The Reincarnation of India

On August 15, 1947, an ancient civilization manifested into a new nation. Near the stroke of midnight, Jawaharlal Nehru, freedom fighter and India’s first Prime Minister, would make one the greatest speeches of the 20th century – “A Tryst With Destiny.”

One passage stands out the most which is integral in this piece:

“A moment comes, which comes, but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.”

The Soul of a Nation

The idea of the soul, or Atman, has been a central topic in Indian philosophy. Most strands posit it as eternal, unchanging, and inherently good. Liberation is achieved when one identifies with the soul and disassociates with the body.

But what defines the soul of India?

The Ancient Indian Motif of Reincarnation and Rebirth

Nehru tried to define this soul or “idea” of India in his book, The Discovery of India. Nehru idolized India’s diversity, tolerance, and tradition of pluralism. Most Indians today and in the past would agree with these values.

But problems arrived with the body of this newly born India state. Its hands were tied by excessive government regulations where profit was a plague, and a mercantile people’s instincts were silenced. The feet of the masses marched behind the banners of caste (for Hindus) and religion (for minorities) rather than behind the Indian tricolor or tiranga. The brain or “intellectuals” of India veered into a Red Sea where Marxists rewrote books to vilify India’s indigenous culture and deify its conquerors as civilizers of the heathen brown savage.

Post-colonial India became a state ruled by Brown Englishmen exploiting mass corruption while spitting on mass tradition. To maintain this equation, balance was achieved by pitting community against community; while feudal lords doled out sops and calculated political arithmetic. This all changed when a new variable entered the board – unity.

Truth is One

Ekam Sat Viprā Bahudhā Vadanti – Truth is one, the wise know it by many names.

— Rig Veda (1.164.46)

I’ve quoted the above several times before. The reason I do is because how integral this verse is in explaining India. Nehru’s idea of India indeed traces itself to this verse spoken thousands of years ago. However, what Nehru and his disciples did not acknowledge is that their “Idea of India’s” origin was rooted in this Vedic verse. They would think of any and every reason to explain India’s inherent diversity and tolerance other than its actual cause – the soul of India: Dharma.

Ekam Sat is the social contract of the Indian experience. As long as people abide by it, sectarian peace can prevail and has in India for millennia. When ideologies came that did not accept Ekam Sat, India has witnessed terrible bloodshed in the name of God or lack there of. This is not to say that India was some peaceful fantasy land for all of its history, but it is reasonable to say that inter-and intra-religious violence amongst Dharmic sects has been extremely minimal compared to its foreign analogues.

But how did this unity manifest itself in modern India – an India of hundreds of colonial and cultural divisions filled with struggle and strife?

The Price of Saffron

Two currents would force the struggling streams of the Indian state into the beginnings of a singular and mighty river: saffronization and economic liberation.

It was in the late 1980s/early 1990s was when India’s reincarnation truly began.

Movie Poster of Shikara – Based on the Kashmiri Pandit Exodus; Capturing the Initial Refugee Flight From Kashmir

The Shah Bano case and Kashmiri Pandit Exodus would enrage Hindus across the country with a culmination in the mob destruction of Babri Masjid – a mosque built over an ancient temple and one of Hinduism’s holiest sites, the birthplace of Ram.

Across the Arabian Sea, Saddam Hussein launched an invasion into Kuwait in 1990. Oil prices and India’s oil payments jettisoned while exports slumped with its balance sheet teetering. India was now forced into an IMF bailout conditioned on massive economic liberalization. The curse of the Kuwaiti invasion would turn into India’s blessing.

Political whirlwinds would give air to an upstart party in the BJP, which would grow in strength and numbers over the years. Reaching a zenith in 2014 with a massive victory of Prime Minister Modi, the BJP now began laying ground for a new India. On a foundation of welfare, infrastructure, and promotion of indigenous tradition, Modi would build the first pillars of rebirth in 2019 with an even greater mandate than prior.

Rebirth by Reclamation

Kashmir. Ram Mandir. CAA.

Through this trident of tectonic maneuvers, Modi and the BJP signaled their intent to the world in 2019 – India would no longer sit by and be defined by haughty intellectuals or journalist editorials; India would define itself, and it was now defined by reclamation.

Amongst hyperventilating outlets publishing misinformation after mischaracterization, much of the international public has been caught dazed by what is happening in India. The BJP’s shambolic public relations department does not help either. In all 3 actions, India is placing primacy on indigenous tradition and history. It is addressing the festering scars that have been open since partition and caused by conflict from ages past.

Kashmir saw the removal of a temporary amendment, equality enforced amongst the populace, and a path for the resettlement of its original people who carried its indigenous traditions – the Kashmiri Pandits. BJP backed lawyers persuaded India’s Supreme Court into a balanced and just decision with the holy land of Ram Janmabhoomi rightly returned to its worshippers and an order for a mosque to be built at another location. While the CAA honored India’s storied legacy of giving refuge to the persecuted as well as addressed partition injustices all in one stroke.

And all of this has been massively popular in India, flabbergasting outside commentators. Why?

A Million Mutinies

More than 271 million Indians were lifted out of poverty from 2006-2016. As Indians rose economically, they found new questions (and problems) for themselves. Indians are now introspecting on who they are and what defines them.

