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Tracing the Origins of Hinduphobia (Parts I-IV)

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Tracing the Origins of Hinduphobia (Parts I-IV)

INTRODUCTION – PART I

Hinduphobia is defined as an anti-Hindu sentiment that advances, amplifies, and articulates hatred against Hindus and Hinduism. This is a toxic global phenomenon influenced by the legacies of the past. The rampant support for and encouragement of anti-Hindu sentiment is the hallmark of humanities departments in several universities in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere. The Hindu hate mongering that is so visible today stems from the anti-Hindu sentiment promoted in the academia. Recent events in Rutgers University in the United States is a testament to the patronage Hinduphobia enjoys under the garb of academic freedom. Western academia, in particular, is culpable in advancing this hatred.

The propagation of this Hindu hatred usually follows an established pattern. Hinduism is branded as hierarchical and oppressive, tagged as casteist and exploitative, castigated as regressive and intolerant, and finally dismissed as primitive and fictional. The spurious narrative about Brahmins and Sanskrit is part of this carefully constructed campaign of Hindu demonization. When this campaign is challenged or sought to be  resisted by Hindus the resistance is falsely projected as a threat to communal harmony in India. Lapdogs of western academia peddle this hate driven narrative daily in India, constructing an echo chamber where the voices of the few, driven Hinduphobes reverberate around the world.

This anti-Hindu sentiment is not a recent phenomenon. The word Hinduphobia has been in vogue since the 19th century [i]. This hate mongering sentiment has an extensive history from the British colonial times, if not beyond, but it was European colonialism that dealt a heavy blow to the cultural edifice of India. The political domination, economic annihilation, and  cultural hegemony of  the colonizers destroyed the moral compass and self-confidence of Indians.

Racist notions formed the bedrock of British rule in  India. The anti-Hindu sentiment that dominates academe today has racist origins. Colonial powers co-opted the same in their quest for global domination. Many anticolonial and postcolonial scholars have expressed that the substratum of colonial ideology is cultural and racial superiority. This racist temper is widely prevalent in several colonial era writings.  It is this sense of racial superiority and white supremacy that has created havoc around the world and which became established  under the pretext of modernity and development.

An examination of the root cause of this anti-Hindu sentiment is important if we are to begin repairing the damage caused to Indian society and Hindu psyche., to understand Hinduphobia, it is important we examine its origins carefully.

In this four-part series, I cover the following: Part 1 is this introductory piece, in which I set the context for an enquiry. In Part 2, I briefly survey the evolution of racism and locate its motivation. In Part 3, I examine the writings of select anti-colonial and postcolonial authors and summarize their findings about  racism. In Part 4, I demonstrate the racist nature of colonial ideology and establish its seminal role in fostering Hinduphobia. I conclude by highlighting the complicity of an  ecosystem that continues to advance racist narratives about Hindu culture.

This series draws on publications by several scholars. Additionally, my research has been propelled and  enriched by reading and listening to the works of Kundan Singh[ii], Joydeep Bagchee[iii], and Vishwa Adluri [iv].

PART II: EVOLUTION OF RACISM AND ITS MOTIVATION

Colonialism[v] is defined as a practice of domination of one set of people over the other through various mechanisms of control such as political, economic, and social. This domination is driven by the  idea of a superior race with origins in Christian theology.

The concept of race has its origins in 17th century Europe. Francois Bernier [vi], a traveler and physician of French origin is credited with the first usage of the term “race” in 1684. In A New Division of Earth [vii], Bernier proposed a classification mechanism for human beings based on skin color and other biological attributes such as  hair, nose, and legs. The most prevalent form of classification until then was countries or regions. Although he did not name the categories, his classification mechanism was novel at that time.

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant is credited for having invented the scientific concept of race. In his paper Of the Different Human Races [viii] written in 1775, Kant differentiated between “race”  and “species”  and advanced a so-called scientific basis for his racial classification. Kant proposed four races– White, Negro, Hun and Hindu —  based on color. He explained the skin color differences as due to climate and weather conditions. He did not stop there: he also proposed a  hierarchy of colors, with  white  at the top. Kant’s classification relied solely on color, and this was challenged by several scholars, the notable one being Johann Friedrich Blumenbach.

Blumenbach was a German physician.  His doctoral dissertation —On the Natural Variety of Mankind[ix]— in 1775 set the stage for a more complex system of classification based on craniological research. He studied the size and the shape of a few hundred skulls to come to his conclusion. He refined his conclusions over a period of time, and in 1795 proposed five categories of races– Caucasian, Mongolian, Malayan, Ethiopian,  and American– that influenced the  development of race theories and supremacist ideas in the 19th century. He introduced the term “Caucasian,” representing  “Whites,” which is still in use  today in the United States. He placed “Caucasian” at the top of the hierarchy and gave the following reason[x]:

Caucasian variety: Colour white, cheeks rosy…; hair brown or chestnut-coloured…; head sub globular …; face oval, straight, its parts moderately defined, forehead smooth, nose narrow, slightly hooked, mouth small…The primary teeth placed perpendicularly to each jaw…; the lips (especially the lower one) moderately open, the chin full and rounded…In general, that kind of appearance which, according to our opinion of symmetry, we consider most handsome and becoming. To this first variety belong the inhabitants of Europe (except the Lapps and the remaining descendants of the Finns) and those of Eastern Asia, as far as the river Obi, the Caspian Sea and the Ganges, and lastly, those of Northern Africa.

