Hindu Rule

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The Intolerance Debate : Are We More, Or Less Tolerant?

Published November 8, 2015 by vishalvkale

The intolerance debate has been raging for some time now; high time we tackled this bear by the horns, challenged it and defeated it. But, in order to do that, it is essential we understand the nature of the problem facing us.  It was as I was making this effort of trying to understand intolerance that a striking possibility occurred  : that we might actually be getting far more tolerant than we thought!

PROLOGUE

This first occurred to me when I noted how Dilip Kumar and other Muslim actors had to change their names in order to broaden their appeal. We have moved a long way since then; now not only do film stars not change their names, but can confidently go ahead without a care for their names. Modern India can now showcase famous names across trades and professions showing that professional discrimination has been steadily decreasing to what I hope is now near-zero.

This latest question occurred to me on reading some period literature of the late 1800s and the early 1900s;which showcase the status of our society as it was at ground level in those trying times. As compared to that period, in my opinion we have moved far, far ahead and have become far more accepting and tolerant. Sure, intolerance remains; but it is nowhere near what it was earlier. Sure, problems remain; but nothing quite so serious as compared to before.

SANAATAN DHARM

Santaani resurgence is not a new phenomenon, and has always been present since the times of the early 1800s at least; neither is the division in our society along various lines from caste to politics, That is the price we are paying for colonialism; that is the price of our independence, I have no doubt that eventually we shall triumph; my confidence in my mother, my India is total in that regard, As is my confidence in at least my religion : Sanaatan Dharm, wrongly known as Hinduism.

We have two choices : focus on the negative message of intolerance, or further the positive message of tolerance. I choose to take the latter path : can we spot current trends towards tolerance? I can, More than several, and in the here and the now…

There is far more than meets the eye, in that this isnt just a political issue as much as it is a classic socio-political issue arising out of the entire sequence of events that can be traced back decades, if not more. The past events have given rise to a minority of Sanaatani followers in India who hanker for a more fundamental approach; a set of people who set store by Sanaatan Dharm as the central religion, and the pole of Indian polity as well as society

Note : I refer to Hinduism as Sanaatan Dharm, by its original name. There is no historical or religious basis for the term Hinduism; basis my more than 36 books reading of Indian History, almost all reviewed on my blog.

There is still a segment of people who regard Muslim rule as alien, who still quote the wars and the violence in the Mughal and Slave Dynasty periods, who insist that Muslim rule was far more damaging than the British rule, You can read blogs, articles on the mythical 1000-year slavery, or the other aspect online on any number of platforms, or on comments. Hopefully this is still a minor matter in India

What is happening isnt just a political affair; it is a socio-political affair. And unless we factor in all factors, any conclusions we reach will be erroneous. And the past has a tremendous bearing on the present; any number of current events can be found as proof. Please read the comments on various sites, and note the tenor of the comments, and how they hark back to the “golden” period of Sanaatani rule for vivid proof of this. We have no choice but to face down the events of the past, and prove the reality, separate the chaff from the substance, and lay bare the reality,

FACTORS OF THE PROBLEM, AND THE ANALYSIS

The problems we face today have their genesis in several factors :
* History
* Social Developments and Churning
* Politics
* Religion

But more of these in later articles; To cut things short for now, it isnt a matter of do-this-as-my-forefathers-were-done-this-to-them. It goes much deeper – into a hard-wired inferiority feeling in some Sanaatan Dharmis, wherein they regard the period 1300-1700 as a period when the Golden rule of Sanaatan Dharm fell by the wayside. The problem with this narrative in vogue is at many levels and layers; for starters – the assumption of Sanaatani political rule is itself debatable, given the non-political nature, by and large, of Sanaatan Dharm. Further, the interplay between political factors and the cooperation of local kings also goes ignored in this narrative

Second, the assumption that Sanaatan Dharm fell is itself, to me, a deep insult; the way I see it, we Sanaatanis did not fall; despite the heavy persecution that was periodically visited upon us for the past several centuries, While the Abrahaminic Religions totally eclipsed the earlier society in just about the rest of planet Earth, we followers of Sanaatan Dharm remain, as we were, resilient, resolute, unchanging, with the same cultural and religious practices as in 500 or 1000 plus BC, perhaps even 4000BC Plus!.
Now that, I respectfully submit, is something truly special. We were there when Babylon rose and fell; and we are still here, in the 21st Century.

