A Review Essay
By Krishna Kirti Das
On 21st May 1991, an LTTE suicide bomber assassinated Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. On 23rd August 2008, 30 – 40 Maoist guerillas assassinated Swami Laxmananda Saraswati, who was renowned throughout the state of
The origin, history, and consequences of efforts meant to destabilize the modern state of
The result of their investigation is a book that traces, in over 600 pages, modern-day interventions in
Presented along with the Aryan/Dravidian racial categories are some of the racial categories constructed by missionary scholars for the people of
The ‘Tuutsi’ invaders conquered the land that once had belonged to the ‘Hutu’. But they accomplished this appropriation not simply by violent means. And here begins a second layer of meanings of the ‘Tuutsi’/‘Hutu’ pair: They, the ‘Tuutsi’, did so by trickery: . . . Before the Tutsi came, the Hutu were not Hutu at all; they were simply abantu which . . . signifies in Kirundi ‘the Bantu peoples’ or simply, ‘human beings’. . . . The name Hutu, the refugees said, was imported by the Tutsi from their home in the north and means ‘slave’ or ‘servant’. Thus . . . ‘we became their slaves’.
The book then directs attention to the Tutsi/Hutu racial narrative’s striking resemblance to the Aryan/Dravidian racial narrative. As stated by Bishop Caldwell himself:
. . . the Brahmanas acquired their ascendancy by their intelligence and their administrative skill. . . . The Brahmans who came in ‘peaceably, and obtained the kingdom by flatteries’ may probably have persuaded the Dravidians that in calling them Sudras they were conferring upon them a title of honor. If so, their policy was perfectly successful; for the title of Sudra has never been resented by the Dravidian castes.
Common to these two narratives is the work of missionary scholars, who designated the Hutus and Dravidians as descendents of the mythical Ham, son of Noah. And the purpose of this philological mapping of biblical myth to the ethnology of peoples on two different continents was to link both peoples to the Bible. If they could be convinced that their true origins were with the biblical peoples, they could be more easily converted. Not only do Malhotra and Neelakandan show the extent and influence of such missionary scholarship, they also show how these 19th century ideas of race continue to be popularized in India by a loosely affiliated yet extensive, well-funded network of western-oriented academics, Christian activists, and foreign governments.
The book also explores modern, international efforts to transform India into a “Dravidian Christian” nation; modern academic scholarship in America and Europe focused on constructing new Indian racial identities; Church-influenced foreign policy of Western governments on India; collaboration between the American political Left and Right on deconstructing Indian society; the use of modern communications technologies in India by Christian missionary organizations for proselytizing and for collecting intelligence for foreign governments; the Chinese-Maoist influence on Nepal and India; close cooperation between Christian activists and Maoist militants; the Islamic jihadist influence; the collusion of regional politicians with outlawed terrorist groups; and networked cooperation between Christian, Maoist, and Islamic militant organizations.
The book’s last chapter, “
What is perhaps the most immediate and worrisome aspect of the different militant organizations described in the book is their new ability to network in order to achieve limited tactical, political, or even religious objectives. Vishal Mangalwadi, a Dravidian-Christian activist, describes such cooperation in glowing terms:
Besides launching a Jihad against Animism and Hinduism, the Maoists are also active in supporting evangelists. At times, Maoists escort evangelists into remote villages where police officers are afraid to go. They summon everyone to hear the Gospel. The evangelists may show a film such as the ‘Jesus Film’. Half-way through the film the Maoists would stop the film and give a lecture on Maoism. Then they would resume the film and ask an evangelist to give Alter Call. Following a fellowship meal the evangelists would be escorted back to their base!
The book also describes how regional politicians who are sympathetic to any one of these causes are prone to interfere with police efforts to bring members of terrorist groups to justice. After reading this chapter, one might be justified in thinking that
Most of this information, of course, has been in the public domain for a long time. The report about cooperation between evangelicals and Maoists, for example, was on a publicly accessible website. But what the book shows that is neither well known nor obvious are the common, recurring patterns with which separatist politics and violence arise. The “intellectual pipeline” through which separatist movements in
And the “spiral of violence” described on page 335 describes how aggressive, well-funded evangelism both utilizes and provokes violence, which media outlets selectively report on in favor of evangelists. Destruction of dharmic shrines and violence initiated by the evangelically oriented is avoided and downplayed in the mainstream press. The biased media coverage then generates “atrocity literature,” which is used in turn to generate more funding from private donors and foreign governments. The continued funding in turn then goes to promote more of the same aggressive, destructive acts that initially set off violent confrontations.
Such patterns are identified throughout the book, and they provide a conceptual view that “connects the dots” between apparently disjoint acts of scholarship, activism, and violence that arise along the fault-lines of Western constructed race-relations in
But what is Indian civilization? The term is used throughout the book but receives little discussion beyond being the target of transnational interests that seek its demise. Given that Hindus make up the majority religious community of
But Hindus seem to be less united than the followers of other major religions, and this lack of unity appears to be problematic for Hindus themselves. For example, Malhotra and Neelakandan have observed that in the
The U.S.-based Hindu-American Foundation’s report on caste, released in November, 2010, was the most recent, failed effort to broadly define Hindu identity. The report presented historical evidence, testimonies from Hindu leaders, and selected statements from Hindu scriptures in favor of the position that caste is not essential to Hindu identity. As explained by one of the HAF’s administrators, the report’s single, most important conclusion is that caste-based discrimination of any kind “is not intrinsic to Hinduism.” But almost immediately the HAF report met with considerable opposition from within the Hindu community itself. Some noted that Mohandas K. Gandhi, who would have agreed with the HAF’s position on untouchability, would nevertheless have been excluded from the report’s conception of casteless Hinduism. As Gandhi himself put it,
How can a Muslim remain one if he rejects the Quran, or a Christian remain Christian if he rejects the Bible? If caste and
varnaare convertible terms and if varnais an integral part of the Shastras which define Hinduism, I do not know how a person who rejects caste, i.e., can call himself a Hindu. varna
Indeed, Gandhi in his day spent much time actively resisting proposals to separate caste from Hinduism as a solution to unfair caste discrimination. Gandhi himself believed that there was a positive dimension to caste and that its purification, not rejection, was required to end practices like untouchability. Thus, during the controversy that erupted after the HAF report’s release, some Hindu leaders who had initially lent their names to the report disassociated themselves from it. And the HAF subsequently withdrew its report from its own website. Although the HAF may still yet release an amended report, it will be delivered to a Hindu community that has become more skeptical of the HAF’s position on caste.
Recent failed efforts such as the HAF’s to more clearly define Hinduism from within the Hindu community underscore the problem of the book’s notion of Indian civilization. If the notion of Hindu identity is elusive and Hinduism is at the center of Indian civilization, then the notion of an Indian national identity will be similarly elusive and uncertain. And if the idea of Indian national identity is itself uncertain, then Indian sovereignty is inherently unstable and will lack the cohesiveness necessary to resist for long the extensive, transnational projects that directly or indirectly challenge it.
Malhotra and Neelakandan have nicely demonstrated that
Krishna Kirti Das is president of the Samprajña Institute (http://samprajna.org), a U.S.-based think tank that explores issues where dharma and public policy coincide.
 “Widening Circles of Disidentification: On the Psycho- and Sociogenesis of the Hatred of Distant Strangers - Reflections on
 413 – 414.
 Suhag Shukla, “Huffington Post: Caste, Hinduism, And Human Rights,” 10 Dec. 2010, Hindu American Foundation, 28 Dec. 2010 <http://www.hafsite.org/HuffingtonPost_Caste_Hinduism_HumanRights>.