Monday, June 30, 2014

"1200 years of slavery"


In an opinion piece in Outlook (“Chaining 1200 years”, 7-7-2014), Hasan Suroor takes issue with PM Narendra Modi’s diagnosis that Indians suffer from a slave mentality due to “1200 years” of oppression. He thereby defends the central falsehood that the Marxist historians have introduced into Indian education, viz. that British rule was colonial oppression while he preceding Muslim regimes were somehow indigenous. Fortunately he makes no secret of where he himself stands: by classifying Makkhan Lal as “ pro-RSS historian” but praising his opponent Mushirul Hasa as a “noted historian”, he plays the well-known Leftist game of denouncing the other as ideologically biased but their own as wearing the mantle of objectivity.

The respective language policies already give the true story. The British are remembered for imposing English as language of administration and partly of education. But firstly, this was introduced against a faction of administrators, the Orientalizers, who had preferred the use of native languages (a faction unknown in the Muslim regimes), and secondly, every British official had to take an exam of “Hindustani” before even being posted to India. The Muslim rulers had mostly not even bothered to learn an indigenous language and at any rate kept on using Arabic and then Persian as medium to administer India. Muslim rule was even more colonial than British rule.

To be sure, though Muslim regimes typically started out as based in Central Asia and then expanded into India, they all lost their basis outside India to their local competitors and then had to make do with India. But that doesn’t make them less foreign. The White regimes in Rhodesia and South Africa were also nominally independent from the European motherland but were nonetheless treated as hold-overs of colonialism.

The British exploited India? So did the Muslim regimes. Land tax was very high under the Delhi Sultanate and peasant famines as frequent as under the British. Moreover, apart from their negative effect on Indian society and the economy, the British cloud also had the silver lining of modernization, as physically represented by the railway system. They “enslaved” India but also brought the abolition of slavery (which they forced the Moghul and Ottoman empires to abolish as well). The Muslim regimes cannot boast of such contributions. On the contrary, they destroyed the Indian universities and brought only the sterile dogmatism of Islamic theological academies in return.  

As for “1200 years”, Suroor rightly considers this inaccurate, as Muslim rule started in Sindh 1300 years ago, in most of India centuries later, and in some pockets never at all. He also has the merit of pointing out that it was effectively over in the 18th century, as not the British but the Marathas broke the back of the Moghul empire. So, he is right on this, but then, a political speech is not a Ph.D. dissertation. At any rate, the fuss about the exact number of years is only meant to belittle Modi’s message, which is in essence that Muslim rule deserves to be classified as oppressive and colonial.

Suroor’s article is part of the “secularist” attempt to keep control of Indian history. Not just the institutions, where the Modi regime will have a hard time introducing more objective historians against the anti-Hindu lot presently ruling the roost. But more importantly, the general public’s perception of Indian history, which his own kind has tried to slant communally.

In fact, experience teaches that the Marxists have little to fear from the BJP. The textbook reform by Murli Manohar Joshi of ca. 2002 was a failure. Subsequent Indologist conferences which I attended all had sessions on history-rewriting, where the mood among the mostly anti-Hindu scholars was upbeat and in expectation of a further decline of any Hindu activism. The conclusion came down to: “The Hindu nationalists are unspeakably evil, but fortunately, they are also abysmally stupid.” The Hindu movement has never bothered to invest in scholarship and even after Modi’s accession to power, it simply lacks the historians equipped to effect the glasnost (openness) which a Marxist-controlled sector urgently needs.

Regardless of this power struggle between contending views of history, however, at a deeper level the established historians have already lost the battle. Of course, the anti-Hindu school has the key positions both in the relevant Indian sectors (including Bollywood) and in the foreign India-watching institutions, so they still keep the lid on this development. But they have suffered some embarrassing defeats.

On Ayodhya, for more than twenty years they have managed to make the world think that history is being falsified by Hindu extremists asserting that the Babri mosque there had been built in forcible replacement of a Hindu temple. This was in defiance of the preceding consensus among all the parties concerned that there had indeed been a Hindu temple at the site, as still asserted in the 1989 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. But suddenly the consensus reversed, not because of any scientific discovery, but because of political compulsions. Like babes in the wood, all the India-watchers world-wide started toeing this new line and lambasting the Hindus for “falsely” staying true to the old consensus. One Dutch professor who had personally registered evidence for the temple, felt compelled to eat his own findings and parrot the new consensus. Unfortunately for all of them, the Archaeological Survey of India (2003) and the Allahabad High Court (2010) reconfirmed the old consensus: of course, a Hindu temple had stood at the site and had been forced to make way for the mosque. So, all these Leftist efforts to impose a rewritten version of history had been in vain. Moreover, in her recent book Rama and Ayodhya, Meenakshi Jain has documented what a sorry figure these supposed “experts” have cut when they were questioned in court during the Ayodhya proceedings. One after another was forced to admit that he didn’t really know, that he hadn’t been to the site though pontificating on its archaeology, that is was all just a hypothesis. So, those were the people who had been cited as authority by all the politicians, journalists and India-watchers. If the truth of their politically motivated deception is given proper publicity, their game will be over.    

On Nalanda, the Left has staged a really daring history falsification. This Buddhist university, then the biggest in the world, was destroyed by Bakhtiar Khilji’s mujahedin in 1194, and has recently been refounded under tight Leftist control. Today, the Buddha is being used as a weapon against Hinduism, so the anti-Hindu forces would like to take possession of the memory of Nalanda. Unfortunately, that would normally force them also to memorize the way in which the historical Nalanda University had disappeared. What to do? Well, in 2004, the then president of the Indian History Congress managed to put the blame on the Hindus and simply ignored the true story, though as usual it had been proudly proclaimed by the Muslim perpetrators themselves. As Arun Shourie has shown (“How history was made up at Nalanda”, Indian Express, 28 June 2014), he violated all the norms of his discipline by citing a hearsay foreign document of five centuries later, and only giving a manipulated quote from it, all while keeping out of view the real, immediate and contemporary testimony. The historical fact that Nalanda was destroyed by warriors for Islam still stands, but the reputation of this prominent Leftist historian among his many parrots should be revised.

