These words from one of the greatest literary minds of all time provides so much food for thought that one is compelled to think about its undeniable application in the modern-day scenario, including and especially India, which is currently in the middle of an ideological battle that could go on to change its course as a modern civilisation in the years to come.
From riots to Supreme Court verdicts, Ram Temple to government policies, and from festivals to films, everything is currently viewed from an ideological lens and sparks feisty, strong, aggressive and, sometimes, ugly debates on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
At a time when the West is debating the racist nature of its foundational doctrine, which led to the modern-day nation-state structure globally, India, owing to the rise of the Indic wing on social media, is debating about the accuracy, bias and possible malevolence in the history taught to its populous.
For far too long, the subject of Indology has been pushed into oblivion and kept far away from the general populous.
In the past half a decade, the Twitter account True Indology (now @TIinExile) has fought a lone battle and single-handedly dispelled several theories about festivals, Hindu scriptures and the attempt to sugar coat the massacres by invaders on the Indian subcontinent.
Most recently, TI fought and exposed the lies about the festival of Onam and the narrative about it not being ‘Vamana Jayanti.’
Within moments of the debate starting on Twitter after a tweet by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and ‘Left leaning’ intellectuals questioning him, TI put out proof quoting Bhagvata Purana and then gave a detailed explanation which, as usual, stumped the Opposition.
Conspicuous by his anonymity and famous for an enigmatic internet persona, TI is unperturbed by those questioning the decision to not reveal identity as some sort of fear.
"There is a difference between inclination to privacy and fear. As an individual, I am protective about my privacy and not comfortable with posting a lot of my details online. As far as anonymity is concerned, when I decide the time is right, I will no longer be anonymous. And even when I am not anonymous, I will prefer to stay out of public, for, I value my privacy," True Indology tells me.
TI has been at the forefront of the debate about Indian history on Twitter and such was the account’s popularity that it crossed 1.65 lakh followers within no time.
Sharp rebuttals, factual counters with proof and an unabashed demeanour set True Indology apart from other Twitter handles on the right side of the ideological spectrum.
However, when the Twitter account was taken down, TI had to fight alone and makes it clear in trademark candour.
So what is it that drives True Indology? And how does TI even come up with such sharp citations and quick rebuttals to historical facts or, in many cases, narratives propagated by the current Indian academia and intelligentsia, whose left-leaning bias is probably clearer than fresh water in Lake Baikal?
TI’s counters to the Left domination in India’s academia do not end there and the intent is to ‘de-colonise’ minds of people in a way that they’re back to roots whilst moving forward in the 21st century and for the person behind True Indology, these powerful forces want to keep the masses away from India’s real civilisational history but it won’t stop his/her endeavour to counter them, even if it needs to be done single-handedly.
Unlike all other journeys, the path of knowledge not have an end and no matter how much information one gathers, it is impossible to know everything about a subject, particularly history. For TI, who has researched history and referenced it from thousands of books, the speed of replies to counter false theories comes from nothing but years of study.
"Therefore, in most of the instances, I am already aware of the subject and it does not take me long to put the information together in a thread," TI says.
If there is one word that has been misinterpreted, used, re-used, debated and sometimes even abused among the Indian intellectual sphere – it is Secularism.
Since secularism, combined with democracy, is the utopian ideology for a state according to almost all modern-day intellectuals, should it be applied to India in a different way? TI thinks so.
When India transitioned from monarchy to democracy, there was no role of ‘church’ as far as the Hindu society was concerned. The concept of ‘separation of state from church’, therefore, was not applicable. It is no wonder why such a definition of secularism has not been implemented in India even today and this brings us to the core issue of secularism in this country,’ says TI.
The clarity in TI’s views is thought provoking and makes you wonder, is India truly secular? Are religious institutions independent and not linked to the state in any manner? The reality is the exact opposite.
This begs the question as to what we mean by ‘secularism’ in India. If it means, ‘equal treatment of all religions’ or ‘equal sponsorship of all religions’ by the state, we have seen that it is untrue in case of India. If one examines further, one finds that by secularism, what they really mean is ‘equal acceptance of all religions’ in India,’ opines True Indology.
