Ramchandra Guha advises Hindus; Dr. Rajiva doubts his compentence

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  1. ashdoc

    ashdoc Senior Member Senior Member

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    What hindus can and should be proud of

    ---By Ramchandra Guha


    Those who care for the future of the religion should valorise the work of reformers who rid an ancient, ossified faith of its divisions, prejudices, and closed-mindedness

    A bhadralok friend of mine is of the view that the Government of India should celebrate every December 16 as Vijay Diwas, Victory Day, to mark the surrender in 1971 of the Pakistani forces in Dhaka to the advancing Indian Army. My friend argues that such a celebration would take Indians in general, and Hindus in particular, out of the pacifist, defeatist mindset that he claims has so crippled them. The triumph in Dhaka represents for him the finest moment in a millenia otherwise characterised by Indian (and more specifically Hindu) humiliation at the hands of foreigners.

    I was reminded of my friend’s fond fantasy when reading about the posters in Mumbai recently put up by members of the Bharatiya Janata Party. These carry portraits of a prominent BJP leader, with two accompanying slogans: ‘I AM A HINDU NATIONALIST,’ in English, and ‘Garv sé Kaho Ham Hindu Hain’, in Hindi. The latter slogan needs perhaps to be translated for south Indian readers, and set in context for younger ones. ‘Proudly Proclaim Our Hindu-Ness’, would be a faithful rendition. The slogan originates in the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign of the 1980s and 1990s, when it was used by the VHP, RSS, BJP, and Bajrang Dal cadres to mobilise men and materials in the drive to demolish a 16th century mosque in Ayodhya believed by many to be sited on the birthplace of the (mythical) God Ram.

    Victory in Dhaka

    Should Hindus be proud of the Indian Army’s victory in Dhaka in 1971? Perhaps as Indians, but not specifically as Hindus. The war had its basis in the savage repression of Bengalis in East Pakistan by the West Pakistan Army. The refugees who came to India were both Hindus and Muslims. The help rendered to them by the Government of India did not discriminate according to their faith. As for the Indian military campaign, the chief commander in the field was a Jew, his immediate superior a Sikh. A Parsi served as Chief of Army Staff. His own superior, the Prime Minister of India, had notoriously been disallowed from entering the Jagannath temple in Puri because she had not married a Hindu.

    To be sure, many soldiers and officers in the Indian Army were of Hindu origin. Yet they never saw themselves in narrowly communal terms. In our armed forces, then and now, Hindu and Muslim, Christian and Sikh, Parsi and Jew, lived, laboured and struggled together.

    Hindu in intent and content

    Unlike the military campaign in East Pakistan in 1971, the campaign to build a temple in Ayodha was unquestionably Hindu in intent and content. No Muslims or Sikhs or Parsis or Jews or Christians participated in it. But should Hindus have been proud of it? I rather think not. In a society where so many are without access to adequate education, health care and housing, where malnutrition is rife and where safety and environmental standards are violated every minute, to invest so much political energy and human capital in the demolition of a mosque and its replacement with a brand-new temple seemed wildly foolish, if not downright Machiavellian. As it turned out, the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign led to two decades of strife across northern and western India, with thousands of people losing their lives and hundreds of thousands their homes and livelihoods.

    The war of 1971 was not a Hindu war, and the destruction of the Babri Masjid was not something that could fill Hindus with pride. What then, should Hindus be proud of? The answer is that rather than seek for one defining moment, one heroic triumph, Hindus who care for the fate and future of Hinduism should instead valorise the quiet, persistent work of reformers down the centuries to rid an ancient, ossified faith of its divisions, its prejudices, and its closed-mindedness.

    The story of Hindu pride that I wish to tell also begins with Bengal, not with the surrender of the Pakistani Army in 1971, but with the work in the early 19th century of Rammohun Roy, who was unarguably the first great Indian modernist. Rammohun campaigned for the abolition of sati, for greater rights for women more generally, for the embrace of modern scientific education and for a liberal spirit of free enquiry and intellectual debate. His example was carried forward by other Bengali reformers, among them Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar and Swami Vivekananda, who focussed on, among other things, education for women and the abolition of caste distinctions.

    Epicentre of radical thinking

    The torch first lit in Bengal was taken over, and made even brighter, in Maharashtra, which in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was the epicentre of reformist and radical thinking in India. The pernicious practice of ‘untouchability’ was attacked from below by Jotirau Phule and from above by Gopal Krishna Gokhale. Maharashtra also gave birth to India’s first home-grown feminists, such as Tarabai Shinde and Pandita Ramabai, who wrote searing tracts against patriarchal practices and motivated young girls to emancipate themselves through modern education.

