Browncast episode 118: Tony, Indian Liberal

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In this episode we talk to Tony, a self-identified liberal Indian. We talk about how liberal Indians feel about India’s current trajectory and future prospects..

Published by

Omar Ali

I am a physician interested in obesity and insulin resistance, and in particular in the genetics and epigenetics of obesity As a blogger, I am more interested in history, Islam, India, the ideology of Pakistan, and whatever catches my fancy. My opinions can change.

35 thoughts on “Browncast episode 118: Tony, Indian Liberal”

  1. My favourite part of when he identified GST as Modi’s most fascist act.

    According to him, not only do we not have a right to be aggrieved about temple desecration, our religion itself didn’t exist. In his mind, for hindus to suffer, there have to be hindus to begin with. And if there are no hindus till the 19th century when the British invented hinduism, then there was no historical atrocities. What a brilliant mind. And of course the throwaway line about south indian temples being “quite pathetic.”

    I actually felt bad for the guy – it can’t be a fun life hating yourself that much.

    1. I doubt he identifies as a Hindu in any way shape or form. His real religion is secularism and he’s willing to crush our five thousand year religion for it.

  2. I find his arguments very fascinating. The point that the Hindu identity is a result of the entry of Islam, and subsequently Christianity, into India is correct. This is similar to the rise of the Black identity in the US. But we wouldn’t be against African Americans not caring about the particular part of Africa any Black person comes from and uniting under the umbrella term of Black in order to fight the White Supremacist origins of the US. Hindus might have preferred not to worry about the Hindu identity but that was enforced on them by the Muslims who believe their first allegiance is always to the Ummah. Now chiding the Hindus for uniting under this term is gaslighting of the finest order ignoring what Muslims did to Hindus while they were divided.

    Secondly, the point about Hindus having inferiority complex is much more true of the so called liberals. Most Hindutvawadis still follow multiple traditions of their ancestors which these liberals look down upon. Also consider that it is the Hindutvawaadi right wing BJP government that is pushing for people studying in their native language while the liberals want everyone to study English. Pretty clear it’s because the liberals look upon the native languages through a derisive lens and then project their inferiority complex on the Hindutvawadis. Most Hindutvawaadis are extremely proud of being Hindu and feel that if only their ancestors had been less trusting of Muslims and more united, they would have been well off. We don’t go around calling the great temples in south India pathetic.That’s all you bro. I can feel his pain about being born an Indian. And to a degree he can overcome it by moving to a foreign country and then bad mouthing the masses back in his home country. Unfortunately, every morning looking in the mirror he must be reminded of his “inferior” Indian roots and there’s no way to escape that.

    Third, his dismissal of the Archaeological data at the Ram Janmbhumi is just ridiculous. It was tabulated in the court. They found carvings of goddesses on the pillars, a Kalash, a Shiva Lingam and a vast structure underneath the Babri Mosque which dates back to the late second millinium BC. The so called eminent historians celebrated by the so called liberals were scolded by the court because of their incoherent babbling.
    If there is one sentence which could sum up his worldview it would be when Mukunda asked him the difference between criticizing Islam and Muslims and he says he doesn’t see the difference. Typical Indian liberal!

    1. The point that the Hindu identity is a result of the entry of Islam, and subsequently Christianity, into India is correct

      this is not true. as commenters pointed out shivaji in his letters identifies himself by his distinct religious identity, outsiders clearly saw broad family features of the religion of the ‘hindus/indians.’ indians had a sense of distinctive civilizational coherency united by particular religio-philosophies.

      we know that indians had to have a self-identity because they persisted in the face of Islam. this happened nowhere else where a intrusive confessional ‘high religion’ interposed itself in the domain of pagans.

      1. I guess I did not use the right words here. Of course, like you say, “indians had a sense of distinctive civilizational coherency united by particular religio-philosophies”. In fact some 300 years before Shivaji, Swami Vidyaranya, one of the founders of the Vijayanagara empire, even tried to define the word Hindu: “One who is endowed with Omkara, believes in rebirth, worships the cow & keeps away from violence(Himsa) is a Hindu”. Here, I was referring to Tony’s point about the rise of the political Hindu identity vis a vis the regional, linguistic and caste based identities that have been historically more dominant but which the Hindutva movement seeks to transcend.

        1. yes. i think there was the skein of a pan-indian hindu identity. i used to accept the idea that hindu identity is reactive and recent. but my reading of religious change in other societies convinces me this simply can’t be the case. regional subaltern identities always melt away in the face of coherent meta-ethnic identities.

          the hindu one did not.

      2. Evidently, in the later peshwa confederacy campaigns, like panipat, it became a phenomenon for certain higher ranked men to bring a family retinue for religious pilgrimage to places like kashi (benares). That may have been something less common among cultivator jaatis previously, but had definitely manifested by the 18th century. Btw, my understanding that shivaji ever used the term “hindavi swaraj” (indian self-rule) is contested and may have been a later revison, a notorious phenomenon in the marathi “bakhar” genre of historical chronicles. Many historiographic case studies exist which track the sequential versions of persian works, translated into old marathi, and then modern marathi and english that very cynically alter the narrative to fit 20th century nationalist agendas. The historian sumit guha examined how this had been done to create the modern narrative that shivaji was inspired by the fall of vijayanagar to overturn the rule of turks, when there is no evidence that this was anything but a contrivance.

