(This article first appeared on medium with the title ‘Majority, Hindus and the Victim Card’)
A small digression at the beginning and we will then go to the content that justifies the title of this piece of writing.
Why even ‘Rightwingers’ like reading Manu Joseph
Manu Joseph wrote something ‘original’ as he usually does in his column, and that is what triggered this piece. Now, why have I put the original in quotes. Let me explain. Some people think Manu is just an iconoclast hitting out at his own ‘side’ or writes for shock value. I think that could be partly true. But it is only Manu’s exaggeration or phrasing that is meant to be shocking or iconoclastic. Some of his writing just seems to be pointing out the obvious symptoms (and this is not a criticism because there is a dearth of even that!).
The real reason that his columns create a little bit of a flutter on the ‘right’, ‘left’ or ‘neutral’ sides is that he seems to write broadly what he thinks. At a time when every writer and his grandmother is trying to virtue-signal and grandstand, when all we see is projection of ideological babbling as deep thought, Manu’s writings seem to be different.
It doesn’t mean however that he has no ideological predilections and it’s not something that he tries to hide either.
Summarising Manu’s piece (hopefully in the right spirit)
Now, onto this latest column that he wrote in Livemint — Why a majority’s story often fails to convince the world. This is where we come to the argument on Hindus and their lack of finesse in flashing the victim card.
Manu Joseph makes some good observations. That Hindus aren’t winning the victim card race. That angry Hindus haven’t been able to make a dent in the global debate despite facts being on their side. Broadly, these are the symptoms and he gets them right.
Then he goes onto what could be causing this.
He puts it down to mainly three reasons (the summary here is mine):
- Nobody is interested in victim stories that do not serve their purpose
- Many exaggerated deliberately just to ensure the balance of power in favour of the minority
- Liberals tell a story better and they weren’t exactly in the business of putting out the Hindu victim stories, because of reasons 1 and 2.
I think there are more apt reasons; some would intersect with reasons that Manu outlines and some would also radically differ.
Premise of Manu’s argument — Hindus are ‘Victors’ by default
The premise of Manu’s piece is that Hindus are victors (because, majority) and are also seen by the world as such. Hence, it seems unnatural for the world to treat victims from the ‘victor’ fold with the same alacrity as victims from the ‘minority’ side, goes the argument.
The world seeks simple categorisations. Demography and political power are seen as easy markers of victory. Hence, it is a rather simple equation that Hindus are the automatically the ‘victors’ in Bharat.
This appears simple but is actually simplistic.
This is very much like the “if Hindus were massacred or converted by Islamic invaders then how is India still 85% Hindu?” argument. I call it the “How are so many Hindus still alive?” argument. Seductively simple but dangerously foolish.
Bharat has already been dismembered and the regions cut off house about 35 crore Muslims. The region that is still India houses about 20 crore Muslims, while there are about 100 crore Hindus. So, that is about 55 crore Muslims to 100 crore Hindus in the land that used to be Bharat when Islamic invasions happened. It is not so easy to make the “How are so many Hindus still alive?” argument after looking at these numbers and the 10 lakh square kilometre land that went out of what used to be Bharat.
Coming back to the assumption that Hindus are automatic victors, we took apart the demography marker, hopefully convincingly. Now, let’s focus on the political power marker.
If someone thinks the Ram Mandir judgement or the removal of Article 370 is a show of Hindu power, they need to look around the world and get their perspective right.
A manager of mine, a British lady, was once discussing the Ayodhya issue with me when I was working out of our London office. Our company’s India offices had, in 2010, declared a holiday on the day of the Allahabad HC judgement to avoid any violent situation. She was curious what this was about. When I explained the matter to her, she was baffled that such a thing could even be in courts and a country could even be erupting in riots despite a huge Hindu majority. Her point was that if there was an equivalent of this case in any country, it would have been an open and shut case in favour of the side comparable to the Hindu side.
As for the Jammu and Kashmir matter, yet again, that this matter was allowed to fester for so many years, that a communal local majority was allowed to terrorise others, that Hindus were massacred and driven out with a supposedly majority Hindu elected government sleeping, would also seem baffling to anyone when they imagined an equivalent situation in their own country.
Narendra Modi is running a government that has been even-handed with Hindus as much as it is structurally possible. No matter what Leftist banshees wail, the Modi government has not been partisan towards Hindus but it has merely refused to be anti-Hindu.
Narendra Modi’s government also does not confer upon minorities a veto in the affairs of the country. But not being anti-Hindu and not being minoritarian does not make Hindus ‘victors’. If anyone has this notion that Hindus are ‘victors’, just a glance at Sabarimala, from Manu’s own native state, would be enough to seal the argument.
Why is Malala a Superstar Victim but not Mehak?
Now that we have (sufficiently, one hopes) addressed Manu’s unwritten assumption of Hindus being victors, let us move on to analysing the reasons he gives for why the world does not buy the story of Hindu victims.
Manu thinks the global liberal media as well as politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Bernie Sanders only buy the ‘majority oppresses minority’ story readily because it suits their worldview. This is an attempt to point out a fundamental reason why they would promote the clearly wrong ‘pogrom’ narrative. But this is just a faux structural reason. Let me tell you why it really is so.
Why is a Mehak Kumari or a Rinkle Kumari not a superstar global activist but a Malala Yousafzai is? If the lens of the global liberal clique was tuned to ‘majority oppresses minority’ stories, then this would not be so.
Malala is a Muslim girl who wanted to educate herself in a Muslim-majority Pakistan. Her female identity, it can be said, trumps the Muslim identity and puts her in the victim pedestal automatically.
