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Winds of Change
by BS Murthy Bookmark and Share

Continued from “The Number Game”

The Mohammedan downturn in the 18th Century that enabled the dawn of the British Raj in India turned out to be a Godsend to the Hindu upswing. Historically, the political ethos of the Rajas of the land always was devoid of a sense of belonging to the motherland, which continues to plague the political system of the Union of India that is Bharat.

In the chequered history of Hindustan, its Rajas and their Samantas, who came by dime a dozen all, saw the adjoining territories as but pieces of real estate to be usurped to boost up their vanity or to satiate their greed, and/or both. So, ironically, Mother India, in its myriad political dominions, would have been a no man’s land to its provincial potentates, and in later years, the Mohammedan usurpers saw its riches as their personal endowments to cater to their pleasures ‘here’ and to perpetuate their memory ‘forever’. And that was the final nail in the coffin of the Indian economy.

The next victim of the Mohammedan misrule rule in India, of course, was the intellectuality, the prize factor of the Hindu civilization, nursed from the time of the Aryan migration. With the advent of the Sultans and the eclipse of the Rajas, short of royal patronage, the Brahman intellectual pursuits took a back seat. Besides, the overall downtrend of the Indian economy, brought about by the profligacy of the Musalman rulers, dried up the wells of charity affecting the Brahman well-being. Moreover, their self-imposed taboo for undertaking any economic activity contributed to the Brahman financial gloom, which eventually led to their intellectual decay as well. And their collective sense of despair could have led to the feeling of dissipation that inexorably put them onto the path of laziness and prejudice. What with the kshatriya power too on the wane, the traditional Aryan leadership was dispirited and disjointed under the Mohammedan rule in India, and the Hindus, as though to seek a mass escape from life’s hardships had turned to spirituality, which distanced them even farther from the social realities.

However, all that changed under the aegis of the British Raj that lasted long enough to make a difference to the Hindu self-worth, and when India celebrates its hundredth year of freedom from the British yoke in 2047, its Hindus might heartily wish ‘God bless the Great Britain’. But what could be the feelings of the Indian Musalmans towards the British, who dethroned the Mughals to signal the end of the Mohammedan rule in India, and yet gave the parting gift of Pakistan to their brethren across the borders, time only would tell. Maybe the plight of Pakistan then could shape the mind of the Indian Musalman but one should be wary of the Muslim penchant to blame the kafirs for the Islamic ills of their own and of their God’s making. Whatever it may be, the undercurrents of the centuries-old coexistence of the Hindus and the Musalmans in India are their bi-polar interests that even Akbar’s Din-i-Illahi failed to reconcile.

Be that as it may, the Great Britain had wide opened the Indian windows to the developed world, closed for centuries by the Brahman social prejudice and the Islamic religious paranoia, which enabled its populace, the Hindus in particular, to breathe a whiff of fresh air of contemporary Western ideas. Above all, the British bestowed upon India their English that gave class to its middle class, and all this led to the advent of the cosmopolitan India. But, on the flip side, the vested interests of the ‘nation of the shopkeepers’, so as to bolster up their commercial interests had ensured that whatever left of the Indian enterprise was truly undermined.

Whatever, after their initial skepticism about the liberal ways of the British, the Hindus, led by the Brahmans, stepped out of their sanatana cocoons to expose themselves to the Western outlook, which eventually resulted in their kids embracing the English secular education in numbers. But on the other hand, the Mohammedan elite allowed themselves to be drawn into the closets of self-recrimination, and fearing religious dilution, shied away from the secular ideas and ideals and kept their children away from the convent education.

That’s how, as the Hindu masses ventured out of their caste closets, even the Musalman elite staid put in their mental ghettos and held on to the fundamentalist tenets of Islam all the more. And in this dual response to the Western cultural infusion lay the revival of the Hindu intellectuality and the beginning of the Muslim despondency.

Thus, while the Muslim dominance of India caused its stagnation, the British deliverance from the same heralded the Hindu political resurgence. The emotional relief of the Hindu to be rid of the political yoke of the Musalmans, after nearly eight centuries, evoked a feel-good in the country’s majority. With the mainstay of the population, so to say, enamored of them, and they too having come to value the ancient Hindu philosophy, which got reduced to mere prejudice by then, the British loved India as best as their own interests would allow them to do. And having succeeded in subduing the squabbling Nabobs and the disjointed Rajas, the British slowly but steadily unified the country to usher it into the modern era; they built roads and bridges, brought in the radio and the railways, and the telegraph and the telephone.

But, to the chagrin of the Musalmans, the British banished Persian, the language of the Mughal Court, and introduced English to administer India, which turned out to be a boon to the Hindus for it facilitated a secular education that herald the community into the new age. Even though the evangelists failed to take the Hindu souls en masse on the Christian path of salvation, yet the British had introduced modern medical practices into the India’s hitherto neglected healthcare system for the public good. But it was the Western educationists, who had injected contemporariness into the thought process of the Hindus that inexorably energized their latent intellectualism exemplified by the Ramans, the Boses and the Ramanujans. Besides, the secular education that McCauley introduced produced a body of Hindu reformers, mostly the Brahmans, and predominantly Bengali at that, which laid the seeds of equality in the Indian soil at long last.

