Indian politicians are not known for any great intellectual depth. Political statements in India are not meant to be taken seriously except by ones who specialize in throwing brickbats at each other in the political arena. Once in a while, if common people start taking political statements at their face value, politicians are genuinely surprised and protest. Like it happened recently when Amit Shah, BJP President was asked about BJP's promise of depositing Rs. 15 Lakhs in each citizen's account, he replied that it was only a "rajnaitik jumla" or political statement. Obviously, only a fool will take political statements seriously and believe in them.
As the old saying goes, even a dead clock shows correct time twice in a day; even Indian political loudmouths speak out the truth once in a while. No doubt, truth is more disturbing and painful than all the nonsense that they routinely dish out. Giriraj Singh, BJP leader and Minister of State, Government of India made a statement on 1 April about Sonia Gandhi being more acceptable in Congress because of her skin color. As soon as he made the statement, all hell broke loose. There were cries for his blood. Someone even called him a rapist. There were demands for his resignation and also for sacking him unceremoniously. As far as I know, Congress party is still burning his effigies in various towns.
I am a simpleton who does not understand the niceties of political correctness. I understand truth and falsehood. Looking through innumerable reactions by all and sundry against Giriraj Singh, I have failed to find a single person who could stand up and say that Giriraj was wrong and Sonia did not gain any acceptance in Indian political circles because of her skin color. It seems everyone accepts that while Giriraj spoke the truth he should not have spoken it, as a matter of decency or political correctness or whatever.
It appears to me, Giriraj has touched a raw nerve of Indian political and bureaucratic class, which suffers from a strong slavish colonial mindset. Indian polity is too willing to prostrate to anyone with a white skin or with some connection to people with white skin. And this mindset is not confined to only Congress, the old party set up a British man. BJP has it in equal measure. Giriraj should know, having seen it from close quarters and probably also because he himself has the same mindset.
Before all the BJP guys start howling in protest, let me present some facts. BJP or Narendra Modi's government came to power on the promise of economic growth. Everyone expected them to bring in "achhe din" or good days using sound economic policies. To herald the new economic policies, the new government is relying on three persons - Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Adviser to Government of India; Arvind Panagariya, Vice-Chairman of NITI Aayog; and Raghuram Rajan, Governor, Reserve Bank of India. Not surprisingly, all three of them are Americans in the sense that they have moved to India for a short tenure and will move back to USA after completing their assignment of helping 'stupid' Indians run their economy. It is immaterial whether they hold Indian or US passports, the fact is that their domicile (a legal term indicating a person's heart) is in the USA.
Are there no persons with unquestionable loyalty to India on whom BJP government could have relied to steer Indian economy? I do not know many economists. But, I do happen to know someone who was classmate of Raghuram Rajan at IIT. This person was academically much better endowed than Rajan. He is currently recognized across the world as an accomplished scholar in his field and is a professor at one of the IIT's. He has been trying unsuccessfully for past many months to meet some minister of Modi government to present some innovative technologies. Obviously, how can a professor of our own IIT's be granted the same courtesy or respect that the government gives to a professor of a US or European university?
Is this an isolated incident? No! It is a pattern that any Indian academician will confirm. In the past year, Indian government has set out on an agenda of promoting yoga and Hinduism. The prominent beneficiaries of this new-found focus are white-skinned yoga / vedic studies teachers who are running their commercial establishments in either USA or Europe. A black-skinned African who has set up a Krishn temple in Ghana (Africa) and has no commercial interests is not even on their radar screen.
At this point, please permit me to take a small detour and narrate a personal anecdote. In 1996-97, I spent a year writing Draft of New Constitution of Bharat. After the work was done, I took a print of the manuscript to my guru, Professor RA Sinari who had taught me philosophy at IIT Bombay and who at that time was teaching at ISKCON, Mumbai. Prof. Sinari promised to read my work. A few months passed. During this time, the book was published and had also invited some media attention thanks to some politicians who erroneously saw it as the hidden agenda of RSS. Prof. Sinari had read all the media coverage. When I visited Mumbai, I went once again to his house and asked him about my book. I was curious to know whether I had made any mistakes and if he had any suggestions.