He further adds:

Caucasian variety: I have taken the name of this variety from Mount Caucasus, both because of its neighbourhood, and especially its southern slope, produces the most beautiful race of men, I mean the Georgian; and because all physiological reasons converge to this, that in that region, if anywhere, it seems we ought with the greatest probability to place the autochthones of mankind. For in the first place, that stock displays, as we have seen….the most beautiful form of the skull, from which, as from a mean and primeval type, the others diverge by most easy gradations on both sides to the two ultimate extremes (that is,  on the one side, the Mongolian, on the other the Ethiopian). Besides, it is white in colour, which we may fairly assume to have been the primitive color of mankind, since as we have shown above…., it is very easy for that to degenerate into brown, but very much more difficult for dark to become white, when the secretion and precipitation of this carbonaceous pigment… has once deeply struck root.

Blumenbach’s classification was pivotal in the furtherance of race theories. His work provided a scientific cover and acted as a backbone for co-opting science in the advancement of political and culture agenda in Europe in the 19th century and thereafter.

Thus, the modern form of racism originated in  18th century Europe.

The question arises. Why?

Scholars who advanced the notion of race classification were obsessed with  the idea of hierarchy. A natural consensus and momentum seem to have evolved in placing Whites at the top. To comprehend the motivation behind this consensus we need to explore answers to the following two questions:

  1. Why was race classification necessary in the first place?
  2. Why was the white race privileged over other races?

The development of the concept of race was scientific and seemingly secular. However, the motivation for the same was theocratic and conspicuously non-secular. It had its firm footing in Christian theology as we will see[xi].

Europe experienced the so-called  Age of Enlightenment[xii](also known as the Age of Reason) in the 18th century.  It was an intellectual movement that was built on the foundation laid by the scientific revolution of the 16th and the 17th centuries. Developments in science began to challenge the Christian orthodox views on the origins of the universe. It  posed a clear danger to Biblical narratives on creation.

Roberto Bernasconi in Who invented the Concept of Race?[xiii] writes:

The initial pressure leading to the development of the concept of race, insofar as it was called to make sense of diversity in the appearance and customs of different peoples, seems to have come from reconciling the information provided by the travelogues, both new and old, with the religious narrative through which Europe understood the meaning of history.

There was a move to apply scientific concepts to reform society leading to treatises  on religious tolerance, liberal values and representative democracy based on the European experience and specific European needs. Refreshing ideas soon began to undermine the authority of the ruling monarchy and questioned the fundamental teachings of the Church. This gave rise to the clash of two diametrically opposite theories on the origins of humankind.

  • Monogenesis — which postulates a common origin for all humankind as per Biblical account and does not believe in pre-Adamite creations.
  • Polygenesis— which postulates that human beings evolved from several independent pairs of ancestors and supported the idea of local creations.

Polygenesis is antithetical  to monogenesis. Christian orthodoxy revolted against polygenesis that questioned and challenged the Abrahamic understanding of the origin of humankind. Kant and Blumenbach, as well as a  few others such as Buffon [xiv], subscribed to the theory of monogenesis and consequently promoted the Biblical narratives [xv]. As Bernasconi pointed out, there was a compelling need to make sense of diversity of humans and reconcile with the Biblical accounts of a single origin of human species. Proponents of the monogenetic narrative strongly believed that Adam and Eve were the original humans, were Caucasians, and human beings degenerated from this original white stock into different races due to factors such as environment, weather, food, etc. They used the concept of race to explain the deviations[xvi]. In another of Kant’s papers [xvii] he expressed satisfaction over how speculative beginnings of philosophy coincided with the Biblical account found in Genesis. Kant was greatly interested in defending the monogenetic narrative, and this was reflected in some of his other writings.

The fanatical need to preserve, protect and promote the Biblical origin of creation led to disastrous consequences. The Papal Bulls [xviii] of the 15th century legitimized slavery and colonial subjugation of Africa and other parts of the world. They confirmed the underlying motivation. Even though they were called as “Doctrine of Discovery,” it was essentially a racist doctrine to colonize non-white and non-Christian parts of the world.

The concept of race evolved in Germany. This puts to rest the notion that it was in the interest of colonial powers that led to its development [xix]. Race was an intellectual project incubated in Germany to advance the monogenetic narrative [xx]. Race theories were developed further to support this narrative. The available evidence strongly suggests that the concept of race was used as a cover to advance Biblical narratives about the origins of humankind. Hence, it is clear, the motivation for race lies in Christian theology.

German Indology developed these race theories further in the 19th century, introduced cultural indicators such as language in racial classification (and in establishing a hierarchy), and built an Aryan edifice that divided India on racial lines. Colonial powers harvested this German intellectual output in furthering their racist narratives and agendas.

DISSECTING COLONIAL IDEOLOGY AND LOCATING RACISM IN IT: PART III

Colonization led to the shredding of  the cultural fabric of India. The British built a hypocritical narrative about themselves to justify their “civilizing” mission. The custodians of racism decreed the cultural destiny of a subcontinent that traced its history to a hoary past. The psychological damage this inflicted on Indians is visible in many facets of their life today. Postcolonial scholarship has exposed the racist nature of this colonial ideology. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to gain a deeper understanding of this ideology. In this part, I examine this racist ideology from the writings of three postcolonial authors.

I start with Albert Memmi, a Francophone author of Tunisian-Jewish descent.

In his well-known classic, The Colonizer and the Colonized [xxi], Memmi explores the power relations between the colonizer and the colonized. He characterizes the relationship and decodes the dialectical [xxii] nature of the relationship that exists between them. Writing in the context of Tunisia’s colonial experience, Memmi states that the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized is always entwined. The relationship is one of domination of the colonizer and exploitation of the colonized. In this relationship, the colonizers privilege themselves to maintain the dialectical nature of the relationship [xxiii]. The colonizer creates instruments [xxiv] of power to justify their privileged position.  This is the fundamental principle of dialectics.  The privileged position affords the colonizer to operate on the principle of superiority. It blinds the colonizer from reality, and it forces the colonizer to justify the means used to gain and maintain that superiority. In the process a mythical portrait of the colonized is created.

