Are the (TV) Mahabharata and Ramayan “Right Wing”?

In 1987 and 1988, India’s official (and at that time, only) TV channel (Doordarshan) broadcast serialized version of the famous Indian epics, the Ramayan and the Mahabharata. The series were hugely popular and with no competing TV choices, there was the kind of nationwide common viewing experience that is less and less common in the internet  and cable TV age. I dont know if Left-liberal Indians (mostly Hindus themselves) were agitated at that time (i dont remember it being an issue, but I was not really reading Indian media at that time) but over time a narrative has developed that the broadcast of these serials led to a rise in Right wing Hindu nationalism, which culminated in the demolition of the Babri masjid by a Right wing mob in 1992.  THe subsequent rise of the BJP to power is then the next step in a sequence that began with the broadcast of these “Hindu” serials.

As India has gone into lockdown due to Covid19, Doordarshan has announced that it is going to rebroadcast these serials. This step has revived the complaints about these serials being the first step in the rise of Hindu nationalism in India, exemplified by tweets like this one from “engaged historian” Audrey Truschke:

To me, as an outsider, this is quite fascinating. It seems that there is a significant segment of the Indian intelligentsia (which hapens to be the dominant faction in terms of foreign coverage of India; Western news organizations almost all pick up their own view of India via these “native informants”) that believes that: Continue reading “Are the (TV) Mahabharata and Ramayan “Right Wing”?”

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Browncast episode 87: Dr Sunny Anand on healthcare, free heart hospitals in India, etc

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!

You can also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. This website isn’t about shaking the cup, but I have noticed that the number of patrons plateaued a long time ago.

I would though appreciate more positive reviews! Alton Brown’s “Browncast” has 30 reviews on Stitcher alone! Help make us the biggest browncast! At least at some point.

 

Kanwaljeet J. S. ("Sunny") Anand, MD, has joined Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford and Stanford Children's Health as the new division chief of palliative care & critical care medicine. (Photo: Business Wire)

In this episode we speak to Dr Sunny Anand, a highly esteemed Pediatric intensivist at Stanford who also works with the heart to heart foundation and provides quality heart surgeries and cardiac care across India (and other countries) in collaboration with Sai Sanjeevani hospitals. He talks about his work, the services provided by this chain of completely free top-of-the-line heart surgery centers, healthcare in the India and the United States, etc.

Those wishing to learn more about the heart to heart foundation (chaired by legendary cricketer and gentleman Suni Gavaskar) can check out their website here. 

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Browncast episode 86: Harsh Gupta on Hindutva, Indian Economy, etc.

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!

You can also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. This website isn’t about shaking the cup, but I have noticed that the number of patrons plateaued a long time ago.

I would though appreciate more positive reviews! Alton Brown’s “Browncast” has 30 reviews on Stitcher alone! Help make us the biggest browncast! At least at some point.

In this podcast we talk to Harsh Gupta (@harshmadhusudan on twitter) , an investor in Mumbai (he has an MBA from INSEAD and is also a Dartmouth alumnus) who is bullish on India and its prospects and is (at least at this point) a Modi supporter. We talk about Hindutva, Indian economy, Indian Muslims and whatever else pops up. I had my share of “L’esprit de l’escalier” after this episode, but we hope to have Harsh back to talk about some of those thoughts 🙂

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One or other, both or neither?

Reposted from Zenpundit — Modi or Trump, special or chosen? — with thanks to The Emissary — and closing in on the shining suchness of the Tathagata
.

Modi of India, Trump of USA?

**

Trump of USA proclaims himself the Chosen One, while Modi of India’s supporters claim Modi is the Special One.

Who knew?

**

Sources:

  • The Emissary, The Special One
  • Giphy, I am the Chosen One
  • .
    **

    Buddhist logic from the beginning differs from its Aristotelian cousin, featuring the chatushkoti or tetralemma:

    India in the fifth century BCE, the age of the historical Buddha, and a rather peculiar principle of reasoning appears to be in general use. This principle is called the catuskoti, meaning ‘four corners’. It insists that there are four possibilities regarding any statement: it might be true (and true only), false (and false only), both true and false, or neither true nor false.

