The Dravidaryan Invasion Theory

 

What makes an Indian? Is it the passport? The genetics? The culture? The religion? The food? The fashion? All of the above? It’s a question that’s been hotly debated amongst the citizens of the Indian Republic since the bloody partition and independence of 1947. Praise of India’s diversity finds purchasing power both inside and outside its borders, but this diversity does come at a cost. Between religion, caste, ethnicity, language, and so many other identities, India at times seems to tear from its seams. Harbingers of hatred need no excuse to dig into the annals of history finding division and discord that can be applied today. One proposed division takes us to the time of India’s infancy. From the southern tip of the grand Indian peninsula came an ideology that posited that Dravidians, a speculative group of people who speak Dravidian languages, as the original inhabitants of the subcontinent. The patriarch of this ideology, EV Ramaswamy, known as Periyar amongst his faithful, spewed venom and violence against the “invader” north Indians and their Brahmin patriarchs and progeny.

But how accurate is this notion? Was there an idyllic, secular, and rational society prior to when the first horse hooves of the steppe stampeded into India? Did these “Aryans” bring a foreign religion called Hinduism into India as well and impose it on the Dravidians who followed a now lost faith? Half truths at least; full falsehoods at most.

Societies are stories. They are the fallout of generations of narrations about our past and who we are. Jawaharlal Nehru, freedom fighter and India’s first Prime Minister, sought to weave an “Idea of India” that was a composite tapestry of Hindu and Muslim fabrics. That tapestry has been torn to shreds for several decades now. Instead, it has been Hindutva that has supplanted the Nehruvian sacrament as the sacred fire of the yajna of yore engulfs Indians politics and a common Indian identity built on Dharma gains popularity.

But not all bow to the ritual of these ancients.

Politics Is War

There are few places where historical invasions animate the populace more than India. While much of this headspace is focused on more recent Islamic invasions of the medieval era as well as British imperialism of the colonial era, in some pockets of India, headaches originate from invasions in a time where history wasn’t even recorded in India. A missing memory of the subcontinent.

Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed.

-MAO ZEDONG

These battles are highlighted in the deep south of India, Tamil Nadu and lately have entered elite academic debates on caste. The conflict in Tamil Nadu is over the ancient peopling of India with an onus on the enigmatic Aryans. But this piece is not going to exclusively focus on the migration of the Aryans into India; there are many that do. What we will examine are the many migrations into and within India as well as the present political consequences. But first, let’s establish some quick background.

RECONSTRUCTION OF THE BATH OF MOHENJO-DARO, SINDH CIRCA 2600-2000 BCE BY DR. MICHAEL-JANSEN.

There are many stellar pieces on the peopling of India. A few I recommend are Razib Khan’s comprehensive piece, Stark Truth About Aryans: A Story of India and Aryāṃśa’s Sons of the Indus: The Indians; I will give a bare and brief synopsis below:

  • The aboriginal Indian, whose genes run through the blood of nearly everyone from the Indian subcontinent, descended into the subcontinent around 50,000-70,000 years ago. This population would become known as AASI – Ancient Ancestral South Indian.
  • The Iranian hunter-gatherer would enter India around 10,000 years ago and mix with aboriginals to form the Indians who gave rise to the Indus Saraswati Civilization.
  • The steppe component entered India most probably in waves after 2000 BCE to 1000 BCE. They are usually the big hubbub as they are posited to be the legendary Aryans, but more on this later.
  • The Austronesian component would enter from southeast Asia at a similar time of 2000 BCE to 1000 BCE.

There are other migrations into and outflows from the subcontinent as well, but for now let’s call the aforementioned out as the prominent ones we know of today. Feel free to dive into the 2 pieces I mentioned prior. I highly recommend them as they are treasure troves of information.

Indigeneity

THE SACRED MOUNT KAILASH WITH STUPAS IN THE FOREGROUND. ACROSS THE SUBCONTINENT IS SACRED GEOGRAPHY THAT INTRINSICALLY TIES DHARMA TO INDIA.

One of the most potent lines of rhetoric that stems from Hindutva discourse is that it is fundamentally an indigenous rights movement. “Indigenous rights” – that phrase is a sacred cow today. Conjuring the bloody European campaign of terror that walked in lock step with colonialism, those who were crushed under the European heel are today demanding their reparations and retribution. In Western discourse, you cannot dare to cross these lines of persuasion. Indigeneity evokes powerful emotions and a primordial attachment to the land, where the spirits of ancestors connect to the soil itself.

