India Stinking Manual Scavengers in Andhra Pradesh and Their Work By Gita
Ramaswamy Navayana Publishing, Rs 100*

Institutionalised indifference to fellow human beings as represented by the
caste system is unique to India. This assumes a particularly stark form when one
considers the practice of manual scavenging - the daily picking up of human
excreta by hand from public 'dry latrines', as described in this book, or from
alongside town roads, as shown in 'Pee', R P Amudhan's film that won first place
in the inaugural 'One Billion Eyes' documentary and short film festival held in
Chennai recently.

India Stinking focuses on the practice of manual scavenging in Andhra Pradesh,
but brings to the fore many issues that bear discussion at every level and
region in our society. For instance, in profiling the activities of the Safai
Karamchari Andolan or SKA led by Bezwada Wilson, the book demonstrates
conclusively that nothing short of abolishing the 'dry latrine' system can bring
about a change in public sanitation and a restoration of human dignity. In
addition, from Bezwada Wilson's spirited rebuttal of the Gandhian approach of
calling scavenging a 'noble' profession, and from the Appendix of Gandhi and
Ambedkar's differing views on scavengers and scavenging, it is evident that
untouchability as it translates into actual modern town and urban practice has
to be vigorously examined and overcome.

Gita Ramaswamy's book is a well-argued case for the engagement of the larger
community with the issues that plague the lives of safai karamcharis. How can we
allow what goes on to go on? How can we reinforce ritual discrimination with
State support? What are we doing with the laws and legislation that was meant to
end such practices? Through its documentation of the efforts of the SKA, the
book asks such tough questions and more.


Book Folder - acharya - 01-18-2006

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20051205/ali

review | posted November 17, 2005 (December 5, 2005 issue)
Mystic River

Tariq Ali


The sage of Bengal has pronounced. Pluralism, we are informed, has an ancient
pedigree in Indian history. It is embedded in the oldest known texts of Hinduism
and, like a river, has flowed through Indian history (including the Mughal
period, when the country was under Muslim rule) till the arrival of the British
in the eighteenth century. It is this cultural heritage, ignored and
misinterpreted by colonialists and religious fanatics alike, that shapes Indian
culture and goes a long way toward explaining the attachment of all social
classes to modern democracy. The argumentative tradition "has helped to make
heterodoxy the natural state of affairs in India," exerting a profound influence
on the country's politics, democracy and "the emergence of its secular
priorities." This view informs most of the thought-provoking essays in Amartya
Sen's new book, a set of reflections on India written in a very different
register from his other books on moral philosophy and poverty. It is designed
not so much for the academy but as a public intervention in the country of his
birth, to which he remains firmly attached despite the Nobel Prize and his
latest posting at Harvard as a Boston Brahman.

Although the essays in The Argumentative Indian were composed at different
times, they have been successfully welded into a single volume. There is much to
agree with here. Sen's lofty worldview remains staunchly secular and
rationalist, as befits a scholar whose intellectual formation took place in
Nehru's India, a historical time zone under constant attack today from Hindu
nationalists on the one side and some of the more fashionable Indian luminaries
of the US branch of the subaltern school of historians on the other. Unlike
fellow Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul, Sen does not see the entry of Islam into
India as a dagger thrust in the heart of Indian civilization. On the contrary,
he argues that the effect of Mughal rule was beneficial. This was undoubtedly
the case on the dietary front: The historian Irfan Habib has shown how the
average Indian peasant ate better and more often in this period than under the
British.

Given the title of Sen's book, it would be churlish to prove him wrong by simply
nodding in approval, as is so often the case in our wonderful subcontinent. What
follows, then, from this argumentative Pakistani is the expression of a few
doubts concerning his central thesis and the odd complaint with regard to some
omissions.

Can the lineages of modern Indian democracy be traced back to the holy texts, as
Sen suggests? And does the affection of ordinary citizens for democracy have any
material (as opposed to mystical) links to the arguments once heard by Buddha or
King Ashoka (273-232 B.C.), let alone the Mughal emperor Akbar (1556-1605)?

