Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Meera Nanda against Hinduism and its friends: (7) Hindu and Flemish nationalism

Meera Nanda, the slanderer, says I have one foot in Flemish nationalism and one foot in Hindu nationalism (2009). And of course I have written in Flemish nationalist magazines, both to praise and to criticize. But what I have written does not follow some party-line. In particular, I am anything but a “nationalist”. One of the chapter titles in my book Decolonizing the Hindu Mind was “Nationalism as a misstatement of Hindu concerns”. (p.474) I wrote quite a few articles against Flemish and Belgian nationalism and a whole book against Hindu nationalism: BJP vis-à-vis Hindu Resurgence, published by the fabled Voice of India, Delhi 1997. Indeed, I already expressed my scepticism of all nationalisms as far back as 1991, in my book Ayodhya and After.

It is especially my articles against Belgian nationalism which have endeared me to the Flemish nationalist media and opened  their columns for me. In my youth, I had little notion of Flemish nationalism, and Belgian nationalism was an object of fun. As Flemish emancipation gained ground, Belgian nationalism acquired teeth and became worthy of opposing once more. If Flemish nationalism were in the ascendant and had a state at its disposal, I would probably oppose it formally, but that is not the case. So I vocally oppose Belgian nationalism instead. But I speak decent French (certainly better than their Dutch), have friendly relations with many Walloons and deplore  it when the Flemings of my children's generation speak English with their Walloon peers. The borders in this part of the world have run every which way, so I have no attachment to any borders nor to any nationalism.

What Meera Nanda writes about my Flemish nationalism is of one kind with so much that she writes, viz. vicious nonsense. It also has nothing to do with Voice of India, which she seeks to slander with anything she can find. I discovered Flemish nationalism only after discovering Hindu nationalism, and I never spoke nor wrote about it in India. But in spite of herself, she does have a point: there is a similarity between the Hindu and the Flemish situation.    

The Hindus are a religiously defined society, the Flemish are a linguistically defined society, and both form the majority in their respective countries, India c.q. in Belgium. Both are non-racial societies and have lost many members: racially theirs, but effectively part of the enemy camp. Their enemies are partly taken out of their own flesh. They are moreover proud of their conversion and look down on their ancestors. (That is why it was misplaced of Guru Golwalkar in his famous quote from We, 1939, and of Subramaniam Swamy in “How to wipe out Islamic terror”, DNA, 16 July 2011, to insist that the Indian Muslims must remember their Hindu forebears: as if all Muslims in the world don’t know that their ancestors were non-Muslims. Mohammed even located his own mother in hell because she was inevitably a Pagan, and that is also where all Hindus are or will be according to the Indian Muslims.)

They are decried for being the majority when in fact they turn over backwards to please the minority community. Both have in common that they are denounced abroad by ignorant people as an overbearing majority when in reality they are badly on the defensive. Their opponents are naturally nationalistic, every one of them, whereas they themselves have an opposition inside their own ranks. It took a Flemish author, viz. myself, to appreciate how the Hindus in India can be a majority numerically but a minority politically.

The Flemish also pay for the Walloons just as the Hindus pay for the Muslims. Even when Flanders was poorer than Wallonia, the first 130 years or so of Belgium (founded in 1830) there was a stream of money from Flanders to Wallonia. And now it has become a torrent, proportionately bigger than the stream of money from West to East Germany. Similarly, Hindus are on average more industrious and hence richer than Muslims. About the intrinsic poverty of Indian Muslims, falsely implied by Nehruvian secularists to be because of their oppression, it was observed: “It is curious how markedly for evil is the influence which conversion to even the most impure form of Mahomedanism has upon the character of the Panjab villager; how invariably it fills him with false pride and conceit (…) and renders him less well-to-do than his Hindu neighbour (…) When we move through a tract inhibited by Hindus and Musalmans belonging to the same tribe, descended from the same ancestor, and living under the same conditions, we can tell the religion of its owner by the greater idleness, poverty, and pretension, which marked the Musalman, it is difficult to suggest any explanation of the fact.” [Census Report 1881, Province of Punjab vol. I (p.103-4), quoted from A History of Sikhs by Hari Ram Gupta, and by Sarvesh Tiwari on his blog.]

Another similarity is that both the Flemish and the Hindus opted for multiculturalism whereas the Walloons and the Indian Muslims sought a territorial “solution” and followed the Brezhnev doctrine: what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is up for grabs. When a lot of Flemings went to the Walloon industrial areas, the Flemish movement advocated a generalized bilingualism: one Belgium with two official languages everywhere. The Walloons however blocked it and imposed the linguistic frontier in 1932,with the understanding that South of it would be unilingually French and North of it, French would also remain the elite language. Thhe many Flemings remaining in Walloon territory were forced to become Walloon, and some of their descendants are now the worst enemies of their ancestral community. The Muslim electorate massively voted for Partition in 1945, drove most Hindus from West Pakistan in 1945 and the same more gradually in East Pakistan or Bangladesh, but kept India as a joint account where Muslims were not only welcome but even enjoyed certain privileges.

