Post Modernism in India

I don’t want to write a post, but your question is a good one, and let me try to express my thoughts about it here. Before that, I am thankful to you (and Zack) for respectfully engaging my bizzare theories: typically Indian liberals refuse to engage fringe ideas like this, and simply brand these views as not worth considering. That you don’t do so says something about your innate goodness and generosity.

Now as to why the BJP does not do anything about what I claim to be discrimination against Hindus. It is a very good question. For instance, why does a party which supposedly only has to pander to Hindus increase minority affairs funding by 62%, or start free coaching for Muslim aspirants of Union Public Services Commission? Why did the BJP Government of the state of Haryana decide to allocate 13 public spaces for Namaz, instead of asking the rich Wakf board to either allocate space itself or pay up for the purpose? Why is it that the central Government’s official textbook make named criticisms of exactly one religion, namely Hinduism (the textbook was introduced by Congress, it is written by heavily anti-BJP people, but why is the Government continuing it)? It looks quite bizzare, when you consider that so few Muslims vote for BJP.

In democracies, voting patterns and their consequences are quite complicated, because parties are not single-interest groups; they are umbrella coalitions of various interest groups, sometimes conflicting with each other, and moreover one gets exactly one vote to express one’s opinion on a whole range of issues from religion to infrastructure development to education. Being a politician is all about monkey-balancing between these interest groups. This is why I don’t call the ideology of, say Modi, as either nectarine or poisonous: simply put, he (or other politicians) has no ideology, and his focus is how to do actions with high marginal value for the purpose of his votes. If you are strongly committed to an ideology or principle, you cannot become a politician. (In particular, I am not a fan of Modi: of course he is an unprincipled charlatan like anyone else).

Now let us come to the specific case at hand: the division into card-carrying Hindus and secular Hindus I wrote above was a gross oversimplification, for the sake of ease/clarity in presenting my point. Let us specifically look at what an exit poll says about Karnataka vote shares: – as you can see, voting patterns very strongly depend on the caste.

So votes are not divided just along Hindu-Muslim lines, but along many other lines, very prominently along caste lines. Some of this has to do with the presence of people from specific castes inside a political party, some to do with politics of reservation, and some to do with blatant partisanism (e.g., when Akhilesh Yadav Samajwadi Party was ruling Uttar Pradesh, it seems to have been understood that a disproportionate number of appointments in various government services such as the police would be from the Yadav community); and once in a while one hears complaints like this that there are favoritism towards Kashmir and against Jammu/Ladakh in appointments in Jammu and Kashmir.

Card-carrying Hindus like me are spread across castes (which are not represented proportionally, unfortunately so if you ask me). They are part of what may be called the baseof BJP. My best guess would be that they are quite a minority, but not statistically insignificant demographically. However, electorally they are even less significant than their demographic share, because they mostly don’t have anyone but BJP to vote for.

Something similar happened with the Republican establishment taking the Republican base for granted, and the resulting resentment among the Republican base was exploited by Trump with his provocative comments to basically upend the establishment and get himself to be the candidate. This hasn’t happened with the BJP yet.

So a politician from the BJP would have his/her eyes on marginal values of votes. Do you get to increase your voteshare by pleasing people who are anyway constrained to not vote for others, or people may possibly swing to your side with freebies? These involve complicated calculations/risky speculations; politics is a very difficult job that needs a lot of talent and luck.

Even these are only the factors related to the political process. There are actions of the judiciary etc. that the Government cannot do much about. Consider the Rohingyas settled in Jammu (not in Kashmir as Al Jazeera claims: the Kashmiri separatists insisted on settling the Rohingyas in Jammu but not in their state). The BJP Government actually pushed to deport them, only to be stayed by the Supreme court (remember Trump’s travel ban overturned by US courts?) It was the Supreme Court which invited itself into the battle over Diwali and banned fire cracker sale in Delhi just a few days before the 2017 Diwali, pushing a lot of cracker making families into poverty. It was the Supreme court which banned Jallikkattu.

More importantly, it was the Supreme Court (and not the Congress Government which brought it) which made the Right to Education act in India discriminatory, exempting minority-run educational institutions from it.