Memmi’s characterization of the colonizer and the colonized provides  a compelling view of  colonial ideology. Written with passion and purpose, he draws on his experience and knowledge to make sound and precise arguments. The colonizer secures the position of the colonial through political means. First and foremost, the colonizer assumes privileges in the colonial system, securing power and preferential treatment. The colonizer then leverages instruments of power to profit from the colonial enterprise. To justify their privilege and the resulting hierarchy, the colonizer usurps the narrative of the colonized and falsifies their history. To portray the colonized in bad light, the colonizer promotes superiority of their own culture and creates myths around the traditions of the colonized, degrades their culture, and divorces the colonized from their own history and reality. Principles of racism are applied to treat the colonized as unequals.  Jean-Paul Sartre, in his introduction to Memmi’s  book, writes:

Racism is ingrained in actions, institutions, and in the nature of the colonialist methods of production and exchange.

Racism is an integral part of this colonial ideology. Memmi’s work is a landmark work in post-colonial theories in the 20th century.

Next, we turn to Aime Cesaire, another Francophone scholar of Afro-Caribbean descent.

Aime Cesaire’s book Discourse on Colonialism[xxv] is a treatise on the brutal impact of colonialism on the native population. Originally published in 1955 at the height of anti-colonial struggles in parts of Africa and Asia, this book inspired several postcolonial scholars, influenced the civil rights movement in the United States, and liberation struggles in many parts of the world. He argues that colonialism was a human disaster. He is one of the founders of the Negritude [xxvi] movement – a literary movement – to raise Black awareness and recover Black consciousness in Africa, the Caribbean, and Europe.

Cesaire is best  known for three important characterizations of colonialism: First, he locates fascism within the context of colonialism. He argues that fascism is an intrinsic part of colonial ideology and is integral to the European subjugation of many parts of the world. Europeans opposed it only when it was projected onto themselves (Whites) by the Nazis.

Second, he denounces the colonials for their deliberate destruction of the past, which he calls as “thingification”.

Third, he accuses “venomous journalists” and “goiterous academics” for continuing colonial slavery long after political colonialism ended. On this point, it is not that difficult to draw a parallel to the hypocritical academics and media personnel in India today fomenting Hinduphobia.

He exposes the hypocrisy of Europe in “civilizing” the natives using brutal methods, invalidates each and every argument of the colonial apologists, and “offers new insights into the consequences of colonialism”.

Next, we turn to Frantz Fanon, another Francophone scholar of Afro-Caribbean descent.

In his book Black Skin White Masks [xxvii], Fanon explored the relationship between colonialism and racism based on his own experience living in the Caribbean, and on experiences of Blacks in France and in French colonies in the Caribbean and Africa. Fanon explores the psychological impact of colonialism in the behavior of Blacks using a psychoanalytical framework. He examines their sufferings from inferiority complex, in language usage, and in interracial relationships causing identity issues. Reading this book will raise one’s self-awareness about colonization and its continuing impact in our  lives today.

The writings of Memmi, Cesaire, and Fanon equip us with a deeper understanding of the colonial ideology and its impact. The cultural destruction of India was far more deadly compared to its political subjugation and economic exploitation. Colonial power enabled the British to build a racist narrative about Indians. It is this racist narrative, deeply rooted in the West, and transplanted and embraced by many in India itself, that fuels Hinduphobia today.

The works of these three postcolonial authors give us a deeper understanding of colonial ideology; however, their writings fall short on highlighting the pernicious role of missionaries in advancing the colonial narratives. This marks a serious point of difference in India’s case specifically and a literature gap in postcolonial scholarship. It is important to address this shortcoming considering the relation between racism and Christian theology mentioned in Part I of this four-part essay.

Role Of Missionaries In The Colonial Project.

Meenakshi Jain explored the role of missionaries in changing the colonial discourse about India in her landmark book on Sati [xxviii]. Jain cataloged the circumstances and the factors that led to the change in colonial narratives.

Britain romanticized India until the 1770s. However, this changed in the 1780s following an aggressive campaign to convert the masses to Christianity [xxix]. The change originated with the works of David Brown, an English chaplain and the founder of the Calcutta Bible Society, and Charles Grant, a British administrator and missionary who served in the British East India Company.

  • It was David Brown’s work, A Proposal for Establishing a Protestant Mission in Bengal and Bihar, in 1787, and Charles Grant’s Observations on the State of Society among the Asiatic Subjects of Great Britain[xxx], in 1792, that laid the justification for the “civilizing mission” in India. In other words, Charles Grant, an evangelical himself, was the lynchpin behind the “civilizing mission”. He was the first person to advocate for a permanent British rule in India, and to convert masses to Christianity.

The two objectives were reflected in the activities of missionaries and missionaries-turned administrators who ascended to positions of power. Charles Grant rose through the ranks of the East India Company and became its chairman in 1805.

Here’s a chronology of how he influenced British policy on Christianizing India:

  • The Church of England influenced many appointments in the colonial administration. Fort William College in Bengal was set up by Governor General Lord Wellesley in 1800 on the basis of Christian religion.
  • Charles Grant was influential in the appointment of David Brown as Provost, and Rev. Claudius Buchanan (who came to India as a chaplain for the East India Company) as Vice Provost. Buchanan instituted prizes in several schools and universities in England to seek ideas for spreading Christianity.
  • Charles Grant was instrumental in setting up of the East India Company College at Haileybury in 1806 to train civil servants relocating to India.
  • Charles Grant played a crucial role in modifying the East India Company’s charter in 1813 to allow missionary activities in India.

