The Middle Path: Towards a Liberal Conservatism in India (Part 2)

In my previous post, I sought to demonstrate the chain of continuity that has been characteristic of Indian civilization. I also posited that the current political dispensation in India- whose support base can be loosely characterised as “woke Hindutva”- is normatively undesirable. In this post, I build upon my previous arguments to propose a framework I call “liberal conservatism”, which could conserve and promote India’s civilizational heritage within a liberal democratic system.

The limitations of classical liberalism

During the high noon of the post-Soviet Pax Americana era (1990s and 2000s), two books on political philosophy were particularly influential. The first was Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History, which broadly argued in favour of the Hegelian notion of a progressive march of history leading to a global convergence based on free markets and liberal democracy. The other was Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations which argued that the battle between capitalism and communism would be replaced by a new clash between competing values, customs and traditions of different civilisations. The Huntingtonian thesis was severely criticised at the time. The Fukuyaman idea of a global neoliberal hegemony captured the zeitgeist and seemed inevitable.

In hindsight, the Huntingtonian insight of divergence based on civilizational values has proven to be quite prescient. The idea first gained popularity in China in the last decade. China sees its unique political institutions and public culture as an outcome of Chinese values that have evolved over the centuries. These include Confucianism and the network of social commitments called guanxi. The notion has since become widely popular and adopted by countries as disparate as Russia and France.

Neoliberals can argue- with justification- that the framework of free markets, rule of law and individual rights has made the awesome material prosperity since World War II possible. However, what classical liberals miss is the very human craving for identity: the need of every society to define a higher purpose based on the ethos and mythos of that society. It is an eternal and universal aspect of the human condition epitomized by Macaulay’s famous poem:

How can man die better

Than facing fearful odds

For the ashes of his fathers

And the temples of his Gods?

This lesson was learnt the hard way by the other great secularist materialist philosophy of the twentieth century: communism. It is now being learnt by free market capitalism. The current travails of the West: the decadence and the crisis of confidence, can be attributed to mistakenly assuming that free markets and liberal democracy are sufficient conditions for a content society. Even the United States with its creedal commitment to classical liberalism has struggled to fill the vacuum created by the eclipse of its dominant White Anglo Saxon Protestant culture. Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. The space vacated by a mature and hallowed high culture with its basis in Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian civilization is being filled by populist charlatans espousing vacuous ethnic nationalism or by woke ideologues motivated by cultural relativism, Marxism and post-modernism.

It is clear that the liberal democratic framework that the British bequeathed to India is a necessary but not a sufficient basis for a stable society.  It provides an excellent basis for civic peace and prosperity but do not answer the existential questions around purpose, meaning and values. I would propose that looking at India as a civilization state could provide us with some answers.

India as a civilization state

India fits squarely within the definition of a civilization state. In my previous post, I had argued that the bedrock of Indian civilization are Dharmic values, customs and mores that have shaped it since antiquity. I won’t belabour the point further other than to highlight that the shared civilizational consciousness in the land between the Himalayas in the north and the Indian Ocean in the south is attested to by both natives and visitors alike through the ages, including Faxian, Al Biruni and Abu Fazl.

That then is the theory. The great legal philosopher Ronald Dworkin used the concept of hard cases to describe matters or disputes at the edges that do not fit neatly into established precedent or doctrine. Hard cases can prove to be very useful analytical tools to help clarify theories. In our case, we shall look at the “hard cases” of Kashmir and Nagaland (a province in North East India) to help further clarify the distinction between the modern Indian nation state and the Indian civilization state.

Despite being on the geographical periphery, Kashmir has an exalted position in Indian history as the land of poets, philosophers, seers and saints. The land of the Sharda Peetham, the Martand Sun Temple and Shaivism. In modern times, it has given India outstanding administrators, judges and scholars. Besides the outstanding natural beauty of the region and the fact that it is contested by arch-rival Pakistan, a key factor that disappoints Indians is that many residents of a region that has been fairly central to the Indian imagination no longer identify with its civilization. One way to highlight my point is the difference between legal and civilizational claims of India in the Kashmir dispute. The area of civilizationally Indic Kashmir (even including the historically equally Indic Potohari-Punjabi Mirpur area) controlled by Pakistan is actually quite a small part of the overall disputed region controlled by Pakistan. The much larger region under Pakistan’s control is Gilgit-Baltistan. However, from an historic, ethnic, linguistic and cultural perspective, “Gilgit-Baltistan” holds little resonance for the ordinary Indian. The distinction between Pakistani Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan quite neatly exemplifies the differences between a juristic and a civilizational conception of a nation state.