To the mainstream of Sanaatani people, it doesnt matter; we are more concerned with out duties and our lives; our scriptures are pretty much specific – do your duty towards nation, family and society. Nothing else matters. You are alive just for one reason : to do your duty to family and society, period.

But, to some people, the loss of political power in the early part of the 1st millennium onwards till the 18th century is proof of the mythical “fall” of Sanaatani power. There is a burning desire to see Sanaatani followers as powerful militarily and otherwise; they tend to forget that the real power of a Sanaatan Dharmi is, as per me, his or her internal strength and resolute and rock-hard belief system that has withstood centuries & millennia of epochal buffeting winds and changes.

To simplify, it isnt really about others; it is a burning internal desire to strengthen our own Sanaatan Society that is one part of the driving factor – giving rise to forces like the Sangh. Now this can be both positive as well as negative; that we need a Sangh, a body of social drivers that can ensure continued passing on of values and norms is beyond argument; I myself am a fan of the Sangh’s socio-cultural activities, and how they strive towards creating a good citizen, as well as driving the power of our religion into their minds, as also inculcating a feeling of pride in our heritage, which are all positives. {I have used the Sangh here just as an example}

On persecution of Sanaatan Dharm followers : that is a statement that has some basis in fact, and there is no point denying it, Yes, we Sanaatan Dharm followers are, in my opinion, one of the two most persecuted people on this planet – and in our own land, to boot. We, and the Jews stand as exemplary people in the history of the Earth : no one has been persecuted as much as us, and by just about everyone. It is a matter of inconsequential debate as to who was persecuted more : {my opinion, The Jews have been through more than us} – and is an academic point.  
But who persecuted us really – the Arabs, or the British? And what about the active cooperation of local kings with the invaders? What about the various treaties and friendships that happened during medieval times? And why are we forgetting the active conversion campaigns of the European Christians? {Christians were here in India since almost 70AD, and had lived peacefully. It is only after the Europeans that conversions started.  All these, and other questions will need attending to.

While the World has learnt and grown up to accept Jews, The Sanaatan Dharm follower is still held to public ridicule outside India in any number of even mainstream outlets. It hurts, damnit – and I make no bones about it. So why doesn’t this strike a chord in us?

But the real challenge is in facing this hurt, accepting it – and moving on, We cannot afford to live in ignorance; that way lies disaster, leaving open the chance of manipulation by some forces. We have to face the history, grow up to it, look it straight in the eyes, and state: You are History, I am the present, and I shall learn from you, but not want to seek justification or revenge. The current set of people have done nothing to damage us, and thus share no blame. What is past is done with, and over. Let bygones be bygones; forgive and forget.

By not facing upto the past, we are leaving the field open for one-sided narratives that blame everyone except look inward, We need to introspect, understand and face our own faults that lead to this persecution, for that is the positive way forward, We need to understand that not everyone, even in the past, was out to get us; and that the persecution, while true, was not supported by all. We, now more than ever, need to face upto the history of our nation, and learn from it; learn from our fall from grace, understand the true reasons for our fall from grace, and connect these learnings to the present day. That is one way we can fight this rising tide.


