SV: SV: SV: Rajaram's bull

Lars Martin Fosse lmfosse at ONLINE.NO
Mon Aug 7 08:45:36 UTC 2000

Vidyasankar Sundaresan [SMTP:vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM] skrev 7. august 2000
> Sure, but what irks many south Asians is that Indologists never seem to
> a stand about the ideological package that came with the old AIT theory,
> even when they review it as simply past history. For example, it does not
> seem to be very well known that part of the Tamil vs. Sinhala problem in
> Lanka is that the Sinhalese elite think of themselves as Aryans, and
> therefore superior to the Dravidians who speak Tamil.

Again, you are pointing at a real problem.

I am well aware of this dilemma, and I have written about it elsewhere. The
problem is not that we are unaware of the practical political problems that
were born in the wake of the AIT. It is rather that Western Indologists
like myself are convinced on the basis of the evidence that the
invasion/migration (choose your term) actually took place. And we cannot
willingly falsify or deny what we regard as the truth, no matter how much
this truth is abused and instrumentalized by some people in South Asia.
Instrumentalization of history is a wide-spread phenomenon - there is right
now a large conference of historians in Oslo dealing with this problem on a
world basis - but the duty of the historian is first and foremost to the
truth. That politicians lie and manipulate is another matter, but if
scholars start doing the same thing, they ruin their credibility and they
deprive society of the one thing that real history is useful for: the
chance to understand how historic forces work, so that we on the basis of
humanity's common experience can make realistic and sensible choices for
the future. Using historic events that took place 3-4000 years ago as an
excuse for conducting chauvinistic or even criminal policies today is so
absurd that you shouldn't need to rewrite history. It should be enough to
point out that what counts are recent realities. Injustices or events that
took place several hundred or thousands of years ago should have no bearing
on modern politics. When the Baltic states received their independence a
few years ago, all European countries impressed upon them the importance of
treating the Russian minorities fairly, in spite of the fact that the
Russians had been in the Baltic countries only for the last 50 years.
Old-fashioned policies would have been to throw them out. But then
Europeans have made their experiences with populations being shifted back
and forth, not to mention terrorized and liquidated. Policies of
superiority are not only morally reprehensible, they are unwise.

The remnants of the
> old ideologies that came with AIT continue to wreak havoc in south Asian
> societies, but hardly anyone from the West seems to want to acknowledge
> this.

I would dispute that the AIT is the only factor that has wreaked havoc in
South Asian societies. South Asian societies are beleaguered by a large
number of problems, of which AIT-related problems are but a fraction. Most
important are the economic and social realities of the South Asian
countries. If you manage to solve those the "AIT problems" will probably
cease to matter. To the extent that the AIT causes problems, it is because
it is used as a symbol for mobilization. This is a common political trick,
used whenever realities are highly complex and difficult to communicate to
the masses. Every politician on earth knows this trick and uses it
regularly. Instead of attacking the AIT, it would have been better to
attack the underlying problems that make AIT based politics attractive to

> But
> I do think that Indologists often fail to understand what is happening in
> Indian society today. Not too many years ago, there was a hilarious
> discussion on this list. The issue was whether playing a drum with a
> head compromised the brAhmaNa-by-birth status of a contemporary Indian
> musician. Too much attention is paid to the long outdated manusmRti, and
> contemporary overtones of varNa and jAti in Indian society and politics
> ignored.

Again I must disagree with you. Although I am not a social scientist, I
have read quite a lot of political studies of South Asian politics by
eminent scholars, some Indian and some Western. I don't think that they are
unaware of what goes on, most of them read the Indian press on a daily
basis (thanks to the Internet). Personally, I have four or five major
Indian newspapers at my fingertips plus a couple of journals, although I
must confess that I don't have the time to exploit this technological
bonanza fully. Still, you may have a point: we are not enmeshed in Indian
everyday realities and therefore do not have to deal with the daily
problems that are so frustrating to many Indians. If we were, it might not
necessarily change our analyses, but our emotions would probably be less

>Among those involved in education policy in India, the
> question is that of who gets political control. And if you notice,
> of approaching the problem constructively, any debate on updating the
> pedagogy ends up in accusations of being either a "communalist" or a
> "Marxist". Between the two labels, there is no room for an honest
> intellectual look at the problem.

I realize that this is a problem in India's public debate. But I have found
the Indian press more nuanced than you suggest, although I only know the
English language press. How nuanced the vernacular press is, I couldn't

Best regards,

Lars Martin

Dr. art. Lars Martin Fosse
Haugerudvn. 76, Leil. 114,
0674 Oslo
Phone: +47 22 32 12 19
Fax 1:  +47 22 32 12 19
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Email: lmfosse at

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