    In 1915, Mohandas K. Gandhi came back to India after two decades in the diaspora. Living in South Africa, he had been seized of the need to build harmonious, mutually beneficial, relations between Hindus and Muslims. This commitment to religious pluralism he now renewed and reaffirmed. Meanwhile, he progressively became more critical of caste discrimination. To begin with, he attacked ‘untouchability’ while upholding the ancient ideal of varnashramadharma. Then he began advocating inter-mixing and inter-dining, and eventually, inter-marriage itself.

    Gandhi was pushed to take more radical positions by B.R. Ambedkar, the outstanding lawyer-scholar who was of ‘Untouchable’ origins himself. A modernist and rationalist, Dr. Ambedkar believed that for Dalits to escape from oppression, they had to not look for favours from guilt-ridden reformers but themselves ‘educate, agitate and organise’ their way to emancipation. He remains an inspirational figure, whose work and legacy remain relevant for Dalit and Suvarna alike.

    When India became independent in 1947, a central question the new nation faced was the relation of faith to state. There was a strong movement to create India as a ‘Hindu Rashtra’, a mirror-image of the Islamic nation that was Pakistan. The person who stood most firmly against this idea was the first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. In a letter written to Chief Ministers on October 15, 1947, he reminded them that “we have a Muslim minority who are so large in numbers that they cannot, even if they want to, go anywhere else. They have got to live in India. This is a basic fact about which there can be no argument. Whatever the provocation from Pakistan and whatever the indignities and horrors inflicted on non-Muslims there, we have got to deal with this minority in a civilised manner. We must give them security and the rights of citizens in a democratic State.”

    Gandhi was a heterodox Hindu, who was detested by the priestly orthodoxy; so much so that the Sankaracharyas once even organised a signature campaign that asked the British to declare Gandhi a non-Hindu. Nehru was a lapsed Hindu, who never entered a temple in adult life. He too was intensely disliked by the sants and shakha heads who arrogate to themselves the right to speak for Hindus. Ambedkar was a renegade Hindu, who was born into the faith yet decided in the end to leave it, through a dramatic conversion ceremony weeks before his death.

    For all their lapses and departures from orthodoxy — or perhaps because of them — Gandhi, Ambedkar, and Nehru were the three 20th century figures who did most to rid Hinduism of its ills and excesses, who worked most heroically to nurture the spirit of equal citizenship that the Laws of Manu so explicitly deny. The work that they, and the equally remarkable reformers who preceded them, did, are what Hindus should be most proud of.

    Entrenched prejudices

    That said, Hindus still have much to be ashamed about. As the recent spate of attacks on Dalits and women shows, deep-rooted caste and patriarchal prejudices remain entrenched in many parts of India. Meanwhile, in countries that neighbour ours, Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise, giving ammunition to parties in India who represent the most sectarian and exclusive aspects of Hinduism themselves. The battles inaugurated by the likes of Rammohun Roy and Jotirau Phule, and carried forward by Ambedkar and Nehru and company, have now to be fought afresh. The abolition of caste prejudices; the elimination of gender hierarchies; the promotion of religious pluralism — these remain the elusive ideals of those who wish (proudly or otherwise) to call themselves Hindu and Indian.

    (Ramachandra Guha’s books include Makers of Modern India. He can be reached at [email protected])


    What Hindus can and should be proud of - The Hindu
     
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  3. ashdoc

    ashdoc Senior Member Senior Member

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    Re: Ramchandra Guha advices hindus and Dr Rajiva doubts his compentenc

    Dr Rajiva's counter---

    Is Ramchandra Guha compentent to advice hindus ??


    In a rambling, poorly argued article 'What Hindus can and should be proud of ' (The Hindu, July 23,2013) Ramachandra Guha, author of India After Gandhi (2007) and Makers of Modern India (2011) has set out on what seems to be a career as a moralist and advisor to Hindus. The article tells Hindus also what they cannot be proud of. More of that shortly. But the basic message is spelled out at the outset :

    " Those who care for the future of the religion should valorise the works of reformers who rid an ancient ossified faith of its divisions, prejudices, and close-mindedness."

    On the basis of the article and Guha's limitations of writing only about Independence and post Independence India Mr. Guha is clearly not equipped to advise Hindus who are heirs to an ancient and great civilisation of which they are legitimately proud and about which Mr. Guha seems to know precious little.