In Narendra Modi, they have found the Special One. His background, achievements, and character have captured the Indian imagination. He is an every man coming from humble roots who has given a precedent of defiance to those of doubt. Modi has not only given hope to the average Indian, but also a mirror.

He has laid out the corruption and hypocrisies of the old elites. His orations give the tales of an ancient people, speaking to the deep seated cultural trauma and perseverance of India. Modi’s Hindutva is breaking the Brown Englishman’s idols and killing its sacred cows, while reminding India of its old ideals and sanctity.

Narendra Modi Worships At Kedarnath Temple in the Himalayas

But the old elites also have an even more alarming fire at their doorstep – caste is breaking down.

With urbanization, increased economic mobility, and indeed with the strengthened of Hindutva, people are identifying as Indian or Hindu first rather than their caste like in the old days. Social media and the internet have broken the stranglehold of academia and mainstream media to deliver narratives that are much more in tune with reality today, history yesterday, and the future tomorrow. The carefully carved world of postcolonial India is crumbling to ashes. And the BJP is intent on dashing those ashes away as a preparation for reincarnation.

Jawaharlal Nehru’s “Idea of India” was only partially correct. India is not just the land of diversity and pluralism. India is the land of Dharma, of ancient traditions, and uniquely indigenous narratives. It is the land of Ram, of Krishna, of Buddha, of Mahavir, and of Nanak. It is the land of Chanakya, with a state that seeks to improve diplomacy and statecraft. It is the land of Yoga and meditation. It is the land of science and spirituality; of Aryabhatta and Aryavarta. It is a land of the Dharmachakra, where the wheel of change forever turns on the spokes of Dharmic virtues.

It is the land where the soul of a civilization, long suppressed, is reborn today in a new avatar.

India has reincarnated.

This is a repost from The Emissary. Please visit the blog for more content and thanks to Brown Pundits!

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86 thoughts on “The Reincarnation of India”

  1. This post is crystallized bhakti.

    This project of repealing modernity and recreating a primordial idyll may give meaning to Indians living in material comfort (in India or abroad) but is only guaranteed to push the Indian masses (of whatever caste or religion) further into penury.

    1. I have no idea why people always assume pursuing religion and GDP are mutually exclusive.

      1. 1. If pursuing religion causes discord, it detracts from the normal business of society, and adversely impacts the economy. Europeans went through long periods of strife, which was finally solved either by nations imposing a religion on everyone within their borders or by dissidents leaving to colonize other places. How exactly do you think that process will play out in today’s India?

        2. Hindutva advocates are deeply attached to the notion that old India before the invasions was a scientifically advanced wonderland, so they want to take us back there. They arrived at this conclusion not by dispassionate analysis but by unwarranted extrapolation from Vedic texts and fragments of our myths. Such notions and magical beliefs are not conducive to building a scientific temper, will keep us mired in ignorance, prevent us from innovating, and keep us dependent on advances made in the West. The Saudis can afford such magical thinking because they sit on a vast bed of liquid gold that’s in high demand. We sit on nothing other than earth and sand.

        1. Reality lies somewhere between the magical thinking you refer to and the unthinking dismissal some “secular sceptics” indulge in.

          It should be possible to dispassionately consider the level at which scientific knowledge was produced in pre-Islamic India and its discontinuation during later years until it started again under European influence.

          1. It should be possible to dispassionately consider

            Sure, but this is a history topic, isn’t it? I’m all for a full investigation into our history. What I’m not for is something like when a Union Cabinet Minister goes to my alma mater (a science/tech univ) and asks students and faculty to research how Ram built his bridge to Sri Lanka using advanced technology.

            The people who propagate this view aren’t dispassionate, nor are they making a distinction between science and history and myth, like you and I are.

        2. This comparison between Europe and Indian streams of societal dynamics is the number one single-pony trick that Establishment Marxists use to arrive at wrong conclusions. This is the same rhetorical and ideological baggage that Indian communists carry around without assessing its ontological purity. Also the reason why Marxists have steadily deteriorated to single digit seats in a parliamentary system having 550 members.

    2. Hmmm what you are describing sounds to me more Gandhian than anything I’ve seen today.

      Current ruling gov seems to be more in line with Ambedkar/Patel reform style.

      If you are referring to unkill vedic nuke stuff – I agree with you that it doesn’t have a place in modern science, but demographics and education will weed it out.

      1. Hmmm what you are describing sounds to me more Gandhian than anything I’ve seen today.

        Elaborate please. What was I describing that was Gandhian? I admire Gandhi for a lot of things, but his vision and worldview were quite distant from mine.

        The “reforms” of the current Indian government are like the “reforms” that Bush unleashed on Iraq. In both cases, advocates claimed that this will bring about a bright new world, but if there’s light at the end of the tunnel, it’s too far away for me to see. And there’s a whole lot of strife to deal with in the meantime.

  2. “Truth is One
    Ekam Sat Viprā Bahudhā Vadanti – Truth is one, the wise know it by many names.”

    People often quote this verse out of context to prove their point. The Vedic sages didn’t have any conflict among themselves about their spiritual perception.

    1. What do you mean by this? Hinduism has 6 distinct darshanas – Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mīmāṃsā, and Vedanta. – each with their own founder, a number of which either are mentioned in the Vedas or are descended from.

