Wednesday, May 16, 2007

On "99 year old article on India - The Atlantic Monthly"

I see that a certain artilce from 99 years ago is now doing the rounds, with the cover note: "You will be moved/shocked when you read this (entire) article from the Atlantic Monthly, October 1908! Please take the time to read it; Indian history books glossed over these kinds of details"

I have no idea what those who are circulating this article mean by "Indian textbooks glossed over these kinds of details": all this was fully known to Indians of my generation, born soon after Independence

There were numerous similar articles not only in the US press, but in the Indian press as well as in the Irish press (not to mention the press of other countries)

Whether or not such information is now known would, in my estimation, not be a matter of textbooks, but of whether attention is paid to such things

In any case, sixty years after Independence, it is silly to continue to blame the British, when it is clear that other colonies or dependencies such as Malaysia and Singapore have done brilliantly well – even China has done brilliantly well – compared to us (and that is true not only over the last 60 years, but also in the last 20 years, and 10 years, and 5 years, and last year, and even the last quarter....)

We are very good at continuing to blame the British when we should be blaming ourselves!

The fact is that the causes of India's failures today lie wholly and entirely – as Gandhiji said in his own time – with Indians and with Indian culture: every time Indian kingdoms lost to "foreigners" they lost ONLY because they were betrayed by their own people – whether it was against the forces of Alexander the Great or against the Persian and other Muslim invaders of the 11th century, or against the European invaders from the 17th century on

That is why Gandhiji sought (however imperfectly) to change Indians and Indian culture – and that is why he was killed by Nathuram Godse who stated publicly when he was finally released, having served his term in jail, that he had no remorse for killing Gandhiji and would gladly kill Gandhiji again because "Gandhi destroyed Hinduism"

Gandhiji certainly dealt a mortal blow to the kind of "Hinduisms" that existed at that time, even though those are not quite "destroyed" yet (they survive in the backwaters, though they are losing ground to mainstream "Hinduisms" or to the Hindutvists)

Mostly, what we have now is "post-Gandhi Hinduisms" in the mainstream (i.e. "Hinduisms" that are secularist and concerned with improving things in this world)

We also have a "post-Gandhi reaction" in Hindutva, which continues to be anti-secularist, though it is "this worldly" as mainstream "post-Gandhi Hinduisms"

Mainstream "post-Gandhi Hinduisms" will certainly survive (they flourish as a consequence of modernisation)

Hindutva, on the other hand, is a reaction against modernisation. It may well succeed in gaining power in India (just as anti-modernist mullahs succeeded in gaining power in Iran). But, as in Iran, if the Hindutvists do gain power, they will condemn India to greater backwardness for as long as they are in power

If those who are circulating this article are interested in improving things in India, they should commit themselves to supporting the modernisers and progressivists, instead of continuing to hark back to what happened 99 years ago - though it is important to understand history, that is a different matter from considering ourselves (and so making ourselves) victims of history. Sphere: Related Content

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