But where Hindutva’s call of indigeneity faces hurtles is the proposed ancient migrations into India. Keep in mind that migrations have occurred across the world, yet this notion of indigeneity is only challenged in India. The nomadic Mexica people would clear out the valley of Mexico before they established Tenochtitlan and became the Aztecs. A substantial genetic portion and culture of the ancestors of the emblematic Greeks, Romans, hell, so many Europeans come from the steppe in the model we are discussing. The ancient Egyptians did not speak Arabic nor had a 1 to 1 genetic makeup to modern Egyptians. The massive Bantu expansion across Sub-Saharan Africa was not a Mandelan march of peace. Yet it is only in India that this standard of indigeneity is upheld. Indra, who rides an Indian elephant and blesses the agricultural Indian with rain for their crops, is a steppe central Asian god; but Zeus and Thor are decidedly Greek and Nordic. I think you see the double standard here.

Urheimat

While much attention and ire surrounds the entry of the Aryans into India, little is sounded around the Dravidians. And therein lies the hypocrisy. Politics flows from emotion first, then logic.

As we established prior, the Indian population is a mixture of 3 large waves or migrations. This 2nd migration consists of a group that was related to, but distinct from, Iranian agriculturalists in the Zagros mountains. In the shadow of the Zagros is where the people of Elam flourished. From around 3200-540 BCE, the Elamites formed the eastern frontier of the Fertile Crescent. The Elamites worshipped a menagerie of gods, many of whom they shared with Akkadian Mesopotamians, and spoke a purported language isolate; but some believe it had a cognate. The proposed cousin is to the east, in the Indus Saraswati Civilization; a civilization that the Elamites traded with frequently. The proposition is that the ancestors of the Zagros farmers of Elam kept moving east and mingled with the AASI Indians eventually forming the base population for the Indus Saraswati peoples (and much of the genetic makeup of modern Indians themselves). Ironically, this means there was an earlier set of Indo-Iranians prior to the Indo-European speaking Indo-Iranians. History indeed loves to rhyme and repeat!

Whether the Elamites were Dravidian cousins or not, we know that there was a split between those Neolithic farmers that ended up in the Zagros and those that ended up in Himalayas. This is evidenced from recent genetic studies confirming that a woman from the ancient Indus Saraswati site of Rakhigarhi was void of any Iranian Zagros farmer ancestry. The logic of these subsequent discoveries hints that farming may have even been reared independently in India in the cradles of its holy rivers.

TERRACOTTA FIGURINES DEPICTING CLEAR YOGIC ASANAS FROM INDUS SARASWATI SITES ALSO USED BY PATANJALI AND TILL THIS DAY

But how do we know that the Indus Saraswati people were Dravidian? Well now we start getting to “homeland” for these Dravidians, in the southern realms of this ancient Indian civilization. The southern stretches were primarily spread across Sindh, Gujarat, as well as parts of Baluchistan and Maharashtra. We find geographic toponyms across this region with Dravidian-esque influence. Additionally, we have some scant linguistic evidence dealing with elephants. The hypothesized Proto-Dravidian word, “pīlu,” which meant splitting and supposedly references a tooth or tusk, is found in Mesopotamia circa 1400 BCE via the Akkadian pīri or pīru meaning elephant. This would make sense as trade did exist between both these lands. Regarding the northern realms, things are a bit more murky. Some hypothesize that they spoke a language that was completely wiped out or an ancestor of a language isolate found in Gilgit-Baltistan called Burushaski. However, if we go by the prior rhetoric of evidence, things get even more muddy. Of course the northern subcontinent is dominated by Indo-Aryan toponyms, yet more curiously are recent findings showing Sanskrit words related to music and trade that bear eerie resemblance to Sumerian words, indicating some form of contact. But for now, we’ll stick to more mainstream theories.

Returning to the model of steppe migration, it seems that this was concurrent with both a Dravidian migration into peninsular India as well as a thrust of AASI enriched Indians towards the northwest. This great Indian churn reminiscent of the Samudra Manthan motif or “churning of the cosmic ocean” in the Hindu Puranas is what produced the precursors of Indian culture and society today. The modern Indian was being assembled in this churn. Even more ingredients were added to the mixture through the east through Munda migrations from Southeast Asia. These migrants would particularly populate the DNA of India’s tribals or “adivasis;” a misnomer meaning “first inhabitants” that has been hijacked by political interests to misclassify these tribals as the original people of the Indian subcontinent. As we’ve seen, this is simply not the case.