The anti-Hindu bias taught by the History professors also translates into a bias on contemporary matters, where it has not fared better. In autumn 1996, I attended the Annual South Asia Conference in Madison, Wisconsin. The NDA alliance led by the BJP had been in power for 13 days and was widely expected to accede to government for real. The Indian, American and Indo-American academics at the conference outdid each other in doomsday predictions: Fascism was going to be installed, the Muslims were going to be thrown into the Indian Ocean, the Government was going to come down on Dalits/women/artists/journalists, India was going to attack Pakistan, and so on. The BJP did come to power in 1998 and led the government till 2004, yet nothing at all of these dire forecasts came true. The BJP observed all the democratic procedures, Pakistan attacked India (Kargil) but not the reverse, and on the social front nothing sensational happened, except that the economy boomed. Rarely has an army of accredited “experts” been proven so completely wrong.

In 2002, in spite of BJP rule, Muslims felt confident enough to start a pogrom of 59 Hindus in Godhra. Hindus had not reacted to a series of Islamic terrorist acts including attacks on the Parliament buildings in Srinagar and Delhi, but this time they finally did. Communal riots ensued, killing some 800 Muslims and 200 Hindus. Bad enough, but by Congress standards not that unusual: the 1984 massacre of Sikhs by Congress Party activists killed 3.000, and afterwards Congress leader Rajiv Gandhi had only seen fit to minimize the issue. This time, however, the man in charge had the wrong political colour: Gujarat CM Narenda Modi. He was accused of being complicit in the riots, or even of having organized them. Though he was campaigned against and scrutinized like nobody before him, he was repeatedly cleared by the courts. All the Indian and foreign “specialists” who go on accusing him, are simply in contempt of court.

Moreover, he has been accused of piloting history textbooks that praised Adolf Hitler and denied the Holocaust. Naturally, this propaganda offensive too has been copied in media around the world. However, investigation of the textbooks showed that these did not praise Hitler, did mention the Holocaust, and had been issued by a previous Congress government anyway. But this follow-up did not get any attention in the world media. The slander may have been successful in the short run (e.g. I heard it cited and discussed in all seriousness in a session on Hindu-Jewish relations at the American Academy of Religion Conference in 2009), but truth has a way of prevailing in the end.

Modi’s accession to power and the respect he clearly enjoys among the neighbouring governments (and even in the US, which has to rescind its visa ban against him, in spite of the pressure by Indo-American Leftists) may well be an apt occasion to rethink our attitude towards the ideological power struggle in India. So far, Indians and foreigners, and even many inside the BJP, have looked at India through the glasses which the wrongly-named “secularists” have put on their noses. Millions of people busy with other things have relied on the “experts” to decide for them what is what, not realizing that the positions normally associated with expertise have been cornered by a politically motivated school. It is time to change this power equation.

Meanwhile, we can already free ourselves from this school’s exceeding sympathy for the Muslim regimes in Indian history. These regimes were part of a long intermezzo of oppression, which has conditioned the minds of the Indians (especially of those people loyal to the native civilization) to attitudes of servility. It remains to be seen whether Narendra Modi’s government will live up to the expectations. But by publicly redefining the intermezzo of colonization as including the Muslim period, he has already changed the terms of discourse.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Vatican a Shiva temple?


Quite frequently, my mailbox is hit by yet another product of the PN Oak-type  imagination. This one refers to a web article at (datelined Dr. Subramanyam Swamy, 14 June 2014, though apparently poster without his knowing by one of his assistants). Its title: “Was the Christian Vatican Originally a Temple to Lord Shiva?”


It claims that “Rome’s church compound is in the shape of [a] Shiva Lingam”. It also suggests, citing as its source the “famous historian P.N. Oak”, that Vatican comes from Sanskrit vatika (“park, religious centre”), Christianity from Krishna-niti (“Krishna’s policy”, "the way of Krishna"), and Abraham from Brahma. Conclusion is that it’s all “plagiarism by the West”.


In fact, the shape of the church is standard, and therefore the claim implies that most classical churches, thousands of them, are really shaped like Shiva Lingams. If your eyes are very hazy, you might indeed get the impression of a similarity. This school is quickly satisfied with a mere semblance of similarity. Thus, a 3-shaped sign in the undeciphered Indus script is declared to be Om/Aum sign; as is a door ornament on the Red Fort, equally deemed to have been “originally a Hindu temple”. But even if a more perceptive look were to confirm this impression of similarity, it doesn’t prove a causal relation. The likeness between vatika and Vatican is claimed to “prove that the Vatican was a Hindu (Vedic) religious centre before its incumbent was forced to accept Christianity from 1st century AD”. No, this phrase merely shows the miserably low standards of proof applied by the Hindu history-rewriters. Also, no evidence is attempted, or known from elsewhere, for the momentous replacement or forcible conversion of this Vedic pontiff.


As for the etymologies, they are false. Vaticanus (collis) means “seers’ hill”, from vates meaning “seer, poet, inspired speaker”, related to the Germanic god-name Woden, meaning “fury, trance”. Christianity combines the Latin endings -(i)anus and –itas, meaning “follower of” and “the property/system/collectivity of”, with the Greek word Christos, “anointed”, as translation of the Biblical Hebrew word Mashiah, “anointed crown-prince, messiah”. Ab-raham is Hebrew and means “father of many ”, while Brahma originally means “great, growth”, related to Germanic berg, “mountain”. These Biblical words have nothing to do with their Sanskrit look-alikes.


Further, it claims that Amen really comes from Om/Aum. Amen is Hebrew for “certainly, reliably”, and has nothing to do with Om/Aum. For that matter, the frequent assertion in some yogic circles that Latin omnis, “all”, is also related, is equally untrue. Omnis is a phonetic adaptation from op-nis, with the root op-, “many”, related to the Latin-derived word opulence. The word amen is cognate to Arabic ‘amin, which also means “certain”. A well-known Urdu word derived from it is mo’min, “one who takes as certain”, “believer”, hence “Muslim”. So according to these history-rewriters, a Muslim really is an “Om-sayer”!


