India, that is Bharat, has always baffled her enemies. Winston Churchill used to say that India is a mere geographical region, as much a nation as the Equator. Post 1947, the British always looked forward eagerly to the collapse of India under the weight of its own diversity. The disintegration of India was supposed to serve as a historical justification for the British Raj.
Further, India’s “intellectual classes”, who had mostly collaborated with the Empire and been socialized into the colonial mode of thinking, mostly shared in this aspiration. Today this frustrated ambition is mostly communicated in desperate cries of “Bharat tere tukde honge”. If only wishes were horses…
However, baffled by reality, our enemies have always sought to invent fantastic explanations for India’s continued unity. For obvious reasons, the British saw Nehru as an extension of themselves and speculated that his personality might be the only thing keeping India together. The venerable Times famously predicted that the 1967 general elections were going to be the last elections in India. My command over the English language isn’t as good as theirs, so I will just say LOL!
India’s intellectual classes, however, weren’t thrown off so easily. They thought harder. But these classes were both handicapped by their extreme sense of awe towards the British and plagued by a general lack of ability. Thus these classes were reduced to stretching out tired old race theories they had been spoon-fed by their colonial masters.
They zeroed in on caste. They convinced themselves that the oneness of Bharat was an “upper caste construct”. Once this veneer was peeled off, the demons of divisive caste forces would tear India apart. In 70 years, these classes have merely progressed from calling Bharat an “upper caste construct” to calling it an “upper caste male heterosexual construct”. No imagination whatsoever. No originality. Such intellectual impotence is the curse that comes with state patronage for the undeserving.
The intellectual classes have spent 70 years digging under this tree of caste. The British told them that the secret to destroying India was buried under this tree. Every voice that speaks for division of Hindu society was thus amplified by the intellectuals. From language to food habits, everything was denounced as “upper caste imposition”.
I’ll give you a simple example. Pick up any article on beef eating written by a liberal and you will find a compulsory mention of Dalits and tribals who are apparently being forced to give up their beef eating habits.
Is this really true? NSSO data says that 80 million Indians eat beef, of whom 63 million are Muslims. There are 12.5 million Hindus who eat beef, of whom around 9 million are Dalits and tribals. As per census 2011 figures, India has around 25% of Dalits and tribals, which works out to 300 million people. Out of these 300 million Dalits and tribals, a mere 9 million or around 3% actually consume beef! 3%! That’s it!
Just 3%! For ease of comparison, saying that India’s Dalits and tribals eat beef is actually less true than saying India’s Muslims are voting for BJP!
Now, if a liberal wants to make a point about beef and personal freedom, there is solid merit in the argument and I am willing to take it seriously. But you will see that this argument about beef is always buttressed with this fake talking point about Dalits and tribals.
Why? Because the liberals think that by bringing in caste into the beef issue, they have a way to break India into pieces. Bharat ke tukde and all that…
Unfortunately for the intellectual classes, digging under the tree of caste has yielded a very different crop. Far from discovering a simmering magma of hatred towards Bharat, the liberals have dug up a much more vocal, muscular majority of nationalists. The joke really is on them.
I will tell you what happened and it’s hilarious. These so called “lower” castes were actually the farthest removed from colonial influences. They didn’t collaborate with the Empire and they were never socialized into public schools of England or their derivatives in India. They were actually much closer to their Bharatiya roots than the so called “upper castes”. They actually embrace a simple, uncomplicated form of nationalism.
Unlike the intellectual classes, they never got to go to Oxbridge to discuss the perils of American imperialism in Guatemala. They haven’t been to any cocktail parties with Pakistani friends either in Lahore or in Delhi. Now, why would a “lower” caste youth whose family has always lived in say Bahraich in Uttar Pradesh feel some deep connection with intellectuals of Karachi?
What did the liberals think was going to happen? Once the “lower” castes found their voice in politics, they spoke in the only language they knew : the language of being an Indian. It’s a language that is not fashionable in Lutyens’ Delhi.
They tried everything : Rohith Vemula to Una. The end result was one big egg on their faces. The so called “lower” classes stood rock solid with the narrative of nationalism. For the classes, the nightmare is only just beginning.
They are desperate. Any Dalit or a person of so-called lower caste who doesn’t agree with their contrived worldview is declared heretic. They prescribe only their own version of history and worldview to a Dalit, and no other view is allowed. They talk about “alternative history” while denying any alternatives to those on whose behalf they claim to speak. But there is life beyond JNU and such campuses they control, and things are changing there.
Varanasi is perhaps the capital of Hindu civilization. If you are a clueless Western intellectual with little more than an agenda, you might look at the harsh exterior of burning corpses and think it’s the city of death. But it’s the city where life, death and renewal embrace each other in the uniquely sublime Hindu way of seeking harmony with the ultimate truth of our human existence.
And when in 2014, Narendra Modi came to this city and displaced the ‘Brahmin’ Murli Manohar Joshi, something changed. The so called “lower castes” were taking their place at the heart of Hindu civilization.
The intellectuals thought they were witnessing our death. But they were really looking a civilization being reborn. It’s okay. They won’t understand. They never did.
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.