      The Saptarishi (whichever version you pick) have differences.

      But I can empathize with you that the differences are not THAT drastic. Still, Vedic scholars do point to this as a source of Hindu pluralism and respect between sampradays.

  3. It is interesting that India is the “land of Rama, Krishna etc” but no mention is made of Akbar, Nizamuddin Auliya and many others.

    Also “people are identifying as Indian or Hindu first”. Identifying as Indian first is fine since national identity includes all citizens. Identifying as Hindu first is more problematic since it privileges a religious identity rather than the national one. This is just as bad as those people who argue that they are Muslim first and citizens of a particular country afterwards.

    As already mentioned, this article reads like a PR exercise for the BJP.

    1. Further to that, it’s an affront to one’s freedom of conscience. If an indian hindu were to decide of their own will to become a muslim, to think that they would also forfeiting their authenticity as a citizen is concerning. I mean, it’s not novel in the sense that many societies do some form of this, but it’s a retreat from the libertarian.

        1. Yes, A Muslim is less of an Indian than a Hindu precisely because most Indian Muslims confess to an extra-territorial loyalty to Islam & Ummah. Muslims want to be Indian only to exploit the benefits which Indian citizenship brings. They do not want to engage in an open manner with non-muslim Indians and accept changes in their decayed society.

          That the real heart of the Hindu-Muslim conflict.

          eg. Sharjeel Imam, recently arrested was my batchmate at IIT-Bombay. In the first year was very interested in programming etc but he got involved in Islamist politics and slowly by the time we graduated he had become completely brainwashed. He wrote articles defending Jinnah and the partition, defending Indian Muslims supporting the Pak cricket team, defending Taliban (He said they were right to destroy the Bamiyan Budhhas because noone was currently worshipping them.) etc.

          They he went to JNU to study history. His thesis topic predictably was ‘Atrocities on Bihari Muslims during 1947’. He dabbled with leftist politics in JNU but became disillusioned with them because leftists actually held all religions to be false and not just Hinduism. He has been leading an Islamist radical student group in JNU for quite some time now. His facebook page often contains tirades against Hinduism and idol-worship etc.

          Here is one denigrating Durga Puja and the fact that many leftist Bengalis from JNU celebrate it

          “pujo ki tayyariyan shuru ho chuki hain. isliye fascism aur superstitions ke khilaaf inqilaabi struggle insha allah ab pujo ke baad continue kiya jaayega. kyonki is mausam me CPM ke zyadatar comrades bechaare aarzi taur pe husn e butaaN se mutassir hoke butparasti ikhtiyaar kar lete hain.
          aise me ye batana mushkil ho jaata hai ke fulaan comrade 1) mahaz cultural Hindu hain aur isliye fitratan buton se lagaao rakhte hain, ya 2) inki ghar wapsi ho chuki hai, ya 3) ye abhi tak apne dil ki baat bata nahi rhe the, ya 4) shayad koi nayee Marxist line hai.
          is confusion aur friendly fire se bachne ke liye, inqilaabi struggle ek maheene ke liye suspend kiya jaata hai.
          fi amaanillah.

          If a smart guy educated at India’s best liberal and technical institutions has as narrow thinking as a Madarsa educated bozo then I fear there is something wrong in Islam. Just coming into contact with it makes one poisonous.

          1. Janamejaya, your idea of indianness sounds propositional. The Republic of India is a union of long established entities with legal and administrative continuity going back through the ages. It is a collection of ethnic regions that you are either part of or not. It is not America, a clean slate (wiped of previous pops) where the legal frameworks for subject-hood and later citizenship were established and under which settlers can be presumed to have entered into a social contract with the state. As such it can be said that one’s values and one’s indianness are completely disjoint. Indianness is whatever ethnic indians are. More Indians speak urdu than sanskrit, so its not unreasonable to say that urdu is more indian than sanskrit (or hindi is more indian than kannada). Being buddhist doesnt make one a bihari, or a muslim an arab. Those are absurdities. Religion is probably one of the most superficial parts of our identity because it can be easily faked. Language and race are hard to fake. Its extraordinarily rare for an adult to be able to learn a new language to native fluency. Even a hindu indian-american will have difficulty faking being a real indian born and raised there.
            If you were making an aesthetic argument about islam not being authentic to and continuous with Indic civilizations earliest expression, there are interesting positions to take on either side of that debate, but neither are highly relevant to the modern republic. Its as irrelevant as musing whether a hellenic neo-pagan is more greek than a christian.

          2. “More Indians speak urdu than sanskrit, so its not unreasonable to say that urdu is more indian than sanskrit (or hindi is more indian than kannada).”

            LOL, by like logic is it then reasonable (or better “not unreasonable”) to say beig Hindu is ‘more Indian’ than being Muslim ?

          3. But broadly, yes, hindu polytheism as a meta category is most characteristic of India, although “high church” Hinduism is a small part of that. Caveat is that an Urdu speaking Sunni muslim is still probably more characteristically Indian than an Assamese Bodo Hindu, or a Tulu speaking mogaveera.

          4. Better way to put it is that being Hindu or Muslim is largely irrelevant and doesn’t imply any substantive connection to India. Speaking Urdu gives one the ability to interact with more than half the population and form bonds. Speaking Sanskrit would be an academic oddity.

