Long Read: Understanding Ideological Hindu-Hatred And Underlying Christian, Islamic Imperial Structures That Fuel It
Hatred cannot be countered and fought until an honest assessment is made of what it is how it is came to be.
In the introduction of this series, we discussed how the Left, despite repeat exposes, ultimately succeeds in setting the narrative.
In the four cases that rocked India in the last five months — anti-CAA protests, Delhi riots, Tablighi-Jamaat Covid-19 fiasco, and Palghar lynchings — all the facts, observations and assessments that run counter to the Left narrative have been surgically removed from the mainstream discourse.
This means, not only the right-wing has to start every fight from zero, but also that its long-term impact and achievements remain limited.
How to solve this?
The first and necessary step is to correctly diagnose the problem, to understand the underlying ideology and structures that cause tragedies like Palghar lynchings.
Imagine if the leaders of the Indian national movement had not taken the pains of exposing the colonial ideology, the ‘drain of wealth’ and the underlying reality of the “benevolent” British rule.
Surely the Indians would have remained limited to fighting only the immediate and visible enemies— moneylenders, zamindars, policemen etc.— and that too only when the oppression became unbearable.
In that case, the British would have faced only sporadic, fragmented, local revolts which they could either suppress easily, or mediate as the “good guys”.
It is very easy to 'divide and rule' when the subjects don’t understand who the real oppressors are and what motivates them.
There is another problem.
If the character of the oppressor and oppression isn’t clear, the opposition to it may take the form of a violent, impulsive backlash that targets certain identities instead of certain ideas. This makes a movement regressive.
What happened to Pakistan after the Muslim League got its separate “Muslim homeland” or to Iran after overthrowing the American puppet Shah, for example, is a cautionary tale.
In this case, the oppressed may succeed in overthrowing the oppressor, but they risk becoming one themselves. While the bad guys are out, the bad ideas remain.
The Indic movement, therefore, needs to avoid impulsive backlash and graduate from discrete events of sudden outbursts of anger to sustained, multifaceted campaigns with clear-cut goals.
The underlying ideology that connects the anti-CAA protests, Delhi riots, Tablighi-Jamaat Covid-19 fiasco, and Palghar lynchings is Hindu-hate — the historical hate against pagans, polytheists and idol-worshippers.
It is important to remember that the fight is against this ideology of Hindu-hate, the ideas that fuelled the persecution of Indic peoples, and not against particular identities — Christian or Muslim.
Making it about the identity only helps the detractors of the movement.
As we witnessed in the Tablighi Jamaat-Covid-19 episode, the Left tries to turn every incident of Hindu-hate into a communal (“Hindu Muslim”) issue to divert the attention from the real problem.
Once the focus shifts from the idea to identity, it is easier to spin the narrative. Here, the kafir-hate propaganda was buried under the narrative of “Islamophobia”.
Now, the underlying structures.
First is the Indian Left-Western Left-imperialists alliance.
In an earlier article, we discussed how the Indian Left has reduced itself to the junior partner, the local outreach department of global capitalists and Christian-Islamic imperial forces.
We also observed how the common goal of 'total destruction of status quo for an ultimate perfect society’ helps the Leftists ally with regressive forces like the Islamists.
In a post-colonial under-developed country, the bulwark against the communist fantasy of total destruction is not capitalism, but culture.
Therefore, Indian Left finds ample ground to ally with Christian-Islamic imperialists who have a disdain for the culture of the majority.
This is one of the factors behind the academic Hinduphobia described in detail by Rajiv Malhotra. This is how centuries-old ideological Hindu-hatred becomes adorned with scholarly value.
We have also discussed previously that it is the Indian Left which is dependant on the imperialists for survival, not the other way around. Hence, we need to learn in depth about the Christian-Islamic imperial structures, and that is the goal of this article.
Why "Christian" and “Islamic” imperialism, just to target Christians and Muslims? Isn’t this bigotry?
Calling the opposition to Hindu-hate bigotry against Christians and Muslims is like calling the decolonisation movements bigotry against the white men from the West.