HARAPPAN PRIEST-KING ON THE LEFT. PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI ON THE RIGHT. BOTH CHILDREN OF THE INDUS SARASVATI CIVILIZATION. YOU KNOW I HAD TO DO IT.

As these Dravidians reached Tamil Nadu, they too brought with them Vedic culture. This is something that will cause heartburn to the fanciful separatists of Tamil Nationalist bent, but the earliest Tamil literature of the Sangam Era extols the Vedas and Vedic gods such as Vishnu, Shiva, Durga, and Indra. Even the much vilified Tamil Brahmins find praise in the earliest of Tamil texts. There was no separate secular notion in the Tamil nation. This was an Aryan land.

The True Aryan

Politicized almost beyond repair, the term “Aryan” is hotly debated amongst historians, geneticists, archeologists, and edgy internet posters across the globe. But why not ask the Aryans themselves?

The term “Arya” originally occurs in the Vedas referring those who adhere to Vedic norms or spoke the Vedic tongue, Sanskrit. Perhaps in an even narrower context in the earlier verses, it refers to those belonging to the Pūru tribe or its eponymous sub-tribe, the Bharatas. In later verses, we see this “Arya” term expanded to other Vedic tribes as well as being using in an abstract sense denoting “pure” or “noble.” Later Indian literature steadies on the dual definitions of “noble” or someone who adheres to Dharmic norms as an “Aryan.”

The common characterization of these Vedic peoples is that they came into India and wiped out the natives, completely destroying their culture and bringing their traditions as the new centerpiece of Indian civilization. But this is not true either. With climate and geological changes, the Indus Saraswati civilization waned eventually collapsing prior to the entry of the steppe people. These steppe people would come into India and indeed would conquer, but they would then be integrated completely. They came, they saw, they conquered, and then they were swallowed.

THE PURANIC TALE OF THE KING OF THE DEVAS, INDRA, FIGHTING THE LORD OF THE ASURAS, JAMBHA. WHILE THE ASURAS WERE NOT NECESSARILY EVIL IN THE VEDAS, THEIR ORIENTATION EVOLVED WITH TIME.

The people who wrote the Vedas were in love and reverent to the land of India. The rivers, mountains, plains, forests, even the literal dirt itself was holy to them. Their gods were flanked with Indian flora and fauna. They delved into philosophies and rituals alien to the wider world. They were a profoundly unique people who would not be who they were if they did not live and die in India.

Over time, many of the gods who found the most praise in the Vedas, the lords of the elements such as Indra, Varuna, Agni, etc…, would give way to other divinities who would eclipse them in prominence. Vishnu’s greatness could be gleaned throughout the early Vedic verses as he was frequently paired with Indra, Surya, Agni, and light itself. He was referenced as the guardian of the highest home, where a soul that has broken the cycle of reincarnation resides. The dawn of Vishnu and Shiva would arrive with the transition to the Puranas and Itihasa epics. In the Yajurveda, Narayana, a popular epithet for Vishnu, is mentioned as the supreme being. The icon of the Pashupati seal of the Indus, Shiva, known as Rudra in the Vedas also makes frequent appearances as a lord of storms and destruction. Adorned with a cobra for a necklace, his home in the Himalayas, the sacred Ganga river springing from his matted locks, and donning leopard skin, Shiva’s iconic Indian brand radiates his local roots.

But it is in the tales of the Dark Lord that we see a glimpse of which gods would rule the Indian mind. While popular narratives would tell you that a skin color apartheid was enforced by the steppe folk, what’s curious is that dark skin gods would become their supreme deities. They would even beg the gods for dark skin children. The Brihadarayanka Upanishad devotes verses (6.4.16) denoting the high merits and methods needed to conceive dark skinned children; merits and methods that were greater than those needed for lighter shades. Vishnu, whose avatars and epithets possess names frequently alluding to his dark skin color, would rise as a zenith of the Hindu pantheon over the ages. A possible peek into the rise of Vishnu’s prominence lies in the tale of Govardhan.

LORD KRISHNA, SOMETIMES REFERRED TO AS THE DARK LORD IN DEVOTIONAL HYMNS DUE TO HIS DARK SKIN, LIFTING THE HILL OF GOVARDHAN

Krishna, Vishnu’s incarnation, watched as his adoptive father, Nand, prepared to pray to Indra to bless them with rain. The young Krishna would chide his father for fearfully worshipping a god who had grown jealous and arrogant with power. He instead told his father and the villagers to pray to the mountain Govardhan and revere their cattle for those were the true guaranteers of their agricultural success. An incensed Indra would send a terrible torrent on Krishna’s home, Braj, flooding the land. The legend climaxes with Krishna lifting Govardhan with his finger, protecting Braj from the storm, and humbling Indra into obeisance. Perhaps this represents the transition of which god(s) curried the most favor with the ancient Indians. Perhaps not, but it is a convenient tale.