It further claims that “all religions are one and are derived from Vedic Sanatana Dharma” and that “both Christianity and Islam originated as distortions of Vedic beliefs”. This is flatly untrue, but nonetheless Padres and Mullahs will welcome it if it helps in reconciling Hindu parents to their daughter’s elopement with a Christian or Muslim and conversion to his religion: “Hey, mom and dad, don’t worry, it’s only a variation on the Vedic religion, as you yourselves always say!”


So, the very numerous PN Oak-party among the Hindus is not only an endless source of laughter for all enemies of Hinduism. It is also a useful fifth column within the crumbling fortress of Indian Paganism. For the sake of Hindu survival, it is vital that real history gets restored: against the secular anti-Hindu version, but also against the Hindu caricature. 

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Friday, June 13, 2014

Moralism and the Aryan Invasion Theory

Taking fresh inspiration from a lecture I just heard, I would like to go into a subject that has been drawing my attention for some time. Today, 30 April, the Indology department of Ghent University hosted a lecture by Dr. K.D. Vinayachandra from Jain University in Bangalore on “The Aryan Invasion Theory” (AIT). Since we have amply dealt with the subject before, we leave out the generally known elements  (which were duly enumerated in the lecture) and focus on what struck me as relevant to our own topic.

Among AIT critics in India, it is customary to foam at the mouth when speaking of the Western inventors of the AIT. They were, so to hear, evil people with imperialist motives who “concocted” a scholarly theory to suit political ends. We will first show that this is factually incorrect, then focus on the problematic mentality that produces such moralistic tales.


Genesis of the AIT

In a speech in 1786, Kolkata judge William Jones announced the common origin of the Indo-Aryan languages with Iranian, Greek, Latin, Germanic and Celtic. Among these sisters, he characterized Sanskrit as clearly the eldest and most refined. Jones was literally part of the British colonial establishment, yet his discovery of Indo-European kinship was not yet tainted by political calculations. It was still the pleasure of discovery speaking.

Since then, and with the subsequent appropriation of Sanskrit linguistics by European scholars, Indians have taken a renewed pride in Sanskrit. Modern-day Indians’ opposition to the AIT often translates into a rejection of the notion of this linguistic kinship among most North-Indian and most European languages, but the initial reaction was one of pride. I imagine the Chinese would have felt insulted if their language had been ruled cognate to that of the Western barbarians, but the Hindus felt sufficiently humbled by centuries of Muslim rule and by the increasingly invincible British paramountcy, and so they were flattered by this kinship. It constituted a form of equality or even cultural superiority, as Sanskrit was deemed older and more refined than English. The discovery went hand in hand with a great Western interest in Sanskrit literature, another source of self-flattery for the Hindus.

The first theory of a homeland for the Indo-European language family was the Out-of-India Theory (OIT). But as it was realized that Sanskrit differed from the putative common mother language Proto-Indo-European (PIE), the homeland was also removed from India, so that some version of the AIT had to be adopted. Initially not very far: Bactria remained in the running as homeland candidate all through the 19th century. Russia and the Balkans came later, and the choice of Germany or the Baltic as homeland only came in the later 19th century, the heyday of racial considerations, when Greco-Roman references to their heroes (Achilles, Cato etc.) as blond led to the unjustified assumption that the PIE-speakers must have been blond. This was the time when Benjamin Disraeli said: “All is race, there is no other truth.” (1844) and: “Race is the key to history” (1880). Though these considerations would no longer stand the test of science in our own day, the scholars acted in good faith from what they considered as relevant data, not from political calculations.

It is only in a second stage that politicians saw the potential of these homeland theories. In Nazi Germany, a European homeland was taken for granted (though Heinrich Himmler’s research unit Ahnenerbe also thought of Atlantis) because the superior Europeans could not possibly come from backward India. In India, even before the colonial rulers, it was the Christian missionaries who saw the uses of the AIT, mainly to pit Dravidians and low-castes against the “Aryan invader” Brahmins and thus make them more amenable to conversion. Even then, they did not “concoct” anything, e.g. when Friedrich Max Müller wrote to his wife (as quoted in the lecture by Dr. Vinayachandra) that India was ripe for Christianization and that his own translation of the Rg-Veda would contribute to this by disenchanting the Rg-Veda and making the Hindus understand and hence reject the root of their religion for their own good, he still based this insight on the best and sincerest translation he was capable of. And then the administrators did the same: with the AIT, they could pit communities against one another, and most of them against the Brahmins who were the backbone of the Freedom Movement. It also served to justify their own presence in India: they were purer and more enlightened cousins of the upper-caste Indo-Aryans who had done the same thing long ago, viz. invading India.


Colonial context

The context in which the Aryan Invasion Theory took hold in British India was the age of the British East India Company, when colonialism was changing its character. From trading lucratively but as equals with the Moghul and Maratha empires, the British increasingly insinuated themselves into the power structure and then took it over. With the abolition of slavery in the early 19th century, they saw and presented their colonial project as socially and culturally beneficial to the natives. Indeed, in Africa they presented colonization as the best weapon against Arab slavery, and in 1856 they forced the Ottoman empire, in return for support during the Crimea war, to abolish slavery as well.

Yet, at the same time the British made a move which, as it gradually gained momentum, would ruffle some Hindu feathers: introducing an anglicizing education policy. Mind you, in their first half-century, they had pursued an “Orientalizing” policy, consistent with their attitude of equality or even formal subservience vis-à-vis the native powers, and with their frequent intermarriages with native women whom later generations would consider racially inferior. However, Thomas Babington Macaulay declared in 1835 in his Minute on Education that the natives would be better off by having an English education. He saw this as a form of emancipation and ultimately a preparation for self-rule. Nowadays Hindu activists hate him and falsely ascribe destructive motives to him, as if he thought very highly of Hindu culture and wanted to demote it. Just the opposite is the case: he thought that one British library shelf held more knowledge than all of Sanskrit and Indian vernacular literature combined. So, he wanted to free the Indians from their underdevelopment and elevate them through English culture. The false quotation that portrays him as a wilful destroyer, and that is quoted in speeches by leading Indian politicians, is contrary to the spirit of the times among colonial administrators. They saw themselves as the forces of progress and civilization, and thought they were doing the natives a favour by freeing them from their “superstitions” and uplifting them to the British level.