    Hence my title, One or other, both or neither?

    Oh ah:

    speaking of the Buddha, Nagarjuna states that the Buddha’s teaching is “emptiness is suchness, not suchness, both suchness and not suchness, and neither suchness nor not suchness.”

    Furthermore:

    The suchness of the Tathagata is the suchness of all phenomena.

    Rumor therefore has it that there’s a fifth possibility, a refuge from all dualities: the shining suchness of the Tathagata.

    **

    No, really — please comment!

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    The Reincarnation of India

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

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

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

    The Soul of a Nation

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

    But what defines the soul of India?

    The Ancient Indian Motif of Reincarnation and Rebirth

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

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

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

    Truth is One

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

    — Rig Veda (1.164.46)

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

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

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

    The Price of Saffron

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Rebirth by Reclamation

    Kashmir. Ram Mandir. CAA.

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

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

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

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

    A Million Mutinies

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

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

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

    Narendra Modi Worships At Kedarnath Temple in the Himalayas

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

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

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

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

    India has reincarnated.

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

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    Welcome back Mahathir Mohamad, Hero of Asia! (a)

    This is a follow up to:

    Welcome back Mahathir Mohamad, Hero of Asia!

    Rishabh Gulat–who I respect greatly has a different take on Datuk Mahathir Mohamad, Hero of Asia, than I do. Some argue that Datuk Mahathir has recently shifted his policy and allied with conservative Wahhabi (subset of Salafi, subset of Sunni) muslims, MBS, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan against India. Mr. Gulat implies that Datuk Mahathir is backing Brown Pundit favorite Dr. Zakir Naik against India:

    Please watch Mr. Gulat and come to your own conclusions.

    The Indian Malays (7% of the population, 15% of the professional workforce, 40% of all Malaysian doctors, economic engine that moves Malaysia) are rallying the opposition to Datuk Mahatir. Mr. Gulat thinks the global Indian diaspora and global Eastern philosophy diaspora (presumably inclusive of Confucians, Toaists and Chinese) should back the Indian Malays in this.

    I need to do a lot more research before proposing an alternative course of action. But here is a question. Can the Indian Malays, global Indian diaspora, global Eastern Philosophy, global Muraqabah tilted Sunnis and Shia and global liberal muslims unite and offer Datuk Mahathir Mohammed an offer he can’t refuse?:

    There are many great and powerful Indian and Indonesian muslims–friends of PM Modi–who can make the offer.

    As an aside, many Brown Pundits readers know Dr. Zakir Naik fanboy and heart throb Veedu Vidz. Please ask him to come on the Brown Pundits Podcast!

    Mr. Rishabh Gulat is a great thought leader and expert on Indonesia, Malaysia and South East Asia more generally. He says that India and Indonesia should make a civilizational, cultural, economic and geopolitical alliance. Is there an interest in the Brown Pundits Podcast interviewing Mr. Rishabh Gulat?

    Please let us know in the comments.

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    The Problem With the Global Left

    As the United Kingdom’s Labour Party swallowed a staggering loss, it’s clear that we see a pattern across the world. Election after election, Left parties collapse against either centrist or frequently right wing parties. Does this imply a victory for the “Global Right?”

    No – as Manu Joseph has beautifully explained, there can never be a Global Right.

    The Localist

    The crux of Joseph’s argument lies in the fact that Leftists have become constantly concerned with grand humanitarian conflicts and cosmopolitan problems while Right Wingers are more concerned with “skin in the game” local issues. The Leftist leader shouts in a city square about human rights abuses in Israel, America, India, the UK, etc… (all while conveniently ignoring much, much worse abuses in less pluralistic and less democratic countries). The Right Wing leader is on the hinterland battleground listening to disaffected and ignored voters about their latest economic or communal ailment. The Left has become caught up in the noise in the air while the Right have their ears to the ground.