It's true that disputes abound in the ancient Sanskrit epics. Their multiple
tales are, as Sen puts it, "engagingly full of dialogues, dilemmas and
alternative perspectives," such as that of Javali, the notorious skeptic of the
Ramayana, who explains in detail how "the injunctions about the worship of gods,
sacrifice, gifts and penance have been laid down in the sastras [scriptures] by
clever people, just to rule over [other] people." In codifying the rules for
debate in the Buddhist councils, Ashoka demanded mutual respect among the
various sects. While the Inquisition was sowing terror in Europe, Akbar, himself
a Muslim, ruled that "anyone is to be allowed to go over to a religion that
pleases him." The interreligious debates he organized in Agra included Hindus,
Muslims, Christians, Parsees, Jains, Jews and the atheists of the Carvaka
school, who argued that Brahmans had established ceremonies for the dead only
"as a means of livelihood" for themselves. Even the Vedic Song of Creation on
the origins of the universe ends in radical doubt: "Who really knows? Whence
this creation has arisen--perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not--the
one who looks down on it, in the highest heaven, only he knows--or perhaps he
does not know."

Yet the skepticism voiced by some rulers and reflected in ancient texts was
usually, if not always, confined to the priestly elites. The model for the
debates among scholars from different religions and sects that were organized by
Akbar's court was little different from similar discussions a few centuries
earlier in the camp of Mongol leader Genghis Khan (1162-1227). With this
exception: Mongol soldiers were permitted to both listen and participate in the
arguments. The Mughal courts in India were sealed off from public view: The
courtiers listened and, no doubt, nodded when the emperor smiled appreciatively
as a point was scored, but they did not speak. Only the emperor and a few of his
close advisers posed questions. The tyranny of the few over the many--exercised
through a ritual combination of coercion and religion--was never seriously
challenged in India until the advent of capitalist colonization. Nobody spoke
for the subalterns.

Unlike ancient Greece, there were no city-based institutions where important
issues could be debated, and the overglorified village panchayats, or councils,
were the domain of the privileged where the poor could only appear as
supplicants. Ancient India produced an ugly caste system that led to early
divisions and splits, but neither Brahmanism proper nor its wilder
offshoots--Buddhism and Jainism-- came even close to producing a political
philosophy that could lay the basis for a popular or semipopular assembly like
those in ancient Greece, whose formal decrees always began with the invocation:
"The demos has decided." The assemblies in Athens were barred to slaves, but
they did include peasant proprietors and even some peasants who worked for
others. Hence the debates between rich and poor; hence the fear of the multitude
evinced by the wealthy; hence Solon's New Deal- ish boast: "I stood covering
both [rich and poor] with a strong shield, permitting neither to triumph
unjustly over the other." But even these traditions, while never forgotten,
disappeared completely. The idea of democracy re-emerged in the debates that
followed the English Revolution and found institutional form only after the
American and French revolutions.

Ancient India produced great poets, philosophers and playwrights, along with art
forms, gods and goddesses to match anything on offer in Athens, but it did not
give birth to an Aristotle. And nothing remotely resembling the Assembly in
Athens or the Senate in Rome arose on the subcontinent. Surely this must reflect
some deficiency. Despite arguments within the elite and some wonderful
expressions of skepticism cited by Sen, the demos was kept under strict control
throughout Indian history. Uprisings threatening the status quo were brutally
crushed by Hindu and Muslim ruler alike. Superstition and irrationality were
institutionalized via a network of priestly domination.

The resilience of Brahman traditions lay not in encouraging debate but in the
power of the iniquitous caste system that survives to this day and pervades the
spirit of Indian democracy. One wishes that Sen, a longstanding critic of
economic inequality, had given us his views on whether globalization tends to
weaken or strengthen caste chauvinism in India. When in the third decade of the
past century, the "untouchable" leader Dr. Ambedkar insisted that his caste not
be considered Hindu so that they, like the Muslims, could demand separate
electorates from the British rulers, he was sweetly rebuffed by Mahatma Gandhi,
no doubt for the noblest of reasons. Hard-core confessional elements in the
leadership of the ruling Congress Party were only too aware that without the
"low castes" being counted as Hindus their overall weight in the population
would be drastically reduced.

What of India's Muslims? The Mughal conquest of India created a strong
centralized state, but there was not even an embryonic consciousness of
democracy, even in its most primitive, patrician form. The emperor was supreme.
His subjects could plead for justice in his presence once a week, and if they
were lucky they could be rewarded with a few coins and kind words. Interestingly
enough, while all the existing texts of classical Greece and Rome were
translated into Arabic during the eighth and ninth centuries, and while Islamic
schools of philosophy, mathematics, astronomy and medicine flourished in
Córdoba, Palermo and Baghdad, the one genuine innovation of the Greeks--the idea
of democracy--did not travel. The caliph was both the spiritual and the temporal
ruler, and any notion of an assembly of equals would have been seen as a godless
challenge to Allah's vice regent. The Mughal order in India was based on an
alliance of the wealthy and the creation of a strong central bureaucracy with
rights over large tracts of land.