Strictly speaking, Macaulay didn’t even anglicize India. He only wanted a class of “interpreters”, who could communicate British modern culture to their vernacular-speaking compatriots. Once English culture had been interiorized and its insights translated into the native languages, the Indians would be free to revert to those. Today’s omnipresence of English and the requirement of knowing English in most professions beats Macaulay’s vision a hundredfold and does not deserve to be called “Macaulayism”. It is purely the fruit of a policy option by Indian politicians, who somehow insist on subservience to English even long after the British colonizers have gone.

Hindu activists also imagine that somehow India was or is the central focus of the British colonizers, the American imperialists and everyone else. The world has it in for India, the world intends harm to India. Well, no: the world doesn’t care about India. At their worst, the British colonizers were interested in loot, in material gain, and India along with other colonies was a means to that. It is frequently said (even, to his shame, on LK Advani’s website) that the famines in British India were “the worst genocide in world history”. Apart from being an obvious excuse to sound secularist and look away from the wilful Muslim massacres, more deserving of the term “genocide”, it is simply not true. It is not that I doubt the death figures, eventhough I have learned by now that these are usually susceptible to exaggeration, but those dead were mere “collateral damage” of lucrative economic policies, not intentional victims of an extermination policy, a defining requirement for a “genocide”. The colonizers had nothing against the Indians, they merely wanted to make money. If an occasional Indian labourer died, the exploiters took that in stride, but it was not their intention, they simply didn’t care one way or the other. That is not nice, but it is not genocide either.


Fundamental moralism

The tendency to portray the AIT as the result of a conspiracy is only one case of a more general problem. Activist Hindus tend to conceive most things in terms of good vs. evil. This is in stark opposition to the genius of Hindu tradition. While Christianity is all about sin, about God descending on earth just to deliver us from evil, the Vedas acknowledge the existence of evil but relegate it to the second plan, the foreground being taken by the struggle for liberation. Some people consider themselves very profound when they declare that this world is really a struggle between good and evil. In fact, this is cheap, vulgar and untrue.

Most things in this world are neither good nor evil. These categories only apply to a very small class of phenomena. When a tsunami destroys villages, the destruction is resented by the villagers and their relatives, yet the oceans and rocks had no evil designs when they unleashed this tsunami. For the unemployed construction worker, the tsunami is even good news, for it creates a big new demand for the services of those workers who will rebuild the villages. Good and evil are relative to the goals they further or thwart, and people have conflicting goals. Moreover, numerous things are simply too far removed from any human project to be able to further or thwart it. But most importantly: even things that some people are bound to resent as evil, were intended by its agents as good.

So, there is something ridiculous about the constant indignation in many Hindu activist writings. The constant attribution of evil motives and deliberate destructive strategies behind anything they don’t like, comes across as a symptom of paranoia. I have experienced this attitude numerous times among Hindus, yet I don’t blame Hinduism, on the contrary. In the Ramayana and Mahabharata, every evil deed is given a fairly decent cause. Every hero suffering reversals partly has himself to blame. It is not a simplistic black-and-white fairy-tale. It is not for children but for grown-ups, complex and, to use the Hindu term, “karmic’. In comparison to them, the story of Vishnu’s future incarnation, who has as his mission to “kill the evil-doers”, is very cheap, a sign of decadence. Similarly, the cool and detached attitude that struck me among common Hindus whom I met around tea-stalls in Varanasi in 1988, contrasts sharply with the shrill and extreme attitudes among internet Hindus.
The Aryan invasion theory and the negative influence of Macaulay’s education policy should be corrected. But this should not be done, nor has it a chance of being done, by concocting these moralistic stories of pure Indians versus the evil besiegers of India.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Hindus for Hitler?


Anti-Hindu writers love to portray Hindu revivalism as a form of “fascism”. Given the Hindu movement’s record of service to democracy and abiding by democratic norms, they have a hard time sounding serious. Fortunately for them, they find perfect allies in the rare but vocal Hindus who do applaud Adolf Hitler.


Wendy Doniger

During the commotion around the publisher’s withdrawal of Wendy Doniger’s book Hinduism, an Alternative History, the author herself held a plea pro domo: her article “Banned in Bangalore”, NYT, 5 March 2014. In it, she mocked the ignorant Hindu objection by Dina Nath Batra in his official complaint “that the aforesaid book is written with Christian Missionary Zeal”. When an internet Hindu reproduced this allegation, she replied: “Hey, I’m Jewish.” So far, so good: it is fair and correct to notice that Hindu activists are too smug and too lazy to study their enemies, so that they make embarrassing mistakes about Wendy, including her religious denomination.

But then: “I was hit with a barrage of poisonous anti-Semitism. One correspondent wrote: ‘Hi. I recently came across your book on hindus. Where you try to humiliate us. I don’t know much about jews. Based on your work, I think jews are evil. So Hitler was probably correct in killing all jews in Germany. Bye.’”

This may be an invention: the New York Times readers would not know the ins and outs of Indian politics, but they can be counted on to hear the alarm go off at the mention of anti-Semitism. So Wendy may have invented this case of anti-Semitism so as not to have to bore her readers with categories on Indian public life which they don’t know nor care about. As Vishal Agarwal (The New Stereotypes of Hindus in Western Indology, Hinduworld Publ., Wilmington DE 2014) has documented, her contentious book contains hundreds of wrong statements, from innocent slips and incorrect data to willful and ideologically motivated misrepresentations. So, we should not deem her above inventing this outburst. On the other hand, there really are internet Hindus who are capable of utterances like this. They don’t write books or papers, but the inboxes of Hindu activist websites have dozens of examples.

 If the above-quoted e-mail really exists, we can infer that it was written by a Hindu who had thus far been ignorant of Jews and anti-Semitism (most Hindus are ignorant about the “Jewish question” in Europe and the Middle East), and who became anti-Semitic on the spot, namely by extrapolating from Wendy to her community, which upon her own declaration is Jewish. The generalization from an individual to her community is of course logically unsustainable, but very common among the kind of people who vent heated reader’s letters. But all these details will be lost on the average reader, who simply comes to associate “Hindu” with “anti-Semitism”. And that was the point of her whole exercise. But Hindu loudmouths don’t see through such tactical schemes and readily take the bait, freely providing their enemies with all the anti-Hindu ammunition they need.


