Indian History & Sangh Parivar (Was: Medieval India)
y.r.rani at mail.utexas.edu
y.r.rani at mail.utexas.edu
Tue Dec 5 06:08:07 UTC 1995
I apologize that the following message is a bit long and that this may not
be the proper forum, but, I would like to respond to a few comments:
The point of my interest continues to be the discussion of civilizational
relativity and the discursive use of various theories of cultural discourse
as well as our ubiquitous dependence on our occi-specific terminology in
the treatment of the development of Hindu Nationalism and the "Sangh
I, like S. Vidyasanka, was also offended by Mr. Ulrich's inference that
somehow the people in the "Asian region" vast and varied as that broad term
is, are somehow incapable of responsible government or democratic
institutions because they are ">heaps of silly, brainless people"
Ulrich also states:
>they are not longer to be banned but rewarded for being fascists.
Banning this increasingly popular, albeit far right-wing political party (a
qualified classification of a Cold War derived paradigm) will not make them
go away and indeed may give strength to the more radical elements. Who,
BTW, would ban the main opposition party? The Congress (I)? That would
certainly be a silly sort of democracy!
In his response to my comments, Mr. Ulrich said "what kind of guy is
Ms.Rosser?" and then asks,
"NOT HAVING HAD ANY KIND OF FASCISM IN YOUR COUNTRY MISS ROSSER?" It may
be the language barrier that causes Mr. Ulrich to refer to a "guy" as "Ms."
but, it is a cultural error to refer to an American woman, who at least has
the know how to turn on her computer and down load and send email and whom
you know absolutely nothing about, as "Miss." This is a bit too
diminutive, and should be avoided unless you are intending to offend.
"Ms." is a far more appropriate term. For all Ulrich knows, I could be a
happily married 65 year old grandmother. Insult intended or not, this is a
good example of why we have to look carefully at words and ideas and
intensions as they transmit across cultures.
I seem to have raised the ire of the Voice of India representative. He is
right, other of Elst's books are footnoted. My point was that the
information in the book, "Negationism in India" is so hatefully delivered
that it is lost in the propagandist and mean spirited tone. Since the VOI
has requested that I do so, I will cite some examples. One need not to
look too far into the book to see a viciousness that is neither good
scholarship nor good for long term political goals.
>From page 96 of "Negationism in India":
"One could understand people telling lies when it serves their own
interest; but people who tell lies when it is the truth that would serve
their interest, really deserve to be kicked around. This truly strange and
masochistic behavior can only be understood if we keep in mind that Hindu
society is a terrorized society. During the Muslim period, all those who
stood up and spoke out against Islam were eliminated; and under Nehruvian
rule, they were sidelines and abused. The oppressed Hindus started licking
the boot that kicked them, and this has become a habit which in their
slumber they have not yet identified and stopped."
The above paragraph could only make the Hindu reader angry or ashamed, hate
himself or someone else. I think an honest look at history such as Mr.
Sharma originally suggested is of great value, but this sort of BS from Mr.
Elst (pg. 97- Negationism) is not:
"Many people have a Muslim neighbor who is a fine man, and from this
empirical fact they conclude: Islam cannot be all bad, considering our
friend Mustapha. This one empirical fact gives them a tremendous
resistance against all information about Islamic intolerance. People
usually reduce the world to their own sphere of experience, and general
historical facts of Islamic fanaticism are not allowed to disturb the
private experience of good neighborly relations."
This is disgusting hateful rhetoric that denies the power of the
individual. In fact from the above quotes, it would seem that Mr. Elst is
as guilty as is Mr. Ulrich of looking down on Indians as silly, brainless
people and denying them agency, even in their own neighborhoods.
I have been conducting on-line interviews with NRI's who are supportive of
one or more of the Sangh groups, such as the RSS or the BJP. I have asked
some tough questions about this movement and have corresponded with over
two dozen NRI's as well as conducted numerous phone and personal
interviews. These people are not hate-mongering "brainless" people. They
have thought a lot about the issues, and I often personally disagree with
their ideas, but never has one of them stated their case with the meanness
as does Mr. Elst.
That is not to say that there isn't hate mongering among the BJP
pracharaks. The speeches of Uma Bharati, the MP from Madhya Pradesh are, as
a friend wrote to me "a particularly flagrant example, full of images of
"blood" and raped motherland, and 'redeeming our manhood' through violent
revenge for past wrongs, etc."
The same friend also reminded me that, "The BJP/VHP etc. is not monolithic
and contains many sentiments, just as the American right does--everything
from Dole to skinhead neo-Nazis in Idaho." So, Mr. Ulrich, I quess we do
have "some kind of fascism in (my) country". In fact, being from the
South, the Ku Klux Klan is more than just scary ghost like monsters in old
movies, they occasionally have rallies and parades right down town. Under
police protection, no less! (Maybe we should just ban THEM. They are
certainly partakers in the Elst style discourse.) The point is, ideas are
not and should not be a crime. Criticized and deconstructed, perhaps but
banned? I suppose there is an unspoken academic fatwa against discussing
the BJP without depending on the fascist analogy.
The following comment was sent to me and, though a bit hard to swallow, it
is earnest and worth reading:
"I don't understand something though. I guess even if a white male is a
serious researcher into things India, deep down under, there is a
feeling of superiority and condescension when dealing with Indians."
Mr. Ulrich does justice to the above statement as does Mr. Elst.
Following Mr. Vidyasankar's promise to make this his "last contribution
to this thread" and with apologies to the other members, please excuse any
If we shadows have offended.
Think but this and all is mended:
That you have but slumbered here
while all these visions did appear.
Yvette C. Rosser
"THE SPIRIT OF DEMOCRACY IS THAT SPIRIT WHICH IS NOT
TOO SURE IT IS ALWAYS RIGHT." * Justice Learned Hand
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