As we continue along the lines of “whataboutery” regarding these Aryans, one eventually reaches a meditating monk under a tree. The Buddhist and Jain traditions, known as Śramanism, are postulated as rebellions or descendants of pre-Aryan Dravidian Indian religion. Yet as we’ve already established the deep roots of Hinduism in pre-steppe India, we must also establish the Aryan roots of Buddhism and Jainism. Both religions recognize caste as a feature of Indian society and even endorse it in some scriptures. Buddha self-designates his way as the Arya Dharma, a reviving of the true way of the Vedas not the corrupted version of his time. He colors his commentary with decidedly Hindu motifs that link his message and incarnation with the great tales and people of India’s Vedic past. Śramanism was a descendent of Vedic thought that would run parallel to orthodox ancient Hinduism (or Brahminism as it is maliciously termed by academia and activists), and both became intertwining strands of a common multifarious Indian Dharma, borrowing from each other with ease and synchronizing concepts with harmony.

Political Picassos

“War is deceit,” so said the Prophet Muhammad ages ago amongst the sands of Arabia. Many movements that outwardly appear to be extremely ideological in fact are power struggles for resources on ground. Periyar and his cohort of powerful landed castes in Tamil Nadu, used the garb of Dravidianism and mythical millennia old battles to oust the franchised Brahmins from their powerful positions in Tamil society. Endowed with British cooperation and historical success, the Brahmins of the Tamil country occupied both landlord and administrative roles in the colonial era as well as possessed a culture that strongly emphasized education. Periyar’s poison would flow across the veins of Tamil society with an intense animus of hatred directed towards the Tamil Brahmins. The offensive attire of fanciful rhetoric and minimalistic reductions of ancient migrations resulted in the gradual emigration of many Tamil Brahmins from Tamil Nadu. Additionally, we see almost anti-semitic-like conspiracy theories surrounding the minuscule yet prosperous Brahmin minority, where many blame every evil and sin of society on the conniving control and domination of Brahmins.

A PORTRAIT OF PERIYAR

The power vacuum left by the Brahmins would be taken up by castes allied with Periyar. To buttress diatribes against the Brahmins, Periyar made it a point to paint Brahmins as Aryan invaders who imposed their religion on the Dravidian society, which he deemed as “secular” and “rational” as opposed to the “superstitious” and oppressive Aryan faith of Hinduism. Periyar would go so far in his malice towards Brahmins so as to encourage the literal hunting and killing of Brahmins in Tamil Nadu. While Dravidianism was supposed to be a panacea to casteism, still we see it unfortunately practiced in Tamil Nadu today. Meanwhile, increasingly violent and xenophobic oratory attempts to cleave the great Tamil culture from the Indian civilization.

DRAVIDIAN SUPREMACISTS HAVE FOUND INSPIRATION IN ATTACKING MICRO-MINORITIES FROM SIMILAR FASCIST MOVEMENTS

So ironic this is, as much of India owes itself to Tamil Nadu. From the wise Vedanta philosopher, Ramanuja, whose ideas catapulted the Bhakti movement across all of India to the great Chola emperors (who funny enough referred to themselves as Aryans) who carried the Tamil crown across the subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Tamil Nadu functioned as the incubator and refuge of a Hinduism ravaged in the north during medieval invasions. Scores of Tamil scientists, especially the former Indian President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, would push Indian technology and capability forward making the lives of all Indians better. Yet today, it is Periyar’s ideology that dominates the Tamil political sphere.

One of the more disturbing parts about the effect of such simplistic takes on ancient Indian migrations is a niche form of genetic supremacy that is developing. While some embellish the stature of their steppe DNA, others claim themselves as the true aboriginal of the land due to their large proportion of AASI lineage. They go so far as even asking for reparations based on this poppycock of logic. While there is some correlation between mixes of steppe, IVC, and AASI lineages around caste, it is an imperfect and a diverse amount that is in the end, a mixture. All Indians are an amalgamation of these people to various degrees. There is almost no pure steppe, IVC, or AASI person in the subcontinent (the Andaman Nicobar people may be sole exception on the AASI front). The movement towards heightened caste consciousness combined with the advocation of an almost racial element to caste could be potentially disastrous for India.