In conclusion, in this set of articles, I shall attempt to look at why India is actually getting more tolerant each day; I shall try and analyse the reasons for the rise of the rhetoric around some aspects, try and present the fuller picture, and underscore that while challenges and worries remain : there is far more reason to be hopeful and buoyant than there is to be cynical and worried… Jai Hind! Vande Mataram!
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Being Indian – 5 : National Narrative Versus National Ethos

Published August 1, 2015 by vishalvkale

Concluding part of the series “Being Indian” – previous part found here : Being Indian – 4 : The Ultimate Triumph Of The West



India is a land that, as all of like to repeat ad-nauseum, is known for its diversity as well as its unity both; in fact, Unity in Diversity is the justified by-line for our Nation, our national ethos,  that is what, essentially, India stands for, and our ethos, our culture is what we are exceedingly proud of. This unity rests on the unique Socio-Cultural fabric of our nation, which has been crafted out of several Millennia of inter-mingling, living together, interacting and even fighting together. While India the nation, the political unit, may be a relatively new construct – Hindustan, or Bharat or Hind is a concept as old as this land itself, as is borne out by the scores of period documents as well as in the writings of the visitors to this holy and blessed land.


But, if you dig deeper, one can easily spot a narrative that is at complete variance with this stated ethos, and many contradictory themes emanating from within this unified cultural milieu, many inconsistencies that critics use to label us as being not quite so unified – namely, the fervent desire of a small section of our society to become a Hindu Rashtra, or the entire language debate {to be taken up in an independent article}, or the imaginary oppression during the Muslim rule from around 1150AD, or the politically charged debate around Casteism.


It isn’t my objective to defend “Unity In Diversity”; I see no reason to be defensive about my lovely nation to anyone. If the non-Indian thinks otherwise, he or she is welcome to his or her several impressions. I think all of us know what India is, at the core – so why be defensive? It is far better to ensure that we make this holy land where we have been blessed with a human birth an even better and even more strong place than it was before. And doing that requires tackling the present inconsistencies, challenging them, setting the narrative right – and taking corrective action.


That we are defensive on the topic of India and Being Indian is easily seen and can be readily observed everywhere: from our unhealthy penchant of following NRI-PIOs abroad, highlighting their achievements. This can be seen in our pandering to Western standards, rather than setting our own cultural standards based on our culture; this can be seen in our sheepishness on seeing songs in Movies,  or even in our going gaga over Indian cultural fests abroad or in the ardent following of Temples and their events abroad.


At the core of this defensiveness lies a deep-seated inferiority complex, the roots of which lie deep in our past, and are now firmly entrenched in most people, which is a real tragedy. Why should we go gaga over the achievements of people living abroad, as a small example? These are people who chose another nation over India for their life; what is the message we are giving people? Why should we care overmuch if some Tom, Dick Or Harry makes it big in The UK or The USA? Don’t we have enough success stories in India? Cant a nation find success stories locally? Why is it that NRI-PIOs routinely make front page, whereas the local successes almost never feature in any news? If you cover both with equal vigour – that is fair; but if only is found newsworthy, then this is a manifest inferiority complex.


Similarly, why should we, as Indian Citizens, care about Temples and Hindus in The USA or The UK? Of what concern is it to us? Why should a Barack Obama Diwali party hold relevance for us? Why should we follow the growth of Sanaatan Dharm worldwide? Is our religion a proselytizing faith? If it isn’t – then why can’t we leave well enough alone? And why focus exclusively on The USA, The UK and developed countries? Why not trace the growth in outlying countries, Eastern countries, or African countries? Come to think of it, why don’t the success stories of the Indian Diaspora in other parts of the World become headline news, like the cases in the USA or the UK? Is this what Sanaatan Dharm teaches us? Or does it teach us something different? Is it the contention that only PIOs in the Developed World are successful? What are we displaying by this frankly idiotic behaviour?


On an equal note is the most disturbing trend of the slowly rising – but thankfully currently minor – scenario of the Hindu Rashtra; or the habit of some among us to regard Muslim rule as being worse than British Rule. I have dealt with this extensively earlier here : Being Indian – 3 : The 1000 Year Slavery ; so shall not elaborate. The sad disregard for and ignorance of the evil that happened during British Rule, and the complete inability of even our Media to tell the full story is the most enduring tragedy of Modern India. What is needed is a balance, a complete and truthful exposition of all that happened during both the periods – Muslims and British; such an examination is certain to knock the sails out of the 1000-year slavery myth.