Based on available evidence, it is clear that the missionaries influenced British policies in India thereafter to suit their agenda and colonial pretensions. The number of church-run schools and colleges run into the thousands. According to an online report, “South Asia is home to the majority of Jesuit schools in the world. Of the 845 schools worldwide, there are 399 schools in South Asia, 391 of which are in India, 5 in Nepal and 3 in Pakistan. There are about 400,000 students and more than 12,000 teachers in this region,” the report claims, ensuring that India continues to be in the snare of the colonialists’ trap to the present day. [xxxi]

THE BLUEPRINT FOR HINDUPHOBIA: PART IV

This series set out with the objective of tracing the roots of Hinduphobia. I started with a brief background in Part I, followed by reviewing the evolution of racism in Part II, and then dissecting the colonial ideology and locating racism in Part III. This is the final essay in this series, where I offer evidence to show  that the blueprint for Hinduphobia was created by the British with the theoretical/intellectual support coming from German Indology. To maintain the focus on British colonial narratives, I have refrained from discussing the role of German Indology in this essay.

In his book Discourse on Colonialism[xxxii], Aime Cesaire declares that colonialism is a “Prelude to Disaster and forerunner of Catastrophe”[xxxiii]. He could not have said it better. The British prepared, planned, and executed to perfection their racist colonial agenda.

After having lost the United States territory in 1776, the British were wary of losing control over the Indian sub-continent. They were cognizant of the pride and the prestige associated with control of one of the oldest civilizations in the world. It is in this context that Britain strategized to rule India. India was used as a resource pool to buttress their geo-political interests in the 19th century. Unfortunately, Hinduism was a casualty in this process.

I will briefly review three pieces of colonial literature to demonstrate how one of them opened the flood gates for Hinduphobia as  early as the start of the 19th century.

Evidence #1: “The Best Means of Civilising the Subjects of British India, 1805”.

I will start with this essay written in 1805, which is cited in Adluri and Bagchee’s Nay Science: A History of German Indology [xxxiv]. The topic of this essay caught my attention and I have since then referred it to many readers and shared with students of Hindu studies.

This essay was a polemical response to an academic request.

There was a “call for papers” by the University of Glasgow (see picture below)[xxxv]. The advertisement included four topics and prize money for each of them.

“Call for Papers” by Fort William College, Bengal

If you observe, the College was Fort William in Bengal and the Vice-Provost was Rev Claudius Buchanan, discussed in Part III.

Observe the words underlined (emphasis mine).

Civilizing the Subjects.

Restoration of Learning.

John Mitchell, a Scottish missionary, won the prize money for his essay, titled, “An Essay on the best means of civilizing the subjects of British India and of diffusing the religion of Christianity throughout the Eastern World”.

This essay is essentially a strategy document on how to destroy India’s culture, economy, and society. John Mitchell adopted a very structured approach by performing a  state of the state assessment of India, identifying improvement opportunities, and recommending specific actions for the colonial powers to extend their rule over India.

This must be one of the earliest known SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat) analyses ever conducted on how to colonize and suppress people. He divides the enquiry into two different but related subjects:

And what consideration is there, most interesting to us as men, as Britons, as Christians, which does not stimulate us to inquire, what are the best means of civilising the subjects of the British empire in India; and of diffusing the light of the Christian religion throughout the eastern world?

His motivation is apparent:

These parts of the inquiry are intimately connected. The one is essentially necessary to promote, or to perfect the other. Without civilisation, Christianity could not be so successfully propagated; and without the influence of Christianity, civilisation cannot be carried to its utmost height.

He continues:

The inquiry concerning the means of civilising the Hindoos is antecedent in idea, as well as inferior in excellence, to the other; and, accordingly, from the consideration of the former, we shall be naturally led up to the investigation of the latter, which will carry our views forward to the last and best state of our world and of our race, when, according to the intimation of holy writ, the ‘whole earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord’.

So, this sets the stage for rest of the essay, wherein he goes on to answer two questions separately.

Question 1: Of the best means of Civilizing the subjects of the British Empire in India.

In this part, Mitchell is focused on governance and administration (both internal and external), articulates his vision for  British rule, and prepares the ground for creating instruments of power and gain privileges over the native population.

Question 2: What are the best means of diffusing the light of Christian religion throughout the eastern world?

As is evident, this part deals with advocating Christianity. Labeling India’s religion as pagan and reducing the Hindu tradition as “absurd and selfish superstition” he indulges in a racist diatribe against  Hindu customs, while at the same time glorifying Christianity and building up the case for Christian intervention in India. He devotes considerable space in suggesting specific ideas for propagating Christianity which is  in vogue even today.

On the topic of caste, he refers to the work of Robert Williamson [xxxvi] of University of Edinburgh. Surprisingly, he quotes from Williamson’s writing something that is  very revealing about earlier colonial understanding of caste:

Such arbitrary arrangements, of various members which compose a community, seems, at first view, to be adverse to improvement, either in science or in arts; and, by forming around the different orders of men artificial barriers, which it would be impious to pass, tends to circumscribe the operations of the human mind within a narrower sphere than nature has allotted to them. The object of the first Indian legislators was to employ the most effectual means of providing for the subsistence, the security, and happiness of all the members of the community over which they presided. And this system, though extremely repugnant to the ideas which we, by being placed in a very different state of society, have formed, will be found, upon attentive inspection, better adapted to attain the end in view, than a careless observer is, on a first view, apt to imagine.

Notwithstanding a positive opinion about caste, Mitchell writes:

But, absurd and injurious as this distribution of society is, having originated in the earliest antiquity, and maintained itself unchanged amid all the revolutions of their nation; being incorporated essentially with the constitution of their society; familiarized continually to their view by its effects; forming the complexion of all their manners; associated with all their prejudices; sanctioned by all their religious feelings; recommended by whatever has been wise, or venerable, or pious in their history or mythology, it must be admitted to present an obstacle, the most formidable that can be conceived, to the progressive improvement and elevation of the great body of the people.

