Muslims, was the "PC" Card

Sat Dec 9 12:57:09 UTC 1995

Mark F. Tritsch wants to know what the real problems are. It was hard for me to
tell whether his characterization of what was supposed to be the typical Hindu
man/woman in the street to the growing disproportion in the Indian population,
or Indian Muslims cheering for Pakistan, was somewhat ironic or heartfelt.
Those typical concerns, as characterized by Mr. Tritsch seem somewhat
dismissive, as if they are just being silly bigots, while the *real* problems
are Muslim poverty, etc. What about Hindu poverty?

Let's take the example of Hindus feeling some discomfort because their
co-nationals are rooting for a rival country. That is not analogous to, for
instance, American-Irish rooting for an Irish team playing a U.S. team. Though
many Americans take their sports seriously (as do Indians), they would find
that attitude both understandable and maybe even amusing. But the U.S. has
never been at war with Ireland, nor does Ireland pose any sort of threat to
U.S. security at present, nor are Americans concerned that that one or several
states will secede and join Ireland anytime in the foreseeable future. Where
any of those conditions present, rooting for an Irish team against a U.S. team
might be dangerous.

I suppose Czechs in the late 30s were merely crass bigots for being concerned
that there were many Germans inside their border, for whom Hitler had a
 protective affinity?  It seems to me that situation is more analogous to the
Indian one, rather than, let's say, neonazi skinheads attacking Turkish and
other minorities in Germany in the 80s and 90s.

The population disparities and the questionable loyalties speak to
the issue of how much longer certain parts of India will remain Indian, and at
what cost? In a fantasy world we might be able to dream of Tamils leaving Sri
Lanka to the Sinhalese Buddhists, and Muslims who feel India is not really
their government leaving India to the Hindus (and Ambedkar Buddhists, etc.),
but the real world is messier than that -- and where would the Sikhs go? Most
of us neither foresee nor particularly desire an India that is homogenous and
uni-ethnic (the very idea boggles the mind).

I cannot agree with Mr. Tritsch that one can afford to ignore or overlook
history. As Santayana's (by now tired) cliche states: Those who don't learn
from history are condemned to repeat it. Clearly both the Hindus and the
Muslims have a strong sense of their history, and events within the lifetimes
of contemporary Indians more than suggest that that history can decisively and
irrevocably diminish India (at a minimum, territorily).

The REAL ISSUE, in a nutshell, is the very future of Hinduism, driven by the
recognition that despite whatever happens to Diaspora Hindus, Hinduism and
India are indissoluble. Whatever diminishes India diminishes Hinduism. Islam is
certainly not the only, or maybe even the most radical, threat. The need to
fundamentally shift the very social institutions that have been Hinduism for
several millenia -- outlawing the caste system, altering the nature of family
relations, empowering the undercastes, etc. -- is radically disruptive. Despite
what most of us teach our students, Hinduism has always been more dharma'sastra
than any of the abstract ontological or mythopoetic theologies we call
Hinduism. Dharma'sastra is not simply about rules but about sensibilities, and
those are undergoing profound changes. Having a substantial portion of your
population act as if they were only temporarily under your sovereignty, all the
while coveting your country or parts of it in the hopes that someday it will
fly a different flag is unsettling and compounds uncertainty over the future.
History indicates the danger is real enough that one cannot chalk that fear up
to mere scapegoating.

Finally, projecting our sensibilites on them, and insisting in our infinitely
enlightened political wisdom that we must encourage them to buy into our social
theories for their own good smacks of the blind arrogance coated in good
intentions that typifies all the British meddling in Indian affairs. After all,
as the British kept saying, Brits are the "good" imperialists (unlike those
other, nasty Europeans); they were bringing civilization (a.k.a.
pc-sensibilities) to the savages.

Dan Lusthaus
Macalester College

P.S. Cricket, at this point, is such an indelible part of the Indian psyche,
that is virtually "Hindu." It won't be long before stories of or
whomever playing cricket become part of some neo-puranas.

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