    Like Indian Marxist historians for whom Indian history begins with the Islamic period (and after) and who when venturing out into the several millenia that preceded the barbarian invasions ignore the great achievements of the Hindu past, Ramachandra Guha is blissfully ignorant of the Hindu past. Hence his advice is based on little more than the cow-caste-curry information that is circulated in the West, notably the United States, about India. In addition his limited educational scene in India is an inheritance from the colonial past which intertwined Macaulayism and Christian propaganda about the natives. In that narrative it is hard to sift the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, and the Indian educational scene was swamped with disinformation which was passed on during the Nehruvian era to schools, colleges and universities, and was recycled by some of the academics of the era without any questioning or challenge.

    Fortunately, Indic scholars began the sifting out two or three decades ago and the work continues. That important wave seems to have passed over Ramachandra Guha.

    Since he does not know the greatness of the Hindu civilisation (other than paying lip service to it) he cannot analyse accurately as to what are the ossifications and limitations of this civilisation that he alleges. Let us try to extract some sense and orderliness out of his arguments.


    In an extraordinary feat of intellectual jugglery he attributes all ills to Hindu India, at least in this article : Poverty, poor health facilities, education etc. These, as every Indian knows, and Guha knows, are directly the fault of misgovernance , in this case the specific government in power. Neverthless he uses the present dire situation to cast aspersions on Hindu India, even while claiming to advise Hindus, and in a curious way managing to lay the blame on Hindu India !

    He inveigles against caste in India. Here too he is skating on thin ice because after quoting Mahatma Gandhi against Untouchability, he goes on to say that even while he fought against Untouchability Gandhiji upheld Varnashrama dharma.

    Why is this so ? Mr. Guha does not raise the question which he should have raised and answered. He did not. The reply is as follows : Untouchability cannot be justified under any circumstance, but it is not integral to Hinduism, while Varnashrama Dharma is integral to Hinduism. Gandhiji was keenly aware of this. It was a carefully calibrated system that allowed the individual to pass through life's stages in harmony with his environment, and it called for a meaningful division of labour in society. Each division was integrally related to the other. In Hind Swaraj (1908-1909) Gandhiji had castigated modern society for its haste and hurry and the absence of any moral values and the individual's alienation and anomie in modern society.

    Caste and Untouchability are two distinct phenomena. Scholars are not certain when Untouchability originated. They speculate that it originated around 300 B.C. Dr. Ambedkar (himself a former Untouchable) had speculated that the Untouchables were originally shudras who fell out of the four fold caste system of scholars, warriors, commercial agents and agriculturalists who tilled the land (the last being the shudras). Random quotes from the tradition do not establish a link between Hinduism and Untouchability, as many hostile critics have done. Untouchability as a social practice continues in various parts of India, especially in rural areas. This pervasive aspect of Untouchability is not even mentioned or seriously considered by Guha. He only mentions attacks on Dalits and women.

    There is no evidence of Untouchability in the Vedic period and scholars and even the much maligned and misrepresentd Manusmriti makes no mention of Untouchability. It is doubtful whether Mr. Guha has actually read the Manusmriti to back his blithe remark that it legitimises inequality, unless he is also intending to make the more general point that Varnashrama Dharma legitimises inequality. And so obviously on this interpretation Mahatma Gandhi who endorsed Varnashrama Dharma also legitimises inequality.

    The attacks on Dalits and women are at present not the result of Hinduism. Much of the violent attacks as in the recent cases of the deaths of young people who chose to marry out of their caste, have occurred between Dalit subcastes themselves or between the OBCs (Other Backward Castes) and not vertically as between upper castes and the Dalits. Accounts of these are easily available in the media and as well as in more detailed accounts on the internet from human rights organisations. It is a pity that our author has not bothered to keep up with the latest literature on the subject either, but simply shoots around at targets.

    There is nothing in Hinduism which condones attacks on women and the events of the last few years speak to the breakdown of law and order. For example, the horrific attack and death of the young woman on a bus in New Delhi in December of 2012, was committed by a few agents whose caste affinity had nothing to do with Hinduism. This was clearly the outcome of the debauched and drunken state these men were in. They had been drinking and watching pornography, if reports are to be believed. The much maligned Manusmriti specifically called for the protection of women and the rigorous punishment of those who attacked women !

    Now on the question of Jati. The better word for caste is Jati a socio economic category. Mr. Guha does not seem to be aware that Gandhiji advocated a Jati based economy for his ideal village republic. He believed that lifelong specialisation in a particular occupation would provide better skills and pride in one's workmanship. The collection of his essays on the subject is to be found in the volume Sarvodaya.