This is what this Being Indian mini-series has been about, focusing on the present inconsistencies, trying to make the reader ask himself or herself some hard questions about what it means to Be Indian. Does Being Indian mean that you have to settle abroad? Does Being Indian mean you have to study and live here just to go away? Does Being Indian mean that you are a Sanaatan Dharmi? Then what about Dr Kalam, or Paramveer Abdul Hamid, or any number of other Muslims, Christians and Sikhs? Does Being Indian mean that you have to follow Western norms? Does Being Indian mean that, by contrast, perforce have to follow Indian norms? What does it mean to “Be Indian”? What is our national story, our national narrative, above and beyond the clichéd term “Unity in Diversity”? And do we, all of us, understand, display and believe in this narrative?


How many of us can identify a snap of Kalpana Chawla – and how many of us can recognize a snap of Paramveer Nirmaljeet Singh Sikhon?  I cant recognize the latter – and that is, perhaps, the worst possible comment on us as a people, and what we value. One person, {if some records and wikiis correct} quit Indian Citizenship for the US, and the other gave his life fighting to protect us. The US citizen’s face is plastered all over our Media, which doesn’t even care to look at Kailash Satyarthi {let alone someone from the past like The Great Nirmaljeet} till The Great West awards a prize, when we suddenly discover him! {God Bless Her, her achievements were tremendous indeed – but she wasn’t Indian, and I therefore take no pride or otherwise in her achievements. And not just for her : the same applies to any PIO. They aren’t Indians}


How many among us quote the ills of The Muslim Rule and the raids of Chengez Khan and Mahmud of Ghazni? And how many of among those know and quote of the 1857 Genocide, or the Bengal Holocaust, or the Famine of the 1760s which killed an estimated 30% of the population of Bengal? How many of us quote the Industrialised India of the 1600s and the 1700s? And how many among us quote and send messages on social media and whatsapp on the ills of that period? And how many of us quote the stories of the weavers, the potters and other products of India, and of the Merchant trade – and how many just reproduce verbatim the sporadic killings of that period?


What is the actual national narrative that we are displaying by such behaviour? Is it in keeping with what we perceive as our national ethos? Why do we ignore the real heroes of our nation – those who stay in India work in India, give their lives for India? And why do we ignore the full story of the past, and concentrate instead on one part story, which is by definition a biased approach? Why do we idolize ex-Indians or even NRIs who quit India, and ignore our heroes at home? Why do we chase after stories of Temples abroad – how is it important to us as Indians? Why do we place Western Culture on a pedestal – when our oft-quoted assimilative culture specifically equates all cultures as one? Why then cant we be accepting of our own identity, and be confident of our own selves? Why this manifest effort to be someone and something that is at complete variance with what we profess to be?


Therein lies the key – our professing to be one identity, and then belying it by displaying behavior that is the complete opposite. Unless we develop a national narrative that is in keeping with our national ethos, this dichotomous behavior will remain. Ethos means “the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its attitudes and aspirations”; while narrative means “A representation of a particular situation or process in such a way as to reflect or conform to an overarching set of aims or values”, or in short – A spoken or written account of connected events; a story.


In this series – Being Indian – I have attempted to look at some disturbing aspects of our national narrative that are not in consonance with our National Ethos – In simple terms, our behavior vis-à-vis our words at what we profess to value.  I have attempted to lay bare the inconsistencies; areas where we need to bring our narrative and our ethos into one… That is the subject of the next mini-series ; Developing a National Narrative

 

Being Indian – 3 : The 1000 Year Slavery

Published July 8, 2015 by vishalvkale



A cursory glance at Modern India will reveal a deepening line of historical misinterpretation in some fringe segments of our society which tends to place inordinate emphasis on the myth of Free Rule after 800 or 1000 years of slavery or foreign rule; the same fringe tends to place a huge emphasis on the mythical relatively heavier persecution during the Muslim Dynasties that ruled various parts of India from around 1150-1200 AD onwards  till around 1675-1700 AD. These people make the first and most glaring error when they claim Muslim Rule was till 1850AD or thereabouts, which is a sad comment on the state of our history education, which needs revamping in totality in my opinion.