India’s history is one of syncretism and synchronization. Multiple identities, ideas, and itihasas were welded together by the Vedic verses millennia ago. Both the Brahmins and Śramanas or priests and ascetics traversed the Indian expanse and spread the message of Dharma. Still, they all agreed on the inherent divinity and sacredness of the subcontinent, of Bhārata. That is what distinguishes these people, these ideas, and these philosophies from the rest of the world. Indeed, as one delves into the story of India, a story that encapsulates much of human history and audacity of both thought and action, one attains the truth in the Mahabharata’s triumphant epilogue:

Whatever is here, may be found elsewhere; what is not cannot be found anywhere else.

-MAHABHARATA 18:56-3

This is a repost originally published in The Emissary. Follow on Twitter for updates!

The Economic History of the American Empire

 

Every time I used to play a strategy video game, my mind was firstly on money. Creating an income stream as well as buildings and units to magnify that income stream was the primary priority of my gameplay. Only then could I exercise my will and wrath on the codes of computer programming that were my enemies. I think recent history has shown us this is a powerful stratagem, especially on this side of the Atlantic.

As colony became country, America would dedicate itself to capitalism. In 1790, the US was a paltry nation with a population of 3.9 million spread across a vast and wild land. Only 7 cities had a population of over 5000 while 12 tipped over 2500; the rest found home in the wilderness. The inheritor of the great city of Rome was essentially one huge countryside. Yet by 1885, the US was nearing 60 million people and accounted for the production of 28.9% of global manufactured goods. Fast forward to today, and we have become an economic superpower never before seen. Only recently has the Middle Kingdom of the East challenged the writ of Washington, and it is still some ways away from being able to engage in a full on confrontation.

To understand American might, you must understand American economics. To understand American economics, you must understand American history.

Let’s turn back the pages.

Continue reading The Economic History of the American Empire

Disinformation Feudalism

 

When the halls of power echo your voice, when titans of commerce and capital don your colors, when hallowed institutions bow to your ritual, does that make you a revolutionary? Well it does in today’s America.

It’s all a bit odd. Millions of fire-breathing activists believe they are fighting a once in a millennium battle against the forces of oppression stemming from a white supremacist state, greedy capitalist mega-corporations, and various organizations that toe the aforementioned’s line; yet all of the power centers mentioned agree with the ideology of this “resistance.” So what are they really even resisting? History shows its style when it rhymes and repeats. The poetry of the past is a delight but can be a disaster once it reaches the present. I believe we are seeing many of those themes today. What is happening in the digital realm took place centuries ago in the physical realm. The Dark Ages beckon us in order for us to see the light of the day. Continue reading Disinformation Feudalism

Browncast: Gaurav Returns to Give An Update on Indian Covid & Marathi Politics

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

Akshar chats with Gaurav on the coronavirus’ impact in India, societal permutations, and a special tour of the Marathi political landscape. Gaurav writes on the Brown Pundits blog and features an eclectic array of positions across the Indian political spectrum.

How the BJP Became the Bahujan Janata Party

Much of the ire of Indian elites and those left of the Indian political center simply boils down to one thing – the poor and lower-castes aren’t voting the way they want them to. Over decades, an assorted motley crew of political parties has taken the votes of India’s subalterns for granted. Through sops and social engineering, a steady support was built over the years. If you are of X caste, you must vote for Y party. And don’t ask why.

Yet, a party that venerates the idols of old has now become an iconoclast breaking the idea of voting one’s caste rather than casting one’s vote. The BJP, for years known as a “Brahmin-Baniya” party reserved for the privileged and so-called upper-castes, has shattered traditional caste calculus and come up with a new formula making established Indian political equations void. Today’s BJP is one that has been given a brute mandate by India’s Bahujans (the so-called lower-castes of India) along with its old upper-caste base. A united Hindu vote is beginning to coalesce, something that is sending shivers along the spines of the BJP’s political opponents.

But to truly understand the magnitude of these ramifications, we must peer into the past and understand the tradition of caste to grasp the revolution we are witnessing today.

Continue reading How the BJP Became the Bahujan Janata Party

The Confluence of Two Seas: India and Arabia

Centuries ago, the Mughal Prince, Dara Shikoh wrote a treatise on the similarities of Hinduism and Islam – Majma-ul-Bahrain or The Confluence of Two Seas. Wading through the songs of sages born on holy riverbanks, Dara discovered striking similarities in Vedic verses with his beloved Sufi stanzas. Dara attempted to bridge Indian and Arab minds to not only bring material peace to communities in strife but also achieve inner peace by uncovering a quintessential spiritual unity.