Let there be no doubt that “present an obstacle” implies that caste is a barrier to the British “civilizing mission”.

On caste, he further adds:

Neither the ferocious violence, nor the illiberal fanaticism of its Mahomedan conquerors, nor the power of its European masters, have effected any considerable alterations.

He notes that “Hinduism” degenerated into idolatry, and Christianity is required to turn from this “absurd and selfish superstition”.

He acknowledges the difficulties of conversion and introspects by asking “Will we succeed when Mahmodens failed?” He  writes, “They had the power to exterminate, but they were unable to convert this mild but inflexible race of men.

He makes a significant comment about “Brahmins being the greatest obstacle to conversion.”  This is an important observation of his that must be recognized considering the treatment meted out to Brahmins in creating the Dravidian narrative.

He has dwelt in brief on bringing improvements in other areas, including the need to bring English education. He reserved the last part to morals, which according to him is supremely important to the community and a necessity to perfect civilization. In accusing the “Hindoos” of lacking morals, he does not hide his intentions when he writes:

But we must confess, that we look for the grand, decisive influence, which shall regenerate the manners of this engaging people, only to the diffusion of the Scriptures, and the prevalence of Christianity.

The whole human race, except one secluded and despised people, were consigned to reason and philosophy for four thousand years.

He concludes his essay with references from Rev. William Bennet’s Sermon[xxxvii]to advance his evangelical agenda.

John Mitchell’s advocacy for British rule follows the template of the colonial ideology that we examined in Part 3. In answering the first question, he advances the notion of British rule, securing power and privileges. The second question is a straightforward case of advancing Christianity as part of the European racist enterprise.  In doing so, he articulates the superiority of Christian culture and portrays Hindu culture in a negative light, while building a case for the Christian civilizing mission.

The importance of this essay is not in its content, but in its cardinal basis. This essay is an essential reading to understand how the academic project was planned to savage Hindus and Hinduism. Is it any surprise that racist attacks on Hinduism is spearheaded by academics, even today?

John Mitchell’s work seems to have influenced James Mill. That is why I will review his  book History of British India[xxxviii] which he published in 1817. This book will win the top prize as the source-book or  manual for Hinduphobia, as Mill was dismissive about Hindu history, showed scant regard for Hindu culture and traditions, and did his best to demonize Brahmins.

Evidence #2: History of British India by James Mill, 1817.

The History of British India is a landmark book in the annals of British administration and governance because of its role in manipulating India’s history and manufacturing a subordinate identity for Hindus. The unfortunate part is that this book was used as a training manual for English civil service officers  prior to their relocation to India for company service. The civil servants were trained in Haileybury college setup by Charles Grant, as mentioned in Part 3. Thus, the manipulated history and manufactured identity were institutionalized to influence racist colonial policies thereafter.

Volume 1 of his work is concerning Hindus. In seven chapters, Mill attacks India’s traditions, describes  Hindus as savage, and seeks to debunk  India’s history and civilization.  Mill, who never set foot in India, arrived at disturbing and shocking conclusions about Hindu culture relying on the  few translated works of Hindu texts and traditions that were available at that time. He has relied largely on the Manusmriti and the works of William Jones to build his case against India.

This is how he begins Chapter 1, On Hindus: Chronology and Ancient History of the Hindus:

Rude nations seem to derive a peculiar gratification from pretensions to a remote antiquity (p. 154).

Unable to grasp the Hindu concept of time and chronology, he deems India’s ancient history to be a fiction. He says:

When fable stands in the place of fact, the times over which the memory has any influence are rejected, and the imagination riots in those in which it is restrained (p.  162).

The wildness and inconsistency of the Hindu statements evidently place them beyond the sober limits of truth and history (p. 165).

To the monstrous period of years which the legends of the Hindus involve, they ascribe

events the most extravagant and unnatural; events not even connected in chronological series; a number of independent and incredible fictions (p.  167).

At the very outset, he dismisses India’s antiquity, declares India’s history to be a myth.

By this time, Britishers were well-aware that Brahmins were a bottleneck to missionary efforts. So, they start targeting Brahmins to show them in bad light.  He attacks Brahmins for what he believes are their  works of fiction.

The Brahmens are the most audacious, and perhaps the most unskillful fabricators, with whom the annals of fable have yet made us acquainted (p. 168).

In Chapter II, Classification and Distribution of the People, he writes:

Nowhere among mankind have the laws and ordinances been more exclusively referred to the Divinity, than by those who instituted the theocracy of Hindustan (p. 179).

He falsifies Hindu tradition:

The first legislator of the Hindus, whose name it is impossible to trace, appears to have represented himself as the republisher of the will of God. He informed his countrymen that, at the beginning of the world, the Creator revealed his duties to man, in four sacred books, entitled Vedas (p. 179-180).

Vedas are not the will of God according to  Hindu tradition, but Mill audaciously  misrepresents and mischaracterizes Hindu tradition.

He applies the Christian notions of hierarchy and privileges to ancient classification of people prevailing in India, and uses his Protestant pugnacity to attacking Brahmin priesthood. The Christian notion of supremacy is projected onto Brahmins, demonizing them as usurpers and accusing them of dividing  society.

The priesthood is generally found to usurp the greatest authority, in the lowest state of society (p.  184).

It is only in rude and ignorant times that men are so overwhelmed with the power of superstition as to pay unbounded veneration and obedience to those who artfully clothe themselves with the terrors of religion. The Brahmens among the Hindus have acquired and maintained an authority, more exalted, more commanding, and extensive, than the priests have been able to engross among any other portion of mankind (p. 184-185).

