In Eagerness for the Western Acceptance, Hindus Distorting their History and Dharma!

(Here is an intellectual conversation among well-meaning and knowledgeable Orientalists on the subject titled above. The subject has great geopolitical intellectual importance in our volatile world, where different human-segaments are ardently following different – and often conflicting – trajectories. The general masses in India and elsewhere need to get educated on such an issue. In view of its importance, we are presenting here different viewpoints of the individuals concerned. The opening article is written by Dr. Koenraad Elst, which is followed by interjections on his position on this subject by 1. Aditya Singh, 2. Ragini Sharma, 3. Come Carpentier, 4. Koenraad Elst (response to certain allegations), 5. Ram Sharma, 6. Aditya Singh (response to Koenraad Elst’s article), 7. Ashok Priya and 8. Ram Sidhaye).
By: Dr. Koenraad Elst
Here (in recent tweets by many knowledgeable Hindus), problems have been created by a tendency among Hindus to live up to expectations raised by their enemies.
Thus, in the 19th century already, The Brahmo and Arya Samaj insisted that, like Christianity and Islam, Hinduism is “monotheistic”, with Arya translations of Vedic passages rendering Indra, Agni, Varuna etc. all as “God”. As Talageri remarked, this is like Hindus saying in the heyday of racism: “Yes, white is indeed superior to brown, but we Hindus are whiter than the Brits!”
Today, we see many Hindus live up to the reigning Cultural Marxism by claiming that Hinduism is “egalitarian”, “feminist” and even “pro gay marriage”.
First of all, this has never impressed the enemy, of whom not one has abandoned his Hindu-bashing, just as no missionary ever changed his mind because of Arya claims of monotheism. It is only your own people whom you have a chance of convincing of your new party-line. Outsiders look through these claims and conclude that they only add to their already established opinion of Hinduism as hypocritical (“wily Brahmins”).
Trying to live up to your critics’ standards is a game you can’t ever win.
But more importantly, these claims are not only unconvincing, they are untrue.
Egalitarianism is a strictly modern concern, no premodern society lived up to these standards (except, in the Marxist view, a very primitive pre-differentiation society, which had “Ur-communism” and even matriarchy). Thus, among the body parts, it is purely a modern apologetic innovation to claim that the face is “equal” to the feet; that is not how the Rishis or later Hindus saw it. All body parts are necessary, of course, but that doesn’t make them equal; just as the president and the cleaning-lady are both necessary but not equal. You have no chance at all by claiming that Hinduism (after the early layers of the Rg-Veda) had no caste hierarchy, but you are on more solid ground if you point to inequalities elsewhere, such as slavery practised by Mohammed.
As for feminism, ancient Hinduism had a more natural role division, with e.g. some women becoming Rishikas and Acharyaas, but less than men, which in the medieval period become a more black-and-white division. You are always going to have more men than women in top posts, but in medieval times women were altogether excluded from these top posts. I think Hindu society was also somewhat subject to this evolution, but less so. But if you say that “women were honoured”, you should notice that this is not the same as “women were equal”.
A really extreme example where you can see right away that this attempt to live up to Cultural-Marxist standards doesn’t work, is gay marriage. Some Hindu associations in the US have claimed that this was never a problem for Hinduism. Hindu traditionalists have countered that in this case, Hinduism recognizing 8 forms of marriage was more enlightened and pluralistic than Christianity, alright, but that nonetheless, none of these 8 was gay marriage. To be sure, Hindus are free to change their mind about this, to evolve new norms, the Shastras explicitly provide for this, which is more enlightened than the eternal Shari’a.
But that is up to them now, to make such claims about the past is just untenable.
The willingness of Hindus to sacrifice their own tradition in the entirely vain hope of thus pleasing their enemies, stems from a thorough inferiority feeling. That is all understandable and explainable, I am not throwing any stones here. But nonetheless, you have to free yourself from this negative psychology and own up the past of Hinduism as it really was. From there on, you are free to judge some parts as negative or outdated and thus up for change; but you will not bring that outcome any closer by denying them as facts of history.
As for the Partition, indeed, this was purely the handiwork of the Muslim community. It had competing tendencies, all united regarding the goal, viz. Muslim domination, but divided regarding the means thereto. In the circumstances then obtaining, the majority was carried by the pro-Partition Muslim League (ML), with some 85% of the Muslim votes. In order to deflect Hindu ire against the Muslims, the culprits of Partition, the Nehru Congress launched the myth that Partition was imposed on both Muslims and Hindus by the British, a convenient scapegoat, all the more so since they had gone. This myth was spread on a war footing and many Hindus have swallowed it, so that today you can always get applause from a Hindu audience by blaming the British. Hindus who take this view may rationalize their position in all sorts of ways, but any outsider can see through this and identify fear of Muslim displeasure and eagerness to fall I line with dominant Nehruvianism as the real determinants.