Hindu pro-Semitism

Hindu activism has always been sympathetic to the Jewish people and Jewish state, at least since 1923 when Hindu leader V.D. Savarkar in his trail-blazing book Hindutva expressed his support for the Jewish project of a state of their own. He had nothing with the Jewish theology of the Promised Land, which he may even not have known, but he observed the nationalist logic that the Jews were a really existing nation and therefore were entitled to their own nation-state. That is also why the Hindu nationalist parties were the only ones in India who, until the advent of diplomatic recognition in 1991, advocated full relations with Israel.

Hindus in general have always admired the revival of Hebrew as mother tongue of Israel, where Hindus themselves are not even capable of pushing through a common second language to replace English. They also feel familiar with Judaic believers as a fellow target of the Christian missionaries, and feel an affinity with the Jewish quasi-Brahminical book-orientedness and the ritualism, food prescriptions and sheer ancientness of Judaism. For what it is worth: Aristotle thought the Jews descended from “the philosophers of India”.   

Yet, Hindus also have a soft corner for conspiracy theories. In the past, they used to make up their own. But now with the internet, they have access to the minutely developed Western conspiracy theories, and the master theory among these is the Zionist World Conspiracy. The blogsite Vijayvaani, for instance, has published a few articles in this vein, e.g. that 9/11 was a inside job masterminded by the CIA together with the Mossad. Amazing how the Mossad managed even to fool Osama bin Laden, who genuinely believed that his Al-Qaeda men had done it; but anyway, that is what millions of conspiracy theorists believe, now including some Hindus.

Quite separate from this phenomenon, there is also a widespread sympathy for Adolf Hitler in India. Among Indian Muslims, this has the same motivation as among Palestinians, viz. Hitler’s anti-Semitism. This is ingrained in Islam and included in the Prophet’s precedent behaviour: he partly exiled and partly murdered the Jews of Arabia, where after the completion of his conquest no declared non-Muslim was left alive. But the same veneration for Hitler also exists among Hindus, though for very different reasons. Most Hindus only know of Hitler as the challenger to the British Empire and thus indirectly as a factor in India’s independence, while they denounce his enemy Churchill as a racist and as responsible for the millions of deaths in the Bengal famine of 1943. Usually they don't know about Hitler’s anti-Semitism and have only a vague idea of the Jews' place in European history.


A petition against Mein Kampf

In the spring of 2014, some members of the professional Indology list issued a petition to dissuade the leading publishing-house Motilal Banarsidass from republishing a translation of Hitler’s book Mein Kampf. This book is very popular throughout the Muslim world, but also in India. Motilal replied graciously and withdrew the book from distribution. The petition’s author, Prof. Dominik Wujastyk (London/Vienna), related on the list that many Hindus he had spoken to, expressed admiration for Hitler, but once they were informed of his massacring the Jews in his domains, they recoiled in horror and embarrassment.

Hindus have a very mistaken view of Hitler. They don’t even realize that Hitler was only forced into war with Britain against his will; that he favoured British domination over India as the realization of his dream (white Aryans ruling over the “inferior races”) and the model for his planned domination of his “vital space” in Eastern Europe; that he opposed the Freedom Movement and advised the visiting British Foreign Minister to have the Congress leadership including Mahatma Gandhi shot. History moves in strange ways, and it is a fact that through WW2, Hitler bankrupted Britain and forced it to relinquish its prized Indian possessions; but he was no friend of the Hinduism or the Indians



Nazi Hinduism?

The blogsite Hindu Human Rights ( has received an e-mail making the following four points, rendered with corrected spelling. We will answer them one by one.

“1. The Myth of the Twentieth Century [by Alfred Rosenberg] is the book on social ideology of Nazism which CLEARLY states the state destruction of Christianity by proxies like Positive Christianity. And replacing it by HINDUISM and German paganism.”

The Nazi high command was inimical to Hinduism, which is briefly lambasted in both Mein Kampf and Hitler’s war-time Table-Talk, published by Henry Picker. Rosenberg was frowned upon by Hitler and other high Nazis for bringing in pre-modern concepts such as this “myth”. But as the Nazi movement was not a monolith (fairly obvious yet news to most experts of the period) nor a religious movement, his ideological idiosyncrasies were tolerated. Yet, even he did not advocate Hinduism as the religion for Germany. Contrary to popular opinion, a return to Germanic Paganism was also not favoured by the Nazis, and emphatically denounced by Hitler in Mein Kampf. The impression that the Nazis revived Germanic Paganism, eagerly fostered by the Christians who try to pass as having been anti-Nazi all along, is due to the 19th-century revival of Paganism-lite which had entered general German culture somewhat, principally the celebration of the Solstices and the use of a particular type of candle. These were incorporated in the rituals of the Hitler Youth and the SS, not because they were Pagan but because they were German.

Post-Christian society does not want to do away with the scientific worldview and admits at most of a very restricted rehabilitation of religion, divested of all its superstitions. This was what was meant by the “positive Christianity” enshrined in the Nazi charter, the party’s official religious commitment (as opposed to Germanic Paganism, which later on was even outlawed along with all other non-conventional religions or “cults”).  Though raised as a Catholic, later in life Hitler became a typical ex-Christian, retaining a soft corner for Jesus (whose alleged “work”, the struggle against Judaism, Hitler flattered himself as continuing, and whom he defined as blue-eyed and non-Jewish), but ridiculing belief and religiosity as such. Thus, he mocked his Spanish allies during Spain’s civil war, who should have relied on their prayers to the Virgin Mary rather than on the German air force to defeat their enemies. 

While rank-and-file Nazis usually continued their Christian practices, the Nazi leadership consisted of hard-headed military men contemptuous of any religion. Yet they appreciated the organizational achievements of Christianity. Thus, the SS was partly inspired on the Teutonic Order of warrior-monks, and dimly also on the Jesuit Order. Hitler also lambasted systems of hereditary priesthood, which Hindus know well enough through the Brahmin caste, praising instead the Catholic system of celibate priests, necessarily drawn from the common people and thus in greater solidarity with the nation than can be expected of a priestly class locked in its separateness.