The relative areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir within the map of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu & Kashmir

The states of Assam, Manipur and Tripura in North East India were Hinduised and Sanskritised in the medieval period. Beyond these reside several hill tribes in the frontier zone between India and Burma who had very little contact with Indian civilization until relatively recent times. The largest amongst these are the Nagas- a people with a distinct culture, cuisine, language and traditions spread across the state of Nagaland as well as some adjoining areas of the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. Lacking much contact with Dharmic (or indeed Islamic) civilization, these animistic tribes were easily converted to Protestant Christianity by British and American missionaries during the colonial period.  While Nagaland is legally and constitutionally a part of the Indian Republic, it would be very difficult to argue that the Nagas (along with other some other North East hill tribes such as the Mizos) are part of the Indian civilization state. This critical difference between the Nagas and the Kashmiris explains the more rational and transactional approach taken by the Indian state while dealing with the Nagas.

North East India with Naga-populated areas highlighted in red. Source: The Economist

The frontiers of a civilization state are not fixed. One of the most fascinating and underappreciated facets of North East India is how the frontier zone between India (Assam) and Tibet- previously called the North Eastern Frontier Agency and now the state of Arunachal Pradesh- was incorporated into not just the Indian Republic but into Indic civilization. Through the untiring efforts of Hindu organizations amongst others, the people of the state are amongst the most integrated in North East India. Between the Tibet-influenced Tawang area in the west and the Naga-dominated Tirap region on the eastern edge of the state, a large number of tribes and communities have been heavily Indianized. Conversely, since the partition of India in 1947, Indic civilizational consciousness has steadily declined in West Punjab, Sindh and East Bengal (Bangladesh). In West Punjab and Sindh in particular, a historical outlook which views the period before Muhammad bin Qasim’s invasion of Sindh as characterized by ignorance and superstition has led most people in those regions to self-consciously identify with the peoples of Central and West Asia rather than their ethnic and cultural cousins across the border.

The Anglo-Dharmic framework

The significance and impact of British colonialism on Indian polity and society is self-evident. From the legal and administrative systems to the language of higher education and business to governing norms and values to the massive Indian diaspora in the Anglophone world, there are scarcely any aspects of Indian life that have been left untouched by the colonial encounter.

The foundations of the modern Indian nation state were not laid at independence in 1947 or with the ratification of the Constitution of India and creation of the Indian Republic in 1950. They were laid following the failed Indian Rebellion in 1858 when the British Government sidelined the buccaneering cowboys of the East India Company and took direct control over their Indian Empire. What followed was the establishment of a classical liberal state along British lines and a series of dialogues, negotiations and arguments between Indian elites and their British overlords over the governance structure of the Indian state. The process lasted nearly nine decades, from the initial Indian Councils Acts of 1861 and 1892 to the Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909 and the Government of India Act of 1935. Viewed from this perspective, the Constitution of India is a conservative document that continued the trajectory of the previous Government of India Act of 1935. Even the genuine leaps forward such as the fundamental rights of equality, freedom and liberty and universal adult franchise were logical culminations of earlier reforms rather than radical breaches from the past.

The Anglo-liberal framework with its focus on the rule of law, democratic accountable government, separation of powers and a professionalised administrative state has embedded itself in India over 160 years. While clearly a British import, it has adapted rather well to Indian conditions. I would argue that this is not particularly surprising. The classical Dharmic tradition of samvad: tolerance, dialogue and debate between different schools of thought, as well as the inherently flexible and adaptive nature of Hinduism provided more fertile grounds for the Anglo-liberal framework to thrive in India compared to other colonised states.

In my view, this Western- specifically British- framework has broadly served India well and is worth conserving. It is not possible for any civilization to succeed in the modern world without, in Niall Fergusson’s words, “the Killer Apps of the West”. The reactionary and insecure Hindutva mind-set towards the “foreign” must be rejected. Instead, Indians must seek to adopt good ideas with humility from wherever we find them following the Rig Vedic motto: Aa no badraaha kartavyo yanthu vishwatahah (आः नो भद्राः कर्तव्यो यन्तु विश्वतः). Let noble thoughts come to us from every side.

Instead of a wholesale revolution, what is required is an embellishment of the existing framework with Dharmic values. In Marxian terms, adapting a Dharmic superstructure to the Anglo-liberal base. The lens of a civilization state is a useful one for looking at an Anglo-Dharmic framework. A civilization state would look at pre-Westphalian models of Empire for inspiration, where a dominant and overarching high culture is confident and capacious enough to accommodate diverse smaller cultures within its umbrella. This provides a better framework to accommodate Dharmic values within modern Indian polity as compared to the Westphalian nation state model, whose puritan instincts militate towards either secular nationalism (the Nehruvian model) or Hindu nationalism (the Hindutva model).

