Decolonizing the Indian Civil services-1
[contextly_sidebar id=”u32f6cKlVJ0NDce4qblAVherYMvrRfwZ”]This a transcript of a talk delivered by Rajiv Malhotra
India’s Civil Services are colonized from the very beginning of a person’s career. The nature of the exam that Civil services aspirants have to pass through, is based on old social theories, colonial social theories, Leftist/Marxists’ social theories of guilt, what’s wrong with us as a nation. So it is a very negative, depressing kind of an exam that the aspirants have to pass and they get their marks by quoting depressing, negative characters, anti-national characters.
Above slide showcases the Civil services ecosystem. On the top of the slide is the Civil Services exam that has to be passed.
In 2016, over a million young people took this exam. That’s twice as many people as the number of people sitting for the GRE exam, which is meant for getting into the a graduate school in the United States. There are over 2000 centers in over 60 cities across India, where this exam is conducted.
Bottom of the slide has young applicants. In between there are three aspects: syllabus, ideological writers and coaching institutes. In this article, we will discuss the syllabus in detail.
There is a syllabus which is controlled by the UPSC which is the exam body. This is the body that conducts this exam, sets the syllabus and thus selects all civil servants of various services: Indian foreign service, diplomats, police services, tax and audit and account services.
This syllabus is a 100 plus page PDF book. This syllabus contains material that is written by ideological writers viz. Well known Left wing writers and newspapers and publishing houses that have a certain ideological bent of mind.
Let us review some of the Social sciences’ curriculum:
Here is a quote from the actual syllabus.
“Race and racism, biological basis of morphological variation of non-metric and characters. Racial criteria, racial traits in relation to heredity and environment; biological basis of racial classification, racial differentiation and race crossing in man.”
My overall impression of the Anthropology curriculum is that it has one of the worst bias of the western kind.
Anthropology started during the era of colonialism when the West was coming across primitive tribes and primitive people in the various continents from the Americas, Africa, Asia and they wanted to understand who these people were.
The idea was to conquer the natives and to do that natives were to be understood. This led to a field of Anthropology where people would go and become friends, learn to wear their clothes, learn to eat their food and understand their language but it was a one-way street. It was the western lens or dristi to see other people and to map them in the western representation.
So the whole field of Anthropology has from the very beginning been tainted in this kind of racist manner. Recently, western anthropologists or at least some of them have been reflecting and criticizing their own field and trying to do away with these things. In fact, they are against the idea of race. But here in India we are still following the old anthropology school.
We are not cherry-picking theories. The “a” through “j” are the topics listed in the syllabus in exactly this order, exactly this vocabulary. Now if we look at some of these terms, we won’t understand what’s going on. An average Indian who thinks he understands Indian society, will not be able to relate to this.
So we are foreigners in the way our own subject is being profiled or studied. Observe in parentheses – there is not a single Indian there.
These are names unfamiliar to 99.9 % of people of India. So if we are being studied by these weird, strange European theories based on the expertise of these strange, unknown, alien people to us, it is quite a tragedy. Why don’t we have our own theories on who we are. Our own exemplars on who we are, our own dristi telling us who we are.
I have studied some of these scholars (listed above) and there is a lot that can be argued against their theories. Those theories are so loaded with bias, wrong assumptions, false translations, prejudices from their own point of view, that these people have been criticized in the West also. But in India it’s sort of like a Bible, what the West has given us becomes something non-violable, we follow it like obedient servants. So this is kind of serious problem for me.
Psychology study in India is quite disgusting to say the least because the Indian pioneering theories of mind are missing. We are not teaching Patanjali’s idea of mind or Kashmir Shaivism or Yoga ideas, Buddhist ideas, Madhyamika ideas, or even Tantric ideas. We have many theories of mind, many theories of the nature of the self, the nature of person.
By the way the cutting edge of neuroscience research in the West and cognitive science research in the West is using Indian models studying yogis and meditators to develop the next generation of theories. And Indians instead of being the pioneers in reviving our own traditional theories and not letting the West take them away, are in fact are copying old western theories of mind.