Dara’s quest would be cut short by his fanatic brother, Aurangzeb, who would usurp the throne and execute Dara for apostasy. A reign of religious terror followed as Aurangzeb’s extremism left permanent scars on the subcontinent until the sparks of saffron would strike back as the upstart Marathas upended the Mughals into obscurity.

Yet, this is just a part of a much more ancient interaction. Before Islam galloped across the world, Arabs were aware of the subcontinent, al-Hind, and an interesting set of interactions played out. There is no grand trend or narrative here, but I want to tell you the story of an Arabia before and after Islam and how it spoke to an India that was eternally Hindu.

Continue reading The Confluence of Two Seas: India and Arabia

India Stack: The Art of Digital Alchemy

India isn’t exactly known for efficiency. The chaos that slams your senses as you step off the plane into the Land of Dharma stands in contrast to the sense of stillness that India’s old wisdom brings. Today’s India is in constant churn. Still shackling off the chains of colonialism and bureaucracy, India can appear to move at the cumbersome pace of an elephant; but sometimes, that elephant charges.

FinTech is an arena of speed and nimbleness. Firms move at the pace of a nimbus cloud as startups rise and fall in an increasingly competitive space that promises to transform a world moving from analog to digital. Security is also placed at a premium, as conflict transitions from firing mortars and metal to acquiring capital and computer power. But above all, what is needed in FinTech is efficiency.

A STACK OF INDIAN RUPEE NOTES AND COINS THAT WILL SOON TRANSMUTE TO CYBERSPACE BY DIGITAL ALCHEMY

A country known for a fetish for over-administration would be assumed to be one of the last places to find quite possibly the most advanced and successful FinTech “stack” on the planet. Cause and effect enjoy playing coy and serendipitous games with each other, and it is in India where we find the confluence of separate information streams merge into the exceptional India Stack.

Continue reading India Stack: The Art of Digital Alchemy

Why Hindu-Americans Don’t Stand Up For Hindus

One of my earliest memories of my childhood is watching the Mahābhārat with my dad. After we dropped my mom off for her night shift at the factory, we would return home, and a black rectangle filled with film would catapult me into a confusingly wondrous world. From the magical arrows whizzing through battlefields to the terrifying image of Time, the narrator of the epic, transposed across a cosmic abyss, I was glued to a story I couldn’t truly grasp but loved at the same time. I could barely understand what the characters were saying (I spoke Gujarati at home, not the hyper Sanskritized Hindi in the serial) and was too young to read the English subtitles fast enough. I would constantly interrupt my dad, many times to his annoyance, but he would still lovingly explain these stories that would make an imprint on me for the rest of my life.

 

As my life passed, I would see so many of the stories from the Mahābhārat play out in my life and in the world around me. The blind love of a long-gone Dhritarāshtra came alive with my parents, who showed me love, despite my bad behavior, my failures, and my unending ingratitude, one of my greatest flaws. Their love was uncompromisingly unequivocal, and I was an unworthy Duryodhan. I saw the struggles and rise of “low-born” Karna with my own family, as we grew from a family who couldn’t even afford to spare money to buy a popsicle from the ice cream truck that taunted me every day as it passed by my house to slavishly building a motel business in the middle of nowhere to selling it and owning a nice single-family “American Dream” home with many fewer worries than we grew up with. And perhaps most importantly, I saw the devotion or bhakti of Rādhā through my family’s Hindu faith and regular attendance to our local temple – a tradition that grounded us through tough times and brought a sense of community, fellow “gopis” perhaps to share our lives and love with.

Those evenings watching the words of Vyāsa transform into images will forever be special to me. For those nights would fuel the dreams of my days as I grew up connected to a timeless culture and values. And they would doubly serve me when I learned of the nightmarish state of my fellow Hindu diaspora with regards to their views on Hinduism and Hindus.

In The Battlefield

To find the answer to the titular question, I did a bit of “field reporting” one weekend with my fellow Hindu-American friends starting off with a simple question:

Why do you stand up for Black, Hispanic, and Muslim people for the injustices they face, but not for Hindus?

The most common responses were along the lines of:

    • “What injustices faced by Hindus are you talking about?”
    • “I honestly don’t know what type of issues we face, besides normal ‘brown’ discrimination here.”
    • “I’ve never seen any from the media I consume” A general theme of genuine innocent unawareness was what I saw.

So I prodded further and mentioned the atrocities Hindus face in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and even parts of India. Yet Still, the answer was “I literally never heard this before.”