    Of course, you may notice that lately there has been some hobnobbing amongst many “nationalist” or Right Wing leaders. Yet this exercise will only go so far.

    Consider this – put an American Evangelical Christian and an Indian Hindu Hardliner in a room together. While they may both agree on their disdain of radical Islam, they will reach an impasse when the Evangelical explains to the Hindu Hardliner that they will burn in hell for eternity for not believing in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The Hindu Hardliner will then tell the Evangelical to stop sending missionaries who destroy indigenous Indian culture with their conversion agenda. This clash will overwhelm any commonalities in the long run.

    Bring a group of Leftists from disparate places such as London, New York, and New Delhi and you will have free flowing conversations about the liberation of Palestine, proper pronoun use, and how one needs to read more Marxist theory for communism to work.

    Even on economics, Right Wingers from different nations will have vehement disagreements. The British Tories are distinctly to the left of American Democrats. Narendra Modi (who many times is described as “Far Right”) has enacted more “Socialist” policies in 5 years than Bernie Sanders will probably ever do in his lifetime. Modi has achieved the wildest economic initiatives of American Democrats yet is labeled as India’s doom and gloom; which is in direct contrast to his staggering electoral victories.

    International Media Spent 5 Years Relaying Apocalyptic Missives Regarding Modi, Only to See Him Gain an Even Greater Majority – Something Almost Unheard of in India

    Finally, we have to acknowledge the grand chasm between international media’s narratives and ground realities. The raucous and slanted theater over the 2016 US, 2019 UK, and 2019 Indian elections show how massively wrong reporting was. This was a validation of localist siege mentalities regarding the media as well as the growing distrust people have in it.

    The Other

    What is a nation?

    Is it its citizens? Its borders? Its values? Its history? Its present? Its future?

    Of course, a reasonable take is that it is all of the above. The Left’s problem is that it has disconnected from its old base (the working class) partly because it has more or less forsaken the first 3 (notions of citizenship, borders, and local values).

    The rural proletariat backbone of Left parties across the world have now been labeled as bigots, uncouth, and “deplorables;” simply because they refuse to digest runaway academic politicking, sneering towards their local tradition, and denigrating of their skin color or religion.

    Anti-CAA Protestors in India Display a Morphed Om, the Sacred Hindu Symbol, in Nazi Swastika (A Symbol Stolen by Nazis) Style. Displays Such as These Inflame Majorities and Harm Protest Goals.

    The Left’s relentless attack on their countries’ respective “majorities” has manifested into electoral backlashes. Even in loss, we’ve seen their ideologues double down on this suicidal oration.

    On top of this is the perception of the Left engaging in vote banking with minorities. With the Left capitulating to certain antisocial elements in minority groups, majorities have become even more infuriated. Whether its the Labour Party massaging the antisemitism of Islamists in the UK, Indian opposition parties lionizing protestors who canonize terrorists, or American Democrats sticking their head in the sand over the spillover of drug and gang violence from Mexico – Left parties across the world have been made bare over their apathy towards their vote banks’ faults.

    Does this mean all minorities should be shamed and hounded for their misdeeds? Absolutely and unequivocally no. All communities in a nation, whether in majority or minority should move to remove their faults and prosper forward. However, the reality is that localist parties have now been given enough ammo from the Left to consolidate majorities in their countries. The Left’s vote bank vetos have lost their old potency and must face the mirror or face the music.

    From Revolution to Rosé

    Soviet Bolshevik Era Propaganda Poster – Emphasis on Workers

    The march of muddied boots under red flags used to send shivers up the spine of capitalists. Now capitalists rally around the latest “woke” trend and other inane culture wars that are ripe for the investment into perpetual outrage. Old Left leaders came from factory floors, while the current crop comes from Ivy Leagues and ivory towers. The formally faithful worker base asks for policy changes regarding welfare, wages, and trade; while the bourgeoise urban elite donors and leadership demand new articles highlighting “X-phobia” and identity politics.

