You may have often thought that why do so many ‘intellectuals‘ take pride in being anti-India and talk about Hindus with such contempt? Since when did taking pride in one’s rich cultural heritage became a vice? How did the discourse become so corrupt? And who is responsible for creating this narrative?
I hate to break it to you but our understanding of India and our own past is primarily based on the commentary of western scholars who never visited India, never met any Indian, never spoke to any Indian and never dealt with Indian literature. Unfortunately these thinkers, philosophers, economists, sociologists and bureaucrats have written about India and their writings have greatly influenced the Indian intelligentsia.
One such famous philosopher and economist, who is considered a revolutionary by many (Read: All) ‘comrades’ was Karl Marx. His writings have influenced the thinking of many historians, politicians and intellectuals of the country, despite the fact that he had absolutely no knowledge and understanding of the Indian society. He wrote an article on the 25th of June 1853 and another one on the 22nd of July 1853 for the New York Herald Tribune that trace out his understanding of India.
He describes India as a very peculiar country. He compares it to Italy and says, “Just as Italy has, from time to time, been compressed by the conqueror’s sword into different national masses, so do we find Hindostan, when not under the pressure of the Mohammedan, or the Mogul, or the Briton, dissolved into as many independent and conflicting States as it numbered towns, or even villages.” He even says,”I share not the opinion of those who believe in a golden age of Hindostan.”
Thus, he completely disowned and discredited the Mauryan empire and the Gupta empire, giving birth to a stream of thought that refuses to accept the Golden Age of India. He argued that, “Indian society has no history at all, at least no known history. What we call its history, is but the history of the successive intruders who founded their empires on the passive basis of that unresisting and unchanging society.” A thought process that he bequeathed to the Indian Marxist historians, a thought process that gave birth to the mythical Aryan Invasion Theory.
He didn’t stop here. He says, “India, then, could not escape the fate of being conquered, and the whole of her past history, if it be anything, is the history of the successive conquests she has undergone.” He raises a rhetorical question,”Such a country and such a society, were they not the predestined prey of conquest?” He adds, “The question, therefore, is not whether the English had a right to conquer India, but whether we are to prefer India conquered by the Turk, by the Persian, by the Russian, to India conquered by the Briton.”
He concluded that Indians were supposed to be ruled and it was the task of British to rule them and hence civilize them. Thus, he laid seeds of inferiority complex among Indians and established the racial supremacy of the White Europeans.
If that was bad, then here is something worse. He says, referring to Indians and the Indian society, “We must not forget that this undignified, stagnatory, and vegetative life, that this passive sort of existence evoked on the other part, in contradistinction, wild, aimless, unbounded forces of destruction and rendered murder itself a religious rite in Hindostan.” He adds, “They transformed a self-developing social state into never changing natural destiny, and thus brought about a brutalizing worship of nature, exhibiting its degradation in the fact that man, the sovereign of nature, fell down on his knees in adoration of Hanuman,the monkey, and Sabala, the cow.”
Marx, thus concluded that the Indian society was backward, not because of any social evils but because it believed in worshipping nature and found animals like cows and monkeys sacred. Yes, now you know why beef festivals are ‘progressive’ while worshipping cows is ‘regressive.’
Due to this ‘backwardness’ of the Indian society, he deemed it incapable of producing a revolution required for the advancement of human race. Thus he advocated the destruction of the social base – society and the culture of India by saying, “England has to fulfill a double mission in India: one destructive, the other regenerating ; the annihilation of old Asiatic society, and the laying the material foundations of Western society in Asia.”
He acknowledged the fact that British were already doing it and says, “England has broken down the entire framework of Indian society, without any symptoms of reconstitution yet appearing. This loss of his old world, with no gain of a new one, imparts a particular kind of melancholy to the present misery of the Hindoo, and separates Hindostan, ruled by Britain, from all its ancient traditions, and from the whole of its past history.”