        1. @girmit
          This is not true (regarding historians and authenticity). Because we have Shivaji’s letter to Jai singh saying that as Hindus, they should unite as keeping them divided was the plot. The only contrivance is of historians playing this authenticity clap trap and insistence that only literary evidence as the real evidence, but actual physical evidence of resistance and adaptation in face of danger is evidence too. That such empirical evidence is not considered by historians makes them and their methods faulty and insufficient than the other way around. If historians insist that the only truth is one of literary evidence, then archaeology and genetics among others would mean nothing and that is not true. If anything, archaeology,genetics ,political organisations, social structures and adaptation and resistance constitute as evidence too. That they dont consider this is as evidence at all should be a scandal. Consider vast majority of tribal societies whose history is not recorded in any written literature, are we to pretend they just never existed at all or had no common beliefs or social organisation?. In order to weigh , one must first have a proper weighing machine, not a broken one.

          1. We need need to go to Shivaji, but even very early during Bhoja of Pratihara’s time we have evidence that they made clear differentiation b/w themselves (Indians/Hindus) and Turks who were invading. So i am not sure where this whole “Indians didnt see them as different” thing started. Yeah they didnt map India to the last district if that’s what the quarrel is about. I mean someone as left as Thapar herself has admitted to it.

            Of course they called them turks rather than muslims. Big deal.

  3. Why do i think we have discussed this podcast on another post’s comments.
    I having a sense of “deja vu”.

  4. What the admin can manipulate comments now!!

    [That was razib. Omar mistakenly doxxed tony]

  5. “India/Hinduism didn’t exist before the British” seems a disingenuous argument. Mostly used as a gotcha against low level RSS types.

    Not something to be used with a more rigorous audience as on this podcast.

    By that same token paganism wasn’t a thing before Christianity. And Europe before EU. Both sound ridiculous.

    While I am inclined to agree with some of Tony’s criticism of the current government, he seems to come from a strictly partisan view point.

    He has already made up his mind that a certain policy is bad because it’s brought in by BJP.

    He just seems to be looking for fire power to bolster his case rather than to look at things objectively. Ex – It is alright to question the government on China but he is unwilling to look at the episode in global and historical context.

    Difficult to assume good faith.

    His criticism of Indian society (re: no achievment) is partially true. His insistence on ‘inferiority complex’ seems, to employ similar psycho-babble, a case of self-flagellation.

    “At least I am better than these other kinds of Indians” attitude shown by a lot of liberals who are a bit ashamed of their idolatrous origins.

    Overall the thing that stood out the most for me was the pessimism.

    Pessimism seems to me to be endemic to liberalism, at least in India. So I am happy that he’s decided to move to the US. We can do with fewer negative nellies here.

    I’d rather take commies and SJWs who protest and think we can make a better country than liberals who mope about how everything is shit.

    1. “commies”– classic Right-wing use of language. You sound like a very pleasant person.

      “Hinduism” was codified by the British. Their census lumped everyone who didn’t say they were Muslim or Christian as “Hindu”. This is what I was taught at SOAS and is the academic consensus.

      1. ““commies”– classic Right-wing use of language. You sound like a very pleasant person.”

        Stop gas lighting me, Kabir.

        1. I don’t know what “gaslighting” means but calling people “commies” is a typical Right-wing move.

          1. “but calling people “commies” is a typical Right-wing move.”

            In the US it might be.

            Indian communists are fine with the term and self-identify as such as well. Stop imposing American norms on everyone.

            And stop distracting from the discussion with your unnecessary nitpicking. I didn’t even mention Islam or Pakistan this time but you came and shat all over the comment.

          2. “Oh boy,
            You sound more and more Right-wing by the day.
            No wonder you fail on Tinder.”

            Kabir, don’t project your effeminate insecurities on to other people.

  6. It was Very weird and kind of probable as what was going to happen after 5 min into it.
    Boy o Boy we are gonna have a Comment fest in the latest post.
    This was idk kind of weird only thing i can agree on
    Hindutva Trolls
    Casual Muslim Discrimination ( sometimes killing )
    Ram Janmbhoomi Agrument was alright( The proof of birthplace of Lord Ram).
    The clear view in his mind was Hindu vs Muslim and Nazi India.
    Didn’t know the complexities of caste/religion dynamics of Rural India.
    How is GST bad can someone tell me?
    Didn’t talk about single good thing like
    section 377, triple Talaq , toilets etc

    Didn’t talk about freedom of speech, police reforms, Infrastructure building, Educational policies, territorial integrity etc.