To defend this enemy myth, the fact is cited that in the final stage, the British did cooperate with the Partition plan. Yes, and so did Congress, not to mention Ambedkar who had already accepted it on principle as soon as the ML made it its demand, in 1940. Until 1945, the Brits rejected any thought of relinquishing India, so the question of Partition didn’t pose itself. At most, they may have enjoyed the sight of Congress getting embarrassed by this sharp non-solidarity from the ML. Anyway, it is easily verifiable that the Partition idea grew in Muslim circles in the 1930, when the British were still confident that their empire, made more viable with the Gvt of India Act 1935, would last forever.
But then, the special pleading begins. Ah, but the British supported, even patronized, the creation of the ML in 1906. True, but its demand was then not Partition, but “to inculcate in Indian Muslims a loyalty to the British empire”. The Brits looked after their own interests, and any concessions they made to Muslim interests were subservient to that larger goal. But Muslims only played along as long as they were weak. As soon as they were strong enough to openly pursue their own agenda, they opted for Partition. That was the accomplished fact which the British, as soon as they were weakened by the war, started to take into account.
Those who claim that the ML had been prompted by the British (such as the RSS claim that Jinnah had been “brainwashed by the British”), are white supremacists. They insist that no brown Muslim can have his own agency, that he can only act when puppeteered by the white man. I am only taking the decolonized view that natives do have their own agency, and that Muslims pursued the power agenda instilled in them since the 7th century, long before the Brits appeared on the scene.
More special pleading is the endless claims, partly true, of how terrible the Brits had been. Not that their famines were “genocide”, i.e. the intentional pursuit of a plan to exterminate a targeted population, but it was indeed not nice. Fine, but none of that amounted to Partition. And when you point that out, more claims of British atrocities are thrown at you, as if they can make any difference at all to the responsibility for Partition. A newone is the claim that had the Brits not appeared in the 18th century, Hindus would have thrown the Muslim rulers out. Though that is a totally different issue immaterial to the politics of the 1940s, a second thought made me hesitate about this claim that I had hitherto taken for granted. After the victories by Shivaji and Bajirao, you got the defeat at Panipat, and perhaps even more telling, Scindia’s formal acceptance of Moghul suzerainty in 1770, though he was militarily the most powerful man in India and could have folded the Moghul empire there and then. Meanwhile, the Brits in Bengal 1757 did not support the Muslims against the Hindus, but defeated and removed the Muslim ruler to the applause of the Hindus. And in 1857, supposedly the first war of independence, those Hindus who joined in the rebellion (many refused to) accepted the decadent Moghul ruler as their leader. Maybe the Brits saved you from an ignominious Nehruvianism avant la lettre.
At any rate, here I am only taking a position within debates that are ongoing between Hindus. It is not the position propagated by the secularists or the Cultural Marxists in Western and Indian academe. The question of a U-Turn just doesn’t arise.
 By: Aditya Singh
1) It perhaps is true, that British did not think for the Idea of Partition of India, along with plan to vacate it, before the reality of post war power equations dawned on them. But their actions of exacerbating divisions certainly lead to it, consider the Partition of Bengal on religious lines for instance. The western interest in having a friendly Pakistan in the subcontinent to block Soviet expansion in subcontinent is we attested. Pakistan is till today west’s major non-NATO ally.
As the paramount power, they cannot be absolved from their role in the hasty partition and the post partition violence that resulted. Their inability to enforce peace in direct action day riots is also well-known. Of course it can’t be honest to say the gullible Muslim population of India was induced by British to cause Partition.
2) On famines their doings are well attested. Of course they are responsible for the famines with their heavy taxation policy and forcing cultivation of cash crops to meet their interests. Their response to famines were to force stricken people to labour in distant locations in return for meagre relief. Churchill is personally responsible for the 2M deaths in Bengal famine of 1943. They are singularly responsible for destroying the Indian economy and political institutions what else it the whole hue and cry about colonialism?