He goes on to say, “England, it is true, in causing a social revolution in Hindostan, was actuated only by the vilest interests, and was stupid in her manner of enforcing them. But that is not the question. The question is, can mankind fulfil its destiny without a fundamental revolution in the social state of Asia? If not, whatever may have been the crimes of England she was the unconscious tool of history in bringing about that revolution. Then, whatever bitterness the spectacle of the crumbling of an ancient world may have for our personal feelings, we have the right, in point of history, to exclaim with Goethe:
‘Sollte these Qual uns quälen
Da sie unsre Lust vermehrt,
Hat nicht myriaden Seelen
Timur’s Herrschaft aufgezehrt?‘
‘Should this torture then torment us
Since it brings us greater pleasure?
Were not through the rule of Timur
Souls devoured without measure?’
[From Goethe’s “An Suleika”, Westöstlicher Diwan] “
And so he called this destruction pleasurable.
What will send chills down your spine is that this man who painted India ‘Semi-Barbaric’ without visiting India even once, is considered one of the most powerful thinkers and has influenced many policy makers, intellectuals, economists, historians and academicians of our country. There are many Indians who take pride in calling themselves Marxist. You may have often found them advising others not to believe in preconceived notions and the irony is that their understanding of India is greatly influenced by the works of a man who himself had preconceived notions about India and the Indian society.
Then, along with the British armies, came to India the Evangelical and Utilitarian school of thoughts – with a common agenda of countering the rising Indomania among the Europeans and replacing it with Indophobia. James Mill, a British historian and political theorist, who was the chief architect of Utilitarian school of thought championed the cause of spreading Hinduphobia. He left no stone unturned in denigrating the Indian society and culture with his influential book, History of British India which was basically a complete denunciation and rejection of the Indian culture and civilization.
Without giving any logic or explanation, he divided Indian history into three periods – Hindu, Muslim and British. He presented an extremely denigrating picture of Hindu periods where he condemned every institution, idea and action of the Hindus and held them responsible for all the ills of the country. For an instance, hear the scorching, biting, poisonous and vicious words of James Mill against Hindus in his long essay – ‘Of The Hindus.’
In the chapter titled General Reflections in ‘Of the Hindus,’ Mill wrote “under the glosing exterior of the Hindu, lies a general disposition to deceit and perfidy”. According to Mill, “the same insincerity, mendacity, and perfidy; the same indifference to the feelings of others; the same prostitution and venality” were the conspicuous characteristics of the Hindoos and Muslims. The Muslims, however, were perfuse, when possessed of wealth, and devoted to pleasure; the Hindoos almost always penurious and ascetic; and “in truth, the Hindoo like the eunuch, excels in the qualities of a slave”.
Furthermore, Hindoos were “dissembling, treacherous, mendacious, to an excess which surpasses even the usual measure of uncultivated society”. He says that Hindoos were “disposed to excessive exaggeration with regard to everything relating to themselves”, “cowardly and unfeeling” and were also “in the highest degree conceited of themselves, and full of affected contempt for others”. Above all, were “in physical sense, disgustingly unclean in their persons and houses”.
Soon after its publication, it became the standard textbook at the Haileybury school in England which had been established to educate the young Englishmen coming to India as administrators and civil servants. Thus it shaped the minds and hearts of British civil servants in India and became the single most important source of British Hinduphobia and hostility towards Orientalism. And he did all this without visiting India and without knowing a single Indian Language- a fact that he has proudly noted in his book.
Another powerful thinker was Max Weber. He made an excellent attempt to align sociology and economics in his books ‘Economy and Society’ and ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.’ He explained the reason why the Protestant societies were coming up while the Catholics were lagging behind. He believed that Protestant Christianity released the person from the shackles of the Church and hierarchy reopening him to individualism and entrepreneurship and thus Protestant society was fitter to handle capitalism. Using his thesis he even predicted that USA would emerge as the next economic superpower just because of its Protestant ethic. He was absolutely correct and thus gained a lot of respect across the world, even in India. It would have been great had he stopped writing after that or limited his works to Christianity, Europe and America.
Unfortunately he didn’t. Using the same template which he had used in his previous works, he wrote a book about India in 1916 with limited (Read: Zero) knowledge and understanding of the Indian society.
He firmly believed that there were two societies which would never progress – India and China, because they followed Hinduism and Buddhism and hence believed in the concept of Karma and Rebirth which made them anti enterprise and anti entrepreneurial development. He chose to ignore that Hinduism is one belief system that celebrates wealth – and considers it one of the four Purushaartha’s. Instead, Weber noted that the societies believed in asceticism and saw the meaning of life as otherworldly mystical experience and thus were not fit to handle capitalism.
