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Nationalism as a misstatement of Hindu concerns

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Nationalism as a misstatement of Hindu concerns
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Time and again, also after Narendra Modi’s historic election victory, we see a correct pro-Hindu message take an erroneous nationalist turn which detracts from its original pro-Hindu intention. This is precisely how the Nehruvians want it: they have always tried to channel the Hindu energies towards an anachronistic anti-Britishism, sometimes transformed into an anti-Americanism, and far too many Hindus have merrily taken the bait.

The occasion is the Indians (repeat: Indians) appearing on Western TV stations or in Western newspapers to send an anti-Modi and anti-Hindu message. Instead of taking that message on, some Hindus change it in their imagination towards a neo-colonial message, bringing in Sonia Gandhi as the reason why a Western TV station would broadcast this anti-Modi message. The West is said to dislike Narendr Modi because he is an antipode to Sonia Gandhi.

Well, I am a Westerner, live in the West and follow a broad scala of Western media, and I can say with a 100% certainty that the Western anti-Modi sympathies have nothing whatsoever to do with the person and provenance of Sonia Gandhi, much less with being anti-native.

Was Manmohan Singh any less native? Is Arvind Kejriwal more foreign than Modi? For anti-Modi Indians and for their Western dupes, Narendra Modi is not insufferable because he is native (so were most preferred alternatives) but because he is seriously pro-Hindu.

For the umpteenth time, I catch Hindu activists in the act of living in an imaginary world, an anachronistic worldview where the political equations and the nationalist high ground of the colonial age still prevail. Even at this auspicious hour, the chance of a lifetime, but with battles ahead, I can see Hindus charting a purely imaginary topography for their Kurukshetra. They are preparing for an imaginary battle, and meanwhile setting themselves up for yet another defeat in the real world.

It is not that anyone minds Hindu spokesmen being anti-white. We are so used to it that it only evokes a yawn. Of course, anti-white rhetoric has bad connotations by now: any African dictator who has his own failed policies to defend, will blame his failure on “white” machinations and the heritage of colonialism. As this is dead since more than a half-century, it becomes more and more anachronistic, but it is still tried. So we associate anti-white rhetoric with evil and failure, but otherwise we are quite numb when we hear it.

Indians who vent anti-white rhetoric think themselves as very brave, for they are actually doling out a kick to the long-dead horse of white colonialism. Hear that, Mr. Viceroy?! But far from being brave, they are Don Quixotes attacking imaginary foes all while leaving the real foes in peace.

The wrong thing with anti-white rhetoric must not be understood in moralistic terms; “anti-white racism” or so. The bad thing about it is that it shows how Hindu activists are still not ready for victory in the real world. In their imaginary world, the West is plotting against India and using the secularists and minorities as sepoys. In the real world, the West is only modestly interested in India, but is being turned anti-Modi by the Indian secularists and the minorities (some of which are but the Indian franchise of multinationals, esp. the Christian and Islamic communities).

If the secularists didn’t control the bottleneck of information on India, the West would be far less anti-Narendra Modi. Without a constant stream of anti-Modi propaganda (for which the Indian anti-Modi forces might engineer communal riots), you will see the West turn business-like towards Narendra Modi soon enough. Like the East India Company of the early years, the West only sees India in business terms, and a thriving India, meaning Narendra Modi and not Rahul or Kejriwal, might actually be good for the world economy including the West.

Another very recent remark was from a Hindu who hoped that the Christian Churches in India would transform themselves into an “authentic Indian Church”. Ah, so the problem is that the Churches are not sufficiently “Indian”? And an authentic Church will be less interested in converting the Hindus?

Naïve Hindus seem to think that the mission is a ploy by foreign nations. In reality, Christianity uses nations until they lose power, then it crosses the floor to whatever new power comes next. If India becomes powerful, the missionaries will become great patriots — and all the more eager to convert India. So, thinking in term of “national” vs. “foreign” is a sure way to misconceive the problems Hinduism faces.

Nationalism is a misstatement of Hindu concerns.

What will be the reaction to this? Perhaps everything has changed on 16 May, but if previous experiences are still valid, the silent or stated reaction among many readers will be: “He is a white devil”, “he is secretly a missionary agent”, “he must have a Himalayan ego for daring to doubt our infallibility”, “he this” and “he that”.  The one thing missing will be introspection. Nobody is saying: “We are devising a strategy for victory, and this man’s feedback observes that we are doing something wrong. Let’s see if he has a point. Let’s improve our strategy and gear up for victory.”

The more usual reaction among internet Hindus is effectively: “We are heading for another defeat, and we won’t let this white interloper snatch this defeat from us. We have an inalienable right to our defeats!”

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Koenraad Elst

Dr. Koenraad Elst earned his Ph.D., from the Catholic University of Leuven based on his research on the ideological development of Hindu revivalism. Author of more than a dozen books on Indian society and politics, he has worked in political journalism and as a foreign policy assistant in the Belgian Senate. He has also published about multiculturalism, ancient Chinese history and philosophy, comparative religion, and language policy issues. In the ongoing Aryan homeland debate he has played a key role.