In my next and final post on this topic, I will look at how this liberal conservative Anglo-Dharmic framework translates into Indian domestic and foreign policy. In particular, I will examine how this framework would seek to accommodate the third great tradition that has greatly influenced India: Islam. Finally, I will also look at the prospects of liberal conservatism in current Indian politics.

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London Observer

I am an Indian professional based in London. I am interested in history, philosophy and politics, especially that of the Indian subcontinent.

36 thoughts on “The Middle Path: Towards a Liberal Conservatism in India (Part 2)”

  1. The problem people have with the “India is a civilizational state” idea, is that Hindus go from there to, “that civilization is Dharmic”, and then to, “by Dharmic we mean Hindu”. This is why not just Muslims, but Sikhs, Christians, Atheists, and Tribals have traditionally been turned off by this line of thought. This isn’t just conceptually offending for non-Hindus, but manifests on the ground as second-class citizen status for them.

    The second issue people have with this is when Hindus use it to stake political claims. “Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, etc, aren’t real countries, they are wayward parts of India that we either don’t have the ability to conquer right now, or aren’t worth the trouble (at this moment). All the historical accomplishments that happened in that land, by those people, belong to us”. People hate that, including the Dharmic Nepal and Bhuttan.

    This is compounded by the fact that while one *could* argue that South Asia is actually the civilization state, “India”, it has for nearly all its existence been occupied by various warring polities, who spoke different languages, and did not consider each other kin in remotely the same way as is being projected by modern Indian Hindus.

    1. Very few atheists are Hinduvadis. I don’t know where you are getting this from. There are a handful of prominent ones, but the vast majority are not. Also, do not confuse the “spiritual but not religious”

      I agree with some of the stuff you posted, but a lot of it sounds like it was written by a non-Indian person.

      If an Indian Hindu background person tells me they are a “Hindu Atheist” I assume they have some hindutva sympathies. (Even if they say just atheist but aren’t a Marxist economically I would still assume Hindutva till proven otherwise )

      If an Indian Hindu background person tells me they are “spiritual but not religious” I assume they are into Western culture and liberal.

      If an Indian Hindu background person tells me something like “I follow xyz sampradaya, but I think all religions are equal” I assume they are a traditional Hindu.

    2. @INDTHINGS, thanks for your comment. It seems to be more ad nauseam attacks on a strawman rather than addressing the specific theory I have proposed, but I will have a go at addressing some of your points:

      “is that Hindus go from there to, “that civilization is Dharmic”, and then to, “by Dharmic we mean Hindu”.” Not sure about others, but when I use Dharmic or Indic I typically mean what I say i.e. a family of Indic philosophies (which I loosely characterized in my first post as the Five Spokes of Dharma) with shared technical vocabulary and modes of thinking :).

      “This is why not just Muslims, but Sikhs, Christians, Atheists, and Tribals have traditionally been turned off by this line of thought.” I would hope they are not turned off by the liberal conservatism I am proposing as it seeks to build bridges rather than destroy them. In my assessment, Sikhs in India largely identify with Dharmic civilisation (although a small minority do not). Sikhs abroad are split: the silent majority identifies as Dharmic/Indic and a vocal but large minority of Khalistanis does not. I actually find Indian Christians much more “Indic” in their sensibility: in terms of dress, food, naming conventions, outlook etc. than several Indian Muslim communities. Even some of the oldest Indian Christian communities (e.g. the Syriac Christians of Kerala) are quite open to Indic influences in this respect. I believe that when the disrespectful, uncouth Hindutva crowd is put in its place, there will be greater possibilities of confluence. Atheism actually has a long tradition in Indic thought (you can read up about the Charvakas). In any event, as others have pointed out, atheism is not really a political marker in India the way it is in the Islamic world. There are atheists who are hardcore Hindu nationalists and extremely pious Hindus who are very left-liberal. As far as Tribals are concerned, as Razib pointed out, it depends on where you look at. Some tribal communities in Central India (Jharkhand, Chattisgarh etc.) are quite Hindu and have their own legends linking them to texts such as the Ramayana. Some tribes such as the Nagas are not Dharmic (and have historically never been) as acknowledged in my post.

      “The second issue people have with this is when Hindus use it to stake political claims. “Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, etc, aren’t real countries, they are wayward parts of India that we either don’t have the ability to conquer right now, or aren’t worth the trouble (at this moment).” I am making the claim that India is the civilization state of the subcontinent. Pakistan broke away from India to create a separate identity exclusively based on a small part of its identity (i.e. Islamic), but India did not give up its aspirations of encompassing the shared civilisational consciousness of the subcontinent. That does not mean that modern boundaries of sovereign nation states are not to be respected- that would be ludicrous and as a liberal conservative, I would be the last person to make such an assertion. There are, however, creative ways around it in the form of closer integration of Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka with India. I will address this in my next post. Don’t worry, this will exclude Pakistan ;).