    And when the Left does decide to finally wade into economic issues, the results have been lackluster.

    The topic of the Left’s economic evolution is worthy of a book in and of itself. Every country’s economic situation and externalities are very unique; so it is futile to paint their economic portrait either free market green or a socialist red. However, a common theme across the world has been Left parties holding the torch of economic reform only to run either half measures or trip up over useless communal quarrels.

    America is a prime arena as the economic tug of war is in full force here.

    While markets have recovered and wildly prospered post-2008, many Americans feel like they missed the ship. These same Americans would propel Trump into power as they saw the Democrats’ half hearted economic agenda failing them. The Democrats would face a wave of economic populism to finish what Obama started, but this would drown under toxic identity politics introduced by the mainstream Clinton camp to nullify Sanders’ swell. The problem came about when Clinton lost and now a new wave of Democrats combined both Clinton’s social agenda with Sanders’ economic direction. As various elections across the world have shown, this is not a reliable concoction.

    While older Left parties were seen as champions of the working class, they have increasingly championed policies that hurt them. Open borders and mass immigration rhetoric would be devastating to lower income people with depressed wages and increased job competition. Scathing criticism of the “billionaire class” by multi-millionaire politicians not only looks like ridiculous rhetoric but is absolutely ineffective policy. Billionaires and the mega rich are indeed the global citizens that many Leftists wish they were. As Europe’s failed wealth tax experiment showed, the rich will simply move abroad or tell their accountant to move their money.

    A Path Forward

    A light in these dark times for the (Western) Left is demography. The youth overwhelmingly favor Left parties in places like the US and Europe (India is the opposite where youth are placing faith in the BJP). American youth even have a positive tilt towards socialism. I can imagine a recession in the near future will shatter the walls to universal healthcare, major subsidies in education, and maybe even UBI.

    However, what the Left must work on is ushering in renewed faith amongst the majorities of their nations. A ceasing of incessant attacks on majority culture, customs, and values is a must. It is all right to call out the problems of slavery, imperialism, etc… of the past, but the crimes of the past should not rest on the shoulders of those in the present. Likewise, current issues regarding discrimination shouldn’t be blanketed over whole populations.

    Concerning immigration, it is a topic for individual nations dependent on context and demographics. An open or loose border ideal won’t work for most nations if any due to either economic constrains or demographic antagonism.

    Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard at the Democratic Debates

    In America at least, I see glimpses of a future winning ticket in politicians such as Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard (though both will most likely not win the primaries) who shun the vociferous social histrionics of much of their party while presenting decidedly Left articulations of economics without wading into full blown socialist visions. They stand their ground all while standing up for minorities as equal citizens instead of coddled vote banks or vilified communities. All this, while tackling the impending massive changes to the economy as the information age veers into full swing.

    It is more than clear that Left parties have their work cut out for them. Introspection is the best prescription I can offer them as their current path will only lead to ruin. The world needs their kind for ideological balance, sensible opposition, and checks to an increasingly dominant right wing across the world.

    Time will tell when sense returns to the Left. Till then, localism will reign.

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

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    Hindu nationalism amongst the nationalisms

    Much of the discussion over the last few weeks on this weblog (see “Open Thread”) has involved the internal politics of India, and its clearer trajectory in regards to a Hindu sense of self. Most of the comments are not really worth reading, as they repeat platitudes. I have said little because I know very little which would add much to the discussion.

    That being said, let me take a break from pre-Christmas activities, and just express the framework or “filter” which I use to understand what’s going on in India (and elsewhere) today. I am not someone who believes that to understand modern social-political ideologies in post-colonial nations all you need to do is understand the colonial experience. On the contrary, I lean toward the position that many national identities have deep roots and histories (e.g., China, Iran, and England, to name three). For more on this perspective, see Azar Gat’s Nations.