On hearing my question, Prof Sinari put on a somber expression and said, "You have made a terrible mistake." I was shocked. I did not expect this reaction even though as my teacher he had the right to reprimand me in whatever terms he chose. Seeing the reaction on my face, he said, let me tell you a story:
Long ago, a pious woman was going in her car from her house in Juhu to her office in Bombay. She saw a saffron-clad man sitting on the footpath. She could see that this man had a certain aura. She asked her driver to stop the car and go fetch the sanyasi. When the sanyasi came, she told him - "I can see that you are a learned man who has achieved some spiritual heights. Why are you sitting on the footpath in this dejected and depressed manner? Can I help you in some way?" The holy man replied, yes, you certainly can. The lady gave her residence address to the holy man and asked him to visit her the next day morning. The next day, when the holy man visited her, she asked her once again about how she could help her. The holy man informed her that he had translated Bhagwat (a religious book) into English and he wanted to publish it. The lady was extremely pleased. She asked for the manuscript and said that she would get it published immediately. At this point the holy man said, "No, my guru has said that this English translation should be published only in the USA and not in India". The lady was taken aback. Those days, communications were not as advanced. She said that she did not know how to get a book published in the USA. The holy man replied that all that he expected was that she arranged for his passage to the USA. In those days, there were no flights and going to USA involved a long arduous journey by sea. She told him that the ship journey to USA was a month long suffering including exposure to extreme weathers. She told him that he was an old frail man who must be a vegetarian and that she was afraid that he might not survive the long journey. She refused to help him go on such a long journey fearing that he would die on the way and the sin for death of a sanyasi will fall upon her. He replied that if it was the wish of the Lord, let that wish be fulfilled. He also freed her from any sin on account of his death on the seas. The next question that the lady asked the holy man was about how he would survive after landing in the USA. Again, the holy man expressed faith in Krishn and said that the Lord would take care of him; and if the Lord wants him to die of hunger in a foreign land let that be so.
The persistence of the holy man moved the pious lady. She happened to be the owner of The Scindia Steam Navigation Company which had ships going to the USA. She asked a captain of one of the company's ships to take the holy man along. She packed a few traditional Indian snacks for his consumption on the seas. When the ship was about to sail, she gave Twenty Dollars to the holy man. She said that she did not know how long this small sum will keep him alive in New York. She was genuinely afraid for him. But, the old saffron-clad man showed no signs of fear. He had faith in the Lord.
At this point, Prof. Sinari stopped and asked me if I knew who this holy man was. I did not know. Prof Sinari told me that this holy man was Swami Prahupada who founded ISKCON, International Society of Krishna Consciousness better known for Hare Krishna movement. Prof Sinari asked me whether the holy man would have achieved the same level of global recognition and fame if he had accepted the offer of the lady and published the book in India.
Prof. Sinari told me that I had committed the biggest mistake of my life by publishing my work in India. Prof. Sinari pressed on me to leave India and go to USA or Europe. His argument was that my work would be more acceptable if it came to India from there. I had no reasons to doubt the opinion of Prof. Sinari. That I remained in India and did not obey his directions is another story. May Prof Sinari, sitting in heaven, forgive me for my disobedience!
Prof. Sinari said that this country has no respect for any knowledge that is home grown. Indians never tire of praising Swami Vivekanand. I have attended umpteen events where speakers have sung praises about how Swami Vivekanand addressed the conference at Chicago. Swami Vivekanand spent many years of his life at Khetri in Rajasthan. None of the speeches that Swami Vivekanand delivered at Khetri is talked about. It would seem that the only achievement of Swami Vivekanand was his visit to USA. I shudder to think whether Swami Vivekanand would have achieved the same level of fame in India if he had decided to remain in India.
Sadly, Indian political and bureaucratic class has no respect for someone who is neither white-skinned nor has been appreciated by white-skinned people. Indian engineers and entrepreneurs have achieved great successes in the past few decades and they no longer feel compelled to prostrate before the white-skinned. Unfortunately, during the same period the classes that govern India have become more intellectually bankrupt, more corrupt morally and more degenerated holistically. They have become more insecure and fearful as time has progressed during the decades after independence.
The ruling classes of India are glad to lick the feet of someone like Amartya Sen who has been decorated by his white masters for helping to cover up the terrible genocide committed by British during Bengal Famine. Indian ruling classes would rather import people like Amartya Sen and the three gentlemen running Indian economy currently than give due regard to their own homegrown talent whether in the field of economics or technology or philosophy.
This is sad and even painful for all of us Indians. Almost seven decades after independence, the ruling classes of India continue to have a slavish colonial mentality. In fact, at the time of independence, Indian political class had more self-respect and self-confidence that they seem to have today. If Sonia Gandhi was accorded respectability due to her skin color while Menaka Gandhi was hounded out of her matrimonial house, it was certainly not Sonia's fault. Calling a person blackie or negro is a racial slur; calling someone white-skinned is certainly not a slur.
Giriraj Singh did not insult Sonia. He only pointed out an uncomfortable and shameful fact about Indian ruling class to which he belongs. He has shown Indian ruling class a mirror which shows an extremely unflattering image. It is pointless to shoot down Giriraj Singh. Any attempts to brush under the carpet our ruling classes' slavish mindset need to be resisted. Let us face up to the harsh reality, because that alone will pave the way for changing it.
5 April 2015
Please write to me your comments about the above article.
ANIL CHAWLA is an engineer and a lawyer by qualification but a philosopher by vocation and a legal and management consultant by profession.
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