      “This is compounded by the fact that while one *could* argue that South Asia is actually the civilization state.” That is untrue. Bharat, Jambudvipa, Indus, Tianzhu, Al Hind, Hindustan are the names by which natives and visitors alike identified the land between the Himalayas and the Indian ocean. We Indians identify with all of these names and claim inheritance to the distinct civilization created in this land. “South Asia” is the tag given to departments of Western universities ;).

      ““India”, it has for nearly all its existence been occupied by various warring polities, who spoke different languages, and did not consider each other kin in remotely the same way as is being projected by modern Indian Hindus.” It seems you have not read my posts or in any event not properly digested them :). You have completely missed my civilisational consciousness point. In any event, India is the successor state to the kingdoms of Ashoka, Vikramaditya and Akbar and the British Indian Empire.

  2. This is why not just Muslims, but Sikhs, Christians, Atheists, and Tribals have traditionally been turned off by this line of thought.

    this seems false. i mean not totally false,but false enough that the rest does not follow. i mean a lot of the hindutva people ARE atheists. tribals are split depending on whether they are xtian or nt, etc.

    1. Razib,

      Very few atheists are Hinduvadis. I don’t know where you are getting this from. There are a handful of prominent ones, but the vast majority are not. Also, do not confuse the “spiritual but not religious” moniker as atheism. I see this among Muslims as well. They are believers, not atheists, just more of the sophisticated “pick and choose” kind of believer.

      Likewise for most Tribals. Do not be fooled by those who voted for the BJP/NDA. The BJP has a completely separate political program for those regions (North East, Tribal Areas, etc) outside of traditional India, where their typical platform has no valence. Here the focus is on development, autonomy that Congress was not willing to sanction, and evicting Bengali migrants. Some of these areas will then vote BJP, but its not an endorsement of broader Hinduvadi ideology.

      1. I don’t know where you are getting this from.

        well prominent hindutva type ppl like Savarkar and advani are atheists.

        where are you getting it from? you consistently know less about india than i do so i’m not going to go on your authority. you have none. any social science on this?

        (mind you, i don’t understand hindutva primarily a religious movement but more an ethnic-civilizational one)

        1. INDTHINGS,
          Differences between Atheist and Believer Hindutvavadis are non trivial; But Atheism is not necessarily a stumbling block for people becoming Hindutvavadi – I know dozens of such folks – As Razib pointed out Savarkar for one.

          Difference comes to down to things like –
          Believers really believe Ram was born on the Ram janmabhoomi and that place is truly sacred and hence the Temple is truly necessary from his/her POV – they have to worship at the place where Ram lalla was born.
          Less believers / atheist Hindutvavadis dont believe this as true but want the Temple as a civilizational correction or because they respect their fellow hindus enough and want to part of the cultural force that is Hindutva.
          Hindutvavadis are in this broad range with some distance with Atheists & Believers but that difference isnt deal breaking.

          This also comes down to my podcast with Omar where i said i dont associate that much with Hindutva coz i am atheist – i believe it makes me resistant to some of the arguments of Hindutva (pseudo scientific, of historic supremacy which was vanquished by islam & other belief based)- but same also holds true for most ideologies – including Indian style secularism which i am uncomfortable with – or the proselytizing monotheisms in general

          1. In fact, there has been survey work that in recent years the more atheist leaning u are, the more Hindutvadi u are and the more religious u are, the less likely u be to be a Hindutvadi


            “BJP voters are more majoritarian but not as religious or in favour of Hindu nationalism as those who did not vote for the BJP. These findings suggest that there may be the emergence of a new kind of majoritarianism (whose self-definition may still be ‘Hindu’), which is independent of religious practice and more conventional views of Hindu nationalism.

            The post-Modi outgoing BJP voters tend to be more involved in religious activities compared to the incoming BJP voters post-Modi. Interestingly, in the previous model, we saw that the post-Modi BJP voters are less involved in religious activities compared to the traditional BJP voters. The BJP has a reason to worry: preference for the party among those who practice religion more avidly is getting weaker in comparison to the past.”

          2. i have a theory on that. The post Modi new BJP voters were always already less religious (OBC and dalits) and more hegemonic in their own caste ways (dominate caste Jats, Marathas, Yadavs) . What they have just done is bring the same sensibilities and skewered the mean towards the atheist side of the atheist-religious spectrum. Plus they outnumber the UCs anyways. Just that they have changed from Caste nationalism to Hindu nationalism.

