Friday, January 02, 2015

Hindustan's 80% Minority by Abheek Barman (in Economic Times 2nd January 2015)

Jan 02 2015 : The Economic Times (Bangalore)
Hindustan's 80% Minority
Abheek Barman
FOLK THEOREM There's no surprise in Indian politics' latest lurch towards communalism

In the 2001 census returns, people who called themselves `Hindus' were a little more than 80% of the population of India. Yet, since May when the BJP came to power, the only thing its parent, the RSS, wants is to convert Muslims, Christians, Jews -and anyone else in the 20% -to Hinduism.
So now, we have mass conversion campaigns, turning Indian politics into a pressure cooker of communal rhetoric. Parliament is paralysed.Reforms are stalled. Those who imagined that Narendra Modi would push development, not sectarianism, are pulling their hair out.
Spare your scalp. This chronicle was foretold more than 85 years ago when the bizarre theories that fuel the RSS and its allies took shape.Many assumptions based on prejudice and a warped telling of history underlie this.
One is about how Muslim `invaders' came to India and converted Hindus to Islam at the point of the sword.If true, this would imply parts of the subcontinent ruled by the sultanates and the Mughal empire, based largely out of Delhi, would have the maximum number of converts to Islam.
In an influential paper published in 1985, the American historian Richard M Eaton showed that exactly the opposite was true. Looking at data from 1200 to pre-Partition India, he found that the areas of the subcontinent that had the maximum number of Muslims were places beyond the pale of Delhi's `Islamic' administration; and where Delhi had maximum control, the number of Muslims was the least.
The most Islamised places were Balochistan, the northwest areas, western Punjab, greater Bengal, and coastal areas on the western peninsula from Gujarat to Kerala. The heart of Sultanate and Mughal administration, from Rajasthan in the west to Gangetic Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, were the least Islamised areas.
Currency Converter
The northwest, western Punjab and greater Bengal were never `Hinduised' in any meaningful way . They took easily to Islam when, in the west, Iranian and Turkic folks brought farm innovations like the Persian wheel to convert the kinetic energy of water for other uses, vastly boosting yields and incomes. In the east, as the course of the Ganga shifted from western to eastern Bengal, fertility improved, and local Sufi saints guided folks to better methods of cultivation and incomes. Indeed, even today , farm productivity in Bangladesh is better than in West Bengal.
But the biggest integrator with Islam was commerce. The landlocked west and parts of east Bengal got connected with land trade routes that stretched from China to Europe.
Many of these traders spoke Arabic or Persian, and we imbibed much from them. The peninsular region absorbed Islam through maritime trade across the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. You didn't need a sword to convert. The plough and profits were enough. So, how did plough and profit yield to toxic Hindutva? Sometime in the 1920s, an upper caste, English-educa ted Maharashtrian decided that Hin dus had had enough of `foreign' rule.
His solution: get rid of the Muslims, Christians and all non-Hindus and expand ` Aryan' supremacy globally .
He had tried to kill a Briton in En gland, was captured, spent time in jail and wrote the Bible of the RSS.
He argued that long ago, every race in the world was inferior to Hindus, who were originally Aryan super men from a land of seven rivers and invented everything worth knowing, presumably with the exception of in stant coffee and Google.
This knowledge they exported to the West, and forgot all about it. So, they were unprepared when the West turned everything back on us.
Turning Full Circle
Now, it was payback time. Kick all infidels out or turn them into Hindus, if necessary , at the point of a trishul.This book, published in 1923, was Hindutva. Its author was Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, or as the RSS calls him, `Veer' -brave -Savarkar. One of the few people who took him seriously was a Greek-French woman called Maximiani Portas, or Savitri Devi, as she called herself.She exported Savarkar's ideas to Bengal and to Adolf Hitler, no less. But Savarkar couldn't live up to his lofty ideals or his `Veer' epithet. He crawled before his captors to get out of jail and never took part in the Independence movement.
To get out of the slammer, he wrote, “If the government in their manifold beneficence and mercy release me, I for one cannot but be the staunchest advocate of constitutional progress and loyalty to the English government.... My conversion to the constitutional line would bring back all those misled young men in India and abroad who were once looking up to me as their guide.... The Mighty alone can afford to be merciful and, therefore, where else can the prodigal son return but to the parental doors of the government.“
Savarkar, the fountainhead of Hindu supremacism, bartered his beliefs for personal freedom. Today , his followers indulge in doublespeak about development and demagoguery .


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