Hindu Colonialism

November 3, 2010 at 9:15 PMNov (Activism, Friends, Literature, Media, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

A friend, recently, did a research work on culture and communication, with Siddhi tribe- settled in the Uttar Kannada district of Karnataka- as a case study.

The physical appearance of the Siddhi tribe is Negroid, but their origin remain mysterious, even to themselves. Some of them speak of their lost relatives in Goa and one of them confided in Chidambarrao Jambe- a theater artist, who directed a play based on Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart with Siddhi actors- that, “The Indians came to Africa and brought us here by lorry.” Though it sounds hilarious, it is tragic because the tribe is not aware of its past. However, it is believed that they are descendants of Negro slaves brought to India by the Arabs, Portuguese and Dutch traders. From Goa, later, they must have migrated to Uttar Kannada district in Karnataka.

The Siddhi people in Karnataka, have identified themselves with the religious groups of Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. So, in Uttar Kannada district one can find Hindu Siddhis, Muslim Siddhis and Christian Siddhis and one can also find that in all the three religious groups they are treated as inside outsiders.

As my friend was working on his research, i was working on a paper on the theater experiment conducted by Jambe with the Siddhi community. Then, my preoccupation was not just Siddhi community but also as to how colonialism stripped communities of their memory, life and culture, more than just being a hegemonic force of economical and political domination.

My friend, during viva, was asked by an external examiner: “Oh! Are there Brahmin Siddhis too?” My friend was perplexed when the term “Brahmin Siddhi” was repeated few more times. His research guide intervened and asked the external examiner, “Sir, do you mean Hindu Siddhis?” and the external examiner correcting himself said, “yes yes, Hindu Siddhis.”

After a good laugh, following the narration of the viva incident by my friend and his research guide, i was struck by a thought that there were similarities between Hinduism and Colonialism.

***

What we see in colonialism, in a broader sense, is that a colony or territory is deprived of its independence and essence by a foreign colony or territory and is an object of exploitation and oppression with appendage of a mother colony or territory. Here looking at these colonies or territories as just geographical units is to dilute the seriousness of the issue of colonialism and its impact on the colonized units.

In colonialism both the colonizer and the colonized are a colony or a territory and are different from other colonies. But finally one colony colonizes certain other colonies and brings them under its supervision and imposes itself on the colonized colonies. But before a colony colonizes another colony it has to colonize itself. Before external colonization takes place an internal colonization becomes necessary. Before Europe colonized Asia, Africa and South America it had to colonize itself as Europe. Then only it could colonize other colonies and bring them under its umbrella.

Interestingly, the Vedas, the Upanishads and even the Bhagawad-Geetha do not have any reference to the word ‘Hindu’. It is believed that the first time the word ‘Hindu’ was used by Alexander when he referred to the people living across the river Sindh as Hindus. A bad pronunciation of Sindh gave birth to the word Hindu. However, the first reference to the word Hindu, says Sham. Ba. Joshi, comes in the inscriptions of the Vijayanagara kingdom, where the emperor is referred to as ‘Hindu raaya Sratrana’. Very interestingly this title comes at a time when the Bahmani kingdom of Gulbarga was becoming strong. The word ‘Suratraana’ is the Sanskritized version of ‘Sultaana’ – which referred to the Muslim Bahmani kings. It can be seen that the reference to all non-Muslim people as Hindus came as a political insecurity. This act of bringing together various faith and colonies under one umbrella of Hinduism, it appears to me, is quite similar to colonialism.

Prior to this several colonies of faith co-existed and so did exist the hierarchy among these different colonies of faith. The Brahmins had already established their hegemony among these different colonies of faith and thus the Hindu internal colonization became Brahmin colonialism. So, it is not a surprise that Hindu Siddhis were called Brahmin Siddhis.

A synonym to the word Hindu, in popular use, is the word ‘Sanaatana Dharma’. Interestingly, again, the word ‘Sanaatana’ does not appear in the holy scriptures Hinduism. The first reference to the word ‘Sanaatana’ comes in Dhammapada, where in a couplet Gautham Buddha says: “Through hatred, hatred cannot mitigated. It is only through non-hatred that it can be mitigated and this is Sanaatana.”

If not for the historical rivalry between the Brahmins and the Buddhists, this borrowing of the word ‘Sanaatana’ could have been viewed as a part of the healthy give and take culture. But because of the historical rivalry and clash, this reference to Hindus as people of ‘Sanaatana Dharma’ can be viewed as an attempt made by Brahmins to colonize Buddhism. Including Buddha in the Dashaavataara- 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu- can also be viewed as an attempt to colonize Buddhism.

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar argues that prior to its interaction with Buddhism, Brahmins were non-vegetarians and more importantly beef eaters. Vaajsaneyi Samhita declaring that ‘Beef should be consumed precisely because it is holy,’ is one of the evidences. Beef was used for the performance of various rituals by Brahmins and Manu Smrithi, in its fifth chapter, provides evidences for the same. But when Buddhism and its non-violent philosophy started attracting people, Brahmins in order to regain their supremacy turned pure vegetarians, to make a statement that they were more non-violent than the Buddhists, who then, would eat meat if the animal died a natural death.