Sen is correct to stress the tolerance of the Mughals, particularly Akbar,
toward the non-Muslim majority. The reasons for this policy, however, were not
simply altruistic. The Muslim conquerors, like the British after them, knew that
stable rule was dependent on securing the consent of crucial layers of the
indigenous elites. This they did successfully, and even the last of the great
Mughal emperors, the devout and narrow-minded Aurangzeb, presided over an
imperial army led by an equal mix of Hindu and Muslim generals. When the British
East India Company's army secured Bengal as a bridgehead in 1757 and made
Calcutta the first capital of British India, it did so with a very small number
of British officers, European weaponry and local recruits on a monthly wage.
Like its Mughal predecessor, the company was desperate for allies and often
bought them in the marketplace. The Bengali Renaissance that produced Nobel
Prize-winning writer and poet Rabindranath Tagore, filmmaker Satyajit Ray, the
Sens and numerous others was the result of a unique synthesis between local
tradition and imperial modernity, based on a capitalist economy. Without
capitalism there was no Indian modernity. Democracy in British India (as in
Britain itself) came a century and a half later as a result of pressure from
below on the part of a growing middle-class intelligentsia in Calcutta. "What
Bengal thinks today," declared the reformer Ram Mohun Roy, "India thinks
tomorrow."

That is why imperial ideologues as well as colonial apologists like Rudyard
Kipling came to despise Bengal. The Bengalis, in their estimation, were effete
intellectuals ill equipped to fight, unlike the "martial races" of the Punjab
and North-West Frontier. Kipling's fiction is filled with crude stereotypes of
the dark-skinned Bengali babu (clerk) as contrasted with the noble and
fair-skinned Pathan or the Rajput warrior. Better they were kept illiterate lest
they become uppity like the Bengalis.

Even supposing there was a strong "argumentative" tradition in India 3,000 years
ago, was this the frail aqueduct through which the democratic stream finally
moved? Such is the argument of Sen and (in a more fashionable formulation) of
postcolonial scholars who scornfully dismiss the suggestion that the British
presence had anything to do with the spread of democratic ideas and the rise of
Indian democracy. This is, in my view, a form of mysticism. We may not like it,
but there is no denying the impact of 150 years of British rule in India, which
brought capitalism to the country and overwhelmingly determined the nature and
character of Indian institutions. Sen accepts uncritically the historian Partha
Chatterjee's argument that, in Chatterjee's words, the emergence of nationalism
created its own domain of sovereignty within colonial society well before its
political battle with the imperial power. It does this by dividing the world of
social institutions and practices into two domains--the material and the
spiritual. The material is the domain of the "outside," of the economy...of
science and technology...where the West has proved its superiority.... The
spiritual, on the other hand, is an "inner" domain bearing the "essential" marks
of cultural identity. The greater one's success in imitating Western skills in
the material domain...the greater the need to preserve the distinctiveness of
one's spiritual culture. Here one discerns a retreat from the secular definition
of nationhood espoused by Nehru and a slide into the murky domain of Hindu
nationalism, albeit in an ultra-civilized fashion. In rejecting the heritage of
Nehruvian socialism for its statism and affiliation with the urban middle class,
"left-wing" postcolonial historians like Chatterjee have eerily converged in
their arguments with right-wing Hindu politicians, who insist that the content
of Indian nationalism has always been spiritual, i.e., religious, thus excluding
India's large Muslim minority from the national community. (When the Hindu
nationalist brigade in the United States mounted a disgraceful campaign two
years ago against the Library of Congress decision to award a research
fellowship to Romila Thapar, one of the most distinguished secular historians of
ancient India, a majority of Indian historians on American campuses remained
silent.) What is "one's spiritual culture" and "cultural identity" if not
religion, even if lightly disguised as the Cow Protection League or the National
Fund to Rebuild Mosques? Was it possible for nationalism to move in a more
cosmopolitan than spiritual direction?

