Neo-Aryan Bid For Power

The root problem of divisiveness in the Subcontinent stems from the arrogant assumption of the contemporary (Aryan) exponents of aggressive Hinduism that they speak for the whole of India.

For what it is worth, this is a traveller´s contribution to the current heated debate over India´s hung Parliament. Mainstream thinking considers the Indian electorate bloody-minded in its indecision. But one can also regard the impasse as inevitable, owing to the clash of past religious prejudice against the masses and the psychological hangups of a minority who seek to re-establish their hold on power.

Any overview of India´s religious history usually starts at the ancient Indus valley site of Mohenjodaro. Though now alienated from Hinduism in the heart of Pakistan, the fact is, Hindus hardened their hearts against the Indus several thousand years before Partition.

A founding myth of today´s right-wing Hindu neo-Aryans (neo for ´northern´, ´extremist´ and ´orthodox´)—those committed to re-establishing what they cherish as a glorious era in Indian history—is that the fair-skinned Aryans possessed a superior civilisation to that of their darker Dravidian foes whose cities they overcame.

In fact, the opposite was true. And if you want modern evidence of Dravidian superiority in matters of urban civilisation you only have to visit the civic orderliness of Mysore or Cochin and compare it with the uniformly scruffy and anarchic municipal mess that characterises any town in the Cow Belt of the north.

Another fast one that the neo-Aryan tries to pull is the myth that India is essentially an Aryan, orthodox, high-caste-driven nation. Embarrassingly, this claim does not mesh with ground reality. India includes Dravidians in the south and Mongols in the North-East, who have never accepted brahmanical domination.

India gets her name from the Indus and refers simply to the people living on its further shore as viewed from the Aryan heartland of Iran. From Indus also sprang Hinduism, a polytheistic religion of the people loosely organised under the remarkable institution of brahmanical authority based on popular respect.

Hindustan refers to the land of the Hindus, but in fact their ´sthan´ is confined to the north and west where Hindi is spoken, Hindi being the orphan of the dead classical language Sanskrit, the immaculate, elitist tongue of the Aryans.

The Aryan north´s ignorance of the Indian reality is seen in its blindness to the culturally superior claims of the Tamil tongue to be India´s leading language. Unlike Sanskrit, which died because of its brahmanical aloofness, Tamil is still going strong and is the only claimant to living classical status in the Subcontinent. If the Aryan seeks what is noble, why does he not cultivate an ancient tongue that is still alive?

We know inter-denominational hatred is as much a reality as the hostility between different faiths. Travels around the Subcontinent confirms in my mind the thesis that current politico-religious tensions derive from that unresolved conflict witnessed at Mohenjodaro.

Wannabe Maharashtrian Aryans

Consider the fact that leading exponents of neo-Aryanism derive moral sustenance largely from Maharashtra, which borders India´s south. Here, zeal for the supposed brahmanical way of doing things is a characteristic that distinguished great Hindus like Chhattrapati Shivaji (who bought his high caste status), and lesser exemplars like Tilak and Savarkar, who were openly communal in their recipe for India´s recuperation from foreign domination. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which provides the storm troopers of the ´Hindutva´ movement, also has its headquarters in Maharashtra.

The chorus of wannabe high-caste Maharashtrian Aryans of whom the latest and shrillest voice is that of the maverick Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray, is that Hinduism, as they understand it, is under threat. Significantly, before Islam became the bogeyman for neo-Aryans, Mr Thackeray considered Dravidians to be the threat.

"Swaraj is my birthright and I will have it," is the typically pugnacious voice of the Maratha, but the brahmanical Tilak, who first voiced it, made no reference to the birthright of the lower castes. Incidentally, the word Maratha originally connoted shudra, the base of the Hindu caste pyramid.

The word "varna" from which caste derives means "colour", with the implication of Aryan superiority attendant on the fall of Mohenjodaro. Neo-Aryans assume fair, aquiline noses are civilisationally in advance of dark broad noses, as is evident from today´s matrimonial demands.

Anthropomorphic Hinduism

Hinduism, the mother of all faiths, is the great matrix of spiritual inventiveness, ancient in her sponsorship of the honest, questing mind, and modern in her liberal hosting of an anthropomorphic solution to the nature of divinity.

