Sunday, 2 April 2017

“Yes, bring on Bharatiyata" by Pratap Bhanu Mehta on the Indian Express website on March 29, 2017

Quote from the above article followed by my comment:

“Indigenisation would require confronting the self as much as confronting the other. The insidious claim in the call to indigenisation is this: What counts as Indian? Who gets to set these terms? What about western ideas? What about Islam? Will we recognise, as Aurobindo did, “However much we may deplore some of the characteristics of that intervening period which were dominated by the western standpoint or move away from that standpoint back to our own characteristic way of seeing existence, we cannot get rid of a certain element of inevitable change it has produced upon us, any more than a man can go back in life to what he was some years ago?” Will we recognise as Aurobindo did, that Islam nourished India and was nourished by it? Or will the choice of indigenous be determined by Golwalkar who said non-Hindu peoples must “stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation”? A genuine indigenisation would require embracing all of India; not parts of it. So, bring on the indigenisation that embraces all, the Western and the Islamic, the Aghoris and the Tantriks, the Marxists and the Liberals, as Indian.”

The quote from Sri Aurobindo is from his book The Renaissance of India (CWSA, Vol. 20, p 51). The context of it is whether India can or should go back to its culture as it was before the Mahomedan and British conquest. Sri Aurobindo says that we cannot go back to our great past, but we “can go forward to a large repossession of ourselves in which we shall make a better, more living, more real, more self-possessed use of the intervening experience”. This can hardly mean that Islam has “nourished India”! It could as well mean that the problems of building a nation have multiplied instead of diminishing with the coming of Islam into India. If Islam had really “nourished India”, then there would have been no problems at all in unifying the Indian nation.

The problem of harmonising conflicting religions and races can only be solved by one race or religious group becoming wide enough to accept the others into its fold instead of violently subduing them, which is what Pratap Bhanu Mehta is suggesting while unfairly blaming the Hindus for the conflict. But it is Hinduism which is best fitted for this task of harmonising conflicting claims due to its inherent catholicity. Sri Aurobindo posits the spiritual principle that will unite all races and religions in the future. But the Hindus are the ones that are the most spiritual race right now! So it is no use trying to reject Hinduism in the very exercise of building national or even human unity. The problem with us Hindus is that we keep blaming ourselves and our great heritage for all the problems of India. But we don’t realise that the culture and religion/spirituality of India has to play a definite role in the harmony of all religions and cultures, and not just disappear from the face of the earth in a suicidal bid to make place for the others. When shall we learn to stand our ground? To retain and be proud of one’s culture is not necessarily being chauvinistic.

Raman Reddy


  1. Comment by Govind Rajesh:

    Unfortunately as events since the early 1900s have demonstrated the religion of Islam itself is the problem. Wherever it goes it acts as a corrosive acid that either dissolves its non-Islamic cultural prey with constant aggressive inundations from the outside or disintegrates it gradually from within. In India this same process has continued for 14 centuries & has achieved its greatest success in the past century in the form of external Pakistan & the no less dangerous & rapidly metastasizing internal Pakistan of Muslims within India itself that has gamed India's democratic system to hold its native Hindus hostage & keep its civilizational outflowering in check. No amount of wideness of its unlucky host can change Islam’s cancerous DNA. The same tragedy is unfolding today in most western liberal societies that have flung their doors open to Islam & Muslims. My own view is that the Hindu-Muslim unity is a misleading & dangerous chimera. My focus is on 1) Hindu-Hindu unity and 2) for the New Force to flood the earth & for the power of its new creations making it impossible for the forces of ignorance & violence to even exist.

  2. Comment by Vikas Bamba:

    "This can hardly mean that Islam has “nourished India”!

    Yes, and well stated. Islam has been principally militant as is evident in its political forms. Islamic reformation has yet to take place though there are stray signs of it in the sprouting of progressive Islamic thinkers. The problem is that this reformation has to take place in a nuclear age.

    "If Islam had really “nourished India”, then there would have been no problems at all in unifying the Indian nation." I don't believe that the failure of the political unification of India can be ascribed solely to the thorn of Islam, though undoubtedly, as Sri Aurobindo noted in the Bande Mataram, India was "greatly disturbed and thrown into continual ferment and revolution".

    Based on Sri Aurobindo's comment below one even wonders whether Islamic Culture has given anything to the world "of fundamental importance".

    From A.B. Purani's Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo (1995), p. 59-60:

    Disciple : The "Utkal Star" has written an article on the 15th of August and the writer points out the absence of islamic culture in the grand synthesis you have made. I believe the Modern Review also pointed out the same.
    Sri Aurobindo: The Mahomedan or Islamic culture hardly gave anything to the world which may be said to be of fundamental importance and typically its own. Islamic culture was mainly borrowed from others. Their mathe¬matics and astronomy and other subjects were derived from India and It is true they gave some of these things a new turn. But they have not created much. Their philosophy and their religion are very simple and what they call Sufism is largely the result of gnostics who lived in Persia and it is the logical outcome of that school of thought largely touched by Vedanta.

    I have, however, mentioned that Islamic culture contributed the Indo-Saracenic architecture to Indian culture . I do not think it has done anything more in India of cultural value. It gave some new forms to art and poetry. Its political institutions were always semi-barbaric.