          5. This trope of Muslims having extra-territorial loyalty comes directly from Savarkar’s notion of “holy land” and “motherland”. Muslims and Christians can’t be expected to be loyal to India because their holy lands are located in the Middle East. This is frankly a ridiculous notion. Are Hindu Americans disloyal to the US because their holy land is in India?

            One doesn’t have to agree with Sharjeel Imam’s politics. However, he doesn’t represent the views of all 200 million Indian Muslims. As long as people are willing to abide by the Indian Constitution, they should be treated as equal citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs. This was certainly the viewpoint of India’s founders.

            “Just coming into contact with Islam makes one poisonous” is a bigoted statement. If you replace the word “Islam” in that sentence with Hinduism (or any other religion), surely you will realize what an ugly sentiment it is.

          6. “This trope of Muslims having extra-territorial loyalty comes directly from Savarkar’s notion of “holy land” and “motherland”.”

            Savarkar wasn’t the first or the only one to hold these views. You should read what Ambedkar had to say on the loyalty of Muslims. I do think there is some small kernel of truth to it.
            (Although, not to the extent that is made out to be and certainly not for everybody. But we only know of these things in times of crisis.)

            But for whatever it’s worth, I also think that this should not in any way affect the constitutional rights enjoyed by a Muslim individual vs that of any other citizen.

          7. “This trope of Muslims having extra-territorial loyalty comes directly from Savarkar’s notion of “holy land” and “motherland”.”

            Actually it comes from reading newspapers – across Europe, America and East Asia besides just South Asia. “All” Muslims may not hold such views but enough do to create justified concern. Sort of like the number of travellers from China carrying coronavirus.

          8. The idea that Muslims cannot be loyal to the nation because their primary religious sites are in West Asia comes up most often in the Indian context. Most developed countries treat all citizens equally regardless of the religion they happen to profess. That is the definition of the secular state. Treating people differently because of their religious beliefs is discriminatory behavior.

            What is the percentage of Muslims who are “disloyal” to the UK, US etc? The vast majority are law abiding citizens of their respective countries.

            Comparing Islam to a virus is a disgusting and bigoted statement.

          9. Actually suspicion of Muslims comes up even in the US where they are subject to greater scrutiny at airports and where mosques have been known to be surveilled by law enforcement agencies to an extent other places of worship are not. In Europe it is most starkly seen in the increasing exodus of Jews to Israel under pressure of increasing Muslim immigration. And everybody knows the Chinese government policies about its internal Muslim population. Is everybody wrong then ?
            What percentage would *you* regard as legitimate cause of concern ? So far it sounds like you see no reason to worry unless that number is 100%.
            (You have deliberately misunderstood the analogy of coronavirus but I can’t be bothered to correct you.)

          10. I didn’t misunderstand the analogy. The implied link between Islam and a virus was very clear. Don’t try to teach an English major about the interpretation of words.

            Increased surveillance of Muslims at airports is a consequence of the War on Terror. It’s not a fair policy at all. However, there is no discussion in the US about treating Muslim Americans as second class citizens. This is a mainstream sentiment among the Hindu Right.

            No decent person should defend China’s treatment of the Uighurs or aspire to reproduce that in their own countries.

            Since you claimed that Muslims are disloyal to their countries, it is up to you to provide the percentages. How do you define “disloyalty”? In any case, the vast majority of the world’s Muslims are not suicide bombers or violent extremists.

    2. “It is interesting that India is the “land of Rama, Krishna etc” but no mention is made of Akbar, Nizamuddin Auliya and many others.”

      FWIW I am fine with these mentions as well as several other Muslim Indians as part of “the land of” category.

      But this post isn’t focused on Islam.

      The “hindu first” refers to less importance of caste. But I do agree that in general, Hindu/Muslim first lead to their own unique set of issues and Indian first is best.

      However for Hinduism to India – the following tweets I find myself very much agreeing with:

      1. The post isn’t focused on Islam but it is about India. Defining India solely through the icons of the majority community is problematic. It excludes those minorities who may not identify with Rama, Krishna, Yoga etc.

    3. There is no factual inaccuracy in that statement. Ramayana mentions the names of over 700 places that are located within the Indian subcontinent. Mahabharata accurately locates the names of over 950 regions and cities within the Gangetic plains and Western coastline. If any other major religious tradition provides such single-minded geo-focus and detail in their epics and books, then we should call it as such. If not, then no. There is no “secular” joy in meaningless associations. My only nitpick is that the Sramana founders were left out.

  4. This is not to say that India was some peaceful fantasy land for all of its history, but it is reasonable to say that inter-and intra-religious violence amongst Dharmic sects has been extremely minimal compared to its foreign analogues.

    u mean abrahamic. china has not had much conflict either

    1. China has had some of the bloodiest civil wars in history. And then there were the Mongols. It’s not solely an Abrahamic thing.

  5. This is an interesting piece but I find it interesting that Indian cultural evolution is outstripping economic growth.

    I think in other parts of the world (China comes to mind); the pace of economic change has been so harried that the cultural norms have sort of buckled.

    India (and her Subcontinent) are the only places in the world that seem to remain culturally resilient in terms of the family structures.

    Indian fashion, film and family demonstrate that even though South Asians have an annoying tendency to discuss abstract notions of civilisation and identity; it does make for astonishing soft power. The only question is how “exportable” is this soft power.