More generally, I am every democracy has “checks and balances” to ensure that democracy doesn’t go too far, and often the clever way of getting what you wish is not through the democratic process but by tweaking these checks and balances: as a tweet I saw from Razib’s twitter put it:

Epistocratic voting is for noobs, a real class warrior for the new class knows we rule most effectively through the administrative state, judicial activism, and simply narrowing the scope of conceivable policies— Rogue Works Progress Administration (@GabrielRossman) May 12, 2018

So there you go. You will certainly have a lot to disagree with many of my points above, but for good or for worse, this is a summary of my view on why things are the way they are in India.

froginthewell, if want me to delete this post I will. I wanted to write an article very similar to this and you channeled many of my thoughts, albeit better expressed.

Almost all of India’s academia, Indian Administrative Service (IAS), IFS (Indian Foreign Service), Indian Railways, Indian Police Service (IPS), Bollywood, and Indian cultural elite are dominated by post modernist philosophy. Most know little to nothing about eastern philosophy; and the majority of what they think they know is a misunderstanding. A majority have a subtle contempt for eastern philosophy and spirituality; but it is not based on studying eastern philosophy or their personal spiritual practice. This is also true for many of the elites in the BJP and Hindutva.

The influence of post modernism has grown greatly in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. To better understand how, please see:

I remember believing this when I was 11 years old. It took me many years to find others who thought as I did. Now I understand that very few nominal Hindus (Buddhists and Sikhs included) have extensively studied and deeply ruminated over their own philosophy and practice; which makes expressing this perspective more challenging.

I have always found India and the US to be remarkably similar; albeit their similarity is expressed through different accents, words and symbols. This is why the intellectual response to post modernism needs to be global to work. Some refer to this response as the “intellectual dark web.” Hope to see many articles at BP on this soon.

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14 thoughts on “Post Modernism in India”

  1. froginthewell, the BJP gets a lot of muslim votes. Maybe 37%. Although I question the accuracy of most Indian polls. Many Shiites and Sufis vote for the BJP. However, the BJP and Hindutwa do not understand Islam, Sunni-ism, Shia-ism, Sufism very well. As a result they do ham handed things to reach out to their muslim supporters sometimes, even if they aren’t actually what BJP voting muslims want.

    I think the BJP could do well with muslim voters with the following policy:
    –interfaith dialogue heavily featuring Sufi (there are several major streams with a large diversity of perspectives), twelver, sixer, Ahmedi, non sufi moderate Sunni (atheist, reform, liberal, LBGTQ, feminist), ex muslim leaders. These voices should represent a majority but not all muslim perspectives.
    –vigorously discuss the idea of a local customized Islam within the broader Arya Bharatiya open architecture ecosystem. A type of Dara Shiko Jahanara Hinduized Islam if you will. With muslims retaining the freedom to opt out.
    –support full freedom of art, thought, intuition and feeling for all muslims and dialogue with extremists (including gradually dismantling all blasphemy laws such as depictions of the prophet Mohammed pbuh)
    –gradually legalize all hate speech
    –provide full secular civil rights to all muslims, including muslim woman
    –economic empowerment for all muslims, partly promoted through better economic collaboration with Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Albania, Azerbaijan, Stans, Iran, Bangladesh
    –promote easier business visas, work visas, travel visas, religious visas (with a heavy vetting of conservative Sunnis heavily influenced by Ibn Taymiyyah and Khomeinists), and a pathway to Indian citizenship for most of the above muslim countries
    –aggressively promote an end to all discrimination against Indian muslims
    –encourage but don’t force desegregation
    –ideally a majority or large minority of visitors to most muslim mosques and dargahs should be nonmuslims. This is already true for a large minority of of muslim holy sites.
    –Muslims should be warmly welcome to visit all nonmuslim spiritual and religious sites. A small minority of Hindu temples have a sign “Hindus only”. This doesn’t apply to caucasions, or any religion other than islam. Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Zorastrians, Shintos, Taoists are welcome. In practice this “ONLY” applies to muslims. It is disgusting and needs to stop.

    I think the combination of this with neo-liberal pro business economic policies and better quality governance could win close to half the muslim votes in national elections. Maybe even a majority.

    A major obstacle to these policies being implemented is that almost no nonmuslim Indians know anything about Islam. If asked they will publicly praise Mohammed pbuh as a great spiritual master and the Koran as a revealed scripture. They will use superlative words to praise them. But when asked to specifically praise what they like about them; blank stares follow. Muslims see this same same Hindu hug as disrespectful, which it is. The only excuse that nonmuslim Indians have is that they are similarly ignorant about their own religion and speak the same way about their own religion. If Indians studied their own religions and became better practitioners of their own religion; most of India’s problems would be greatly alleviated.