Christian and Islamic imperialism is not about Christians/Muslims or Christianity/Islam. Former are group identities, latter are religions. It is about the ideology of Hindu-hate and the structures furthering it in a systematic manner.
The name ‘Christian’ and ‘Islamic’ is used because historically, those who spread Hindu hate and persecuted Hindus, did it in the name of Christianity or Islam.
Now, “Christian-Islamic imperialism” doesn’t signify that both are the same, or that Christianity or Islam are the same.
It simply means that cataloguing the differences between or within them is an extravagance from our standpoint, irrelevant except for the differences in the ways in which the Hindu-hate ideology is conceived or implemented.
The British and the French fought bitterly over colonies. Both, however, agreed on the colonial ideology — natives are inferior and meant to be subjugated by the superior race.
Similarly, Christians and Muslims vehemently accuse each other of not being a true monotheist, all the while agreeing that monotheism is superior. Both believe that the polytheists, pagans and idol-worshippers are at the bottom of the strata, meant to subjugated, fought to the point of extermination.
Still, isn’t using Christian, Islamic imperialism instead of ‘British Raj’, ‘Delhi Sultanate’ or ‘Mughal rule’ an attempt to communalise history?
The ‘British Raj’, ‘Delhi Sultanate’ and ‘Mughal rule’ are perpetrator-centric (and power-centric) nomenclatures which use the names by which the perpetrators liked to be called.
These nomenclatures classify the Indian history on the basis of the identity of the rulers, and as we have already said, this is not about identity.
‘Christian and Islamic imperialism’ is the victim-centric nomenclature — that is how a vast majority of Hindus experienced it.
In a previous article on Mughal Raj, we discussed how a continuous thread of Hindu hatred has existed in the subcontinent since the arrival of Muhammad bin Qasim.
From Delhi Sultanate, Mughals to the Muslims revivalist movements like Tablighi Jamaat (1926), the politics of the Muslim League and the Partition, to 'Bas naam rahega Allah ka’ and Sharjeel Imams of today, the goals of Islamic supremacy — converting the whole of India to ‘Dar-ul-Islam’ and hatred against polytheists and idol-worshippers have essentially remained the same.
While colonialism was buoyed by several different factors, Christian imperialism, which predates it (remember the aggressive destruction of the Classical World), played a central role.
Christianity was the state religion of the colonising powers, and in many ways, the state acted as the political arm, the implementing agency of the former's sensibilities:
Colonialism is a form of imperialism based on a divine mandate and designed to bring liberation – spiritual, cultural, economic and political – by sharing the blessings of the Christ-inspired civilization of the West with a people suffering under satanic oppression, ignorance and disease..
According to Micheal Wood, Christian monotheism, which espoused “one truth, one time and one version of reality” shaped the colonisers viewpoint towards the indigenous people who were considered less than humans.
The missionaries in the colonies were (and still are) projected as the beacons of civilisation in a “sea of persistent savagery". The encounter between the missionaries and the natives was shown as an encounter between “light and darkness”.
Various post-colonial scholars have revealed how the Christian missionaries were colonialism's "agent, scribe and moral alibi” and acted as the "ideological shock troops for colonial invasion”.
Usually, the Christian missionaries would reach the newly “discovered” lands and taking advantage of the benevolence or ignorance of the locals, establish a church.
The initial days would be spent in learning the local language, earning people’s trust and getting entry and understanding into native customs and traditions.
The missionaries would produce literature painting a grim picture of the indigenous people, encouraging the white man to rise up to the burden of civilising the barbaric orientals. This literature would be circulated widely in Europe to build public support for colonialism.
Once the assessment was over, the missionaries would begin aggressive proselytisation against the indigenous culture, and slightest resistance from the natives would become a convenient excuse for the political arm — the European states — to invade.
These invasions, like the Portuguese inquisition in Goa, involved physical violence as well as cultural destruction — loot and plunder, mass killings, enslavement, forced conversions and rampant destruction of temples and religious symbols, banning native cultural expressions and practices like ekadashi fast, Hindu marriage ceremony, feeding the poor etc.