    Bollywood had a heyday in the 70/80s where it was strong in the ME & USSR (I don’t know to what extent but this is based on hearsay); will it be able to seriously compete with Hollywood on the global stage.

    Perhaps posts like these and the comments it generates does mean India (perhaps Pakistan and the rest of South Asia) is able to punch culturally far above it’s economic size (it’s roughly 4% of global gdp).

    However it’s far less influential than population size warrant; South Asians are one fourth of the world population (not including the sizeable diaspora) but the influence beyond it’s borders doesn’t reflect that.

    By comparison the West is 50% of the Global Economy at 18% of the global population.

    Finally China is 14% of the global economy and 18% of the world population. So I wonder whether it is better to be a chaotic and colourful soft power like South Asia or somewhat opaque but rising power like East Asia (apart from BTS, KPop and Japanese anime I can’t really get a feel for what resembles Bollywood but again happy to be corrected).

      1. I did a rough calc; I think ~7% based on PPP. I didn’t adjust it for purchasing power parity but again all my figures are rough calculation.

        Interestingly enough China is 19.48%~ of the world population, India is 17.99% and the West (depending on you define it – I’m assuming the Americas + Oceania + Europe, everything that is not Afrasia, but again that’s super arbitrary but I’m sort of using it as a proxy for Christendom, which includes the Orthodox) is 20.54%.

        So these three population blocs are fascinating to contrast since they are basically equivalent to one another.

        I did another dirty calcuation where it seems that the Muslims in the world amount to 1.8bn people (total world population is 7.7bn). If you remove 170mm in India, 20mn in China and roughly 50mn in Europe & NA then Muslims are also 20% of the world population.

        But the OIC doesn’t have the political unity of either China or India (which are ultimately nation states in the political order even if they are civilisational entities) nor the clout of the West (however you may define it).

        I know I can be pretty woke but the idea of “whiteness” as a post-Christendom Western category has some attraction to it. But that’s a huge topic that deconstruct and I don’t want to get too drawn in to whether Russia & Latam can be considered sufficiently Western or not.

        But the idea of category comparison is fascinating; that India’s tryst with destiny is still to be played out, we are still a few minutes away from midnight.


    1. Thanks. Yes I agree that India very much does not have as much cultural influence compared to its population and has a long way to go economically to back up its “hard power.”

      The flow of “soft power” is indeed very interesting.

      1. Sounds very Tharoorian!

        Soft power amounts to jackshit unless it is backed by hard power. It’s just another thing to boost the egos of the leisurely classes.

        Hard power requires investing in human capital, building a cohesive society, law and order, mass education. Things the Hindutva people do not know how to build and which they think will plop down into our laps once we get rid of the Muslims and Western thought and create a Hindu utopia.

        1. Numinous, a lot of Indian-Americans experience the uncommon duality of tremendous material success, but limited social capital. People of Indian ethnicity are sparse on the American cultural scene, especially the masculine interests of sports and action cinema. Indian-American males grow up in a society where their ethnic media market (Indian cinema/Bollywood) and sport (cricket, field hockey) are seen at best as curious oddities.So the obsession with cultural soft power makes sense.

          In my travels to India, I saw a lot of disillusionment with the BJP amongst young urban Indians, who actually have to put up with India’s shortcomings. I was very surprised to find myself on the defensive about this topic. Even hardcore Gujarati friends were qualifying their support of Modi. Nobody was complaining about how left academics have made it impossible for them to practice Hinduism. Note that this doesnt translate into any kind of popularity gain for the opposition.

          It should be noted that the disillusionment did not stem from economic difficulties. All these people were doing spectacularly well in life, owning businesses ranging from HFT to digital marketing. Their discomfort stemmed from the BJPs arrogance and crass, authoritarian response to criticism/opposition.

    2. The pop culture of Korea alone has greater international reach than Bollywood.

      Unfortunately for mainland China, pop culture tends not to flourish in an environment of authoritarian government and no freedom of speech. Occasionally a worthwhile book or movie or TV show from China will be produced (usually limited to hard SF or historical dramas), but I doubt if the pop cultural influence of mainland China will ever surpass what Hong Kong achieved on its own in the late 20th century.

      And given that Japan and Korea are in an opposing geopolitical camp to China, we can’t speak of East Asian soft power. Japan and Korea already have it, but that soft power doesn’t interact with great power politics. And China under the current regime will probably never have soft power (as it relates to cultural products, at least).

  6. “it is reasonable to say that inter-and intra-religious violence amongst Dharmic sects has been extremely minimal compared to its foreign analogues”

    If by reasonable you mean there’s no evidence for it but it helps Hindus feel better about themselves, then yes, its quite reasonable.

  7. Hindu is a superficial, easy on the mouth coinage. Over millennia, certain set of ideals (liberal) have evolved in this land and we have titled the entire corpus as Hinduism. These ideals define our history, culture and the land. Abhrahamic Faith’s aren’t inquisitive & do not subscribe to these ideals, hence the friction & the argument that the followers of such Faiths aren’t Indians. Without culling the proselytizing & ‘my way or highway’ tendencies of these Faith’s, there simply is no solution & the followers of these Faith’s will be seen with suspicion.