This raises the Gandhi question. Was it necessary for the Mahatma to use
spiritual (Hindu) imagery and language to rouse the majority of the countryside
from their torpor? Nehru and Tagore did not think so and argued heatedly with
the old fox, but on this Gandhi would not budge. It was they who gave up, Tagore
in despair and Nehru in the half-hope that the damage was reparable. But it
wasn't, and it led ultimately to the fatal breach with secular Muslims,
including Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. That there were other
straws in the nationalist breeze was revealed time and time again in the wave of
strikes that paralyzed the country in late 1945 and then again in 1946, when
Muslim, Hindu and Sikh naval ratings united against the British and seized the
ships, raising the banner of revolution. This was the most significant mutiny in
the history of the British Empire. On the advice of Jinnah and Gandhi, the
sailors surrendered "to India not the British."

The attachment to the "distinctiveness of one's spiritual culture" undoubtedly
helped provoke the bloody partition of the subcontinent, but the institutions
that provided the spinal cord of the new states owed little to spiritual
traditions. They were British creations, and Parliament was not the only one. It
certainly helped to unite India, but in neighboring Pakistan it is the army and,
to a lesser extent, the civil service, both creations of the Raj, that have
ruled the country. What happened to the "argumentative" tradition here? Taxila
(near Islamabad) was, after all, the site of one of the world's first large
(Buddhist) universities centuries before the Christian Era. It is not that most
Pakistanis did or do not like democracy. A new imperial power decreed that the
army was the most reliable guarantor of stability and order in the new country.
Here Washington has been consistent. Only this year Condoleezza Rice, on a visit
to Islamabad, praised Gen.Pervez Musharraf and his regime--apparently secular
and autocratic--as the model for the Muslim world. (Including Iraq?)

In India democracy has become embedded as the only acceptable form of rule
largely because of geography. If Pakistan split into two after an eleven-year
military dictatorship from 1958 to '69, what would an attempt to impose a
military regime in India have done to that country? Created a three-way split?
Or even more fragments? The regional elites realized that this would be an
economic disaster, and the unity of India under a democratic umbrella became the
common sense of the country. It is this and mass hostility to autocracy that
explains the longevity of the democratic system, but one should not
underestimate the power of turbo-propelled capitalism to weaken democracy in
India just as it is doing in its heartlands. Indians may want democracy, but it
is hardly a prerequisite for a dynamic capitalism. Europe demonstrated this
during the first 300 years of capitalism; China does so today.

The essay on the giant of Bengali letters, Tagore (1861-1941), who died six
years before India and his beloved Bengal was partitioned, is studded with gems.
Sen knows Tagore's work well, and his grandfather, a distinguished historian of
Hinduism, worked with the great poet in Santiniketan, a progressive educational
academy that provided the inspiration for Dartington Hall in England. Tagore's
standing in the West has been subject to many fluctuations. His mystic-spiritual
side appealed to many Westerners, including Ludwig Wittgenstein, but as Sen
explains, this was only one side of the man. In Bengal and India he was the
voice of reason, a cosmopolitan who encouraged the self-emancipation of the
people and urged them to free themselves from the Brahman and the British and
break the chains of caste and poverty. The dangers he saw for India were
structural, not spiritual. As he wrote in 1939: "It does not need a defeatist to
feel deeply anxious about the future of millions who, with all their innate
culture and their peaceful traditions, are being simultaneously subjected to
hunger, disease, exploitations foreign and indigenous, and the seething
discontents of communalism."

Sen's reflections on Tagore, however, would have benefited from comparison with
another great Indian poet: Muhammad Iqbal
(1877-1938), who wrote in Urdu and Persian. Iqbal, too, was given to mysticism,
but of the Sufi variety. Younger than Tagore, he was greatly influenced by Hegel
and the German philosophical tradition and was a great favorite of both Nehru
and Jinnah. Iqbal, too, died before partition. Tragically, he was immediately
mummified by the new state of Pakistan, his message so distorted that he is seen
by many in that country as a revivalist, which is far from the truth. Like
Tagore, he loathed priest and mullah alike and celebrated reason and knowledge,
as in this verse dividing God from Man: You created Night, I the Lamp You the
earth, I the bowls You created wilderness, mountains and ravines I the flower
beds, gardens and groves I make mirrors from stone I find antidotes in poison.
Both Tagore and Iqbal would have been mortified at the direction taken by the
modern leaders of the old subcontinent. Like Sen, both would have been alarmed
by the nuclear turn and missiles with confessional names targeted by each side
against the other. Even those who disagree with Sen or see him as a tame and
toothless Bengal tiger will be compelled to engage with his arguments. That
alone is sufficient reason to welcome the publication of this book.