    But, neither is it true colonial, Western, and international, currents are irrelevant in understanding notionally primal and indigenous nationalists and pan-nationalisms. To give three examples. Chinese nationalism in the early 20th-century explicitly looked to the West, and east toward the success of Japan, in attempting to create a post-imperial identity. Iran in the early 20th-century coalesced around a resurgent Persian national identity in a multi-ethnic society which had heretofore been bound together by Shia Islam (imposed on Iran by Turkic Safavids in the 16th and 17-century). Finally, the emergence of the German nation-state under the Kleindeutschland vision is hard to understand without the French Revolution, and the shock it imposed on German elites, and in particular the Prussians.

    These three instances are clear, distinct, and organic nationalisms. In many ways, elements and configurations of these nationalisms were preexistent to the 19th/20th-century variety. The Safavid state under Shah Abbas I to me served as a template for the Pahlavi project. There were inchoate elements of German nationalism in various polities of the Holy Roman Empire, in particular in the Habsburg domains, where aristocratic cosmopolitanism was always balanced with the hegemony of German culture around Vienna. Finally, the imperial Chinese state in various forms was already proto-modern quite early. I would emphasize the Northern Song period, around 1000 A.D.

    But there are other nationalisms developed in the 20th-century which created something de novo in a very real sense. Kemal Ataturk attempted to fashion a form of Turkish post-Ottoman identity explicitly modeled on a Western European template. Though Ottoman Turks did have an ethnic identity, and some level of ethnic chauvinism, the reality is that the Ottoman identity was primarily one of religion. Modern Turkish is written in a Roman alphabet. This means that modern Turks are detached psychologically from the literature of the Ottoman period, which is written in Arabic script. This was clearly a conscious attempt by Ataturk to fashion something new and unmoored from the past.

    Even more nebulously, Pan-Turkism and Pan-Arabism appealed to an ethnonationalism more organically suited to the European context and history.  Though Pan-Turkism never became much more than moral and logistical support by the Turkish government for various national resistance movements (Turkey has long supported a community of Uighurs), Pan-Arabism was influential in much of the Arab world in the middle of the 20th-century.

    Pan-Arabism was closely connected to Arab Nationalism and in particular the Ba’ath parties.  A reductive way to describe Ba’athism is that it was a escape valve for religious minorities to espouse a form of nationalism that united them with Muslims, and often Sunni, majorities. But Ba’athism became popular for a reason. The rationale for Ba’athism may have some connection to the discomfort with majoritarianism by minority elites in the Arab world, but the 20th-century demanded a form of social cohesion beyond what Sunni Islam had earlier provided (the radical Leftism of some Arab nationalist movements is another path).

    Because of Arab opposition to Western imperialism in the early 20th-century, it is not surprising that Ba’athism has been connected in some way to fascism. The problem with our understanding of fascism and right-wing nationalism in the early 20th-century is that Nazism has overshadowed all other forms. But movements to challenge Communism’s appeal to the young and radical were diverse and widespread. For example, right-wing Zionism of the Revisionist school (the ideological ancestors of the Likud party) had connections to these broader trends.

    Which brings me to three ideologies which also arose in the modern period: Hindu nationalism, Pan-Islamism, and the “Two-nation theory.” Hindu nationalism and Pan-Islamism arose at the same time, as notables and intellectuals within Hindu and Muslim traditions reacted to the shock of Western modernity. Both these traditions have a mythos of being primal, but the reality is that many elements are quite modern.

    To illustrate this, the Iranian Islamic Republic was an explicit attempt to turn back toward indigenous forms and values, but it retains a broad democratic system of governance (democracy being Western). The Shia movement in Iran clearly had resonances with earlier Pan-Islamists, in particular in its early ambitions, and over the past few centuries had integrated and reacted to stimuli from the West far more extensively that modern traditionalist Shia establishments.