3) Maratha, Panipat and Mughals. The Maratha conquest of India was not at all a Hindu Muslim issue. It was an issue of Swaraj for the Marathas in Deccan and then of conquest of Hindustan(north India).

In the Battle of Panipat for instance there were two loyal Muslim generals in Sadashiv Rao Bhau’s army who gave their lives and the Holkar contingent betrayed Bhau by deserting. Malhar Rao Holkar did a double dealing with Najib Khan Rohilla the chief (siding with Abdali). Shujaudaula who was on Abdali’s side had Hindu staff serving under him.

Marathas had sought out Shujaudaulla to support them as an ally in the War but he was persuaded by Najib to take Abdali’s side. So while for Abdali and his soldiers this was a religious war, for Maratha it was not. And none of the Hindu/Muslim rulers of North India supported Maratha in this war. They just waited and watched who wins. It was Maratha overconfidence that cost them Panipat and lack of allies.
Mughal ruler were titular rulers since death of Aurangzeb and complete puppets for much of 18th and 19th century till 1857 when they were finally deposed. They were only used to provide ‘legal’ cover for usurpation of former Mughal territory. This was the design of Mahadji Shinde when he installed Shah Alam II. Marathas never backed out from War with Hindu rulers in Hindustan(north India) in order to collect their tribute. They fought with Rajputs and Jats. Were supported by Muslim rulers in these wars and vice versa.  For the Muslim rulers when it suited them they sided with the powerful Maratha and when it suited them they united against the infidels. All these Muslim rulers and a majority of their military was made up of Turks, Uzbeks, Persians, Afghans etc who drew on their own lot to project power. Yes minus the loss at Panipat, minus the internal rivalries in Maratha camp and minus the British occupation of Bengal and Awadh in 18th century, there would have been a very different history for Marathas in 19th century.
In 1857 not only did the Sepoys rush to Delhi they also rushed to Peshwa Nana Sahib. It was the lack of vision and disunity in the Maratha camp that lead to their not being able to utilise this opportunity to unseat the British. Something that the titular Peshwa was fully seized upon but was powerless without allies to do.
By: Ragini Sharma
Last year at the Indology conference, during an informal conversation at the reception, Elst told me that he considers himself to be a Christian. He said he did not believe in reincarnation (I used the poison pill test). Regarding my suggesting his  U-Turn, I think Elst knows very well Rajiv’s concerns about using the western lens of human rights to analyze Hindu texts and tradition. He is well aware of Rajiv’s critique of Doniger and Pollock, for example, in this regard.
For example, Rajiv has written about the false equivalencies that happen when the Abrahamic human rights lens is used to compare varna to caste system. This is what Elst is now doing – comparing dharmic varna system to western ideas of “egalitarianism”. In his Tweets, Elst claims Hindus are “tolerant” and
“Secular” but cannot be “egalitarian”.
This is a problematic statement because we know that the term “secular” is redundant in the context of Hinduism because the “open architecture” of Hinduism is by its very nature “secular”. Certainly we could discuss how the western idea of egalitarian may fit with ideas of dharma – but Elst’s blanket statements are problematic for Hindus.
In his Being Different book, Rajiv has explained that the term “secular” was developed in Abrahamic civilizations to address their religious intolerance of science and non-Abrahamic traditions. Elst knows this well.
Similarly, Elst has recently posted Tweets to critique the Guru and Shishya relationship as “hierarchical” and related to top down power and control. Again, Elst knows better – the guru parmapara tradition has no western equivalence and is beyond such concepts.  Elst seems to be taking a Pollockian approach to analyzing this very important aspect of the dharmic tradition and therefore appears to be taking a U-Turn. He knows well the importance or significance these cultural differences and misrepresentations/misinterpretations.
Similarly I find it problematic when Elst claims on Twitter that the British colonial rule did not misuse famines or cause the partition. For example, I thought that the colonialists’ “divide and rule policy” was well documented not only in India but in other colonies.
Whether U-Turn or not, these recent Tweets by Elst are not supportive of Hinduism. The point is not what Elst’s own faith is.. The point is the adhikar and importance Hindus have given to him to speak for Hindus/Hinduism. Does it serve the interest of Hindus to have non-Hindus in such a positions? It’s an issue for Hindus to ponder upon.