The debate on secularism, often, usually precedes a Hindus-versus- Muslim debate on social media, where it turns ugly and both sides end up resorting to vile comments, abuses and sometimes even rape or death threats.
More than reflecting poorly on the conduct of the constituents of this debate, the abuse clouds and overshadows the underlying discussion on Indic values and Indian history, which, TI feels, is far more important.
TI’s intellectual opponents accuse the account, and its followers, of being xenophobic, Islamophobic and sometimes even abusive but he shoots down the claim instantly.
"I see this almost every day when historians, real and self-proclaimed, from various fields (politics, literature, journalism, academia and so on) come to my timeline. In the absence of factual counters, they throw ad hominem at me, attempt to invalidate my contention using my anonymity, seek to dox me or just block me while pandering to their side of the echo chamber. If such people cannot bring themselves to discuss history dispassionately, how does one expect intellectually suppressed masses, lulled into believing the worst about their own past, to engage in a polite debate?" TI asks politely.
While True Indology quite explicitly steers away from being labelled as part of any ‘wing,’ the account’s followers and critics clearly fall in two categories – the Right and non-Right (a combination of the Left and those who call themselves ‘secular liberal’).
The advent of social media has resulted in an uncomfortable and sometimes unfair comparison between Abrahamic religions (Christianity and Islam to be specific) and the Hindu belief system.
True Indology has been profusely explicit in his criticism of Islamic invaders and says it is about time people come to terms with the reality.
So, what is True Indology’s response to those calling him/her as an Islamophobe or a ‘right wing troll’?
"I view it as intellectual bankruptcy on the part of those who do not have the inclination and aptitude to engage as open-minded learners. Earlier, I used to be appalled by their lack of comprehension and dishonesty. Nothing shocks me anymore now," TI counters them.
What about ‘Brahminical patriarchy’ and the caste system, two pet peeves of True Indology’s opponents and those who criticise the Hindu belief system?
TI believes that the account is not in the business of defending or attacking anyone, the intent is objectivity, whether the other side likes it or not.
Quite surprisingly, India and Indian academia do not take Indology seriously, which results in the youth being reliant on foreign authors for learning facts and concepts about the history of their own civilisation and nation. Unlike other belief systems, the purview of the Hindu religion is so vast that it would be difficult to even imagine a unified curriculum that can be taught. But True Indology has a list of books that are essential for anyone interested in Indian history to read.
"I would recommend The wonder that was India by A.L. Basham, A History of Indian Buddhism by Hirakawa, The Indian Ocean by Michael Pearson, A History of South India by KAN Shastri and Arthashastra by Olivelle,’ True Indology says.
In a modern world where fighting addiction to social media is one of the primary challenges for anyone, the ability to put out detailed arguments based on facts and nuances is a rare one.
True Indology’s brilliance is sometimes overshadowed by the debates with people on the other spectrum, who are rattled by TI’s dispassionate and forthright views on subjects that are usually considered ‘sensitive’ or ‘controversial.’
From Aurangzeb to Ashoka, True Indology’s fact-based views backed with citations have forced people to rethink their knowledge about the Indian civilisations.
But what else does True Indology read apart from Indian history and non-fiction? Which are some of TI’s favourite books by foreign authors?
Not surprisingly, Arthur Conan Doyle and Alexandre Dumas are on TI’s list of favourite authors and books like The Boy in Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne, Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel and Judah by Francesca Stavrakopoulou and Shahnameh by Firdausi are some of TI’s favourite non-Indology related books.
But when is True Indology writing a book or is the book even on the cards?
"Yes, I am writing a book. I have not kept any temporal deadlines for myself. The book will finish when I cover everything I want to see in my book to my fullest satisfaction. I will take the sole call on the publisher without any external interference. The Twitterverse has seen and will see my face again when the time is right," TI reveals.
The ideals of a polite debate having gone out of the window, it is difficult in the age of social media to keep one’s calm and decorum, especially on Twitter, and True Indology’s principles are clear — no endorsements of any form of abuse, but won’t shy away from giving it back to someone who tries to get personal.
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