The Nazi attitude to Christianity is complex and is not helped by simplistic notions such as Pius XII being called “Hitler’s Pope”. The Nazis had Christian roots and largely Christian voters (in particular, their anti-Semitism had never existed in Germanic Paganism but was central to the Christian scheme), but in the event of victory in World War II, its top cadres planned a secularization and a replacement of Christianity by secular nationalism. A symbol of this planned reform was the replacement of the Christian greeting “Grüss Gott” (not by “Grüss Wotan” or “Grüss Krishna”, as this Hindu Nazi implies, but:) by “Heil Hitler”.

Maybe our Hitler-admiring correspondent is not a Hindu but a secularist. Hitler, at any rate, had no Hindu leanings but was very much a secularist.



“2. 4% had converted to German Paganism and 1.5-2% to atheism. These pagans and atheists where the most dedicated Nazis. Source: State University of New York George C. Browder Professor of History College of Freedonia (16 September 1996), Hitler's Enforcers : The Gestapo and the SS Security Service in the Nazi Revolution: The Gestapo and the SS Security Service in the Nazi Revolution, Oxford University Press. pp. 166–. ISBN 978-0-19-534451-6. Retrieved 14 March 2013.)”

The 1939 census listed more than 90% of the Germans as Christians, thus necessarily also a majority among those who had supported Hitler in coming to power. It is not fashionable in Christian circles to bring up this fact, as they prefer to highlight anti-Nazi Christians (such as the Weisse Rose student group) and falsely pretend that Christianity was as much a force against Nazism as against Bolshevism. Hindus who want to study any aspect of National-Socialism or World War II are very poorly equipped to see through this pro-Christian and anti-Pagan slant in many works on the subject. We have the impression that our correspondent has swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

In this Christian climate, the “atheist” category, good for some 2%, was frowned upon and identified with “godless Bolshevism”. That is why atheist-minded Nazis joined the other category, Gottgläubig, “believing in God”. This was a vague category of “unspecified religious”, including deism, German peri-Christian mysticism (Hildegard von Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Cusanus, Rudolf Steiner), pantheism, Germanic Paganism and other excentric religions. The reduction of this category to “Germanic Paganism” is ruthless Christian propaganda, then already used to mobilize the Anglo-Saxon populace against the Nazis, who were depicted as bizarre exotics and Satanists; and it has only spread since and is even being taken over by a Hindu who fancies himself anti-Christian.

The category included many pacifists and other groups temperamentally disinclined to strong-arm Nazism. But yes, it also included Nazis: a top Nazi who strongly identified with this category was Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS. He was creating a new religion out of the bits and pieces he found in many places: memory traces of ancient Germanic religion (the seeress Weleda), Germanic folklore, German-Christian mysticism, German-Christian nature lore, Christian organizational forms, witchcraft and excentric forms of modern science. The religion essentially died with him. It was an interesting attempt of what people will try when the post-Christian condition leaves them looking for something to fill the “God-shaped hole”. But with their own rich and unbroken lineage of spiritual masters, Hindus surely have no need for this syncretic attempt at all.


The Aryan Invasion Theory

Replying to an argument in an earlier discussion about the so-called Aryan invasion of India, but relevant here, he also reveals:

“3. I am an Out-of-India theorist. Which puts proto-Aryans’ light-brown [skin] with dark hair and eyes like North-Western Indians. On what basis [have] you claimed I consider blonde and blue 'better'?”

Apparently, our correspondent has earlier been accused of considering one race better than another. We simply accept his protestation that he rejects any claims of racial superiority. But he should expect this kind of allegation if he perforce wants to speak out in favour of the Nazis, who did believe in racial superiority, and very firmly.

In the Nazi scheme of things, the Aryans had invaded India, tried to protect their genetic purity by imposing caste apartheid, but ended up mixing with the natives to some extent. (This scenario is still taught by most Indologists, secularists, Dravidianists and neo-Ambedkarites.) So, to a Nazi, any Indian is definitely inferior: either he is an inferior native if Dravidian or low-caste; or he is an upper-caste Indo-Aryan with some superior Aryan blood in his veins, but unfortunately mixed with some native blood. That is why North-Western Indians are more European-looking, but not fully: their Aryan racial purity has been compromised by some admixture with the dark-skinned natives. So, to Hitler’s mind, they are better off being ruled by the superior pure Aryans from Britain. That is why during their only meeting, he told collaborator Subhas Chandra Bose to his face that Indians have the best possible deal as colonial underlings.

At any rate, the Aryan Invasion Theory was a cornerstone of the Nazi worldview, taught in every Nazi-controlled school. They had it in common with their arch-enemy Winston Churchill, who used the AIT to justify the presence of Britons in India, who had only taken over India the same way that their Vedic cousins once had.

Obviously, the superior Aryans had to have originated in Europe, and then proceeded from there to colonize India, as was their wont. Anything coming in from India was tainted with the inferior native race, witness the Gypsies. In order to racially purify Europe, the Gypsies along with the Jews had to be removed, first according to some yet to be worked out master-plan, then during the war by simple extermination.

If our correspondent really is an Out-of-India theorist, then on this point he is diametrically opposed to the Nazi position.  


Bhagavad Gita

“4. The Nazis had often quoted the Bhagavad Gita to the SS, famously by Himmler. Goebbels had criticized the British take-over of India heavily in his news articles. In the time when the majority of Western countries heavily supported racism (see the reaction to the Japanse proposal of equality in the League of Nations), the CLEAR claim of Goebbels of India as great and ancient... and then the specific Nazi glorification of Hinduism in their literal scriptures speak for themselves.”