          3. that makes sense – but i wont call them atheists – maybe not orthodox trads
            MO Most of these folks are religious/superstitious in their own ways – they just dont follow the Old Brah/Trad versions.

  3. Apologies for a long comment. There are typically a lot of back and forth due to misaligned background of commentators. So, I tried to layout basis of my response with more examples so as to not de-rail conversation off the main point.

    Just for the discussion, what exactly is the problem with the thought “Dharmic means Hindu”?

    This isn’t new or unique to India. Norway is officially a Christian state, UK head of state is also the head of religion. So, why can’t India build its liberal future with Anglo institution framework and Hindu values?

    There is a difference between values, ethos and rituals. If Hindus value cows and government passes a law against their killing, this isn’t any different from any other society deciding on its food taboos.

    Koreans eat dogs as a part of their festival, but they aren’t demanding that meat in the US. If US bans horse meat, I don’t see liberals or libertarians going for individual freedom to eat any animal meat one wishes to eat. FDA has a lot of control on sale of food items (and hence accessibility of that food to regular citizens).

    The issue keeps being the motte and bailey in the arguments where values and rituals are switched between one argument and the other.

    Hindus themselves don’t agree to all things that a Hindutva government would try to do (temple entry of women, bullock races during festivals, consanguinity). Why are all other citizens should be turned off if they can’t accept the evolving values in a society?

    By this logic all Indian Muslims becoming uncomfortable with Hindu values is like all Christians becoming uncomfortable with abortion or gay-marriage laws. That discomfort isn’t a show-stopper for upholding the liberal values themselves.

    Let’s talk how Hindu values are misaligned with liberal values. It is acknowledged that caste is misaligned and anti-casteism is already institutionalized. What other values are misaligned and can or cannot be addressed within the existing Indian institutional framework?

    Otherwise all discomfort of other religion followers is moot to this discussion if their values don’t align with classical liberal values either.

  4. Hindutuva is a unifying force for dharmics. Look at rise in OBC and dalit support. It is based on some lies but so are all aspirational movements.

    S Asia= India.

    Republic of India just clever enough to take the namesake.

    Your argument going from dharmics only to only Hindus is a fail. Hindutuva just redefines Sikhism and Jainism as part of Hinduism. It would be like Judaism take a pan Abrahamic approach with Islam and Christianity. Islam even exempt Christians and Jews from religious tax with “people of book” stuff in Koran.

    1. Xtian & jews paid tax. They just got to keep their religion. In theory hindus would be killed or converted but not feasible. Muslims added Buddhists & zoarastrians & haran pagans to dhimmi list

    2. Your argument going from dharmics only to only Hindus is a fail. Hindutuva just redefines Sikhism and Jainism as part of Hinduism.

      Yes its actually the opposite of the Ahmedhya Muslim(?) vs regular Muslim situation.

      Hindutva is big tent…

      According to the VHPA, Hindus are all those who believe, practice, or respect the spiritual and religious principles and practices having roots in Bharat. Thus Hindu includes Jains, Buddhas, Sikhs and Dharmic people, worldwide, of many different sects within the Hindu ethos.

      The word Hindu is a civilizational term expressed as Hindu culture or “Sanskriti.” And the word Dharma includes religious practices only as a subset. The parishad welcomes and respects people of non-Indian origin who consider themselves Hindus as defined above.

      But, most Sikhs are opposed to being classified as Hindus…

      Keshdhari Hindus is a controversial term used by the right-wing Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishva Hindu Parishad for followers of Sikh Religion, under their dubious Hindutva agenda.

      Among the RSS, Sikhs are being propagated as a sword arm of the Hindus and staunch Indian nationalists. RSS’s agenda is focused on asserting that Sikhs are not separate from Hindus but are actually their reformed version. They formed a sub-organization known as Rashtriya Sikh Sangat on 24 November 1986.