A Brahmen, whether learned or ignorant, is a powerful Divinity; even as fire is a powerful Divinity, whether consecrated or popular. Thus, though Brahmens employ themselves in all sorts of mean occupations, they must invariably be honoured; for they are something transcending divine. Not only is this extraordinary respect and pre-eminence awarded to the Brahmens; they are allowed the most striking advantages over all other members of the social body in almost everything which regards the social state (p. 186-187).

They are so much superior to the king, that the meanest Brahmen would account himself polluted by eating with him, and the death itself would appear to him less dreadful than the degradation of permitting his daughter to unite herself in marriage with his sovereign (p. 188).

It is an essential part of the religion of the Hindus, to confer gifts upon the Brahmens (p.  188).

Brahmins are a vilified lot in Tamil Nadu today, and we need not guess from where this  anti-Brahmin sentiment emerged.

After misrepresenting the differences in Hindu  society, he proceeds to cherry-pick the Manusmriti to make his case that Hindu society is grossly divided.

The distance between the different orders of men is immense and degrading. If a man of a superior class accuses a man of an inferior class, and his accusation proves to be unjust, he escapes not with impunity; but if a man of an inferior class accuses a man of superior class, and fails in proving his accusation, a double punishment is allotted to him (p. 193).

In Chapter III, The Form of Government, he equates Hindu form of governance to European monarchy and demonizes it, thus creating a “monarchy vs. democracy” binary[xxxix].

He who shows hatred for the king, through delusion of mind, will certainly perish; for speedily will the king apply his heart to that man’s destruction (p. 203).

He then goes on to paint in stark colors the “raja dharma” of  Hindu kings:

Every one of those rulers, whether the sphere of his command was narrow or extensive, was absolute within it, and possessed the whole power of the sovereign, to levy taxes, to raise and command troops, and to decide upon the lives and property of the subjects (p.  205).

He proceeds to further demonize Brahmin priesthood:

The Brahmens enjoy the undisputed prerogative of interpreting the divine oracles; for though it is allowed to the two classes next in degree to give advice to the king in the administration of justice, they must in no case resume to depart from the sense of the law which it has pleased the Brahmens to impose. The power of legislation, therefore, exclusively belongs to the priesthood (p.  218).

The uncontrollable sway of superstition, in rude and ignorant times confers upon its ministers such extraordinary privileges, that the king and the priest are generally the same person; and it appears somewhat remarkable that the Brahmens, who usurped among their countrymen so much distinction and authority, did not invest themselves with the splendour of royalty (p. 220).

It is a known fact that the Hindu form of governance was democratic, inclusive, and representative[xl]. Several Hindu texts testify to such a method of governance[xli]. Besides, it was the British colonial policies that took away property rights from women that turned a respected institution such as dowry into a fiendish practice in the 20th century [xlii].Yet with his limited access to Indian texts Mill got away with his gross  misrepresentation of Hindu traditions.

Chapter VI on Religion is the cradle for coddling Hinduphobic discourse even  today.

Mill describes the  European experience of secularism when he begins the chapter and, in the process, implies a “State vs. Religion” dichotomy and implicates Hindu traditions for not demarking the sacred from the secular [xliii].

It is difficult to determine whether the constitution of the government and the provisions of law or Religion, have, among the Hindus, the greatest influence upon the lives of individuals, and the operations of society (p. 329).

Mill attacks the Hindu approach to divinity and Sanskrit as a language, creates a “One God vs. Multiple Gods” dichotomy [xliv], and paints in dark colors the nature of divinity in Hindu tradition.

The task is rendered difficult by the unparalleled vagueness which marks the language of the Brahmens respecting the nature of the gods, the vast multiplicity of their fictions, and the endless discrepancy of their ideas. Hence it is, that no coherent system of belief seems capable of being extracted from their wild eulogies and legends (p. 330).

He dismisses the Vedas and prefers the Manusmriti for his assessment of Dharmic traditions. He says this about the Vedas:

It is all vagueness and darkness, incoherence, inconsistency, and confusion. It is one of the most extravagant of all specimens of discourse without ideas. The fearless propensity of a rude mind to guess where it does not know, never exhibited itself in more fantastic and senseless forms (p. 334).

Mill criticizes some of his predecessors who have appreciated and romanticized India and Hindu traditions:

Some of the most enlightened of the Europeans who have made inquiries concerning the ideas and institutions of the Hindus, have been induced, from the lofty epithets occasionally applied to the gods, to believe and to assert that this people had a refined and elevated religion. Nothing is more certain than that such language is far from being proof of such a religion.

Unable to understand the Hindu views of the origin of the universe and unable to reconcile the differences with his Christian perspective, he deems Hinduism to be  myth:

The only question therefore is what are the ideas which the Hindus have reached concerning the wisdom and beauty of the Universe. To this the answer is clear and incontrovertible. No people, how rude and ignorant so ever, who have been so far advanced as to leave us memorials of their thoughts in writing, have ever drawn a more gross and disgusting picture of the universe than what is presented in the writings of the Hindus (p. 384-385).

Mill trashes Hindu rituals, and swats away dismissively what he cannot comprehend and does not know, and lies about the concept of sacrifice in Hindu traditions: :

Even those inquirers who have been least aware of the grossness of the Hindu religion, have seen that wretched ceremonies constituted almost the whole of its practical part(p. 399).

It is abundantly ascertained that the Hindus at one time, and that a time comparatively recent, were marked with the barbarity of human sacrifices (p. 414).

One can connect how this lie has travelled through time, found its way in Katherine Mayo’s Mother India [xlv], and reflected in popular culture and in Hollywood films (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, 1983).

He lies about temple tradition and links it with immorality with no proof from any of the Hindu texts:

Nor can it be supposed when to all these circumstances is added the institution of a number of girls, attached to the temples, whose business is dancing and prostitution, that this is a virtue encouraged by the religion of the Hindus (p. 426).