  8. Are you guys illiterates? You comment on every damn topics as if you are an authority on that subject. Please stop making fools of yourself and antagonise people like us who think that the commentators have the requisite expertise.

  9. If half of India’s time not be wasted on mythical cultural re-imagination on either side (Nehru-Secular-Ganga Jamuna VS Modi-Hindutva) of their past, we would have been in a better place.

      1. Khalsa is not even the future of Indian Punjab, leave alone India. Already the lower castes have become totally antagonized and gone their own separate ways (Christianity or Ravidasiya). Punjabis who earlier were Sehajdharis and had a fluid Hindu-Muslim identity are also moving more fully towards Hinduism since SGPC with its diktats has made Sikhism very exclusive. Also the Khalistani shenanigans don’t help.

        Khalsa is now a Jatt Sikh social club not a religion.

  10. Much of this is imagined nonsense. But that does not make it any less real in terms of effect (if enough people buy into the same convergent nonsense).

    The real picture is that India was never really as politically cohesive relative to its peers ever in history as it is today.

    The cohesiveness is really a function of the western plug-and-play model that Indians weren’t arrogant enough to throw. Or, what’s more likely, they recognised they couldn’t agree on anything except the system thrust on them by force but of an efficacy they (or their forebears) had never seen before.

    The Brits not only reinvented India politically but triggered the Hindu cultural renaissance of sorts. Learnt our ancient languages better than us, and deciphered what was totally forgotten to us and carefully pieced together a narrative of how we came to be. Some say a narrative perforce clouded by the racism of the white colonials. Maybe, maybe not. But it was certainly the first time such a cohesive arc of history was contrived for a land ravaged by invasion and spectacularly extractive elite, riven by deep social divides and cultural animosities and suffering from economic deprivation.

    Now there is, for the first time in history, a well-fed, well-connected mobile bourgeoisie in numbers that scales somewhat with the sheer size of India’s population. And the reliance on a totally Western narrative suddenly seems beneath dignity and new spins on facts (or entirely new “facts”) are necessary to read political justification into history. The nation state of India has been given a natural teleology. But as I began, just because it is new does not make it any less real.

    1. Slapstik, I dont think the ‘Western narrative’ is much of an issue even for the neo-bourgeoisie in India, let alone the mass Hindus. Forget day to day conversations, I have hardly heard any BJP leader bring up the threat of the Western narrative in a campaign speech. But innuendos against Muslims and the Congress/AAP abound. The reason for the invective against the left leaning academia is the fact that real Western power (international media and thus business leaders and governments) relies on Indian interlocutors who have been trained by and are aligned with this academia in important ways.

        1. The material isnt necessarily as antagonistic to a run of the mill Hindu as the BJP’s spokespeople like to say. And Hinduism does have a stronger tradition of self examination than most large scale knowledge systems. Also the left has been critical of traditional cultures virtually everywhere.

          The opposition of the interlocutors to the BJP is based on its rhetoric and position towards minorities and the fact that it isnt an entrenched establishment (with all the attendant network benefits) yet. The BJP is just less accessible than the Congress was.

          1. // material isnt necessarily as antagonistic to a run of the mill Hindu as the BJP’s spokespeople //


            // Hinduism does have a stronger tradition of self examination than most large scale knowledge systems //


            // left has been critical of traditional cultures virtually everywhere //


          2. @Slapstick:

            left has been critical of traditional cultures virtually everywhere

            Vikram is quite right about this. The only traditional cultures leftists don’t oppose are aboriginal ones that are under threat of getting swallowed by other cultures (which could themselves be traditional, but still newer than the aborigine) surrounding them.

            Perhaps you are thinking of the labor-left, which may not be so Gramscian in its thinking. But even they are not traditional, strictly speaking, as they want to break down some of the existing hierarchies.

          3. @Numinous

            No, I was thinking of traditional aboriginal cultures. But not just those. The Left does not oppose tribalism in much of Sub-Saharan Africa either. And the modern Left also apologize for (or say silent on) a lot of traditional thuggery in Islamic West Asia.

          4. @Slapstick:

            True, when it comes to West Asia or Sub-Saharan Africa, the Left takes a global rather than a local view. Africans have been victims of colonization, and Muslims these days seem to be in bad favor in countries where the Left is itself on the backfoot. So….

  11. Are you a Brahmin bro? In my experience it is mostly Brahmins who do this kind of intellectual masturbation about the greatness of our past etc etc. The actual productive castes have never been interested in your grandiose bullshit interpretation of the past.

  12. All this talk of ‘reincarnation’ is too sentimental , airy fairy , and ahistorical for me. BTW reincarnation implies death and rebirth . That s not the case – whether change of power in 1947 and BJP forming govt, there is no death and rebirth , just a continuation of political and constitutional order under strictly defined rules. Game set.

    1. Indian news outfits have already branded the guy a “mentally unstable” person as opposed to a hindutvadi.

      If a Muslim did this he would be branded a terrorist. And the politician encouraging the violence would be called out.

      The CAA protests are the biggest backlash Modi government has faced. Even some people I know who supported the BJP are consider it unfair to Indian Muslims.