      1. “Among the RSS, Sikhs are being propagated as a sword arm of the Hindus and staunch Indian nationalists. RSS’s agenda is focused on asserting that Sikhs are not separate from Hindus but are actually their reformed version.”

        seriously, RSS’s boot-licking of sikhs is really embarrassing. i wish they would just leave the sikhs alone, at least in the near term. excessive pandering to sikhs give them swollen heads make them act even more obnoxiously.

        sikhism as a religion is pretty cool, sikhs themselves are insufferable. (though hindu jats come a close second in this regrd). the problem is that sikh religion has more or less been hijacked by jutt sikhs, and jutts leave much to be desired in intellect. (yes, the stereotypes always grow out of real core). there is reason why none of the sikh gurus were jutts. (they were all khatries).

        sikh gurus had a vision for making their region a pan-indian one. small sikh communities sprang up in far flung places like patna and nanded during guru gobind singh’s time. unfortunately the vision remained unfulfilled and sikhism ended up being just a punjabi jutt religion. so there we have it.

        excuse me for being blunt 🙂

        1. very much agree. NW agricultural tribe ethnic chauvinism really messes with things. A majority Sikh India would be better than a majority Hindu India, IMO. A Buddhist majority India would be the best development wise. Probably I would say:

          Atheist/agnostic mostly>Buddhist>Sikh>Jainism how it was actually practiced by rulers>Hindu>Jain in its purist form (way too pacifist, and heck I was raised as one)- aka turning everyone into supreme cuck Gandhi mode

          When it comes to the dharmic spectrum.

          1. @Warlock- not sure why it needs to be an “either or” style hierarchy. One could envisage an enlightened Indian monarchy in the medieval era had decreed that the key paths (let’s say Buddhism, Jainism, Shaivism, Shaktism and Vaishnavism) were equally valid and supported by the state. That way you had incredible unity in diversity and theological and philosophical competition and advancement. This is not as far fetched as it sounds. Several kingdoms in the ancient period followed such an approach. Some of the Hindu-Buddhist polities in places like Cambodia and Indonesia also offered simultaneous state patronage for Vaishnavism, Shaivism and Buddhism. Why can’t a similar approach be taken by the modern Indian civilization state?

          2. @London
            \state patronage for Vaishnavism, Shaivism and Buddhism\
            many Hindutva demand removal of govt control of Hindu temples, which I think is a fair demand. If you start offering state patronage to sects, that will start a new round of competition among Hindutva to get state control , actually that ill weaken Hindutva as it stands. So far India is dealing with identity politics based on caste, state patronage will encourage identity politics based on sects. It will muddy the waters of Indian society more and more. Not worth it.
            Basically India has strong institutional framework , that has got to be worked to the maximum efficiently to give public goods like economic progress and social redress. Any talk of changing the system will only divert attention from running the system and ruin it .

            Religious/ state patronage changes in Europe took centuries of civil war , burning of heretics and whatnot. It will open a can of worms best kept tightly shut.

        2. @Scorpion Eater: Partially agree with you re Sikhism. If it had stayed true to its Vedantic roots, the history of India may have been very different. You can read about the Nanakpanthis who attempted an integrationist approach. However, with the khalsa/akal takht, a separate identity was prioritised and the rest is history.

  5. Hindutuva is also transitioning away from casteism. The N indian Brahmin hegemony of the Gandhis is breaking.
    Modi is an OBC and proudly says “I come from the lowest caste” (not accurate but no hardcore casteist would proudly proclaim this)

    Also Hindutuva is not a monolith. some of early major leaders were also quite anti casteist. Reas transcript of Godse’s testimony is Gandhi trial. He talks about his opposition to casteism and supporting lower castes eating with upper castes.

    Pak is an experiment actually in hardcore casteism and classism disguised as exclusively a pan religious movement for an Islamic homeland for all S Asians. Scheming mostly high caste converts of Northern British India made the country up to perpetuate feudalism. Then to boot when genocidal when elections didn’t go their way trying to “aryanize” Bengalis. They are the real Nazis of S Asia.

    Biggest murderers of more AASI peoples and murderers in general of subcontinent are Pakistanis bar none with minority treatment and forget about 1971 that puts them over the edge by 100 fold.

  6. Re Tribals – just a reminder…

    Tribals were a big Serbian tribe which lived in today’s central Serbia. The term ‘tribe’ was derived from their name. They lived in the ancient period, but this name remained for Serbs even in the medieval and often mentioned as the decisive battle between invading Turks and Tribals in Kosovo. Even today is sometimes used as an archaic alternative name for Serbs. Tribals on the map from Diocletian’s period:

  7. search RSS youth wing pics. You will see the most diversity racially and caste wise in India you’ll ever see barring the unsegregated divisions of the Indian army.

  8. Oh sure Hinduvadis claim Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists, but this doesn’t matter because:

    1) All these groups besides Sikhs are too few to have any input or pose any threat (ideological or otherwise). Similar to how comfortable Iranians are with Zoroastrianism. Easy to be inclusive when all other groups besides yours are basically extinct.

    2.) Most Sikhs have rejected this Hindu-Dharma nonsense since day 1, and a large part of why there continues to be such tensions between the communities is Hindus refusing to accept it.