    In today's India, scholars have written about the importance of the jati based economy. Dr. R. Vaidyanathan of the Indian Institute of Management argues that caste in politics divides the Indian electorate but caste in economics unites ('India Growth: The Untold Story- Caste as Social Capital' ,Chapter 12, Handbook of Hindu Economics and Business, January 2013). The economic benefits of caste affinity are risk sharing and entrepreneurship.. They are major builders of emerging businesses across sectors by newly empowered castes.

    The role of Jati in building the srenis (guilds) of ancient India and its prosperity are well known. There are large numbers of studies on the subject. The most recent description of Rashtrakutas, the federation of guilds in a state can be found in Dr. S. Kalyanraman's book Rashtram (2011, pp.194-243). His still more recent account is in the above mentioned book ('Hindu Social Corporate Form and Sreni Dharma : the cure for greed ', ch. 6 of Handbook of Hindu Economics and Business, January, 2013).

    Modern economics depends on Corporations, including multinationals. The Hindu guild-type entity 'sreni' had detailed laws, together with a complete structure for executive officers. It operated within the framework of a rational, materialistic economic ethos, and yet suggested equality, trusteeship and development of social capital. A remarkable example is that of the committee of elders of civil society in the Uttarameru district of South India.

    Well known writers with management and economic training such as S. Gurumurthy have also written about the important role of Jati in the contemporary Indian economy.

    And finally Ramachandra Guha reprimands Hindus for the demolition of the Babri Masjid and his argument is somewhat lopsided :

    " Ayodhya was unquestionably Hindu in intent and content. No Muslims or Sikhs or Parsis or Jews or Christians participated in it. But should Hindus be proud of it ? I rather think not . In a society where so many are without access to adequqte education, health care and housing, where malnutrition is rife and where safety and environmental standards are violated every minute, to invest so much political energy and human capital in the demolition of a mosque and its replacement with a brand-new temple seemed wildly foolish, if not downright Machiavellian. As it turned out the Rama Janmabhoomi campaign led to two decades of strife acroos northern and western India, with thousands of people losing their lives and hundreds of thousands their homes and livelihood."

    Apart from the exaggerated numbers, this passage is dangerously close to the type of sentiment expressed recently by Shakeel Ahmed, namely, that it was the Gujarat riots that led to the formation of the Indian Mujahudeen ! Surely Mr. Guha knows that communal violence has been endemic in Indian history since the last 500 years ! And as someone who has written about the pre Independence era he must know that the violence was extreme in the 20s of the last century !

    There is a singular lack of historical sense here. Hindus have traditionally fought for the Ramajanma bhoomi since the early years of the common era. This is not something new. Only the names of the invaders have changed and Babur and 1526 are the new relevant names.

    And the worst faux pas of all is the attempt to connect poverty and misery once again to the Hindu ethos.

    Guha's recommendation to Hindus to follow Hindu reformers might be acceptable if it was inclusive. He mentions the usual names, Gandhi, Vivekananda, Ram Mohun Roy et al, and in our times Jawaharlal Nehru. But he omits mention of important figures such as Aurobindo, Savarkar and Sardar Patel. This is seen also in his latest book Makers of Modern India. While some may argue that Aurobindo became a religious savant, the same cannot be said of either Savarkar and Patel.

    Savarkar was foremost among the Hindu nationalists in promoting intercaste dining, the breaking down of caste barriers etc. He had also clearly spelled out in his works that Muslims and minorities would be full citizens of Hindusthan once the country became independent. Sardar Patel was not only an important figure in the freedom struggle, he was also responsible for saving the country from some of Nehru's follies, notably Nehru's vacillation on the question of the integration of Hyderabad into the Indian Union. Had it not been for Patel's decisive action as the Home Minister, the country would have had a similar situation as occurred in Kashmir.

    All in all, this article with its advice to Hindus is disappointing as it comes from an individual who should have known better and from whom it was reasonable to expect a better output.

    (The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university).

    HaindavaKeralam - Is Ramachandra Guha competent to advise Hindus ?
     
  4. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Re: Ramchandra Guha advices hindus and Dr Rajiva doubts his compentenc

    Ram is being stupid.

    How does it he feel that Bangladesh Libertion is a Hindu victory?

    The COAS was a PARSI, the Eastern Army Cdr was a SIKH and the Chief of Staff was a JEW!

    I am not too sure if they had converted to Hindus.

    maybe Ram Guha or Gutran knows more!
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2013
  5. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Re: Ramchandra Guha advices hindus and Dr Rajiva doubts his compentenc

    I love the way how journalists, political analysts, 'intellectuals' tweak issues to serve their agenda and fool the gullible!
     
    parijataka likes this.

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