    1. One example of the close connection between Islam and the East is the Sufi saying:
      “man arafa nafsahu faqad ‘arafa rabbahu'”. He who knows the self (nafs) can understand the lord (rab).

    2. >>>
      Muslims should be warmly welcome to visit all nonmuslim spiritual and religious sites. A small minority of Hindu temples have a sign “Hindus only”. This doesn’t apply to caucasions, or any religion other than islam. Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Zorastrians, Shintos, Taoists are welcome. In practice this “ONLY” applies to muslims. It is disgusting and needs to stop.

      IIRC, there are a handful of Hindu temples that follow a policy of “Hindus only” out of millions of temple. And the reason always has been aggressive/abusive evangelism by the Christian (Indian origin) missionaries. Muslims were NEVER the targets. I could be wrong but this is my understanding.

      1. Thanks for the information Tolaha. Very interesting. This makes sense. This is why they allow Hindu type (including Sikh, Jain, Buddhist) foreigners to enter the temple. The sign is aimed at proselytizers only then?

        This said, I know very spiritual muslims who love to visit temples (they generally don’t advertise being muslim when they go) and I feel saddened by the signs. Maybe they could replace it with:
        “no proselytizers”
        Would this work?

        1. Probably will not work simply because no Hindu temple would be willing to put up such a sign! Hindus, irrespective of the sects they belong to, believe in “Anekantavada”. A philosophy popularised by Jainism but something that is accepted across the cultural spectrum. So, putting up such a sign that would say that we do not want to listen to Christian missionaries would be an admission of weakness, kinda insulting to one’s own beliefs. Anathema to what’s generally considered as basic tenets.

          The idea of debating with varied philosophies works only when the other side is willing to concede when they are wrong/defeated. So while it may have worked fine in ancient India, it won’t work while it has to face the modern, the more dogmatic religions! 🙂

          I really doubt 99.9% of the temples would stop Muslims from visiting them, surely not in the region where I come from. Maybe it varies from region to region?

          Disclaimer: No expert, just my views. Not a “Hindu”.

          1. Tolaha, I have never observed anyone other than thieves not being allowed to enter temples and I have been in a lot of them. No one asks what religion someone is from that I can see. I still don’t like the sign “Hindus only”. But as you say this sign is only up in a very tiny fraction of temples.

            A lot of temples, mosques, churches, synagogues, ashrams, Gurudwaras, and other spiritual centers in India now have extensive security because of Islamist terrorists. This is a tragedy beyond words. 🙁

            BTW in many Gurudwaras a majority of the visitor worshipers are Hindus. For these Hindus the concept that Sikhism isn’t part of Hinduism would come as a shock.

          2. In Jaffna, Northern Sri Lanka lower castes were not allowed to enter the “high caste” temple until 1968.
            nb: “high caste” are Vellala (farmer caste) Shudras

            Only “high” caste Hindus had been allowed to worship in the temple.[9] In 1968 several hundred “low” caste Hindus, mainly Pallar and Nalavar, staged a non-violent protest outside the temple gates but were met with violence from a group of “high” caste Hindus.[10] In June 1968 “low” caste Hindus stormed the temple.[11] They were given access to the temple following the intervention of Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK, Federal Party).[12] C. Suntharalingam, who had led the “high” caste resistance to opening the temple up to the “low” castes, was prosecuted under the Prevention of Social Disabilities Act and fined Rs. 50 by the Supreme Court.[13] This act, which had been brought in as a private member’s bill by ITAK in 1957, made the denial of entry into a place of worship on grounds of caste an offence.[12][13]



      1. leapard, can you provide polling data? In general I am skeptical of polling data. This said, some polls indicate that PM Modi has the support of 40% of Gujarati muslims. If I am wrong, I would love to be corrected:

        leapard, do you mean non Sufi Sunni? Or do you mean muslim? Why do you think large numbers of Shiites and Sufis don’t vote for the BJP? PM Modi appears to have been successful in developing good relations with non Indian Sufis and Shia on the back of the perception that he is popular with Indian Sufi and Shia.

        It is possible of course that Indian Sufi and Shia don’t like the BJP but feel forced to vote for them since they are the least bad option. Is this possible?