The agro-based society, initially got attracted towards Buddhism but were re-colonized by Brahmins with their shift to pure vegetarianism. With this, certain non-Brahmin faith colonies too turned into non-beef eating non-vegetarians, though they could not turn pure vegetarians. The creating of an environment where the life style and eating habits of the non-Brahmin faith colonies changed is a form of indirect colonization, it appears.

But the salves continued to eat beef and meat. Even in the earlier days they did not slaughter cow or other animals. They ate the left overs and the dead animals. Brahmins and other non-Brahmin faith colonies had to slaughter the animals for consumption but in their rivalry with Buddhism they stopped cow and other animal slaughter as it was a symbol of violence. But the slaves never slaughtered cows or animals but ate them when they were dead and so they continued to eat beef and other animals. These beef eating slaves were soon labeled as untouchables. This inclusive exclusion because of its inclusive nature is a form of colonialism. But in such a fashion that the colonized cannot escape and liberate itself though it is quite exclusive in nature.

This inclusive exclusion method of colonizing is not just with the untouchables but also with the people subscribing to the Lokayata- materialist- philosophy, which is also rooted in this soil.

D.R. Nagaraj brings out a slice from the epic Mahabharatha where after the victory at Kurukshetra, Dharmaraaya is re-entering the palace. While he is re-entering the palace a sage stops him and asks, “For what reason did you kill your brothers?” Dharmaraaya is unable to answer for the answer is “power and wealth” which is materialistic in nature. Other sages who were welcoming Dharmaraaya by singing his praise immediately killed the questioning sage and consoled Dharmaraaya by saying, “He was not sage Kapila himself. An evil spirit had entered his body, so you need not worry.”

The murdered Kapila was one among the materialist philosophers like Charwaaka, who belonged to the Lokayata tradition of philosophy. The assassination of Kapila- a representative of Lokayata philosophy- is again a symbol of inclusive exclusion type of colonialism.

***

The internal colonization has been continued even in the modern times and great attempts have been made toward external colonization by Hindutva ideology, with Ram and Raamaayan.

Interestingly the very Valmilki Raamayan, which is considered as the original and authentic Raamaayan is a colonizer of various folk Raamayans. “Ram is the very breath of folk literature and not a legend nor a myth nor a symbol,” says Vidya Nivas Misra. These folklores were later refined into the great epic, Vidya Nivas Misra, adds. This becomes evident with the first question put by Valmiki to Naarada: “Konvaasmin sampratam loke gunavaan kasca viyavaan’ to mean- “who in this world is the person who is endowed with manly qualities and whose life should be a proper theme for a poem?” This question makes evident that the Rama theme has originated in folklore. By upholding Valmiki Raamayana several folk Raamayanas were colonized.

The Hindutva brigade to further colonize Hindus used Rama, the very breath of folk literature, as an icon of pan-Hindu and by projecting Ram temple construction at Ayodhya as THE matter of dignity for ALL Hindus.

Friend and revolutionary activist K. Stalin, recently mentioned about the monthly programmes that used to be organized by the Hindutva brigade in Gujarat, for the tribes. In these programmes at the end every tribal individual would be given a gift and the gift would be an image of Rama or some other Sanskritised God. With this, Stalin said, the tribal people started identifying themselves with Hindus and when the 2002 attacks took place, these tribes, who during earlier Hindu-Muslim riots never took a stand, took a stand with the Hindutva and against the Muslims. The non-Hindu tribes were thus colonized by the Hindutva brigade.

The agenda of the Hindutva is not just to colonize Hindus internally but also to colonize a secular India and turn it into a Hindu nation. This becomes clear with the demolition of Babri Masjid, in 1992, with the intention of construction a Ram temple in the very same place.

Interestingly, Jains are of the belief that Vrishabha deva was born in Ayodhya and Ramachandra Gandhi draws our attention to the evidences which claim that the place in Ayodha where the Hindutva brigade wants a temple for Ram, used to be Sita’s kitchen. But what the Hindu colonizers want there is a temple for Ram. This is a metaphor of Hindu colonialism in the modern times.

A day after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, i.e. 7 December 1992, early in the morning in a remote village, D.R. Nagaraj and Asghar Ali Engineer, in a small hotel, were waiting for the arrival of newspaper. Being in a remote village they had not come to know what had happened the previous day in Ayodhya. D.R. Nagaraj, recollecting that morning, writes: The moment Asghar Ali Engineer saw the newspaper, when it arrived, he exclaimed- “What they demolished was not just the mosque but the future of a just born nation named India”

Seventeen years after the demolition, in his article ‘Under the rubble’, Harsh Mander sir wrote: “Under the rubble of the fallen mosque lay the idea of India itself.”

14 December 2009

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