The church-gathered information about the natives would go on to assist the conquerors to effectively subjugate the locals and solidify the foreign rule.
As Brahmabandhab Upadhyaya said in 1899, “First comes the Missionary, and then comes the Resident, lastly comes the Regiment”.
The British in India weren’t as zealous about the religious conversion in the beginning as the prime motive of the East India Company was profit, and aggressive proselytisation by the missionaries, subsequent resistance and wars would harm the trade.
This changed as the British became more confident about their rule and mercantilism gave way to modern industrialism.
Like all other colonial powers, the British saw Christian instruction as “the best guarantee against rebellion, as it would rescue the natives from their polytheistic Hinduism and make them part of the assimilative project of colonialism”.
Indic faiths were the “principle problem of India” and had to be cured by “Christian light”.
There was no way the mighty British could allow their Indian subjects to continue to live under the “grossest, the darkest and most degrading system of idolatrous superstition that almost ever existed upon earth".
Everything about Hinduism was hideous, grotesque, ignoble, disgusting, and Hindus were weak, effeminate, slavish people, who deserved to be subjugated.
James Mill wrote: ‘In truth the Hindu, like the eunuch, excels in the qualities of a slave … the Mahomedan is more manly.’ Others like Macaulay also held Islam superior as it belonged to a “better family” (of Abrahamic faiths).
In fact, one of the reasons behind the British supporting the formation of Pakistan was to place Islam — a ‘superior, manlier’ religion — between Russia and Hindustan as a wall to stop the spread of communism, since Hinduism was bound to go extinct soon, and Communism could fill the void.
The fact that the “rumours” of mixing of cow-bone dust in the atta, cartridges greased by cow and pig fat to destroy the religion of the natives acted as a spark for the 1857 mutiny signals how pervasive and intense would've been the abuse by the administration-missionary nexus.
After the revolt of 1857, there were calls to eradicate Hinduism — ‘such a religion as the religion of the Hindoo, the Indian government were bound, as in the sight of God, to put down with all the strength of their hand’.
Horror-stories of mistreatment of tribal children, forced separation from family and conversion to Christianity, violent methods of “civilising” them in the church-run institutions, even selling them as slaves to wealthy white men who paraded them as zoo-animals, denying medication to patients until they converted, are well known today.
On the outside, the missionaries would ridicule Indic faiths, proclaim superiority of Christianity, abuse Hindu priests and temples, threaten people with hellfire if they don't convert, and carry out mass conversion ceremonies.
And all this was hidden under the package of “social reform”.
It is important to point out that the administration-missionary nexus, so worried about social reform in India, was painfully unaware of its own barbarities.
Sati (very much an exception than the rule in Hindu life) in India was projected as a proof of the ‘uncivilised Hindu’, but thousands of women burnt alive on the stake by the church in Europe for being ‘witches’ meant nothing.
For ‘social reform’, the British gave Indian women separate electorate in 1920 — something they had never given to the women of Britain.
The Muslims in India were also given separate electorate and personal laws by the British, but in the territory of Britain, to this day, even niqah is not recognised.
The aarati and Yoga were criticised as regressive superstitions but groups of women forced into abnormal behaviour by the touch of the Holy Spirit was progressive.
Those who haven’t been able to reform the culture of child sex abuse in the church 20 years into the millennium quickly banned Bharatnatyam, the paintings of Hindu gods, etc. for “social reform” in India over a century ago.
The schools run by the missionaries, something the imperialists are very proud of, destroyed, first, the indigenous education system that suited the needs of the natives and covered all the castes — for example, 70 per cent students in Salem and Tinnevelly to over 84 per cent in South Arcot were Soodras and the other castes (later to be labeled as SC) — and then, any sense of self-confidence among Indians.