By: Come Carpentier
Koenraad Elst has always said that he is a scientific researcher and does not believe in Christ or Christianity. His attitude is secular and in a sense materialistic. He does not endorse equality as a social norm as it is not a cultural and biological reality (equal means identical and there are not two identical beings in the universe).
He has always said that colonialism was a socio-economic and political process that came from a set of circumstances so that colonizers were not alone to blame but made use certain opportunities. That is more or less the gist of his argument. He has never claimed to be a believer in Hiduism or any other religion and regards himself as a rationalist hence a skeptic. There is no U-turn and people misunderstood if they though he was a Hindu convert. He is sympathetic to India and Hinduism but not a ‘Bhakt”.
By: Koenraad Elst
I feel much less inclined to continue this discussion when I am not faced with differences of opinion, but plain factual untruth. In the last decades, I have *never* said that I consider myself a Christian. In general this is false, in the present forum it is moreover a serious allegation, a case of slander.
I may have said on some occasion that *Hindus* consider me a Christian, because they go by birth and not by conviction, as if a religion is an ethnicity that you are born with and can’t change. Myself, by contrast, because I know Christian doctrine and history, would never say this.
In the Christian narrative, the apostles are called Christian though they were Jews by birth. Conversely, Stalin was an anti-Christian atheist, though he was Orthodox by birth and upbringing and had even studied for the priesthood. Ragini might consider him a Christian, but no Christian would, nor would any outsider who knows Christian doctrine. As soon as you cease to believe the defining Christian doctrine, you cease to be a Christian.
The inveterate insistence by some Hindus to misunderstand Christian doctrine and force it into Hindu categories (such as belonging by birth instead of by doctrine) is part of the fatal wilful ignorance about the Kurukshetra.
As for reincarnation, I certainly don’t “believe” in it, but I do follow the research thereon and am open to the possibility, depending on the proof forthcoming. I have so far not experienced it one way or the other. I cannot deny the importance of advanced yogis taking it for granted, though the “belief” of believers like Ragini doesn’t impress me, for all sorts of funny doctrines have found masses of believers, e.g. in Jesus’ resurrection.
By that criterion, the Vedic rishis who located the souls of the dead in a particular constellations are not Hindus, nor the Chandogya sage Aruna, who only heard of the reincarnation doctrine late in life and confessed that he hadn’t known of it.
As for Greek (in origin largely Babylonian) astronomy, I have indeed said that it was imported into India and became the basis of “Vedic” horoscopy. I have also said (even in the article referred to) that the Babylonian divisions in 12 and 360 is probably of Indian origin. But it is the Babylonians themselves who turned this division into the Zodiac, which was subsequently imported into Greece as well as India (and, after some Turkish transformations, even into China).
By contrast, I have never said that Indians had their astronomy from the Greeks. Horoscopy, yes, and the  precession. But the division in 28 nakshatras did not have to be imported: it is natural and existed in th Vedas already. It also existed among the Arabs and the Chinese, and doesn’t require any inventions or insights, you only have to keep an eye on the moon every night.
Hindus in the present circles often call themselves “nationalist”. For us, we have been warned against nationalism since childhood, and it mainly counts as a istortive factor when doing history.
In India, I have learned to sympathize with what Indians call nationalism. But in the present discussion, is mainly has the distortive impact again.
By: Ram Sharma (Ritendra Sharma)
Let’s first see how Rajiv ji defines U-Turn theory. He has explicitly stated, “In its basic form the U-Turn Theory states that a member of the dominant Western culture first wholeheartedly learns the Indic tradition. He or she, for a variety of reasons, then repackage it and projects the knowledge gained from India from within his/her own culture. The next thing you know is that s/he claims these ideas were always an integral part of Western culture.”
 