Exemplars of Hinduism´s highest teachings include the intellectual genius of Sri Aurobindo, the advaitist exponent Sri Ramana Maharishi, and devotional avatar Sri Sathya Sai Baba. The Sangh Parivar and the rest of the family that the BJP keeps, including the Shiv Sena, prefer to operate from the gutter level, mouthing populist stunts to grab the attention of the masses. It does not even shrink from employing neurotic sadhvis to pour venom on other religions publicly. The destruction of a national monument was the fruit of such vandalistic policies.

More enlightened Hindus are aghast at the hijacking of their religion by the neo-Aryan ginger group but, at the same time, are apprehensive about the likely poor performance of a low-caste government.

The occasion for the territorial isolation of the BJP in the recent elections is due to the hangover of Partition. Most of their supporters in the north and west were those dispossessed by the terrible trauma of cultural eviction. They thirst for revenge. To cloak their hatred of Pakistan, they adopt the mantle of born-again Aryans, blind to the real cause of their hurt.

India´s striving since independence has been to assert a national identity worthy of her civilisational strength. Conquest by Muslim armies and assimilation by Indian armies of the colonising British are perceived by some as an insult to be avenged. The partition of India to accommodate Muslim Pakistan was viewed as the last straw.

Nathuram Godse, the RSS member who shot Mahatma Gandhi, voiced the frustration of this lobby. He also revealed, under his brahmanical pride, the bottom line on how the lofty original teachings of Hinduism have been betrayed by its priestly custodians. Gandhi was shot for allowing the repatriation of funds to Pakistan.

These high-caste feelings of outrage are usually attributed to the inter-faith war between polytheists and monotheists. But the traveller finds much more rapport between two Punjabis—one an Indian Hindu and the other a Pakistani Muslim—than between, say, a Hindu Punjabi and a Hindu South Indian.

Clearly, there is a deeper cause for the Indo-Pakistam hatred and this may well lie in the fallout of the Mohenjodaro conflict. Many of the Indian converts to Islam were from the lower castes who felt their new religion offered them more dignity than the old.

The strength of the brahmanical faith is extraordinary as it has managed to survive intact even after the vicissitudes of millennia. But its fatal weakness lies in its weapon of spiritual heredity. Only a few were able to realise this was not meant to be taken literally as a physical fact.

The downward graph of social injustice started when psychic truths were ignored and the easier path of literalness was followed. Mohenjodaro-type victories added to the physical sense of lording it over lesser beings and the divisions of society based on colour, then caste, hardened.

With the power interregnum created by the Muslim and British paramountancy over, today´s neo-Aryan hopes to reclaim the driver´s seat but fail to realise two points, to their detriment. First, that democracy is antithetical to hereditary claims and the privileges of birth can no longer be cashed in on to intimidate those of inferior social station. Second, by championing the escapist Vedic ideal of Advaita, they distance themselves from the majority of Hindus who prefer the devotional mode of religious expression.

The Ayodhya Act

Hindus are not great haters. The genius of their religion is inclusiveness in spite of the current propensity of the debased brahmin to exclude. The culmination of neo-Aryan attempts to bully Indian democracy to take note of the narcissistic, arrogant agenda was the destruction of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. This one action, more than anything else, has served to lower the reputation of Hinduism internationally.

The act in Ayodhya points to how far from Indian ideals neo-Aryans are prepared to go for a share of power. The original Aryans, as is well known, were quite the opposite from what they are being made out to be by the distorting propaganda of the RSS. They drank heavily, gambled wildly, and ate meat, none of which appeals to the puritanical RSS, whose mission, therefore, has to include the deliberate obfuscating of history.

The missionary zeal of neo-Aryans is a giveaway of their alien credentials. They have consciously adopted the Semitic tone of paternalist morality with its black-and-white view of life, a stance that is foreign to  the true Hindu rainbow view of the universe. The Sangh Parivar has preferred the narrow vision of fundamentalist monotheism over the Hindu heritage of plurality of approaches to the divine.

The traveller to the South finds that matrimonial ads there are less insistent on "fair" brides. High castes might get away with rape and murder in the North, but can find themselves discriminated against in the South.  Periyar, the vociferous voice of the Dravidian ethos, is today the atheistic mentor of Tamil politics, in head-on collision with the Sangh Parivar over the status of the Aryan hero-divinity Ram.

In the scripture-epics of the north, the Dravidians are depicted as the Rakshasas, demons, to underline how the Aryan mindset has not wavered in the 5000 years since the Rigveda was composed. Few north Indians are even aware that the Tamils have their own epics. Interestingly, the Tamil depiction of womanhood is totally at variance with the north Indian ideal of Sita, the submissive wife. The southern Kannagi is a fiery character who demands and gets justice.