Swami Vivekananda noted about a child in a missionary school:
..first thing he learns is that his father is a fool, the second thing that his grandfather is a lunatic, the third thing that all his teachers are hypocrites, the fourth that all his sacred books are a mass of lies. By the time he reaches sixteen, he is a mass of negation, lifeless and boneless.
In every way colonialism affected the subjugated peoples, the church played a role, be it economic (missionaries taking over native land for churches and private property, imposing discriminatory taxes on Hindus), political (legislation to facilitate conversion like Lex Loci Act), social (exploiting local cleavages as in the case of Hutu and Tutsis that led to Rwandan genocide, Partition) or cultural (ban on expressions of Indic culture – dances, paintings, etc).
The greatest example of this is the colonial enterprise of knowledge-production –– the stereotyping and fetishisation of the Indic cultures and civilisation.
In large parts, the colonial epistemological projects were built over the foundations laid by the missionaries, and the Hindu-hating religious dogmas were modified into scholarly works of academic value.
But that is in the past. For how long will we remain a hostage of our past? Both British and Mughals are long gone, and Christianity and Islam in India arrived before these.
Hindu-hate has as much to do with Christianity and Islam as the Christians and Muslims respectively decide. It’s not our job to do it for them.
We are only concerned with the history of atrocities committed in the name of Christianity and Islam.
Both Christianity and Islam were born and spent the founding years in opposition to something. There is an embedded ‘othering’ and a long history of hate against polytheists, pagans, idol-worshippers.
From the Indic standpoint, Christianity and Islam are less a religion and more a political movement to convert the world to own identity.
There is an inherent imperial character that goes with the popular criticism of monotheism –– “it is always weaponized and waiting only for someone to pull the trigger".
The weapon targets not only those outside, but also within –– sectarian conflicts and persecution of the minorities within the group –– like that of of Mormons in Protestant-dominated United States, Ahmadis in the Sunni-majority Pakistan; the Catholic-Protestant violence that took the lives of over 3,500 people in Ireland in the last 40 years of the 20th century.
Tim Whitmarsh, in his review of the Catherine Nixey's The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World, tells the reason behind physical violence and cultural destruction carried out by the church –– fear of demons who manifest as “fake” gods.
The ideologies built on ‘othering’ are prone to become a cult of the self-created enemy image.
The belief “Satan and his angels have filled the whole world” results in a perpetual and total war against anything perceived “demonic” or “satanic”.
[For a Christian] destroying a “pagan” statue or burning a book..is a no more violent act than amputating a gangrenous limb..If you think that a marble statue is possessed by a demon, then it makes a kind of sense to dig out its eyes and score a cross in its forehead
But this hatred of pagans isn’t organic or spontaneous. It is pushed in a systematic way by the organised religious leadership.
The real blame..lies at the door of the church fathers, whose spine-tingling sermons ramped up the polarising rhetoric of violent difference. They wove “a rich tapestry of metaphor”, construing theological opponents of all kinds as bestial, verminous, diseased and – naturally – demonic
The similar stereotype of Jews as a disease, a gangrenous limb led to the holocaust that killed over 6 million Jews.
While Indian scholars disproportionately highlight the ‘antiquity’ of Christianity and Islam in India, the fact remains that before the foreign conquests, Muslim and Christian communities were minuscule, and existed there only because of the tolerant nature of the Indic people.
Almost entirely, Islam and Christianity came in India riding the horses of the invaders, depended on the political power for existence, and spread alongside the subjugation of Hindus.
Without the political subjugation by the British and Islamic rulers, it wouldn’t be the case today that the Catholic Church with less than 2 per cent of Indians as followers is the largest private land holder, and Waqf properties constitute six lakh acres of land worth Rs 12 trillion.
When ideological Hindu-hate precedes the Mughals and the British by centuries, it is juvenile to suggest that the Hindu-hatred ended with the Mughal or British Raj.
Yes, their explicit political rule ended, but it was never just about political subjugation.
The whole discipline of post colonial thought is dedicated to uncover and overturn the psychological, cultural, social and economic dimensions of the foreign rule that continue to subjugate the formerly colonised people.