Maybe the critics would aver that McCauley’s education turned India into a nation of clerks, of course not without some justification, and as history tends to repeat itself, the skeptics of the day aver that the IT upsurge and the BPO boom in the end would reduce us all into a bunch of keyboard operators.

But then, there is a price to pay for a millennium of stagnation, isn’t it?

However, the Brahmans, as though to make amends for the sins of their forefathers, strived hard to clear the social debris that Brahmanism had left on the Indian soil. The Hindu reformist zeal, with due help from the Western Samaritanism, which put the Brahman orthodoxy on the back foot enabling the community to contain the abominable practices such as the sati and the child marriage, besides opening up the altars for the widow marriages. With the momentum so gained on the social front as the Hindus began to dream about changes in the political arena, Mahatma Gandhi forged the masses into a non violent force to oust the British that stunned them no end. While the world marveled, India showed to it as to how an ancient nation of peace loving people, with a dominant religion of philosophical orientation, can successfully shape its struggle against foreign rule in the modern world through nonviolent means. How well, Pearl S. Buck captured it all in her assertion that only a religion like Hinduism and a country like India could have produced a Gandhi!

Nonetheless, India’s struggle for freedom had had its righteous streaks of aggression as well as the pacifist stances of Islam for even as Subhas Chnadra Bose and others opted for an armed struggle, the Indian Musalmans stuck to the Gandhian course of nonviolence with the majority of the Hindus. That is, till Muhammad Ali Jinnah fired the Muslim imagination with the call for the creation of Pakistan, the separate homeland for the Musalmans of Hindustan. Thus, as the Hindu hopes for freedom rose, so did the Muslim fears about the domination of their religious rivals in free India increased, and it seemed as if the wheel was about to turn the full circle for the Hindus and the Musalmans as well.

While for the Hindus, the end of the British Raj would seemingly herald a Rama Rajya, i.e. after a thousand year interregnum, for the Musalmans, whose domain of eight centuries the British had ended; it portended the worst – the Hindu domination of them.

That was after the baneful land reforms of the British, which had already proved to be the last nail in the coffin of their parasitic life of leisure and luxury. Besides, given the propensity of the Musalmans to live by their glorious past, the prospect of a Rama Rajya would have seemed a setback for Islam in Hindustan. Since the religious loss of face is something that the Musalmans dread the most, so, what would have salvaged the Islamic prestige than a separate nation for the Musalmans? Besides, a ‘here’ they can call their own would enable the Indian Musalmans to take home their fond memories of the past glories that the two-hundred-year Mughal rule symbolized. Besides, as the notion of a Muslim nation would restore the loss of power and pelf under the British Raj, the craving of those Musalmans for Pakistan cannot be faulted.

On the other hand, after centuries of inimical Muslim misrule the Hindus have had to endure, they should have a reason to feel indebted to the British for having given them a modern nation, though truncated. Maybe, the Sangh Parivar’s nationalist lament over a lost Akhand Bharat, patriotic though, is misplaced for with one Musalman for every two Hindus in it; Islam would have erected enough roadblocks for the undivided India to modernize itself. Moreover, if not for their grant of Pakistan as the homeland for the Indian Musalmans, the British could have unwittingly Balkanized India or worse!

So, notwithstanding the unpalatable partition of their ancient land, the Hindus have every reason to be grateful to the British for releasing them from the Muslim shackles that their Brahman-kshatriya duo willy-nilly put them into. And for the same reason, the Musalmans are wont to grudge the British for having divested them of the Delhi’s gaddi in spite of ensconcing them in Rawalpindi, which they see as a small consolation for them. Won’t the Indian Musalmans’ resentment of the British validate the adage that “one’s meat is another man’s poison”? It’s another matter though that in hindsight it appears that the Pakistani capital-shift from Rawalpindi to Islamabad was a forerunner into its Islamic disaster!

Continued to "Ant Grows Wings"

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More by :  BS Murthy
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Comments on this Article

Comment Its an interesting perspective in deed.

BS Murthy
03/11/2013 12:22 PM

Comment It just strikes me that no mention is made of the two World Wars in your otherwise coherent analysis.

The demands of manpower and arms in Britain's involvement in the two World Wars, in which its Indian troops were deployed, inherently weakened the grip over the sub-continent that had erstwhile prevailed, and that, for example had crushed the uprising of 1857 as a result of the greased cartridge controversy. What was in place then was the understanding that the imperial power was not to be compromised, and that British exploitation of India was a good thing in itself, an arrogance that could only be appreciated in hindsight, and which had in it the seeds of native revolution, but which in the imperial perspective was undermining of God-given authority.

After the World Wars depleting effect on British military presence in India, control of India depended on the awe of the British presence as was to be evoked by the loyalty of many an Indian native in its employ in the civil and armed services. However, the timely influence of Gandhi and the other British educated leaders was a symbol to Indians that they too had the 'know-how' to confront the British at their own intellectual level, and, through the modern means of mass communication, obtained overwhelming popular support, thus pulling the legs from under the British reliance on imperial awe.

India's Hindus thus have to thank not merely the British, as you say, but the two World Wars that depleted Britain's military strangle-hold of imperial awe in India. Of course, it was providential that things should work out the way they did, and one must at least grant the British Imperialist credit for finally conceding the times were changing, and India's independence something good as his imperialism had once seemed.

03/10/2013 23:52 PM

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