Dr. Haris Qadeer
Master of Arts (English) Final
21 April 2014
Hinduism, Hindutva, Colonial and Post-Colonial Myths
"During this period (early history of the British in India) in India, while the Europeans fought one another and the British intrigued among themselves for personal advantage, Mughals killed Mughals, Rajputs killed Rajputs, Mughals killed Rajputs, Rajputs killed Mughals, British killed Mughals and Rajputs, Mughals and Rajputs killed British, and starvation and taxation kept killing the farmers and laborers of India as usual." 1
This is how Wendy Doniger defines the pre-independence early history of India (of the 19th century) in her book ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’. Karl Marx too in an article that he wrote for the ‘The New York Daily Tribune’ describes an India that has either always been under the influence of foreign powers or remained in a state of discord because of continuous internal conflicts that took place within castes and tribes. This western view of India and the denial of there ever having been ‘A Golden Indian Age’ led to the orthodoxy in the conception of the idea of Indian Nationalism. Nationalism, even though a borrowed western idea itself, had to necessarily be adopted to refute the notions of India as a barbaric and savage country. And in doing so, through a propagation of myths and in other places through the terming of some real facts as myths by both colonial and the native population, a history was created that could in no way have remain unbiased and unjust to a large section of the Indian society.
This bias manifests itself not only in the problematic of gender, where a rigid ‘Hindutva’ (which was an answer to the colonial accusations of Indian perverseness) combined with Victorian moral ethics doubly suppressed women and homosexuals, negating the past history of a Hinduism that can be seen in the ‘Khajuraho’ temples, in the ‘Kamasutra’ or elsewhere in the country; but also in the questions of caste, religion and on the basis of loyalty to the colonizers in pre-independence India. This bias is not only not ahistorical but with the rising wave of a ‘Hindutva’ politics, it has also jumped out of the boundaries of the ‘apolitical’.
An example of this is the idea prevalent in certain parts of the society that the colonizers, even though violators of human rights themselves, in many circumstances had also civilized the country by abolishing brutal practices like the ‘Sati’ and by having offered a scathing critique of the oppressive Indian caste system, helped in removing it. What remains hidden behind this myth is the fact that the colonizers had not only in their early days of invasion and in their ‘oriental spirit’ as Doniger points out, remained oblivious to the brutal act of Sati and intended not to interfere with Hindu practices but also throughout their rule propagated the ideas of caste distinctions. These distinctions based themselves not only on the existing Hindu caste system but...