I would like to mention an interesting episode. In 2002, IIT-Kharagpur wanted to celebrate its 50th anniversary and they wanted to have many conferences on various disciplines. They applied for a grant from my Infinity Foundation to fund some conferences. I looked at the list of conferences, I found the one called “Mind Sciences” to be very interesting, so I wrote to them saying that I would like to sponsor the conference on “Mind Sciences” and asked them to send me the list of speakers and topics.
The topics that they had sent were all western. There was no Indian theory of mind. It was all fashionable western theories – some of them were even obsolete. So, I sent back a note saying I will sponsor this conference on the condition that there should be at least one panel on Indian ideas of mind. And I got a nasty note saying that we are not chauvinist, we are not saffron, and that we are scientific people and we don’t believe in all this kind of stuff – they mentioned a very pejorative view of Indian ideas.
Then I approached 4 or 5 of my white, American friends who are scholars of Indian theories of mind. And I requested them to submit a proposal about Indian theories of mind, which is what they were borrowing, teaching and practicing.
There was a Buddhist, Robert Thurman, he wrote an abstract on Buddhist theories of mind and how these theories are at the cutting edge. There was one scholar in Cambridge – a western scholar. He wrote on Patanjali’s yoga sutra. Somebody else wrote on Sri Aurobindo, somebody else wrote on Kundalini. So I got a collection of these proposals and sent them to IIT-Kharagpur.
Now IIT Kharagpur team immediately accepted these proposals because now of-course white people were saying it.
All those people whom we sent, got standing ovations. Indians loved it. The Indians love to hear good things about themselves provided it is being said by westerners.
So we started a whole movement called “Indian theories of Mind” and for about 10 years we were funding conferences every year. We had conferences in Pondicherry, in Kerala in various places and finally in Delhi. There is a whole group of psychology professors in India who meet once a year or so and specialize in Indian theories of psychology. So over the past, I would say 15 years an Indian theories of psychology movement has started.
I am so disappointed that the people who make the syllabus of the UPSC, have not included a single line in that syllabus concerning Indian theories of mind. A very sad state for India considering we have been supposedly independent for 70 years.
Political theory and Indian politics:
Let’s move on to Political theory and Indian politics in the syllabus. They talk about theories of state.
These are western categories – Liberal, new liberal, Marxist, pluralist, colonists. So an Indian has to start memorizing, mugging up these theories to clear the exam.
The concept of justice is with reference to western thinkers – the idea of equality, and affirmative action – these are all western ideas. Now when one talks about rights, dharma is also about responsibilities. It’s not only about what’s my right to get this or to get that, but also about what’s my responsibility towards family, towards community, towards animals, towards nature – my responsibility towards various things, various people and beings. That is missing from the syllabus.
Also, we can see that under Indian politics there is nothing about Indian classical period or about India’s own indigenous ideas of politics. Other than Gandhism, which is sort of an interruption between various western models of politics everything else is imported and this is what the young students are expected to memorize and regurgitate in order to become civil servants.
Indian Government and Politics:
Under the topic Indian government, it is as if there was no such thing as governance until the British. It’s only the modern state that is covered.
It appears that the notion of India starts in the modern era and a pre-modern India is something not even worth talking about. But what about the governance of traditional kings, what about the written, what about the dharma shastras, the arthashastras, what about the Mahabharata, what about the notion of Bharat as a nation, as a people with governance. I mean those people were not some bunch of wild people without the notion of a state, a nation, ideas of community, justice and law and order and things of that sort. So the UPSC exams seems to ignore all of that.
Now in International politics, they are correct about globalization, responses from developed and developing societies, but they ignore the challenges to western globalization. The UPSC examination people have not woken up to the idea that now there is a Chinese view of globalization and there is a pan-Islamic view of globalization. In fact, there are multiple, rival views of globalization.
Then, under the heading methodologies in the study of international relations, the syllabus talks about idealist, realist, Marxist, functionalist and systems theory. Now who in India would even have heard of these things unless you go for one of these exams, sit down for several months and learn how to pass the exams, so in other words it’s almost like we are creating an alien group to rule over us.
So we are giving our young people an alien brainwashing to turn them into thinkers of a western lens so that they can rule over us and this is why the civil servants and civil societies is so disconnected from the aam aadmi.