He concluded that the Indian culture was responsible for India’s ‘economic backwardness’. And the Indian intelligentsia which blindly believed Weber, advanced and even sponsored Macaulayism– the conscious policy of liquidating indigenous culture through the planned substitution of an alien culture, primarily via the education system. Probably, a reason why people who quote Shakespeare, fail to name a single work of Kalidasa.
To add to the misery, there came in John Kenneth Galbraith. He served as United States Ambassador to India under the Kennedy administration and thus became a great friend of our ‘beloved’ Chacha Nehru. And if there is one thing that has plagued India more than Nehruvian Socialism, then it’s our Chacha’s friendships.
Being a confidant of the Prime Minister he extensively advised the Indian government on economic matters. Here is what he had to say about India. He called India a ‘Functional Anarchy’ i.e. it is an anarchy and it is still functioning. He later stated that ‘It was India’s good fortune to be a British colony.’ These statements from a person who had no idea about India are still quoted not only by outsiders but also by Indians, just because of his intimate friendship with Nehru and he being a white skinned European who seemed superior to our colonized minds.
The final blow was delivered by Professor Raj Krishna, a socialist establishment economist. When he was questioned about the sluggish growth rate of India he coined the term, ‘Hindu Rate of Growth’ in 1978 and propounded the theory to rationalize the slow growth of the Indian economy which was actually a result of Congress’ socialist policies. He used it to shift the blame from the faulty economic policies of Congress to the Hindu religion – following the same stream of thought as of Weber.
Thankfully in 1983, Paul Bairoch, a Belgian economist, came out with his study of the world economy and his findings not only astounded the West but also shattered the myth that Professor Raj Krishna tried to create. He said that in 1750 India’s share of world GDP was 24.5 per cent, China’s 33 per cent, but the combined share of Britain and the US was– would you believe it – just two per cent. Bairoch’s study was confirmed by Angus Maddisson, a British economist in his studies titled ‘World Economic History – A Millennial Perspective in 2001’.
Maddisson proved that India was the leading economic power of the world from the 1st year of the first millennium till 1700 – with 32 per cent share of world’s GDP in the first 1000 years and 28 per cent to 24 per cent in the second millennium till 1700. China was second to India except in 1600 when China temporarily overtook India. India again overtook China in 1700. The global economic play was in the hands of India and China till 1830 – The two nations disqualified for development by Weber for following Hindu and Buddhist religions.
What is even more shocking is that even though the theory and the term ‘Hindu Rate of Growth’ were trashed by the work of Paul Bairoch within 5 years of its origin, the term continues to be used blindly by the India intelligentsia even today, just because the Indian Left is not ready to accept that Marx and Weber, the scholars they hold highly in regard, the people who helped them understand India could be wrong.
So, the colonized minds of the Indian Intelligentsia went on accepting everything that thinkers like Marx and Weber said without objecting to any of their claims. The intelligentsia kept on feeding the narrative to the common people via the education system. And slowly this psyche became so deep-seated in the society that we stopped asking questions, rather the Indian left blinded by its ego and guided by its biases, started defending Marx and Weber.
Probably, now the time has come when we should stop defining ourselves by Marx, Weber, Mill and Galbraith. The old school of politics has already seen a sea of change in 2014 elections and now the situation is ripe for the old school of journalism, old school of film making and the old school of thought that created this narrative to take a backseat.
The stage is all set for the decolonization of Indian minds to begin.
Besides aforementioned sources (hyperlinks), the author has relied on number of lectures given by S Gurumurthy.
UPDATE: (3rd January 2018) Author of this article was accused of identity theft and plagiarism by one particular individual. The author was accused of using someone else’s picture and content to pass off as his own on Twitter. Post these charges, the author appeared to have deleted his Twitter account. Once it was brought to our notice, we got in touch, through email, with the author to get his version of the story, but the author did not get back to us. Although we are in no position to confirm or deny the charges about identity theft, in absence of any communication from the author and due to his act of deleting his Twitter account, we are redacting the name and identity. As far as plagiarism charges are concerned, this particular article has all the original references in order and doesn’t appear a copy-paste work.