But with Mehak Kumari and Rinkle Kumari, they are both female AND minority in a Muslim majority country — a shoo-in for ‘majority oppresses minority’ narrative. Yet, there’s little to no coverage, let alone global outrage. The situation is so bad that many (including Manu) would Google Mehak or Rinkle to know who they are.
It would be instructive to mention even Tulsi Gabbard here. Her own party and the Liberal ecosystem refuses to acknowledge her existence, let alone give her a victim status for the abuse or hit-jobs against her, many of which are perpetrated by the same Liberals who claim to stand for minorities and women.
The real reason here is most Western Leftists and Liberals, even if ‘truly secular’ are still ‘culturally monotheistic’, often by default and not by choice. So, in that worldview, polytheist pagans are automatically to be treated with indifference at best, if not outright suspicion which is the norm.
It’s not restricted to Hindus alone. It is for most polytheist types. Surely, the Yazidis are bonafide victims? Then, name one Yazidi superstar activist as famous as Malala. Again, not many can answer without Googling.
Why are polytheists easily cast as oppressors but very rarely as victims? Perhaps because of the ‘culturally monotheistic’ upbringing, Western elites, whether Right or Left, see polytheism as akin to barbarism, where even for the Left, ‘many Gods’ is more primitive than ‘one God’ which is more primitive than ‘no God’. Uncivilised savages cannot be victims, can they?
Semantic Fraud of Speaking Truth to Power
Going to the next reason that Manu posits, the reportage was ‘wisely’ exaggerated to ensure the tilt of power stays in favour of the minority which has more going against it structurally.
Well, from the day liberal journalists said ‘speaking truth to power’, I saw through this semantic fraud. The definition of truth here is not ‘that which is’ but ‘that with which I can attack what I see as power, irrespective of whether my underlying claim is factual or not’. So, if there was a truth-meter that a liberal journalist designed, it would tell us whether something is true or not based on whether it helps attack political opponents, not based on whether it was factual or not. Their political opponents are always assigned the badge of ‘power’. If they are holding political power, then they’re automatically powerful, and if they are not, then they are powerful because they are the numerical majority. Either way, the definition of power is twisted to serve the purpose.
No wonder then that many Indian journalists ran the ‘Delhi pogrom’ fraud despite knowing well that it wasn’t factual, and no wonder that Manu would call it wise. Because, including Manu, many people are informed by the notion that all human interaction is a power game. Hence, one must do anything in one’s power to further one’s cause. Anything, even a lie, that is seen as correcting a perceived power imbalance is moral. And what is moral is true.
Are Liberals Better Storytellers than a Civilisation of Storytellers?
Now, let’s go to Manu’s last reason that liberals tell a story better. He also says it is in the nature of storytelling that the strong tell bad stories while the weak or those who claim to speak for the weak, tell more powerful stories.
While I have already argued that Hindus aren’t exactly the ‘strong’ side, I posit that even if there were indeed stories of suffering on the Hindu side, they cannot say it well enough to pull attention (even if one assumes that there was a market for polytheist woes). The inability in storytelling on the Hindu side is not because they are the ‘stronger’ side but because they are bad at telling stories of suffering.
Why could that be?
Hindus are no weaklings in storytelling. The whole civilisation itself is based upon the most powerful stories that venture into the depths of the human condition, be it the itihasas, puranas, Vedas, etc. Perhaps, no other civilisation even comes close to the rich variety and insights of Indian stories other than the ancient polytheist Greeks. The stories that went viral in the ancient world were primarily Hindu stories such as the Panchatantra.
However, what kind of stories were these? The most famous Hindu stories as well as the most impactful ones are those that worship human triumph; the spirit that overcomes all trials and tribulations that life throws, without flinching from dharma, in this world, not some other world.
This is a civilisation that has a complex conception of the ‘other world’ but unabashedly emphasises upon fulfilling the purusharthas of artha and kama, in a way that is in line with dharma. It does not deny the ‘apparent world’ for the ‘other world’, generally. So, it is human heroism in its most uplifting and noble form that is worshipped in this worldview and not suffering or being oppressed. In the Hindu value hierarchy, ‘being oppressed’ is not a virtue but is seen as a weakness. It is the fight against oppression and eventual triumph that matters. This is deeply ingrained.
Globalised monotheisms, Liberalism and other derivative philosophies, however, regard suffering as an automatic sign of virtue and hence, generating stories of suffering is encoded in their deepest being. This is a radically different way of looking at the world and this is the view that dominates the global discourse.
It is faintly reminiscent of Nietzsche’s theory of master morality and slave morality, although it can only be used as an analogy here and not as a good classification.
So, while Hindus may be among the greatest storytellers of all time, they are structurally impaired when it comes to generating atrocity literature. Pit them against those whose philosophies are literally based on atrocity storytelling, and Hindus will always come out last.
In a market driven by ‘look at poor me’ stories, Hindus will always come out in the bottom pile, despite being the global minority that does not have a single state exclusively for them, when almost every other major religion does.
This is a structural problem, like the general lack of expansionist techniques such as proselytisation among Hindus vis-a-vis globalised monotheisms.
Postscript: If this whole thing was merely because the world cannot take a majority’s story seriously, there is no worse off minority than the non-Muslim minority of Pakistan/ Bangladesh/ Afghanistan. But their story has been completely blacked out — remember, this whole brouhaha is because that very minority has been given a breather through CAA! This one irony is enough to counter Manu Joseph’s articulate and enjoyable, but clearly flawed argument.
(This article was published on the author’s medium page on March 9, 2020 under the title ‘Majority, Hindus and the Victim Card’)
Did you find this article useful? We’re a non-profit. Make a donation and help pay for our journalism.