The record shows that throughout the 18th century, from around 1700 AD or a few years before that, the pre-eminent rising power in India was the Maratha Empire, which by the mid-18th century was the most powerful ruler in India, and continued in that status till the Anglo-Maratha wars and their ultimate vanquishment, but that is another story to be told later. The same record also shows the rise of the Sikh power to the North of India, and their rising pre-eminence and importance in the equation. There may have been other powers of which I am not aware. Thus, one part of the narrative is demonstrably false; high time we examined this narrative in a little more detail to get a better perspective.

A slightly more detailed examination throws up many more spanners in the theory of 800 or 1000 years of alien domination, without even touching upon the fact that the invaders from outside made India their home, and all the wealth of India remained inside India. This examination will reveal the might of the Rajputs and their valiant defiance and indomitable spirit; it will reveal the story of Hukka and Bukka who formed the resplendent Vijaynagar Empire in the Deccan, and its unbelievable power.  It will reveal the co-habitation and increasing cooperation between Sanataanis {the actual term for Hindus} and Musliims, and the political alliances that were struck; it will also expose how rise to the uppermost echelons of power in the medieval nation was not dependent on religion, and that many a Muslim ruler had scores of Sanaatani Generals and Nobles, and vice-versa

But beyond all of this, and far more serious and worrying is the rhetoric, currently in the fringes and completely unimportant, is the myth that Sanaatanis were persecuted most heavily during Muslim rule, or should I say so-called Muslim Rule. Firstly, it is a fact that Muslim Rule was dependent in large part and was supported and set up by the unwavering loyalty and support of powerful feudal and noble leaders of all religious persuasions, as well as deep and highly successful political alliances with non-Muslim rulers in Medieval India.

While the above  may be argued, and quite convincingly at that, that there were vast differences between dynasties in this matter, the attendant rising rhetoric of the heaviest persecution of Sanaatan Dharm followers is pure nonsense, and has no basis in fact. While there were undoubtedly persecution examples that occurred in that era, the fact remains that this wasn’t even a patch on what all of India went through under British rule, which makes Muslim rule a Golden Period in comparison – which it was in many, many ways, while also being indirectly responsible for our fall from grace.  But, are the Muslim Rulers alone to blame for that? That is the topic of the next article; let us leave this line of thought here for the time being.

Even if we accept that some persecution happened in some periods of Muslim rule { Which we have to, given that some persecution undoubtedly did happen}, how is it a smart or even an acceptable retelling to exclusively focus on these sins that happened against Sanaatan Dharm followers, completely omitting the far more serious attacks on our culture, religion and way of life that happened between 1757 and 1947? Why this completely one-sided narrative? That itself is enough to raise deep questions, and convincing ones, on the accuracy of the rhetorical narrative that is gaining currency. A fair retelling would also acknowledge the extensive damage of the more recent period!

But the rhetoric focuses on only  the damage during one specific period of our history, without an attendant acknowledgement of the many documented benefits that accrued from the same period, or the continuous growth of the economic engine, or the continued performance of our many trade routes with Central Asia; or indeed the fact that the money remained within India, and was not bled away, or the performance of agriculture and the growth of the Merchants and Industrialists. Neither does this rhetoric acknowledge the control of Non-Muslims over vast swathes of India, or that Non-Muslims were an essential cog in the ruling Muslim rulers administrative as well as Armed Forces machinery! No attempt is made to examine the lives of the common folk even.