      1. The shooter is a definitely a Hindutvadi. There are pictures all over his Facebook (since taken down) of him posing with hard right Hindu leaders as well as with weapons. He is also allegedly a juvenile so it seems he was brainwashed by Hindutva politicians. He attacked Jamia and anti-CAA protestors precisely because BJP ministers have referred to them as anti-national and called for them to be shot.

        Anyone who shoots unarmed protestors in broad daylight is a terrorist, whatever religion they profess.

      2. As i had said this CAA is a gamble with questionable returns. Similar to Rajiv Gandhi’s tamil gamble. Lets see ,perhaps BJP knows something which we dont

  13. The day Hindutva creates a pantheon for Islam, Jesus and Zoroastrian( any minor religion) and their cultural elements gets absorbed, than we are united. Later, we can move on economic agendas.

  14. But Hinduism has already done that. It has already absorbed countless Dravidian , Indus and animalist gods. And since Hindutva flows from there it automatically inherits those figures/pantheon .

      1. He’ll be the 10th. Kalki and the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse are one and the same. Just wait for Doomsday! 🙂

  15. “Babri Masjid – a mosque built over an ancient temple and one of Hinduism’s holiest sites, the birthplace of Ram.”

    How is this nonsense not checked? Several temples in
    Ayodhya claim to be the birthplace of Ram. Babri Masjid was specifically chosed by the RSS and affiliates for its potential to incite Hindu anger against Muslims.

    1. Lord Ram is a mythological figure not a historical one. Hindus believe that he was God and that he was born in Ayodhya however there is no proof that he even existed. The belief of the majority cannot trump the existence of an actual minority place of worship. At least not in a secular state.

      Babri masjid existed when India became an independent nation-state in 1947. It was the duty of the secular state to ensure that it was not destroyed. The state clearly failed at that duty.

      Discussions of how the mosque came to be there and what Babur’s motives may have been are all well and good but have nothing to do with post 1947 norms.

      1. \ Hindus believe that he was God and that he was born in Ayodhya however there is no proof that he even existed. \

        This is a cop-out. The issue is not whether God Rama or for that matter Allah exist or not. That is a theological dispute The legal-political issue is whether a masjid was constructed on the site of a Hindu temple after it was demolished by a Muslim king to make way for a mosque. that is where the proof is in favour of Hindus and it was taken cognizance of by the Indian Supreme court.

        \Discussions of how the mosque came to be there and what Babur’s motives may have been are all well and good\

        You can’t wave away the main RamjanmaBhoomi contention .

        1. We have been over this many times. A secular state does not allow a minority place of worship (in this case a mosque) to be destroyed for any reason, no matter how it came to be there. If it existed on August 15, 1947, it should have continued to exist. Certainly, the destruction by a mob was illegal. Strangely, the Indian Supreme Court acknowledged that the mob destruction was a crime and still has rewarded the perpetrators by allowing a temple to be constructed on that land. This type of judgement should be unacceptable in a truly secular state. Of course, a Hindu Rashtra would privilege Hindu beliefs over minority rights. We all know that people like you are not principled defenders of secularism.

          1. No country is 100% secular by that definition.

            For eg. Why is Christmas a national holiday in the United States, shouldn’t a principled secularist oppose the Christmas holiday ?

            It is completely unjustifiable from a purely rational, secular perspective that Christmas should be a holiday to the exclusion of minority religions.

            The flaw with this approach is that the real world is not some sort of neatly organized logic machine. It is a complex web of causality.

            Rather than looking at 0% secular to 100% secular and suggesting that Indians are lying about being secular and secularism is a shame and that India is some sort of Hindu verison of Pakistan. (which is a ridiculous statement).

            Why not consider the degree to which religion can be practiced freely in the country ? Conversion ? Apostasy ? Speech ?

            Of the 4 largest countries I would rank them as following for how easy it is to practice, proselytize, and convert to a minority religion.

            United States > India > Indonesia > China

            All these countries are officially “secular states”

            This is somewhat subjective, but pretending that freedom of religion or secularism is a binary thing is silly.

          2. Sumit,

            Christmas is a holiday in the US. However, schools also recognize the holidays of minority religions. I went to school in the US and we always had holidays on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Recently, there was discussion about recognizing Eid as well.

            I am not arguing that India is lying about being secular. However, it is true that the vision of the current ruling regime is to turn India into a Hindu Pakistan. Some citizens will be privileged over others, by virtue of belonging to the majority community. Even refugees will be treated differently depending on their religion. These policies are unjustifiable in a constitutionally secular state.

            I believe that India’s founders including Pandit Nehru were sincere about building an inclusive country to which all citizens could belong. He refused to turn India into a Hindu country despite the fact that Pakistan was clearly going to be an Islamic country. However, over time these secular ideals were diluted (and now there is a growing number of people who don’t believe in them at all). Allowing a mob to destroy Babri Masjid is a huge blot on a constitutionally secular state. Rewarding the criminals with a Ram temple is majoritarian and a sign of how far India has moved towards being a Hindu Rashtra.

            Finally, as I have repeatedly stated, Pakistan never claimed to be secular. The country is called the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. If the BJP officially turns India into a Hindu Rashtra, then Muslims will have no right to complain. But if you call your country secular then be prepared for people to criticize you for not upholding secular principles.

