Confessions of a liberal, secular, convent-educated Hindu Indian

I am one of the lakhs of convent-educated Hindu Indian youth, who have been brainwashed to believe in the utopian idea of a pluralistic, tolerant, secular and democratic India. We are a product of the Nehruvian consensus of India where everybody is equal and religion is one of the many sub identities that any Indian possesses. We have been brainwashed to believe in a narrative that:

1.) Politically, Bharat as a nation state came into being only after the Christian British conquered Bharat (India). Prior to that, Bharat was just a geographical mass in Asia. No such thing as Hindu Dharma (termed ‘Hinduism’ by the colonisers) existed. ‘Hindu’ was just a word used by Arabs to label the assortment they encountered, and Hindu religion is just an invention of the right-wing communalists to impose uniformity. The myth of ‘self sufficiency of Indian villages’ was created that was supported by none other than Karl Marx and Gandhi.

2.) Culturally, we were primitive and a highly orthodox society with barbaric rituals. Indians were highly irrational and needed the support of the white man to come out from this era of darkness aka ‘White man’s burden’

3.) Tripartite division of Bharat’s history (James Mill- ‘The history of British India’) where the ancient period has been labeled as the Hindu period, the medieval period as Islamic and the modern period as British. The Hindu period has been tarnished with diabolic inversion and projected as intolerant, narrow minded, obscurantist. While the other periods brought redemption to the masses and are projected as the epitome of tolerance, open mindedness, democracy and secularism.

4.) Anything to do with religion, particularly Hindu Dharma, is bad. Secularism for us is being indifferent, ignorant and even mocking our traditional Hindu roots and rituals. Visiting a temple is so ‘uncool’ while lightening a candle in a church is so ‘cool’. Secularism for us is accepting the eccentricities of other religions like eating Halal only, wearing the burqa  in public, culling of millions of animals on holy days, overt display of religious symbols etc. 

5.) Individual rights trump over community rights when it comes to the majority, but the above assertion is not true in case of minorities. So we celebrate the control of Hindu temples by the government but become apologetic when it comes to uniform civil code and even become part of street protests when it comes to issues like NRC, abrogation of Article 370 etc.

Through my travels and reading, I came to a conclusion that the above narration is either distorted or is full of conjectures and is not factually true. In this series of articles, I will try to de-codify the above narrative with facts and logic. 

What is a narrative?

Disclaimer: I am a proud Bharatiya who takes pride in being a Hindu. I am a nationalist foremost and firmly believe in the integrity and sovereignty of Bharat (India). 

Wikipedia defines narrative as ‘A narrative is an account of a series of related events, experiences, or the like, whether true (episode, vignette, travelogue, memoir, autobiography, biography) or fictitious’. The narrative at macro-level of society becomes a part of history. Historical accounts ‘should’ be based on empirical facts for them to be objective. However, all scholars have some confirmation bias where either due to their personal interpretation or by acts of omission and commission, they tend to use the facts as per their convictions. Such convictions becomes blind spots that are largely based on ideology and at times deliberate. 

Why narrative is important?

Narrative defines the core of our ‘identity’. It tells us 

  • ‘Who we are’: about our culture, our forefathers, and our geography. 
  • ‘Who am I?’ individuals set down identity markers located within the past and the present.
  • ‘How should I live?’ points to the present, the practices and routines that define ways of being in the world.
  • ‘Who do I want to become?’ orients us towards the future, it is aspirational not just in material terms but also in a spiritual sense.

This intermingling of the past, present and future helps us in defining our identity. Historical narrative plays an important role in it. At societal level this historical narration helps in defining the integrity of the nation. For instance, the narrative justifies Chinese expansionist policies or gives Pakistanis their identity. At individual level the historical narrative helps us justify our acts, cultural rituals and gives us a sense of belonging to the larger society. It also inculcates a sense of urgency within an individual of how he can contribute to the larger well being of the community. For instance, I am writing this series of articles because a sense of urgency pushes me to make the youth of the country think and reevaluate their belief system. Bauman, a sociologist, powerfully suggests that ‘developing an identity is a fate that modern individuals cannot escape; we need identity because without it we would go mad.’

What is the narrative in Bharat?