In the racial worldview of the Nazis, the biological inferiority of the Hindus was an overriding fact. That is why Hitler mocked their supposed otherworldliness, a trait typical of inferior people who fail in this world and hence have to withdraw in an imaginary world. This in contrast with the down-to-earth Germanic realism, which naturally had to result in competence, victory and conquest. (The exception were the marginal Germanic neo-Pagans, whom he also mocked because they lived in the past and dreamed of a pre-Christian utopia instead of embracing the post-Christian world of science and domination.) But the Gita, being ancient, could be stretched to have been written by the early Aryans who had freshly entered India and were not yet tainted by racial admixture.

At the same time, Orientalism had deeply penetrated German culture. While it could be denounced, it could not entirely be wished away. And so, yes, it had affected Himmler, who swallowed all he could lay his hands on in terms of the occult, secret societies and unconventional religion. He did not propagate the Gita, as some Hindus seem to believe, but he did read it and took some ideas from it – while very purposely leaving out others.

Nazism was still in its infancy and could have taken very different directions. The Army High Command, for instance, invaded Poland on 1 September 1939 thinking it was starting a brief local war, more or less completing the German claim on historically German lands (if, as nationalists often do, you only consider the time of your nation’s greatest expansion). It did not glorify war, which it saw as an extension of politics, meant to project power conditioned by a political plan. There was no plan to conquer Germany’s Western and Northern neighbours, for instance, no ambition to rule these countries, and they only embarked on this invasion (May 1940) reluctantly, with Hitler himself masterminding a very daring strategy which wonderfully succeeded. The ensuing offensives likewise established the German reputation for invincibility, which made many in India go wild (including Mahatma Gandhi, whose Quit India movement of August 1942 was predicated on an Axis victory). But then Hitler’s strategic luck ran out, the generals tried to save the situation with more careful tactics, but their position continued to decline to inevitable defeat.

In this scenario, not that unusual in military history, the SS and its view on war stood out. Normally, war is sometimes considered a necessary evil, and then embarked upon in a spirit of embracing the inevitable. This is also the case in the Mahabharata, the larger work of which the Gita forms part: Krishna tries non-violent solutions to the enmity between two groups of cousins, and only when these fail, does he counsel a merciless war. This was the first point where Himmler went against Krishna’s example, upholding a modern interpretation of Charles Darwin’s evolution theory instead: war is a natural and good test to decide who shall survive and who is not worthy of survival. He arrived at the view that war for war’s sake is a good thing. It is only a careless and superficial reading of the Gita (shared, incidentally, by Wendy Doniger) that can see it as a justification of “war for war’s sake”. But I agree that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and that the Gita can be a dangerous book in the hands of an incompetent do-it-yourself amateur like Himmler (or a Sanskrit-knowing yet equally incompetent Indologist like Wendy Doniger).

A second point is the Gita’s doctrine of Nishkama Karma, “action without desire (for its benefits)”. We see traces of it in Himmler’s decision to organize the “final solution of the Jewish problem in Europe”. This expression already existed in the 1930s and meant a planned emigration of the Jews from Germany. A forced emigration is neither pleasant nor fair, but at least it is preferable to being slaughtered. Its relatively innocuous meaning changed drastically in 1941 with the invasion of the Soviet Union. At first, German Jews were being resettled in the conquered territories, but this proved impractical and external emigration was now ruled out by the war circumstances. So something more sinister was being worked out: the secretive extermination of the Jews. People knew vaguely of a plan to deport the Jews to new settlements, so they were not overly upset when they saw the Jews around them being taken away. In some occupied countries, even Jewish committees themselves helped organize the deportation to what they thought were new labour sites in the East.

What did happen was that Himmler took it upon himself to do what race theorists thought best for the German people: eliminate the Jews. He accepted that his SS men would handle this tough task. He relieved even ordinary soldiers of this difficult task, for he had seen how killing, as with a neck shot, was difficult and often became unbearable for ordinary men. He saw this as a kind as ascetic dutifulness: take upon oneself a thankless task, not expecting any reward but doing what has to be done. This ascetic sense of duty could easily be sourced elsewhere, e.g. in Stoicism, widely known among the educated classes of Europe; but it is also present in the Gita, though nowhere applied to the task of extermination.

He could perhaps have used Krishna’s explanation that killing isn’t really killing, just as dying isn’t really dying, because death is only like taking off your clothes to put on fresh ones tomorrow, i.e. in a next incarnation. But he didn’t. Possibly he believed it himself, but as a Nazi, he did not want to propagate an airy-fairy pre-modern doctrine like reincarnation. The Nazi scheme nowhere envisions that the Jews were destined to come back to haunt their killers. The karmic implications taught by the Gita and by much of Hindu tradition did not figure in Himmler’s plans. Nor did the bulk of the Gita, dealing with the Sankhya philosophy’s worldview and its applications, with the need to become a yogi, with the worship of Krishna etc. So, maybe Himmler got a few half-digested ideas from the Gita which he could have gotten from elsewhere too, and most of the Gita’s 18 chapters simply have nothing to do with his project.

As for Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, I know only little of his very considerable output, and have never heard of his utterances in favour of India’s independence. If true, I would expect them to be plastered all over the place by the numerous intellectuals who have an interest in associating Hinduism with Nazism. At any rate, if true, it was never taken over by the Nazi movement or regime. Goebbels has a record of deviating from official Nazism, and not always in a good sense. Thus, he was responsible for the Kristallnacht vandalism and murders, which heavily damaged Germany’s international standing, was resented by the common Germans because they had never voted for riots and disorder in their streets, and disapproved of by the other top Nazis. Not because these disapproved of ill-treatment of the Jews, but because they didn’t want disorder and unexpected private initiatives.

That National-Socialists praised Hinduism to the skies and fostered studies of Indian culture, is a fable spread by anti-Hindu authors such as Sheldon Pollock. At most, some Nazis could be found who praised the culture of the still-pure Aryans entering India. Really existing Hinduism, by contrast, was only looked down upon. If living in the Nazi era, our Hindu correspondent could expect to be treated like the Gypsies.



Our correspondent ends his mail in the all too familiar scatological fashion: “If you are unable to give credible answers to these points and break them, based upon reliable references, you are the son of a bitch, a proud brown babu of the British barbarians. And all you can do is trolling like other idiots.”