    On Cow Rashtra:

    If Hinduvadi society is so set on this, then why can’t the non-Hinduvadi parts of India leave? Say hypothetically if India declared Cow Rashtra tomorrow, and the Muslim/Sikh/Christian/Dravidian regions said no thanks and voted for independence, would that be okay? We know the answer.

    That’s what I really don’t like. When the Cow nonsense becomes imperial at the expense of traditionally non-Cow regions, who were fooled into joining India under the promises of secularism in 1947, and now are trapped.

  9. Since you mention the Nagas, could you share your thoughts on Heraka? Many Adivaasi Sampradaayas are hinted at or implied in the ancient texts of the Bon Po, Itihaasas, Jainism and Buddhism. Is Heraka related to any of them?

    Tibetans and the plains share a common civilizational culture via Bon Po, Bangla Tantra, Maha Siddhas (dual hatted in multiple Sampradaayas), Buddhism, the Maahaabhaarata, Puraanas. Tibetan Buddhists have played a role in the Kumbha Mela for over a millenia. Do the Tibetans have ancient records of contacts with Heraka? Or are the Assamese the only ones with ancient recorded contacts?

    1. @AnAn,”Since you mention the Nagas, could you share your thoughts on Heraka?”

      To be honest I was not aware of this. Just did some quick reading on this. It seems as if this was an indigenous Naga response to Christian proselytisation. I know people have tried to find Indic civilisational links with neighbouring areas such as Tibet, Xinjiang, Central Asia etc. In my view, these regions do not really qualify as part of the Indian civilization state as the links are too tenuous.

  10. But, most Sikhs are opposed to being classified as Hindus…

    Legally in India all Sikhs, atheists and anyone who is not Christian/Muslim/Jewish/Parsi are Hindus.

    Most Indian Sikhs are okay with this. However many Canadian Sikhs view this differently.

    There is a game that is played. Some Canadian Sikhs say that most Indian self identified Sikhs are not Sikhs but Hindus. They specifically exclude the large majority of Sikhi Sampradaayas from Sikhism. By this definition, Sumit they might be right.

    What Sikhi Sampradaayas do you consider to be Sikh? Which do you consider to be Hindu Sikh? And which do you consider to be Hindu?

  11. “India fits squarely within the definition of a civilization state. In my previous post, I had argued that the bedrock of Indian civilization are Dharmic values, customs and mores that have shaped it since antiquity. “

    Hindutva already satisfies the civilizational aspirations. The midldle path can be more global and more inclusive and less reactive. By appealing to a civilization it becomes more nationalistic and misses the opportunity to build the complement.

    1. “The Indian Liberal Nostalgia for a Tolerant Hinduism Is Misplaced”
      Saurav- you do have the knack to misinterpret in order to make your own thesis. An interesting quirk of yours.
      There is a biblical saying- ‘a prophet has no honour in his own country’….. the Indian liberals follow Western dictum. Look at the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements as a small sampling. These are important movements driven from a global liberal intelligentsia.
      We need to claim the hearts and minds of western women while simultaneously appealing to middle path Indians. The middle path can be a global phenomenon and the ‘iron is hot’.
      The opportunity for the second Dharmic Mahayana is now!

  12. I think the convincing is needed to be more for the opposing side

    The Indian Liberal Nostalgia for a Tolerant Hinduism Is Misplaced

    The liberal resort to some pristine tolerant Hinduism can never be a truly critical response to the dangers of Hindutva.

    “As Mehta’s article demonstrates, or other writings by politicians like Shashi Tharoor show, nothing could be further from the truth. There are actually plenty of members of the Indian liberal secular elite who are now expressing their nostalgia for a lost Hinduism.

    When liberalism arrived in their world, it provided caste Hindus with the shield of individualism to protect the boundaries of this enchanted space in their bosom. This enchanted space of religiosity and its concomitant privileges are clearly the most precious possession of a liberal intellectual in India. For after all, the entire function of liberalism here was to be the gatekeeper of this citadel. No wonder, the loss or weakness of liberalism and reason are not what most hurts the Indian liberal. What hurts is the right-wing takeover of their enchanted garden of religiosity.”

    1. // The liberal resort to some pristine tolerant Hinduism can never be a truly critical response to the dangers of Hindutva. //

      They do this because they assume Hindu to be Hindu in ‘religious sense’ thus as strategy they do 2 things –
      1. Praise Hinduism as some tolerant system which is extraordinary to emotionally balckmail Hindus {worked for yrs. after India’s independence}
      2. They tore apart Hinduism as if it is the worst thing in the world to make Hindus feel shame so that they can guide Hindus to correct path {How they were able to bring reforms into Hindu laws}

      As time went on Hindus started seeing through their strategy & are now responding back and not allowing liberals to set the agenda but in all this politics one another faction emerged which knew that common people will respond at sometime & they became custodian of ‘Religion & it’s politics’ because they knew people’s response always emerges out of old connections i.e. religion & it was Hindutva.