In case of Bharat, such blind spots are very large and one sided. The academia and other institutions of eminence like Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), Jawaharlal Nehru University, Aligarh Muslim University, Jadavpur University etc. are dominated by Marxist historians. Arun Shourie in his book ‘Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud’ has tactfully exposed these scholars and how they have distorted the Bharatiya narrative.

The list includes renowned Indian Marxist historians like Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, RS Sharma, Satish Chandra, Bipin Chandra, DN Jha etc. RS Sharma’s ‘India’s ancient past’ (2005), Satish Chandra’s ‘Medieval India’ (1990) and Bipin Chandra’s ‘Modern India’ (1990) are prescribed by CBSE and widely read by civil services aspirants. And these are the very ‘historians’ who defended and were cited as witnesses in the pleading by the Sunni Waqf Board in the courts in the Babri Masjid case!!

Marxist historian worldwide are a disgraced category. Everywhere, they have tried to adjust facts to fit their ’historical materialism’ narrative while discounting other factors like culture, geography, political antecedents etc. The narrative so woven by these eminent Indian ‘historians’ follow the British legacy of Tripartite division as presented by James Mill – The History of British India: Ancient Hindu period, Medieval Islamic period and Modern British period. Hindu Dharma or Vedic period has been specifically designated as ‘Brahmanism’ and portrayed as a primitive, ruthless, closed caste system, dominated by few Brahmin-Kshatriya elites where the majority Shudras have to live in tyranny. The achievements of the Hindu kings are discounted and all evils that plague society are thrust on Hindu Dharma. Even the fall of Nalanda University is blamed on ‘Hindu fanatics’!! (Refer the Presidential Address at Indian History Congress, 2004 by DN Jha). 

The Islamic middle age has been glorified as an age of tolerance and cultural assimilation – Ganga–Jamuni Tehzeeb. All the barbarism, destruction of temples and bloodshed has been completely omitted or reduced to footnotes. The acts of bigots like Aurangzeb like destruction of temples (Kashi and Mathura to name just two) and religious conversions are ascribed as political compulsions and nothing to do with religion. One may see the dichotomy here: the ills of ancient period are blamed on Hindu Dharma as a religion while all the evil perpetuated during Islamic age is an individual act and nothing to do with religion!! 

The British era is when ‘modernity’ arrived in Bharat. In fact, Bharat as a political entity is the creation of British administration and prior to that Bharat was no more than the equator! Hinduism (Hindu Dharma) as a religion never existed before the arrival of the British and the efforts of British scholars who deciphered the ancient classical texts laid the foundation of modern day Hinduism. “A single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia,” Macaulay wrote in the Minute on Education. We are made to believe that Bharatiyas are inferior to whites in every aspect- psychologically and physically. Doesn’t that inferiority complex still exist?

Conclusion

To quote the famous theosophist and activist Annie Beasant:

“Hinduism is the soul of India. Without Hinduism there can be no India. Without Hinduism India has no future. Hinduism is the soil into which India’s roots are struck and torn of that she will inevitably wither as a tree torn out of from its place.”

We need to remember that the relation between individual and society is very close. Society is as strong as its individuals, and vice versa. The false narrative as dispersed by our eminent historians, has made Hindus apologetic about their past and also perpetuated a false sense of reciprocity & bonhomie with respect to the religious minorities. The narrative has only accentuated the fault lines within the country. One needs to remember that Hindu Dharma is the only surviving ancient religion that has resisted the onslaught of proselytizing Abrahamic religions. I will cover these fault lines in my coming articles and they are dangerous for the country.

As far as English-speaking convent-educated youth like me are concerned, the whole education has given lot of economic opportunities. However, at the same time the whole experience has put me at the crossroads where I am not fully Western nor I know anything substantive about my own culture. This cognitive dissonance only makes me anxious, as I am not able to fully identify with large majority of fellow Bharatiyas which gives a deep sense of rootlessness. As Bauman remarked, it makes me ‘mad’ at times.


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About the Author

Hemant Bhatt
Hemant Bhatt is an educator by profession. He did his B.Tech from College of Technology, Pantnagar. He worked in Singapore for 4 years. He also studied studied social sciences from Sciences Po, Paris. He has keen interest in international affairs, orientalism, economics and Bharatiya society.