Then came a visible sense of discomfort, and I know why. My question then silently morphed to “Why don’t you stand up for your own people” in their minds. I didn’t need to spell it out, but it turned into those very cutting words – why don’t you stand up for your own…

Bangladeshi Population Statistics – 1971 Contained A Civil War Where The Pakistani Military Is Said To Have Conducted A Genocide Targeting Bangladeshi Hindus

The rapes, the forcible conversions, the killings, the discrimination, the demographic collapse all signaling horrors that didn’t have any similar magnitude of rivals in India. The initial response was denial or wishing away the numbers I gave them: “Oh how do you know all that happened to them?!” “Maybe they converted willingly!”

I mentioned CAA and the refugees begging to return to the land of Dharma. Denial then became equivalating.

“Well, this all probably happens in India too!”

I kept unpacking this. I ask them, “why do you think this way?” Note – I tried to avoid a confrontational tone as much as possible, just neutral questioning so as to not pry open any vitriolic reaction. They talked about their parents’ hysteria over Pakistan, their WhatsApp forward fueled hatred, etc… I tried to explain to them that the equivalence wasn’t there. That the magnitude of what happens to Hindu minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh is much worse presently and historically than what happens to non-Hindu minorities in India.

Pakistani Hindus Begging For Refuge To Immigrate To India.

But they just weren’t having it.

“I don’t believe you. India is just as bad”

Now, India is of course not perfect, now or historically. But it is a work in progress. It is diversity in action in a way very few countries (The United States and Brazil are the only ones that come to mind) can compete with. India is pluralism, both its virtues and flaws.

By this point, we linked up with a few other friends and the conversation dropped. But let’s continue this theme with a few other independent observations and anecdotes.

Misinformation Warfare

Modi equals Trump – this fantastically false idea is an atomic bomb on one’s perception of India. A very simple notion that has a number of externalities. Hindu-Americans are fairly “woke” from my personal experience, and Indian-Americans heavily lean Democrat. Standard diatribes against “45” are common when talking politics with my Hindu-American friends. I don’t really care as I don’t support him, but the Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) gets tiring after a while.

Policy-wise (you know, the actual actionable impact that changes people’s lives and futures), Modi has done more socialism in one term than Bernie Sanders will ever do in his lifetime. The comparison fails at almost every metric:

Right Wing, Left Wing, “nationalism”, “conservative” and other meaningless labels are even more irrelevant when thrown into the ocean of Indian politics. They sink into nothingness. They’re pointless.

But to many Hindu-Americans, “Right-Wing”, “Nationalist”, “conservative” are terms that immediately make them see red, and “RACIST” pops into their mind in big white letters. I don’t care about your 14 syllable ideology. People see things through simple lenses. It doesn’t matter what Modi and Trump actually do to a lot of people; it matters how they are characterized.

Fuck your nuance. Damn it to hell.

Hassan Minhaj told me what I need to know in a 12-minute 37-second segment on a now-canceled Netflix show. I trust the consistently wrong coverage of the New York Times – yes the same one that complained why more Indian people aren’t dying of coronavirus. Additionally, it’s quite clear that “South Asian” organizations in the US have explicitly blacked out mentioning these atrocities as it would hurt their respective lobbies.

With community organizations, media, and celebrities silent – how can Hindu-Americans be aware?

American Dharma

Now let’s talk about religiousness.

Hindu-Americans have some of the highest retention rates of religious identification in the US.

I can’t judge others’ religiosity, but from what I’ve anecdotally seen. Hinduism is many times a more aesthetic/background thing than practice for Hindu-Americans. Sometimes it seems samosa and chicken tikka masala have more weight in their culture than pujas and scripture. Now token ritual involvement happens every time Diwali rolls around, but to me, Hindu-Americans really just aren’t “self-aware.” Funny as Hinduism places so much emphasis on self-discovery and reflection.

Another thing – explicit politics is pretty far removed at American Hindu temples versus other diaspora places of worship. Political rhetoric that’s common at other religious places isn’t a mainstay in mandirs; and honestly, I am glad this is the case. Religion to me is more about immediate community and individual practice rather than political machinations across the Atlantic. I’ve seen firsthand how the ugliness of politics warps American religious communities where identity realpolitik replaces spirituality for many of these “religious adherents.” Where insulting the “Other” is more important than praising the Omniscient.

Ideally, religion would be separate from politics. But we can’t deny a battlefield once we’re on it. Hopefully, temples stay out of the fray of such rhetoric, but Hindu-Americans outside of it strengthen.