    Was on his Ravish Kumar shit i guess.( If you know you know)

    The podcast could’ve more juicier if you talk about Kashmir occupation ( im joking) by India.
    I think Omar Sir left midway was downturn in some sense cause he was kind of bridge between Mukunda and Tony.

  7. Thanks for having a proper secularist on for once. He has the guts to openly call Hindu Hriday Samrat a murderer.

  8. Yes! He rejected Hindutva historians like Sita Ram Goel.

    Now this is the kind of Indian I like 🙂

    The other Hindutvadi guy can’t even pronounce “Aurangzeb” properly.

  9. Interesting interview. Liberalism masquerading as Hindu shaming.

    Hindus have nothing to take pride in their history? South Indian temples are pathetic? I’d argue that Hindutva movement is driven by hurt pride and India as a wounded civilization to quote Naipaul. A vast majority of Hindus/Indians do take pride in their past and achievements of the ancient Indian society are too numerous to list (This does not cancel out the shortcomings and faultlines obviously). The Hindutva narrative based not on the lack of pride in their past but on premise that the invaders (Turkic and European) came and dealt a body blow to Bharatvarsha.

    Agree with some of the commentators above – arguments were made for the sake of arguing. Gaurav’s arguments in the most recent podcast were way better articulated and were based on solid reasoning.

  10. I think Omarji had that most reasonable takes in the discussion.

    Can someone explain the whole GST is fascist narrative to me ?

    I had an Indian friend of mind use that terminology as well a few times.

    This is guy is non-political. I just assumed it was messing with his family business or something and let it slide.

    1. Previously there were different tax codes for each state. GST has brought them all under one umbrella. This makes it very easy for the income tax department to estimate how much raw materials a business is using since taxing the manufacturer is rather easy. From the raw materials, they can then estimate the profit that these businesses are making and carry out raids if the amount of tax paid doesn’t add up to the estimates. My sister is an IRS officer and she tells me that it now takes them less than half the time to figure out which businesses are committing tax fraud. Since almost all businesses in India indulged in this fraud, they see the government forcing them to pay tax as fascism!

    2. GST is a unified tax that has replaced a number of previous indirect taxes. The proceeds are then shared between centre and states.

      This is theoretically supposed to make the tax code simpler and reduce transport times for goods.

      There are 2-3 points of contention:
      1. It reduces the autonomy of states to raise their own revenue since the GST rates are decided by a central GST Council. This has especially irked some southern states like Tamil Nadu since it had a history of independent welfare schemes.

      2. There is an implicit compact between centre and states that the former will share the revenue fairly and on time.

      Now the total revenue collection has failed to meet expectations. As a result the centre is shrimping on its word. This has further antagonized some states.

      3. In general, the central GST council can keep tweaking the tax rates based on political expediency rather than sound economics, which just complicates things for businesses.

      So overall, the problem is with the centralization of revenue. I am not sure if it is enough to be called fascist.

      Regarding your friend, it might have to do with the botched technical implementation. I think Infosys was the tech partner and the portal had a lot snags.

      Additionally, the government does make life difficult for smaller businesses. For example, my startup barely had any revenue in the first few months but we had to file GST every month, which was sort of a drag.

      I am sure they have iterated on the rules over time.

      Centre-state relations, centralization, technical snages, and shortfall in expected revenue

  11. I thought I was listening to somebody’s stream of unconsciousness. I had to take breaks in between to get through. He seemed very incoherent. One would think a person would anticipate the questions asked and would be prepared. Maybe he thought it would be a comfortable session that you see in India tv shows where the anchor’s sympathies are pretty clear and no tough questions are asked. It was a wasted session.

  12. It is nice to see that Kabir is now even aware of historians like Sitaram Goel. Since he is dissing them, I am assuming he is reading them too !

    GO Kabir!

    1. Oh please! Like I’d ever waste time on Hindutvadis.

      Tony very clearly said he doesn’t consider your Hindutva “historians” experts on anything.

  13. Given that ALL of Modi’s policies are driven to tame the present Indian society into making it either more rules-based or fair, I personally don’t get much out of these kind of interviews with the common Joe (Tony) – never know where they’ve been personally suffered a financial loss.

    However, it was amusing to see the interviewers handle this. Especially Mukunda, who was getting irritated with the poor arguments. Eventually he gave up. My suggestion to him would be to play it cool like Razib did, e.g. “Hey I actually don’t know anything about this Ram thing, can you explain it?”

    Also interesting was to get Omar’s view, as he tried to steel-man Tony’s views, going to the extent of even giving his own personal views on Godhra. Yet, Tony didn’t bite, and chose instead to shine sunlight on his own ignorance for all to see.

  14. Was the podcast that fun? Need to re-listen it again. The first time it was really painful to listen

  15. As confused as any fake liberal is.

    Quote ‘What do I oppose the most? There are so many I can’t think one. Illiberal ideas like GST! ‘
    He should have just said, I dont like Modi and therefore he is responsible for everything wrong and everything he does is wrong. Dont ask me more question for they will end up exposing my lack of knowledge.

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