Love To Hate You

Two other example will suffice to reinforce my thesis that the root problem of divisiveness in the Subcontinent stems from the arrogant assumption of the Aryan that he speaks for the whole of India.

First, there is the violent rejection of the modern north-Indian politician V.P. Singh by India´s middle classes even though he belongs to a princely family, is a man of poetic parts and, like the archetypical warrior-king Ram, is not desperate to assume power. What was his sin? He championed the cause of social justice that would empower the lower castes. The raja is now viewed as a traitor to his class. The second example is in the "colonies" of Delhi where, in the last ten years, iron gates have burgeoned at private expense to signify fear over the city. Who are the capital´s rich afraid of?

These two examples point to the same enemy, the enfranchised masses, those lower castes that Indian high society has loved to hate for millennia. The hates of the neo-Aryan are much more in evidence than his loves.

Perhaps the most curious omission of the "outcaste" leader Dr Ambedkar was his failure to address the basic psychological hangup of Hinduism´s higher castes, the concept of their inborn superiority. While untouchability occasioned by the arrogance of the "twice born" was legally abolished, the privileged aura surrounding brahmanical spiritual pedigree remains.

India´s rulers, the kshatriya class, were summarily dispossessed of their titles and pensions in 1972 to show the aggressive face of republican sentiment, but nothing has been done to derecognise the brahmin´s assumed right of way in contemporary India.

In a typical high-caste sleight of hand, no mention of brahmins is made in the latest census of India´s religious communities. In order to conceal their minority status, they are presumed not to exist on a priestly basis but only surface as a caste. The ludicrous-ness of pretending that guardians of Hinduism are no longer in control of their hereditary rights shows to what lengths the high castes of all political parties will go to evade ground realities.

The Learned

The strength of the brahmanical order has been its ability to command the voluntary respect of Hindu society by virtue of its commitment to learning. It is significant that the only centralised dynasties were the Buddhist Mauryas, the Muslim Mughals and the Christian British. The Gupta empire was restricted to the north and the equally impressive Vijayanagar empire to the south.

The third Hindu empire, that of Shivaji, was a sideshow of more symbolic significance than of physical extent. This organisational looseness of Hinduism allowed village republic panchayats to operate over the centuries though not without the attendant injustice of caste exclusion. It was the British intrusion and stimulus of commercial centres that threatened the brahmanical status quo.

What is not asked is why the nationalist Marathas with their vast territorial conquests allowed alien traders to wrest their right to rule? The truth is the British looted to some purpose while the Marathas pillaged at random. The former appeared to be a lesser evil. The British broke the monopoly on brahmanical learning to allow the masses the right to read as well as provided a model for a democratic society. The Marathas would have restored the brahmanical right of way.

But the enduring strength of brahmanical civilisation was neither lost nor defeated by the alien interregnum. This is the error of the neo-Aryans whose debased vision focussing forever on past fantasies blinds them to the facts of religious history. Hinduism survived the foreign onslaught not only intact but enriched, thanks to the strength of character of the true Hindu. They, unlike the votaries of the monotheistic faiths, displayed remarkable freedom, adaptability and fearlessness of mind.

Thus, the neo-Aryans seem to be fighting a battle that is already won. Their concern for Hinduism´s vitality is misconceived. Hinduism beat the odds and was shaping up as a modern faith worthy of international respect until its reputation was besmirched by a lunatic fringe whose feelings were played upon by reactionary right-wing politicians at Ayodhya.

The real battle the neo-Aryans fight shy of facing is reconciliation of caste imperatives and regional identities. Already, the BJP´s flourish of Sanskrit in Parliament has led to Tamil being officially imposed on signboards in the South. The folly of this confrontation supports my thesis that what we are seeing in today´s hung parliament are ingredients of a Mohenjodaro recontest, between the rude and arrogant inserters of ads for fair brides and the mass reality of well-tanned kisans; the elitist raisers of urban railings versus the deprived who are determined to share their lifestyle.

For India to have a prime minister from a Dravidian state and a speaker from a Mongol minority background seems the best medicine to bring home to the neo-Aryans how far-fetched their assumptions about India´s composite identity are. The pseudo-nationalism of the Sangh Parivar stands exposed by the destruction of the Babri Masjid. Real nationalists do not destroy national monuments.

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