The Cultural Landscape of Hindutva & Other Essays: Historical Legitimacy of an Idea. Saumya Dey. Shubhi Publications. Hardcover. Rs. 636.
That the dark clouds of the Left’s malicious political propaganda have been hovering over university campuses for decades, and that the Left has entrenched its hegemony over the academic sphere without any breathing space for dissenting voices, are well-accepted and established facts now.
It is also acknowledged by many of us concerned citizens, both within and outside the academic sphere, that we are in the midst of a full-fledged war of narratives.
The threat from the Left is both imminent and existential, as it has been at the task of uprooting the Indic civilization since its inception in India.
Producing rigorous scholarship of dissenting and legitimate narratives seems to be one of the key ways of tackling this malaise which has continuously been festering the wounds of our nation.
The book being reviewed in this article is one such wonderful attempt at challenging Left’s hegemony.
The Cultural Landscape of Hindutva & Other Essays (Shubhi Publications, 2019), authored by Saumya Dey, a historian of Indian intellectual thought, is a collection of 12 essays previously published on IndiaFacts, strung together by a defining ‘chronotrope’ of ‘counter-narrativity’, as the author puts it.
The essays, which had originally been written for a popular platform for Indic civilizational discourse, make for a very engaging read (spanning 140 pages, one can be done reading the book in a sitting or two) as they’re both rich in scholarship and yet attention-grabbing due to being spiced up with witty remarks throughout.
Addressing a wide range of issues such as rampant ‘anti-statism in the Indian media and academia’, ‘cultural marxism’ and the ‘victimhood industry’, the ‘colonised self’ of Indian academia, the curious absence of Ambedkar’s critique of Islam from Indian academic curricula, etc., each essay unravels and exposes the shaky bases of various propagandas peddled by the Left-liberal machinery.
These essays help us discard our own colonial baggage that we have been loaded with over the years, and equip us with the requisite narratives in our arsenal so as to help us become ‘Intellectual Kshatriyas’ and dispel the fake socio-political narratives surrounding us.
The book is divided into two sections, the first set of essays dealing with issues related to politics and culture, and the second critiquing some of the “grand” historical fictions presented as true renderings of India’s past.
The essays make a genuine attempt to provide sufficient empirical evidence for their arguments, so that the readers have ample primary and secondary sources at hand which they may later refer to and build upon the arguments put forth in the essays further.
What makes the first section interesting is that the essays, quite successfully, are able to shed light on the contemporary rot in the Indian academia, especially the social sciences.
The author himself being a product of Delhi University and Jawahar Lal Nehru University, is well aware of the deteriorating situation within these campuses, and is acquainted with the “intellectual waters” of the West, the left-liberal narratives quench their thirst wherefrom.
The set of essays collated under the ‘rubric’ of history are a delight for the reader, as they take the bull by the horn and straight away call out the ‘academic mythology’, to borrow the author’s phrase, spun and legitimized by the left-liberal lobby over time.
Although I won’t be able to cover the content of all the essays here (besides, it will be wise not to give away the entire arguments made and instead leave them for the readers to discover themselves), I would definitely like to highlight some of the arguments that caught my attention.
The second essay of the compilation argues that communists and liberals are actually ‘reactionary elites’ masquerading as revolutionaries and free thinkers respectively.
Communism, the author states, is ‘an outcrop of liberalism’. Drawing from thinkers of the enlightenment and post-enlightenment period, it is stated that the ideological underpinnings of both the streams of Western thought lie in their contempt for the sacred and lived culture.
The reader is thus able to make more sense of the ideological backdrop of the collaboration between the Left and so-called “liberal” lobbies, in spite of the Left being well-recognized as illiberal.
This also explains the continuous shift of the ideological spectrum of acceptable discourse towards the Left, as liberalism which is considered to be the “centre” of the spectrum is hand-in-glove with the Left.
Similarly, the fourth essay explains why the “liberals” and “radicals” remain oblivious to empirical truth and always fail to see beauty in their surrounding environment.
The author argues that things stand at such a sorry state-of-affairs because this segment of the society is not able to process ‘coherent, rational thought’, due to which they turn towards becoming ‘passionate patrons of asatya (untruth) and the vikrita (the gross and the horrid)’.
Moving on, the seventh essay is a scathing critique of cultural marxism and the victimhood industry.
Cultural marxism engages in the non-stop production of fresh oppressor-oppressed binaries and weaves false, stereotyped narratives around such binaries which threaten to destroy culturally-rooted societies into several fragments.
In all the essays in the first set of this collection, the author is able to trace the theoretical roots of the ideological positions of left-liberal narratives, thus challenging and exposing the falsehood and loopholes of their very foundations.
Although I won’t be delving into it here due to paucity of space, the section dealing with history is a solid add up to the increasing tome of books critically examining the historical mythologies prevalent in our academia.
I have saved the best (and my personal favorite) essay for the last. The first essay of the volume, which gives the book its title, is the theorization of Hindutva, which is defined by the author as an ‘ethical concatenation of Dharma, dharâ and rajya rooted in the Indic civilizational ethos and representative of a cultural landscape, or life world’.
Drawing primarily upon the works of Veer Savarkar, Guru Golwalkar and Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, the essay dismantles the misconception of Hindutva as an artificial concoction, and goes ahead to strongly put forth Hindutva as the lively and teeming expression of the Indic worldview.
Overall, the book (available ) is a must read for every ‘Intellectual Kshatriya’ in the making, and we as concerned citizens ought to question, critique, challenge and shred apart the fake narratives that are propagated in the academia and public discourse.
We also need to support such academic scholarship which takes up the risk of dissenting against Left’s hegemony and picks up the mantle to produce more truthful and legitimate narratives.
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