 Moving on, let us look at British rule and lay the facts of the persecution, and how it was much more severe than anything during the previous era.  British rule destroyed the core and the bedrock of every single aspect of our wonderful society: each-and-every-single-facet. Arts, culture, religion, society, caste, everything, Documented fact. There was a plan to make India 100% Christian : fact. There was a plan to Europeanise India {specific words : they will remain burned into my conscience for as long as I live : raise a European Element in the population}. {{USA / Australia / South Africa Anyone?}}

Arts were destroyed – repeat, destroyed. Or attempted to. Fact. Casteism hardened : fact. Religious equiilibrium destroyed : Fact. A land where corruption was not known, became corrupt as there was no other way to survive. Fact. Indianism denigrated at every level : fact. Education taken apart {oh yes, medieval India had Excellent schooling} : fact. Manufacturing base destroyed : fact. Agriculture productivity, earlier among the finest anywhere : destroyed : fact. :Landless labour created from nothing : fact. Crafts wrecked : fact.

No such dire poverty over so large an area was ever before known on the planet.” : A report from a European on India, 1907. “. Making every possible allowance, it is clearly established that, comparing the Indian Exports and the Indian Imports, the overplus of Exports for which there is no commercial return now amounts to more than £35,000,000 a year, or considerably in excess of fifty per cent more than the total Land Revenue obtained from all British India[2] This drain has been going on in an increasing ratio, and necessarily with deepening effect, ever since the British occupation. It means that India, naturally a country with the greatest possibilities for wealth-production in every department, is being steadily bled to death” {Ruin of India by British Rule – Hyndman, Stuttgart, 1907. I have read reports from as far back as 1757 as well that provide corroboration – Durant, 1930; RC Dutt, 1906; as well as several contemporary books, which give detailed numbers with original period evidence as proof of the loot that happened yearwise}

That is nearly 4 Billion Dollars per years surplus in today’s money, or 25,266 Crores in Rupees. That is for JUST ONE YEAR. This had happened for 190 years. One hundred and ninety years! By the way. and by the by, that calculation above was an internet finance site that takes into consideration inflation rates only, which is neither here nor there. If we consider that the surplus went into building factories, amenities, funding research and development…. IMHO we can compound at an assumed arbitrary rate of 8%. That makes 11.4 BILLION Dollars for one year alone. Or 72464Crores rupees for ONE YEAR. This wealth stayed within India during the so-called bad Muslim Rule! Modern India’s current external debt interest payments are in the region of 9-10 Billion yearly. That puts the matter in the right perspective!

Neither is the contention of deaths maintainable in the light of documented facts; the famine record of British India alone would put the entire 9000-year history to shame shadow in the mortality rate. The number of deaths is thought to be in the region of 50-68 Million deaths attributable to the British policies – and this is just due to the famines. There was a massive famine in Bengal within a few years of British Rule that is known to have wiped out large parts of the entire population, accounting for well over 10 Million Deaths. The Famine of 1942-44, proven to be due to British rule, also was as bad, accounting for more than 5 Million deaths. Such things were not known in Muslim Rule.

The genocide of 1857, carried out against civilians, is well studied and documented, with an untold number of civilian deaths, with some records putting the toll at 10 Million! This genocide was carried out against an entire people, across large parts of India in a targeted strategy. The brutal suppression of revolt after revolt, and numerous freedom attempts is also a matter of record. Not one word of this reaches the fringe rhetoric, that is also a fact. But far more than these is the targeted destruction of the entire way of life that we used to live, our crafts, arts, religion, as well as our pride in our way  of life. That is what I take up in detail in the next part of this 5-part mini-series…

High time we Indians recognized that this is just a colonial hangover, and a direct gift of British Rule, and has no basis in reality. In order that India moves forward and stakes a claim at its rightful place at the top of the world, we need to overcome these insecurities as a people, recognize the rhetoric for what it is, and move on in time-honoured Indian style and tradition. High time we started to apportion the blame to the place they actually belong : the brutal colonial rape, and recognize and accept that the only slavery we had was from 1757-1947, and that we never were slaves for 800 or 1000 years…