          3. The interesting question is not so much what India or Pakistan do or should do (over which we as individuals exercise limited control) but what Kabir does or should do. Now that he has enlightened us on the “logical” fallacies of the Hindu believers’ position it is fair to ask what he thinks of equivalent issues regarding Muslim beliefs.

            Come on logical Kabir, do tell us whether you believe Muhammad’s claims of direct communication with Allah. Have you looked into “proofs” of these claims ?

          4. So as a thought experiment pretend there are two countries:

            Country A bans slavery, but has some slave ownership.
            Country B allows slavery, and has lots of slave ownership

            As someone opposed to slavery I find country B more reprehensible, even if country A is more hypocritical.

            So as someone who is pro-religious freedom, I don’t like restriction on Muslim religious freedom in ‘secular’ countries like India. Or the called ‘Muslim-ban’in America. Or Chinese re-education camps.

            But I also don’t give “Islamic” countries a pass on repression on non-Muslim religious freedom just because they don’t have the words secular in their constitution or because someone deemed it to be legal per their system of law.

            So for eg. I don’t give ISIS a pass all the atrocities it committed on people who it deemed to be Kafirs, just because they were proud of their ideology.

            This is principled ethics.

            Whether Pakistan lives up to Jinnah’s vision, or India to Nehru’s is irrelevant.

          5. Arjun,

            Religious beliefs are not a matter of rationality. I have no problem with Hindus believing that Lord Ram is God just as Muslims believe that Allah is God and that the Prophet received revelation from him. However, in a secular state, the beliefs of the majority community cannot be privileged over the rights of the minority. There is no excuse for the destruction of Babri Masjid.

          6. Sumit,

            Countries that don’t hold to particular ideals cannot be faulted for not implementing those ideals. In your example, country B doesn’t think slavery is wrong and therefore allows it. Country A thinks slavery is wrong and therefore bans it yet there is still some slave ownership. Country A is being hypocritical and therefore deserves criticism for not following through on its own ideals.

            No one is defending ISIS. However, ISIS is a terrorist group not a nation-state with a constitution.

            To be clear, one can absolutely criticize religious repression in “Islamic” countries. However, one cannot criticize this on the grounds that these countries fail to properly implement secularism, since they make no bones about not believing in secularism.

            If India were a Hindu Rashtra, I would not criticize them for not implementing secularism properly. Since it remains a constitutionally secular state however, this criticism still holds.

        2. LOL. Let Kabir oppose the blasphemy law in his country by asserting Allah doesn’t really exist and that Muhammad lied about the revelation. 🙂

          1. Pakistan never claimed to be a secular state. India does. I’m not sure what point you think you are making.

            Secular states do not allow the majority’s beliefs to trump the minority’s rights. That is the bottom line.

  16. From what I have understood from all the legal/historical arguments that lead to Supreme Court Judgement was that the structure was not a “Mosque” per se. Calling it a “babri mosque” is the source of all the confusion and conflict. It was primarily a temple in recorded history. i.e. primarily a place of worship for the Hindus, even if the building was architecturally a mosque.
    There is clear archaeological evidence that there is a large Vishnu (Ram) temple underneath it. It is also architecturally clear that the structure on top was originally a mosque. What seems to have happened is that even after the temple was demolished and mosque was constructed, Hindus never really stopped worshiping at that place, since the location was held sacred. So at Janamsthan, Hindus continued praying at the courtyard towards the original “garbhagriha”. And they continued doing this till modern times, sometimes even being in possession of inner courtyard. As the judgement says, the entire outer courtyard was also entirely in possession of Hindus from pre-British times and had multiple functional Hindu shrines. The Muslims on the other hand did not use the structure regularly, and after a point only offered Friday prayers. So the there is not enough record of their usage of this structure. This limited use also stopped after independence.
    To sum up, some medieval kings/generals (could be Mir Baqi) demolished the temple and created a mosque structure and muslims used it for some time (nobody knows for how long). But for most of recorded history during British period (and also few pre-British European travelers reports that exist) indicates that it was primarily in possession of Hindus since was a major pilgrimage site for them. The temple was also a major source of Revenue, so detail records since British times exist. And I suspect that is partially also the reason that powers that be did not interfere. So the courts (both Allahabad high court (2010) and Supreme court (2019)) had to give a majority portion to Hindus. Legally, in face of all the evidence, it would have been untenable otherwise. We know that Justice Chandrachud (who wrote the judgement) etc. are hardly non-secular by any stretch of imagination. People like him are known to be extreme “seculars” by most people who know about these things. Legally the dispute is not whether Lord Ram existed or not. Only whether the structure was primarily used by Hindus for prayer (and hence a temple) or used by Muslims for namaz (and hence a mosque). As per the historical record/archives, the former came out to be true. And hence the verdict.

    1. Sorry, there is never any excuse for destroying a minority place of worship. At least not in a secular state.

      As for your “they only used it for Friday prayers” argument: Friday prayers are the only required congregational prayers in Islam.

      Idols were installed in the mosque in the 1940s in a clear attempt at desecration.

      This judgement simply pandered to the majoritarian nature of the Indian state. If the mob destruction of 1992 was a crime as the Supreme Court claimed, then rewarding the criminals with a temple is unjust.

      Anyone who is a principled defender of secularism would not argue that Hindu beliefs trump the minority’s right to worship. Of course, if India is no longer a secular state, then Hindus can do whatever they want.

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