We can glean two important points from this definition about U-Turn which are, that after learning Indic tradition, that person:
 
1)   Repackages and digest in his own culture
2)   Claiming it as an integral part of Western culture
 
All of the tweets and your write-up don’t match up with what he states and theory of U-Turn. According to your keen observation, you have picked up following anomalies in his writings:
 
1)   Hinduism can be pluralistic but not egalitarian.
2)   British cannot be blamed for partition or for famines.
 
Do these statements, in any way, come under the category of U-Turn? Is KE’s assertion that Hinduism in not egalitarian and only pluralistic tantamount to repackaging and digestion of Indic tradition? Is he saying that only western culture is egalitarian and not Hinduism? Is he re-packaging egalitarian of Hinduism?
 
Hence the first assertion could not prove U-Turn theory.
 
But there is one important point that you missed in KE’ tweets where he is stating. “Stop this special pleading of trying to force-fit Dharma into the Procrustean bed of Cultural-Marxist egalitarianism.”  
 
I think this tweet show KE’s brilliant insight and understanding about Dharma which most of the Hindu activists lacks. Dharma does not preach modern egalitarianism. It preaches adhikaribhed(learning and teaching as per capability, inclination, and talent) as an important consideration for structuring society. Dharma recognizes natural inequality in human beings and therefore never talks about the eradication of inequality as the foremost goal of human society. The modern conception of equality brings homogeneity, as it can be seen in Communist and Capitalist society, and become a danger to inherent plurality and diversity of society.
 
It is sad to read that you missed his brilliant insight and start accusing him of U-Turn. 
 
Now let’s try to understand KE’s second assertion about blaming of partition on Islam and not on British. First of all, those who are familiar with the work of KE could easily recall that he has been saying the same thing for more than 25 years now. Therefore there is no question of reversing old statements in the light of new benefits he might get from his “imaginary masters/sponsors” in the West. Nor he is repackaging old theory in a new name for entering into mainstream academia in the West or become inventor to earn royalty out of it, as the case with many U-Turners. 
 
Let me share with you one talk, recorded almost three years back, where he is stating the same view about partition:
Please go through this video link to get an idea how consistent KE’s views. 
By: Aditya Singh
1) It perhaps is true, that British did not think for the Idea of Partition of India, along with plan to vacate it, before the reality of post war power equations dawned on them. But their actions of exacerbating divisions certainly lead to it, consider the Partition of Bengal on religious lines for instance. The western interest in having a friendly Pakistan in the subcontinent to block Soviet expansion in subcontinent is we attested. Pakistan is till today west’s major non-NATO ally.
As the paramount power, they cannot be absolved from their role in the hasty partition and the post partition violence that resulted. Their inability to enforce peace in direct action day riots is also well-known. Of course it can’t be honest to say the gullible Muslim population of India was induced by British to cause Partition.
2) On famines their doings are well attested. Of course they are responsible for the famines with their heavy taxation policy and forcing cultivation of cash crops to meet their interests. Their response to famines were to force stricken people to labour in distant locations in return for meagre relief. Churchill is personally responsible for the 2M deaths in Bengal famine of 1943. They are singularly responsible for destroying the Indian economy and political institutions what else it the whole hue and cry about colonialism?