    Hindu nationalism is in a similar boat. On the one hand, its roots are ancient, and it reflects a vision with deep local roots. But it has had to adapt and develop tools which are quite modern, and only comprehensible in the modern context. Which brings us back to some associations of right-wing Hindus with right-wing movements elsewhere…and a connection to Nazis and genocide.

    You could present the case that Hindu nationalism is particularly pernicious at the root. It is brown Nazism of a sort. I am very skeptical of this take, because Hindu nationalism has a rationale of its own, and must be viewed as an indigenous reaction to Western imperialism. Palestine’s Zionist Revisionists associated with Italian fascists in the 1930s. If you know the history of Italian fascism this is not so peculiar. Similarly, various Arab notables and nationalists expressed pro-fascist, and later even pro-Nazi views. Some of this is due to shared affinity because of common enemies, while some are purely mercenary and situational.

    This brings me to the “Two Nation Theory.” As above, this is based on a myth. The collapse of Ashraf hegemony, the rise of Indian Muslims, reconfigured the social and political landscape. Muhammed Ali Jinnah was the grandson of a Hindu merchant of ambiguous sectarian affiliation who was personally not particularly pious. The idea of an Indian Muslim nation makes sense for such a man, but not the Turco-Persian grandees of yore.

    For various reasons, the Indian republic rejected this vision. I believe that in doing so they rejected the march of history, which has been toward greater sectarian identity and passion. Western commentators attempt to understand Hindu Nationalism on their terms, but just like the rise of an indigenous Indian Muslim identity is now stripped of West Asian accretions in the substance*, Hindu Nationalism is not comprehensible without understanding the interests and foci of native elites.

    Where does this leave us? Everywhere and nowhere. In the past and looking to the future. Extracted out of the context of world history over the past 200 years Hindu Nationalism can seem uniquely invidious. But I doubt it is so unique at all. Rather, it is a novel cultural complex that draws deeply on indigenous atavisms. It is part of a broader waxing of local movements the world over.

    * Pakistanis may claim West Asian origins or associations, but the national language is Urdu and Indo-Aryan dialect. The Ashraf of yore would have enshrined Persian as the national language.

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    Sangat and Society: the Sikh remaking of the North Indian Public Sphere

    [Author’s note: With the celebrations of Guru Nanak’s 550th Anniversary and the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor being in the news, this is an opportunity for discussing the importance of the Sikh message, not just from a religious perspective – for Sikhs – but for Indian history. This article places the founding of Kartarpur, and Guru Nanak’s message, in a historical context – juxtaposing it with Babur’s founding of the Mughal Empire.]

    I. Turning of the Wheel: Baba Nanak and Babur

    In 1519, Babur invaded India – ‘ever since coming to Kabul we had been thinking of a Hindustan campaign, but for one reason or another it had not been possible,’ he writes in the Baburnama (translated by William Thackston, see pp 270-280). For some time his armies had been campaigning on the frontiers of the Hindu Kush, but these campaigns had yielded ‘nothing of consequence to the soldiers’. So, he turned to Hindustan. In the next few months, despite dogged resistance by the Afghans, Gujjars and Jats of the upper reaches of the Jhelum and Chenab, northern Punjab was subjugated, and plundered, by Babur’s armies. Babur himself spent most of his days inebriated, contemplating the legacy of Timur and setting poems to rhythmic metres. While his next great invasion of Punjab would come few years from then, in this interregnum, Punjab burned.

    Among the towns and villages devastated was the settlement of Sayyidpur.

    It was not long after Babur’s march of death through Punjab that Guru Nanak returned home from his western voyages – to Mecca, through Baghdad, Masshad, Khurasan, to Kabul, Peshawar, and, finally, to Sayyidpur. To the house of a humble carpenter, Bhai Lalo (Janam Sakhi Parampara by Kirpal Singh, pp 138-140). Continue reading “Sangat and Society: the Sikh remaking of the North Indian Public Sphere”

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