Yes, the various fine arts were cultivated by men and women who did entertain the wealthy and the powerful, like anywhere else before, and anywhere else now, and in India the fine arts were indeed refined over millennia, even in the service of the divine, until the scolding Victorian eyes of the British made them seem vulgar. Bharatanatyam, the traditional dance form, for example, began to be  frowned upon by Indians themselves who had come under the influence of the Victorians, until Rukmini Devi Arundale revived it in the early part of the 20th century [xlvi].

In Chapter VII titled Manners, Mill accuses Hindus of mistreating women, lacking in civility, and reducing Hindu behavior to savagery. Nothing can be further from truth as  our own experiences in  our families show. Why women fed their men folk and their children and the Gods first, and why they ate later has its own history and local variety. But Mill, seeming to consider only his 19th century upper middle class experience in Britain as the standard for how men and women should mind their domestic lives,  writes:

Nothing can exceed the habitual contempt which the Hindus entertain for their women(p. 449).

That remarkable proof of barbarity, the wife held unworthy to eat with her husband, is prevalent in Hindustan (p. 452).

To summarize, in just a few chapters Mill reduces Hinduism to myth, misrepresents Hindu  traditions, and demonizes Brahmins. That Mill’s History of British India became a manual for the British to assess Hindu and Indian ways, is the reason why  we can say he was one of the original Hinduphobes, and whose work continues to fuel modern Hinduphobia. Many of the attacks against  Hindus and Hinduism today can be traced to this book. For example, a cursory review of the characterization of Hindus and Hinduism in California school textbooks [xlvii] will prove this link. India’s own National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) seems to have been seduced by Mill’s evaluation of Hindu society. This racist narrative was thrust upon Indians as the British sought to control and commandeer Indian society by educating Indians about India.

I now move on to last sample of colonial era writing, an education plan, that packaged racism in a  policy and governance gift-wrap.

Evidence #3: Minute on Education, Thomas Macaulay, 1835.

Thomas Macaulay[xlviii] advocated  the introduction of English education in India, in contrast to the mandate of the 1813 British Charter.

I reproduce below Macaulay’s infamous quote:

We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.

He vehemently opposed Sanskrit and Arabic-based education. Reproduced below are excerpts from his book that show his contempt and disregard for Indian languages, knowledge systems, and understanding of the world:

But to talk of a Government pledging itself to teach certain languages and certain sciences, though those languages may become useless, though those sciences may be explored, seems to me quite unmeaning  (p. 2).

We have a fund to be employed as Government shall direct for the intellectual improvement of the people of this country. The simple question is, what is the most useful way of employing it (p. 3)?

It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanscrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgments used at preparatory schools in England (p. 3).

All parties seem to be agreed on one point, that the dialects commonly spoken among the natives of this part of India contain neither literary nor scientific information (p. 4).

The intrinsic superiority of the Western literature is indeed fully admitted by those members of the committee who support the oriental plan of education (p. 4).

I certainly never met with any orientalist who ventured to maintain that the Arabic and Sanscrit poetry could be compared to that of the great European nations. But when we pass from works of imagination to works in which facts are recorded and general principles investigated, the superiority of the Europeans becomes absolutely immeasurable (p. 4).

They have wasted the best years of life in learning what procures for them neither bread nor respect (p. 6).

We are not content to leave the natives to the influence of their own hereditary prejudices(p. 6).

(Are) We… to teach false history, false astronomy, false medicine because we find them in company with a false religion (p. 7)?

How did  Macaulay come to these conclusions and estimation of India’s cultures, languages, divinities, and beliefs? While in eighth grade, Macaulay [xlix] wrote an essay on the need for converting heathens to Christianity. This does not come as a surprise, because his father, Zachary Macaulay, was the editor of an evangelical magazine The Christian Observer.

Macaulay’s influence  can be found in India’s educational system today. Carrying over his legacy has been a historical blunder committed in post-independent India where children are taught in English, and where English has become a “link” language for Indians, and Indians pride themselves about their ability to write and read English. As a result, we have a “class of men,” referred to as “Macaulayputras” (Macaulay’s children), who continue to be in the sway of the West and English, and who have also bought wholesale into the hate narratives about Hinduism. The majority of  Hindus cannot defend their culture and traditions in the face of this onslaught as  most of us have been  subjected to learning a distorted and denigrated version of Hinduism. If we do not understand the history of this campaign of demonization, we will sure have no one to blame but ourselves for our demise.

CONCLUSION

My primary objective in this short series of simple commentaries/summaries has been to trace the origins of Hinduphobia. I started by setting the context for this exploration in Part I.  In Part II, I reviewed the evolution of the concept of race and located its motivation in Christian theology, and then in Part III,I offered a short summary of  colonial ideology, and identified  racism as an integral part of this colonial ideology. In Part IV, this final section, I have tracked down some of the literature that is foundational to the cultivation of  racism.

This brief review of some of the colonial era British texts, I hope, will help readers understand the origins and the impetus for  the racist character and racist policies of the British  and the epistemic and real violence unleashed because of it. As we have seen, the quest to advance and impose a Christian worldview led to disastrous consequences:

  • slavery in and colonization of large parts of the world;
  • the development of the concept of “race”(leading to racism) – used as a cover to promote Christian supremacy; and
  • the institutionalizing of this racism in colonial administrations.

That is how Hindu hatred originated.

