Tag Archives: marxism

Religion, Marxism and Slumdog

François Gautier
Source: Express buzz

First Published : 16 Mar 2009 02:09:00 AM IST
Last Updated : 16 Mar 2009 09:35:52 AM IST

WHY did a film like Slumdog Millionaire, which conveys an utterly negative image of India — slums, exploitation, poverty, corruption, anti Muslim pogroms — create so many waves in the West, pre and post Oscars? And why does not the Indian government protest, as the Chinese would indeed have, for a twisted and perverted portrayal of its own reality? There are several answers: When the missionaries began to evangelise India, they quickly realised that Hinduism was not only practised by a huge majority, but that it was so deeply rooted that it stood as the only barrier to their subjugating the entire subcontinent.

They therefore decided to demonise the religion, by multiplying what they perceived as its faults, by one hundred: caste, poverty, child marriage, superstition, widows, sati … Today, these exaggerations, which at best are based on quarter-truths, have come down to us and have been embedded not only in the minds of many Westerners, but also unfortunately, of much of India’s intelligentsia.

We Westerners continue to suffer from a superiority complex over the socalled Third World in general and India in particular. Sitting in front of our television sets during prime time news, with a hefty steak on our table, we love to feel sorry for the misery of others, it secretly flatters our ego and makes us proud of our so-called ‘achievements’.

That is why books such as The City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre, which gives the impression that India is a vast slum, or a film like Slumdog Millionaire, have such an impact.

In this film, India’s foes have joined hands. Today, billions of dollars that innocent Westerners give to charity are used to convert the poorest of India with the help of enticements such as free medical aid, schooling and loans.

If you see the Tamil Nadu coast posttsunami, there is a church every 500 metres. Once converted, these new Christians are taught that it is a sin to enter a temple, do puja, or even put tilak on one’s head, thus creating an imbalance in the Indian psyche (In an interview to a British newspaper, Danny Boyle confessed he wanted to be a Christian missionary when he was young and that he is still very much guided by these ideals — so much for his impartiality).

Islamic fundamentalism also ruthlessly hounds India, as demonstrated by the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai, which are reminiscent of the brutality and savagery of a Timur, who killed 1,00,000 Hindus in a single act of savagery.

Indian communists, in power in three states, are also hard at work to dismantle India’s cultural and spiritual inheritance. And finally, the Americanisation of India is creating havoc in the social and cultural fabric with its superficial glitter, even though it has proved a failure in the West. Slumdog plays cleverly with all these elements.

Many of the West’s India-specialists are staunchly anti-Hindu, both because of their Christian upbringing and also as they perpetuate the tradition of Max Mueller, the first ‘Sankritist’ who said: “The Vedas is full of childish, silly, even monstrous conceptions. It is tedious, low, commonplace, it represents human nature on a low level of selfishness and worldliness and only here and there are a few rare sentiments that come from the depths of the soul”.

This tradition is carried over by Indologists such as Witzel or Wendy Doniger in the US, and in France where scholars of the state-sponsored CNRS, and its affiliates such as EHESS, are always putting across in their books and articles detrimental images of India: caste, poverty, slums — and more than anything — their pet theories about ‘Hindu fundamentalism’.

Can there be a more blatant lie? Hinduism has given refuge throughout the ages to those who were persecuted at home: the Christians of Syria, the Parsees, Armenians, the Jews of Jerusalem, and today the Tibetans, allowing them all to practise their religion freely.

And finally, it is true that Indians, because they have been colonised for so long (unlike the Chinese) lack nationalism.

Today much of the intellectual elite of India has lost touch with its cultural roots and looks to the West to solve its problems, ignoring its own tools, such as pranayama, hata-yoga or meditation, which are very old and possess infinite wisdom.

Slumdog literally defecates on India from the first frame. Some scenes exist only in the perverted imagery of director Danny Boyle, because they are not in the book of Vikas Swarup, an Indian diplomat, on which the film is based. In the book, the hero of the film (who is not Muslim, but belongs to many religions: Ram Mohammad Thomas) does not spend his childhood in Bombay, but in a Catholic orphanage in Delhi. Jamal’s mother is not killed by “Hindu fanatics’, but she abandons her baby, of unknown religion, in a church. Jamal’s torture is not an idea of the television presenter, but of an American who is after the Russian who bought the television rights of the game. The tearful scene of the three children abandoned in the rain is also not in the book: Jamal and his heroine only meet when they are teenagers and they live in an apartment and not in a slum.

And finally, yes, there still exists in India a lot of poverty and glaring gaps between the very rich and the extremely poor, but there is also immense wealth, both physical, spiritual and cultural — much more than in the West as a matter of fact.

When will the West learn to look with less prejudice at India, a country that will supplant China in this century as the main Asian power? But this will require a new generation of Indologists, more sincere, less attached to their outdated Christian values, and Indians more proud of their own culture and less subservient to the West.

fgautier26@gmail.com

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Hinduism is India

Hinduism is India
Author: Francois Gautier
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: April 17, 2002
Since the Gujarat riots, it looks as if a battle between two radically different Indias is happening right now, under our own eyes; and the outcome of this battle will decide what kind of India we will have in the 21st century. India’s human rights groups, many of India’s finest intellectuals, the communists, the Congress, many politicians – in fact a major chunk of India’s elite population – assert in the strongest terms that on one side you find an India which is communal, mistreats, or even kills minorities; tries to impose its majority feelings and way of life on the others and is generally attempting to create a Hindu state; on the other, they continue, you have the secular and democratic forces of this country, the journalists, activists, catholic priests, Muslim liberals, who truly believe that circumstances have come to such a boil after the Ayodhya episode and the Gujarat massacre, that India has to be saved from Hindu fundamentalists for its own good.