  2. AnAn, The reason why I don’t want to get into the “post space” here is that it involves depending on the goodwill of the blog admins/owners. They are all nice people, but that doesn’t mean I should exploit their generosity.

    Now that you have already posted, I don’t know if it makes a difference to erase it; it is difficult to figure that out, so for now please use your discretion on whether the post should be kept or not as I don’t want to think about it, but in future I request you to refrain from posting my comments.

    Regarding your points on BJP and Muslims above, my impression/memory from seeing the Muslim vote percentage for BJP according to some exit polls is that it has usually been between 2 and 5 percent. A lot of your suggestions are good from a moral/ethical/humanitarian view point, but that wins them votes is something I don’t feel qualified to tell parties.

    I sometimes try to be predictive about my political intuitions, and usually I turn out to be wrong in my predictions; there is no doubt that political parties know much more than I (or, I would think, even most “professional” analysts) do about what sells and what doesn’t. Many times something done by a party looks electorally “obviously stupid” to me, and later I realize that it was likely a masterstroke. Sometimes I am tempted to ask, purely speculatively of course, if Hillary Clinton was harmed by “professional expertise” from non-politicians.

    1. froginthewell, my apologies. I will keep this post unless you suggest otherwise. Your insights are I think very good and appreciated by many in addition to myself.

      Please send me polling data on muslim voting in India. I would love to be corrected. 🙂

      Your humility about predictions is merited and applies to myself and everyone else too.

  3. Thanks for the information sbarrkum. I didn’t know this.

    How about this sign in lieu of “Only Hindus” at temples:
    “No anti-social elements”
    Indians love this phraseology! 😉

  4. ” A small minority of Hindu temples have a sign “Hindus only”. This doesn’t apply to caucasions, or any religion other than islam. Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Zorastrians, Shintos, Taoists are welcome. In practice this “ONLY” applies to muslims. It is disgusting and needs to stop.”

    AnAn, all the others you mentioned have no problem with “idols”. Hindu temples by definition have a “moolavirat” i.e., consecrated idol.
    So, you don’t see a problem with allowing people who are adamantly against “idols” in to a temple?! Even in principle, you find it disgusting that Hindus want to protect their Moolavirat from possible violation? Wow..

    Also, rich/famous temples have a policy of making non-Hindus signing a declaration that they won’t desecrate the idol in any fashion (including rude gestures, spitting, entering temple with shoes, etc) before entering the temple. But, identifying non-Hindus is tricky since Hindus come in all flavours, and so they basically ask White people to sign those forms, and let everyone else in without a problem. So, how can anyone stop a non-Hindu, unless they are obviously devoted to their religious symbolism (e.g. burqa, large cross, nun’s habit, head-gear)?

    1. Violet, Hindus are extremely diverse with over a hundred significant sects (mini-religions if you will). Many Hindus have a major problem with consecrated idols. And they are allowed in.

      You are right that in practice I haven’t seen temples not let people in. Only a very small fraction of temples have the sign “Hindus only” and even they appear to let everyone in.

      Obviously rude gestures, spitting, entering temple with shoes is completely unacceptable and should not be permitted. This can be done without the sign in my opinion. In general temples and eastern spiritual/religious centers allow too many trouble makers in out of a desire to be nice; and I think this goes too far. A little discipline is a positive thing.

      There might be tens of millions of Hindu/Buddhist/Jain/Sikh/new age/Sufi type foreigners now and they make up a large percentage of visitors to religious/spiritual places in India. Hinjew is a thing. There might conservatively be over a million Jews attracted to eastern spirituality. In my opinion this is a very good thing and India should offer them a pathway to own assets, run businesses, have careers in India. As well as become Indian citizens over the long run should they so choose. These foreigners will revitalize and enhance culture, character, values, spirituality and religion in India.

      To tie this to previous thread; it is very easy for spiritual Desis in Europe and the Americas to find many locals deeply drawn to eastern spirituality eager to befriend (platonic), date and marry them. By contrast it is harder to find spiritual Desis living in Europe and America to befriend (platonic), date and marry. This is a factor in the high rate of inter-racial marriage in the West.

      Similarly caucasions and Desis share many of the same social circles in terms of universities, business associations, employers, opera, theatre, art, nature, sports, wineries, charitable organizations. These shared social circles also promotes a high rate of cross racial marriage for Desis.

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