The characterization of Hindu hatred thus has a racist temper. The educational system put in place by Macaulay, institutionalized this temper. This has traveled well through time and has been mainstreamed today. Narratives and meta narratives about India’s history, culture & society continue to be based on this racist temper. Hinduphobia is a result of it. Western academia, under the façade of academic freedom, promotes this indiscriminately, the global non-governmental network advances it aggressively, venomous journalists, deceitful politicians and perfumed elites “wreathed in dollars and stupidity[i] promote this willingly. Widespread misrepresentation, falsification and demonization of Hindus and Hinduism today originate in the US academia, especially in Ivy League and elite universities; their lumpen darlings in politics, media and popular culture mindlessly co-opt and promote this racist hatred. Marxists and their pliable ecosystem [ii] act as the custodians of this racist temper in contemporary times.

 

REFERENCES:

[i] Aime Cesaire, Discourse on Colonialism, (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000), 54.

[ii]https://www.minoritywatch.com/democratic-leadership-becoming-mute-spectator-to-hinduphobia-in-party-haf/

[i]https://www.hinduhumanrights.info/use-of-the-term-hinduphobia-1914-1997/

[ii]Kundan Singh, Post-colonial Hindu Studies, Hindu University of America, 2021.

[iii]Joydeep Bagchee, Race and Modern Hinduism, Hindu University of America, 2021.

[iv]Vishwa Adluri, Race and Modern Hinduism, Hindu University of America, 2021.

[v]Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/colonialism, 2006.

[vi]Francois Bernier was born in Paris in 1620. He was a physician to Darah Shikoh, the Mughal Prince for a brief period.

[vii] Francois Bernier, A New Division of Earth, 1684.

[viii] Immanuel Kant, Of the Different Human Races, 1775.

[ix]On the Natural variety of Mankind was first published in 1775 as his doctoral dissertation. He further refined his ideas in 1779 and came up with his classification scheme and introduced the term “Caucasian”.

[x]The Idea of Race Ed. with Introductions by Robert Bernasconi and Tommy L Lot, (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2000).

[xi] Joydeep Bagchee, Hindu University of America, 2021.

[xii]https://youtu.be/wmhP5DYhpRw, Age of Enlightenment: How the Ideas of the Enlightenment Led to Revolution, September 2020.

[xiii]Who Invented the Concept of Race?, Roberto Bernasconi, 2000.

[xiv]https://pressbooks-dev.oer.hawaii.edu/explorationsbioanth/chapter/__unknown__-12/

[xv] Bernasconi, 2000.

[xvi] Joydeep Bagchee, Hindu University of America, 2021.

[xvii]Speculative Beginning of Human History, Immanuel Kant, 1786.

[xviii]https://ldhi.library.cofc.edu/exhibits/show/african_laborers_for_a_new_emp/pope_nicolas_v_and_the_portugu

[xix] Bernasconi, 2000.

[xx] Joydeep Bagchee, Hindu University of America, 2021.

[xxi] Albert Memmi, The Colonizer and the Colonized, (Britain: The Orion Press, 1965).

[xxii]https://germanphilosophy.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/the-three-principles-of-dialectical-thinking/

[xxiii] Kundan Singh, Hindu University of America, 2020.

[xxiv]Dickson A Mungazi. “Application of Memmi’s Theory of the Colonizer and the Colonized to the Conflicts in Zimbabwe.” The Journal of Negro Education 55, no. 4 (1986): 518-34. Accessed November 26, 2020.

[xxv] Aime Cesaire, Discourse on Colonialism, (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000).

[xxvi]Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/art/Negritude, September 2020.

[xxvii] Frantz Fanon, Black Skin White Masks (New York: Grove Press, 1965).

[xxviii] Meenakshi Jain, Sati, Evangelicals and the Baptist Missionaries: The Changing Colonial Discourse, (New Delhi: Aryan Books International, 2016).

[xxix]http://www.bu.edu/missiology/missionary-biography/g-h/grant-charles-1746-1823/

[xxx]https://www.wmcarey.edu/carey/grant/grant.htm

[xxxi]https://www.educatemagis.org/blogs/discovering-jesuit-schools-india/

[xxxii] Aime Cesaire, Discourse on Colonialism, (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000).

[xxxiii] Cesaire, Discourse on Colonialism, 74.

[xxxiv] Vishwa Adluri and Joydeep Bagchee, Nay Science: A History of German Indology (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2014).

[xxxv] John Mitchell, An Essay on the Best Means of Civilising the Subject of British India and of Diffusing the Light of the Christian Religion Throughout the Eastern World, 1805.

[xxxvi] Robert Williamson, Disquisition concerning the Knowledge which the Ancients had of India”, (University of Edinburgh, 1791).

[xxxvii] Rev. William Bennet, Sermon on Christian Morality, 1799.

[xxxviii] James Mill, The History of British India, 1817.

[xxxix] Kundan Singh, Hindu University of America, 2020.

[xl] Kundan Singh, Hindu University of America, 2020.

[xli] Amartya Sen, The Argumentative Indian, (New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2005).

[xlii] Veena Talwar Oldenburg, Dowry Murder, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).

[xliii] Kundan Singh, Hindu University of America, 2020.

[xliv] Kundan Singh, Hindu University of America, 2020.

[xlv] Katherine Mayo, Mother India, (New York: Blue Ribbon Books, 1927).

[xlvi] Aravindan Neelakandan and Rajiv Malhotra, Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines, (New Delhi: Amaryllis, 2011).

[xlvii] Kundan Singh, Krishna Maheshwari, Making Children Hinduphobic, (Chennai: Infinity Foundation, 2018).

[xlviii] Thomas Macaulay, Minute on Education, 1835.

[xlix] Pavan K Varma, Becoming Indian: The Unfinished Revolution of Culture and Identity, (New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2012).

Ramsundar Lakshminarayanan

Ram is an IT Management professional with a Big4 background. A devotee of Ilaiyaraja songs, he is a non-fiction reader, former cricketer, traveler, photographer, Indic learner and an evolving writer.