It is easier to catch mosquitoes with honey than with vinegar, so you would expect internet warriors seeking to convince people to use agreeable language. Instead, many internet Hindus couldn’t care less about the impression they make on their public. After all, they are not into it because they are out to convince people and score an argumentative victory. No, they are into it just to vent their emotions. They foam at the mouth not because they somehow think this has a better chance of convincing anyone, but because they have so much anger and excitement in their hot heads that they simply have to let off steam.

As for the contents, this man surprises outsiders by not thinking strategically at all. He plays massively into the hands of the enemy. A general planning a battle should study the strength and the characteristics of the enemy, as well as the characteristics of the battlefield. This man, by contrast, seems oblivious of the massive anti-Nazi mood in most of the world, which only gets grimmer as time passes. India has the advantage of having extracted more good than evil out of World War 2, of having terminated the war-generated animosities in 1945 itself, and of therefore being able to take a more distant view of the different parties in that war including National-Socialism. But this doesn’t mean that anything goes. Maybe the Holocaust and other war crimes did not affect you personally, but the facts themselves have to be taken into account.

For victory, you should not only know the enemy, you should first of all know yourself. In this case, a knowledge of Hinduism would at once reveal the fundamental differences with the Nazi worldview. Any contacts or similarities could never be more than accidental. Thus, in the much-maligned Hindu caste society, the Jewish community would simply have formed a caste (as indeed it did on the Malabar coast), just as it effectively did in Germany for many centuries; the Nazi desire to eliminate it, however, constituted a break with this arrangement. Hitler may have been wrong on many things, but he was at least right in one respect: that as a Nazi, he could only hold Hinduism in contempt. Either you are a Nazi or you are a Hindu.


 (Hindu Human Rights and Centre Right India, 10 June 2014)

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Sunday, June 8, 2014

An Indian skeptic


On 5 June 2014 in Brussels, the Flemish skeptics’ society SKEPP  hosted a lecture by Dinesh Mishra, an eye doctor from the State Chattisgarh’s capital Raipur, since 1995 founder-president of the Andh Shraddha Nirmulan Samiti, or “Committee for Eradication of Superstition” (and Social Evils). He brought a positive message, testifying of a very necessary but generally successful struggle against backwardness.

From his profession, one might deduce that Dr. Mishra focuses on the instances of medical superstition. Many illiterate people in the backward villages of Chattisgarh forego taking their cases of illness to a far-away clinic but instead go to the exorcist (baiga) around the corner. These pretend to provide a cure by driving out the spirit who has caused the disease. Moreover, they play a trick on their clients by “proving” that they really have driven the spirit out by letting him bleed – producing a blood-like substance by mixing a chemical with water. It is, thus, needed to inform the common people of the irrationality at work behind this ordinary trick but mostly behind the belief that diseases are caused by spirits. What complicates matters is that even a “conversion” to real medicine need not end the superstitious attitude, e.g. the unnecessary reliance on antibiotics against all manner of ailments, causing the microbes’ increasing immunity to antibiotics. Another danger is the tendency to relapse into bad habits unless the commitment against superstition is regularly reinvigorated.  

The most important work Mishra’s association does, however, is protecting women against allegations of witchcraft and the ensuing “punishments”. A video was shown of testimonies by women who had suffered witchcraft allegations, or by murdered women’s next of kin. It appears that in Chattisgarh and the surrounding states, dozens of women are killed every year because they are suspected to have cursed someone and caused a misfortune that befell him. Thus, a woman had taken a bath in a kund, a bathing-pond. After that, a group of visitors had taken a swim, and the villagers who took a bath after that, contracted diarrhoea. Therefore, she was accused of having bewitched the well and caused the epidemic. So, it is a matter of life and death to expose and neutralize the superstitious assumptions behind these witchcraft allegation. Fortunately, Dr. Mishra’s and similar associations can claim quite a few successes where critical situations were prevented from coming to the worst.

Perhaps due to the limitations on his English, the doctor did not go into the wider cultural background of this problem. I would like to contribute the observation that the belief in witchcraft is not taken out just for the fun of persecuting these women, but is present throughout these backward sections of society, even among the affected women themselves. I have to emphasize this point against the tendency among Western and secularist Indian commenters who take a very naîve black-and-white view of this problem, as also against the skeptics’ typical prejudice that unscientific “healers” are only deliberate deceivers. This is not about wily charlatans versus hapless victims. Many of these exorcists genuinely believe that their initiation and training has given them real power to control disease-inducing spirits; deliberate deceivers are a small minority compared to self-deluded people. And more to the point in this discussion: many of the affected women, though entirely innocent of the misfortunes allegedly caused by their spells, do indeed believe in witchcraft. As a social worker once told me: if you give these illiterate people a little money, men will spend it right away on drink – and women on witchcraft.

One very commendable thing about Dr. Mishra’s work is that it is genuine. It is really directed towards saving women’s lives and eradicating superstition, and not a front for other agendas. It does not take money from foreign or internal sponsors. In particular, when Indians declare themselves skeptics (“rationalists”), they either really are, often as a corollary of their commitment to Marxism, or they are agents of the Christian mission, resolved to turn the sceptical plank against Hinduism: they highlight superstitions among the Hindu populace, link these for the gullible Western public with Hinduism, and keep the Christian superstitions out of view. These Christian superstitions are not just the belief in a bleeding Mary statue, though India does have its share of these too. Neither are they just the miracle healings staged during mass meetings by Christian preachers such as the visiting American televangelist Benny Hinn. The core itself of Christian belief, the Resurrection with its salvific effect on sinning mankind, is very much an untenable belief, criticized no end by the skeptical movement in the West. So, none of this improper use of skepticism for religious agendas here.

Dr. Mishra also had some Hindi booklets with him detailing different parts of his work. One of them is indeed a reasoned plea against the belief that some particular woman is guilty of some calamity by having pronounced a curse. Another is against the belief that solar and lunar eclipses are events caused by a heavenly monster. Already fifteen centuries ago, Indian astronomers gave the scientific explanations of how sun-earth-moon alignments cause eclipses, yet millions of villagers still treat eclipses like irregular events and bad omens. There, he really gives a positive message to these unnecessarily panicky people: take it easy, folks, there’s nothing to worry about!   



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