The saddest part is that this simple and obvious fact is lost on Indians 70 years after the independence, despite the vigorous efforts of our freedom fighters.
The stalwarts of the Indian national movement, Gandhi, Tagore, Vivekananda, Subhas Chandra Bose, Lala Lajpat Rai, Sardar Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru, B R Ambedkar etc. also warned us against the imperial nature of Christian and Islamic forces.
Tagore had said:
There are two religions on the Earth which have distinct enmity against all other religions. These two are Christianity and Islam. They are not satisfied with just observing their own religions but are determined to destroy all other religions. That’s why the only way to make peace with them is to embrace their religion.
In his book, The Discovery of India, Nehru, the father of Indian model of secularism, called Christianity and Islam “aggressive religions”.
He also said that “Islam had become a more rigid faith suited more to military conquests rather than the conquests of the mind.”
B R Ambedkar said:
To the Muslims, a Hindu (and any Non-Muslim) is a Kafir. A Kafir (Non-Believer in Islam) is not worthy of respect. He is a low born and without status. That is why a country ruled by the Kafir (Non-Muslim) is a ‘Dar ul Harb’ (i.e. the Land of War) to a Muslim, which must be conquered, by any means for the Muslims and turned into ‘Dar ul Islam’...For those who are outside the corporation (of Islam) there is nothing but contempt and enmity.
Even Gandhi, for all his sarva dharma samabhava, noted the aggression against Indic peoples in the name of Christianity and Islam.
..thirteen hundred years of imperialistic expansion has made the Musslamans fighters as a body. They are therefore aggressive. Bullying is the natural excrescence of an aggressive spirit. The Hindu has an ages old civilization. He is essentially non violent..The vice [of Hindus] is therefore a natural excrescence of gentleness.
The same Vivekananda that said that the Indian civilization holds all religions as true, taking heed of the hate preached to the followers of Christianity and Islam against Hindus and Hinduism, was forced to say:
Every man going out of the Hindu pale is not only a man less, but an enemy the more.
Many others like Dayanand Saraswati, Vishnubawa Brahmachari took the missionaries’ challenge head-on.
While continuing the long tradition of organic reform in Hindu society, these thinkers destroyed the missionary propaganda on Hinduism –– a remarkable achievement (Contrast this with the response of Muslim leadership that turned towards fundamentalism and rigidity).
It was due to the efforts of leaders like these with their witty repartee and vigorous argument that the Christian missionaries failed in converting large number of Indians to Christianity despite explicit state support.
They gave public speeches, travelled across the country, carried out debates against missionaries.
The exposition of Indian culture and civilisation by them, circulated widely among the masses, laid the foundation of the national movement long before the advent of the political struggle for freedom:
Even before the time of the British assumption of direct rule in 1858, Hindu religious polemics had already generated one of the most potent and enduring articles of faith underlying India’s modern national identity.
Many works of art and literature also highlight the experience of Hindus who faced persecution at hands of zealous Christian and Muslim forces.
Premchand (1880-1936) who is applauded for his attempts to form a bridge between the Hindus and Muslims through his writing, also couldn’t turn a blind eye to the historical Hindu persecution.
In his short story which he chose to title ‘Jihad’, Premchand gives a candid depiction of Hindus suffering at the hands of zealous Pathans.
Premchand’s description of the inspiration behind Hindu-hatred through the Mulla’s speech –– the hatred of kufr and the inferiority of Kafirs, the religious significance of converting them to Islam, the belief that Khuda wants one to do so, the seduction of getting beautiful women in paradise –– reverberates with the reality of radical Islam today.
It is rather unfortunate that the illustrious struggles of our leaders against the Christian and Islamic aggression haven’t made it to the modern-day textbooks, but colonial stereotypes perpetuating Hindu-hate are found aplenty.
Now that we have some historical perspective, we shall move on to discuss how Christian-Islamic imperial forces continue to operate without explicit political rule, the great problems they have caused, and why India was’t able to restrain these after independence — in Part II.
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