3) Maratha, Panipat and Mughals. The Maratha conquest of India was not at all a Hindu Muslim issue. It was an issue of Swaraj for the Marathas in Deccan and then of conquest of Hindustan(north India).

In the Battle of Panipat for instance there were two loyal Muslim generals in Sadashiv Rao Bhau’s army who gave their lives and the Holkar contingent betrayed Bhau by deserting. Malhar Rao Holkar did a double dealing with Najib Khan Rohilla the chief (siding with Abdali). Shujaudaula who was on Abdali’s side had Hindu staff serving under him.

Marathas had sought out Shujaudaulla to support them as an ally in the War but he was persuaded by Najib to take Abdali’s side.
So while for Abdali and his soldiers this was a religious war, for Maratha it was not. And none of the Hindu/Muslim rulers of North India supported Maratha in this war. They just waited and watched who wins. It was Maratha overconfidence that cost them Panipat and lack of allies.
Mughal ruler were titular rulers since death of Aurangzeb and complete puppets for much of 18th and 19th century till 1857 when they were finally deposed. They were only used to provide ‘legal’ cover for usurpation of former Mughal territory. This was the design of Mahadji Shinde when he installed Shah Alam II. Marathas never backed out from War with Hindu rulers in Hindustan(north India) in order to collect their tribute. They fought with Rajputs and Jats. Were supported by Muslim rulers in these wars and vice versa.  For the Muslim rulers when it suited them they sided with the powerful Maratha and when it suited them they united against the infidels. All these Muslim rulers and a majority of their military was made up of Turks, Uzbeks, Persians, Afghans etc who drew on their own lot to project power. Yes minus the loss at Panipat, minus the internal rivalries in Maratha camp and minus the British occupation of Bengal and Awadh in 18th century, there would have been a very different history for Marathas in 19th century.
In 1857 not only did the Sepoys rush to Delhi they also rushed to Peshwa Nana Sahib. It was the lack of vision and disunity in the Maratha camp that lead to their not being able to utilise this opportunity to unseat the British. Something that the titular Peshwa was fully seized upon but was powerless without allies to do.
By: Ashok Priya
I am happy to agree with Elst that Hinduism is not egalitarian; egalitarianism is a failed utopian ideology.
I think egalitarianism is considered a virtue now for wrong reasons, as explained below. Sets may be ordered, partially ordered, or unordered. The West tends to model many things in society as if they were totally ordered, with the obsession for rankings being an example.
Of course, they did such ranking for races too. Opponents of white supremacy still accept the totally ordered model, and the only alternative to the superiority-inferiority duality then is equality (in the sense of sameness). Hinduism does not use this totally ordered model, which brings me to my slight criticism of Elst below, while admitting the validity of his main argument.
You have no chance at all by claiming that Hinduism (after the early layers of the Rg-Veda) had no caste hierarchy
It is true that varnas show that Hinduism did not believe in equality, but it does not mean that there is a hierarchy, with one varna being superior to another. If one takes a specific dimension, then such superiority may be postulated, but not while taking the totality of human qualities. For example, Brahmins may be considered superior to Kshatriyas in vedic knowledge, but not in bravery in battle. (Karna was exposed due to the latter.) A kshatriya may be considered superior to a vaishya in valor, but not in trade.
So, my position is that pre-medieval Hinduism was neither egalitarian nor hierarchical … and we Hindus can stop being apologetic about our non-egalitarianism.
By: Ram Sidhaye
I have met Prof. KE and have read most of his writings including books. By any logic, KE is a true scholar with integrity. He has no personal agenda. He has paid a price for his views on Hindu Dharma. I believe that KE is sincere when he writes. He will never make UTurn.
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