This is on the surface, because history shows us that what appears as truthful, is often false and misleading and what popular opinion holds as false is time and again the truth, which is attacked by dark forces by decrying it, denying it, or belittling it. Thus, if you examine closely the theory of the good secular Muslim/ Christian/Marxist, versus the bad/dangerous/ fundamentalist Hindu, you are bound to come-up against several deep contradictions. First, historically, Hindus have been the least fundamentalist people in the world: Never trying to impose their creed upon others by the power of the sword, like Christianity or Islam, or even by the non-violent means of preaching, like Buddhism. Hinduism has also proved over the ages its infinite tolerance towards other religions, giving refuge to all persecuted minorities in the world, whether Parsis, Syrian Christians, Jews, or Tibetans today.

Second, Hindus have been particularly targeted in the last 15 centuries: Louis Frederick, one of France’s most respected, balanced and respected historian, called the Muslim invasions of India “cataclysmic”. Indeed, these invasions have left a deep scar of fear in the Hindu psyche and most of India’s modern problems – Ayodhya, Kashmir, or the dangerous enmity with Pakistan – are a left-over from these murderous assaults on Hinduism. Moreover, Hindus in India are not only an object of mistrust and contempt from many, but they are also chased from their own ancestral lands. There were one million of them in Kashmir in 1900, and 300,000 in 1947 – but only a few hundred today. Hindus have become refugees in their own land. In Assam, Tripura, or Nagaland, Hindus are being outnumbered by Bangladeshi illegal immigrants and terrorised by pro-Christian separatist groups, such as the Bodos or the Mizos, while local governments often turn a blind eye. Hindus are killed and raped in Bangla desh, were persecuted under the Taliban and are treated as second class in Pakistan.

It is true that the secular voices in India are often sincere, talented people who really want to preserve their country against the forces of communalism. One cannot fault a Shabana Azmi, an Arundhati Roy, a Medha Patkar, or eminent journalists like Dilip Padgaonkar with frivolity. These are people who are already famous or rich enough not to have to hog the limelight. They believe that they are putting their fame, or their pen, at the service of true secularism. But then, they have to ask themselves the question how it is that they have the freedom to criticize and to write whatever they please. In China, a country which many of them admire, they would already be in jail or thrown out of the country; in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, they might even get killed. It is time that India’s intellectual elite realised how much they owe to Hinduism, both in terms of the ethos of tolerance in this country, its immense culture, and its spirituality

It is also true that one has witnessed in the past few months a sudden hardening of the secular forces against Hinduism. Not only in India, but abroad; not only with Indian journalists, but also amongst the Western correspondents. In France, for example, all the major newspapers have carried again and again particularly nasty stories against Hindus. Recently, one of the leading French newspapers asked General Musharraf this pointed question: “Why does the world protest against the killings of the Palestinians by the Israelis, but stays silent when thousands of Muslims are killed in India?” And this gave Musharraf his golden cue: “It is not only Muslims who are targeted in India he answered, but also Sikhs and Christians…India pretends to be the biggest democracy in the world, but it is only a bluff…”

Why this sudden hardening against what the secular forces like to call “Hindu fundamentalism”? Throughout their history, Hindus have had numerous enemies: Arabs, British, Portuguese, and today Marxists, Muslims and Christians seem to have united against the common enemy. All of them, today and yesterday, felt that Hinduism was the only stumbling block to a wholly Islamised India, or a wholly Christianised India, or a wholly Marxist India. And indeed they were right: It is because of Hinduism that for seven centuries India endured bloody after bloody invasions and still remained Hindu in its majority; it is because of Hinduism that India was never fully Christianised, as so many countries colonised by the British, the Portuguese or the French were; it is because of Hindus that Marx could never get a real foothold throughout India: It is because of Hindus that westernisation, the civilisation of Coca Cola, MTV and MacDonald, is having a tougher time in India than it has had elsew here in Asia or the developing world.

And, ultimately, India has to decide: Does it want to lose its soul at the hands of the secularists and become a country like dozens of others in the developing world: Westernised, globalised, christianised, standardised? Or does it want to remain unique, special, different, with a remarkable culture which has survived centuries of invasions and colonisation? It is thanks to this uniqueness that a Hindu is different from anybody in the world, or even that an Indian Muslim is different from a Saudi Muslim, or an Indian Christian different from a European Christian. Yes, there is truly a battle between two Indias at the moment; but it is not the secular versus the communal, or the good Muslim versus the fanatical Hindu. It is a battle between a spiritualised India and de-spiritualised, devitalised, dehumanised India.

The truth is: If India loses its dharma at the hands of India’s enemies, there will disappear the only real spirituality left in the world. Once upon a time, true spirituality, which is the antithesis of religion, roamed the wide world: From Egypt to Mesopotamia, from China, to Greece. But today, the world is peopled by intolerant religions that still decree that their God is the only true one. Christianity is willing to put up millions of dollars of “charity ” money to convert thousands of innocent tribals in the North-East of India, thereby cutting them from their roots and culture; Islam has men and women, who in good faith (look at the beautiful and innocent faces of some of the Palestinian women suicide bombers) are willing to kill and get killed to impose Allah’s ways on an erring world. If we continue in this manner, we are going towards self-destruction, pralaya. I can only finish by quoting what the Mother of Pondicherry once said: “India must be saved for the good of the world, since India alone can lead the world to peace and a new world order.”

(Francois Gautier’s column shall appear as ‘The French Connection’ every alternate Wednesday)