So in conclusion, the answer to the question:

1. Genuine unawareness of Hindu injustices driven by media, community, and political organizational blackout. 2. Right-wing and left-wing notions don’t translate well across Indian and American politics. Many Hindu-Americans see red once “right-wing” is mentioned. 3. Religion and politics don’t mix at Hindu temples unlike other religions.

The Craven

 

Now while we’ve answered our query, I want to add an addendum to a vile specimen I’ve seen recently amongst the diaspora. Aping their equally contemptible cousins back in the subcontinent, this emergence of Indian-Americans who speak in the poisonous tongues of India’s elites is now slowly seeping into mainstream American culture.

They seek to transplant American history and dynamics onto India just as blindly as India’s elites have over the decades. Equating Hinduism itself to white supremacy and fascism and defining it solely by casteism are standard affairs for this type. They have no ingenuity in their discourse. The blueprint of their commentary is amateur oppression Olympics. Their foundations are self-loathing. Their walls are an echo-chamber blocked off by the soulless skyscrapers of coastal elites on one side and the great blue filter of social media on the other. Their roofs are paid for by verbal prostitution. Their material is so common, yet they have a profound disdain for commoners. They are copy + paste. Many are essentially white progressives with a sprinkling of turmeric and cumin for empty color and scant flavor.

They are from South Asia, not the Indian Subcontinent. Their culture can be summed up into samosas, chicken tikka masala, a few “South Asian” outfits, and henna. Depth is an allergy to them so their roots are forever undiscovered but much-maligned. They will go out of their way to pin every misfortune and misery inflicted upon other minorities as purely due to economics or European imperialism, but will not hesitate to blame the downfalls of India solely on Hinduism and its indigenous culture. On the off chance that they navigate blame to the British, they will remain mum on the equally or even worse atrocities of the Mughals and their hate-filled predecessors. Their silence screams at the scars and ruins of their ancestors’ temples, all to preserve this mythic “solidarity” amongst fellow “South Asians.”

As they watch their fellow Indian-Americans break all barriers, their reflex is dismissal. When our minority becomes model, they relentlessly attack their own people instead of appreciating and applauding. Excuses for success rather than attributing it to hustle and immigrant sweat. They write paragraphs lamenting how every Indian-American has come to America with a silicon laced gold brick in their mouths, a silver stethoscope around their necks, or a platinum high caste thread over their shoulder. They wash away the struggles of immigrants with haughty commentary and exhibit a saffron-tinged white guilt. They seek to be the oppressed lamenting at the impending “fascism” that is perpetually 1 Republican representative away from arriving and simultaneously the oppressor as they claim Hinduism itself is oppression. They cloak their jibes in a mythic and undefined “Brahminism” where they attribute normal Hindu practices like vegetarianism, innocent rituals, and practices performed by all castes and communities as part of a grand conspiracy of “Brahminical supremacy;” the irony being that many of these commentators are Brahmins or high caste themselves! Due to their skin color and last name, they believe they are the chosen voice for over a billion other Indians and millennia-old civilization.

Essentially, they care about what India looks like, not what it is. They seek approval at any cost. But either way and in the end, why should they expose their necks in courage when they can swallow their pride, forever remaining craven?

Reposted from The Emissary. Follow me on Twitter!

The Self-Hating Prophecy of Indian Elites

 

What is the difference between introspection and self-hatred? Introspection brings reflection, intention, and evolution. Self-hatred brings rumination, doubt, and rot. One is essential, the other is extinction.

Engagement of either shift one’s fate. From the roots of mentality grow branches of thought, blooming into flowers of action and eventually the fruits of result. Nowhere is this more clear than the night and day of the Indian elite.

The ancient elites of India wrote eternal tomes of meditation that built the bedrock of a civilization that has seen the best and worst of humanity, outlasting every peer and power. Their art and literature emanated confidence, beauty, and advancement. While sure of themselves, they had no qualms integrating new ideas from abroad or from home. Diversity was strength, and challenge was opportunity.

Their descendants today are devolution incarnate – Kali Yuga realized. An unending anguish for the approval of outsiders, self-flagellating of even the most innocent of traditions, and an obsessive compulsion for mediocrity are the trickle-down that these elites have given Indians since independence.

While trivial bashing of them is enjoyable, I want to get to the meat of their minds as well as what these minds have yielded.

What causes the exceptional self-loathing of these elites? The mania of knee-bending and the need to constantly look outwards for validation? The ability to be stupendously arrogant towards their birthright to rule yet despise their roots? Continue reading The Self-Hating Prophecy of Indian Elites

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