Similar is also the way the French-speaking Belgians and the Indian Muslims have managed to confirm their privileges through legislation and the creation of institutions. Thus, the bolts in the Belgian Constitution to “protect” the numerical minority and prevent the majority from ever acting like a majority, or the notion of “secularism” and the Article 30 protecting only minority institutions in the Indian Constitution. For the majority, there are institutions rewarding pro-minority opinions, such as the King Baudouin Foundation c.q. the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation.  

A difference is of course the nature of the opponent: we can think of the French in different terms from anti-Flemish imperialism (indeed, when the French are on the defensive, as in Québec, the Flemish sympathize with them), whereas Islam is intrinsically anti-Pagan and hence anti-Hindu. The Indian Muslims have killed a few million Hindus within living memory, whereas the occasion when the French killed a handful of Flemish lies centuries in the past. Or to revert that: the Hindus are being tested a lot harder than the Flemish for their patience with the other community. Whenever the Hindus kill Muslims, it is highlighted and much is made of it, but what is truly remarkable is the many occasions when they don’t react. They are, in India as much as in Pakistan and Bangladesh, frequently subject to Islamic petty terror, but only react in kind after several occasions when Islamic violence really gets out of hand.


Senthil said...

"That is why it was misplaced of Guru Golwalkar in his famous quote from We, 1939, and of Subramaniam Swamy in “How to wipe out Islamic terror”, DNA, 16 July 2011, to insist that the Indian Muslims must remember their Hindu forebears: as if all Muslims in the world don’t know that their ancestors were non-Muslims. Mohammed even located his own mother in hell because she was inevitably a Pagan, and that is also where all Hindus are or will be according to the Indian Muslims."

Good point. But, from my own experience of having had numerous dialogues with muslims, I can say that though Indian Muslims find it difficult to deny their Hindu ancestory as it is an historical truth, they hesistate to accept it openly or altogether avoid that topic in public forums. We can see the same pattern in Islamic historical narratives, eg. Pakistani History textbooks avoid the history of Hindu India before invasions to great extent and treat them marginally mainly to portray them as 'bad' and Islamic invaders as saviours. The same kind of narrative is given for pre Islamic pagan Arabia as a society of chaotic, fighting tribes which was saved by Islam.

I remember once in a discussion forum, that Muslims were embarassed when faced with this question,"Who was Muhammad before he started hearing revelations from Allah? Wasn't he a pagan?" Muslims shied away from even acknowledging that Muhammad was a pagan before he started his prophethood.

There is a reason for this Cognitive dissonance of muslims. Islamic hatred and isolation makes its difficult for Muslims to appreciate other religions and culture and even the culture of their ancestors. If Indian Muslims feel proud of their Hindu ancestory, then what will make them to stick to Islam. So, you are correct that Muslims know their ancestors but that is a very bitter truth for Muslims to accept.

अश्वमित्रः said...

(indeed, when the French are on the defensive, as in Québec)

Well, this certainly isn't the impression one got growing up in Ontario in the seventies and eighties. I think Quebec far more closely resembled the grasping, bullying minorities you describe in this post. Official language status for French nationwide? Absurd. English Canada grovelled for decades, and the worst that Quebec ever had to suffer does not come close to entitling them to the status of an oppressed people.

Shankar Sharan said...

@ Senthil

Very perceptive comment, yours. Only to the last sentence you wrote I would like to add that the bitterest truth for thinking Muslims is the false claims of Islam itself. The poverty of thought in Islam. That it has to employ threats and violence on almost any ideological difference, more readily to differing Muslims themselves shows the utter poverty of Islam. That it has no capacity to answer words by words. Hence the rule by fatwas and death threats.
This, I think, is the bitterest of truths. And also the key to defeat Islam fully and thoroughly. What Elst has so picturesquely observed: Muslims are like a Sita to be freed from the Ravan, i.e. Islam.

The simple solution of the Islam problem is: force the ulema and Islamic rulers to play in level field. No use of threat and fear on ideological sphere. A Rushdi or Taslima or Sita Ram Goel must be free to criticise any aspect of Islamic faith and laws. It must be answered by counter arguments, and nothing else!
This accepted and Islam will collapse - like the East European communist regimes as soon as the Soviet Army left. Islam is very similarly vulnerable. This is its weakest point which must be hammered mercilessly.