      Liberals in India have made same claims which have been proven to be Orientalist lies by academia.

  13. Very vague article and hawking an old bottle with rotten wine!

    Hindutva is also contesting the Anglification/Euro-baggage of the Indian psyche. The whole Anglo structure in India was a failure thanks to their inability to process or merge with the Indic narrative. The Mughals were far more suitable in their approach. Nothing bigger illustrates this than the Anglo handling of law.

    About 60% of the codified IPC sections are nothing more than repurposed Hindu village laws minus the diversity and freedom of the local. The Indian court backlog of millions is a testament to the failure of the Anglo framework. It’s a fuckall of the biggest magnitude. A system comprising interlinked patta records, village councils, negotiation and a minimum of ruled intervention ensured that the Indian share of 25% World GDP was smoothly rolled.

    Now this “Anglo” crap of a system ensures we are struggling with even a 2% share.

    1. “A system comprising interlinked patta records, village councils, negotiation and a minimum of ruled intervention ensured that the Indian share of 25% World GDP was smoothly rolled.”

      Completely agree with Middle Lion here. This reference to high % GDP in ancient/medieval period is irrelevant as the industrial and scientific revolution in the West fundamentally changed the rules of the game. Technological progress that previously took centuries was now happening in years. The production possibility frontier started shifting in a way that was previously unimaginable. We can still accommodate panchayat style mediation at the village level, but it would be a grave folly to jettison the pragmatic commercialism of English common law or our classical liberal constitutional framework. Reforms are required for sure (more courts, better trained judges etc.) but that should not be mistaken for a need for revolution.

      Hindutva nativists may not like it, but a consilience between the Anglo/Western and Dharmic is the only pathway to greatness for civilizational conservatives.

  14. “A system comprising interlinked patta records, village councils, negotiation and a minimum of ruled intervention ensured that the Indian share of 25% World GDP was smoothly rolled.”

    Ugra, The world GDP increased from 1700 onwards because of Intellectual Property laws first enacted in the UK in the mid-1600s. Even if India stayed with it’s GDP increase rate before 1700, the world GDP increase by a factor of 1000 would have reduced the Indian GDP to nearly naught.
    Re: laws that you mention, the Common law imported from the UK is of pre-Christian origin and fits India much better than Civil Law (more based on the original books and successive legislation), the layering of Common Law based on precedent is quite complementary to the layered Dharmic Way relative to Civil Law approaches in rest of Europe. India simply needs to implement it better. That will happen….

    1. @London Observer @Middle Lion

      70 years of accumulated failures and a small string of successes is enough to indict the Anglo Law system without further belaboring the point. There are more than enough aggravating indications of public cognizance of this – the “tareek pe tareek” dialogue is now more than 25 years old.

      The public has woken up to this long ago, its only the elitists that think the English dropped some gold into their laps. Civil law, property law, industrial law, criminal law, personal law are all fucked up to an unimaginable level.

      The system is running only due to two things – Indians are not litigious by nature and they are amenable to negotiation by nature. Only these two characteristics causes the Sun to rise and set everyday in the justice system. They are carrying it for some time now. The Law system has not contributed in any manner to India’s progress.

      It has also accumulated enough rent-seekers in the cosy judicial club – judges, lawyers and their ecosystem to prevent any serious reform or inward gaze. 99.9999% of the Indian population cannot understand concepts of mens rea and actus reus – yet they are used day in and day out in a bizarre fashion. There are at least dozens of more concepts like this that are alien to the Indian spirit and soil. We need a legal Parasuram to cut down all this gobbledygook and retrieve a swadesi system for the masses.

  15. My eyes glaze over at terms like Anglo-Dharmic. How is this any different from the Western political model but relabelled with (schwa-deleted) Sanskrit neologisms (saMsad, sabhA, vidhAyak etc)?

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with repackaging but there’s not as much political creativity here other than realising that a) Western model is really superior to anything Indians ever came up with and b) back-extrapolation to Sanskrit “primitives” is a useful way of making it palatable to the native elites.

    I think if Indians keep the British model of democracy, first-past-the-post elections, division of powers etc (repackaged or otherwise) then they will do fine. Any actual tinkering with it using kooky / half-baked Hindu theories may well spell disaster for them. As the Kashmiri proverb goes: su raTh ta ma zyeTh (keep it and don’t overthink it).

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