[ Raghavan Srinivasan – one of the CRI readers has submitted the below article as a reaction to the post titled “Strands Of Anti-Westernism In Indian Politics” published by CRI last week. CRI is carrying this post as a part of our commitment to an open dialogue ]
I am an avid follower of CRI and try my best to follow the articles published (including the one on Nietzsche!) However, over the last few weeks I found myself wondering if the thinking in CRI had become somewhat stereotyped. The discussions seem to be slight variations around a central theme (more like disagreements between ideologues) and moreover do not seem to provide a robust take home end point. For example, how improve the horrible state of education? – bring in the foreigners says one group, no, no, no says the other. Wretched medical care – privatize, remove supply side constraints, increase competition and, voila, see the situation improve miraculously! FDI in retail? Yes, yes and some more yes, too bad some local mom and pop kiranas will become extinct, but what the heck, that is the price you pay for progress. No, no and again no, scream the others, we are bringing the East India Company again. Is CRI (by CRI I mean the Anglophile Right) starting to sound like a scratched gramophone record?
Mr. Jaideep Prabhu’s (JAP) recent post, “Strands of Anti-Westernism in Indian Politics” was just the tipping point and helped to crystallize my views. I think the Anglophile Right is unable to provide definite solutions to the problems faced by India because it it stuck in the Western Paradigm. I shall use Mr. JAP’s post as an illustration only, to explain, as we say in Tamil, “oru paanai sotrukku oru soru padham” (Checking one grain is enough to assess if the whole pot of rice is cooked). This writeup is not to be only considered as a critique of JAP’s post. I request readers to focus on the larger picture, the forest instead of the trees.
It is not my intention to lecture CRI and I would be grateful if readers consider this writeup as a well wisher thinking out loud!
JAP, aka the Anglophile Right (AR) is perplexed by the hostility – vitriol no less, exhibited by a certain Anglophobic fringe of the Hindutva and Swadeshi Right (A-H&SR). Opposition by the Hindutva group on a cultural basis is understandable, they reason, but why does part of the economic Swadeshi group also froth at the mouth at the mere sight of the AR?
The AR feels that this hostility on part of the A-H&SR is due to an “inferiority complex”. “it is the inability of the ‘local’….”, aha! note the word ‘local’. If ever there was a smoking gun, this is it! If we accept that the A-H&SR are ‘local’ are we excused if we say that the AR
is ‘foreign’, if not in domicile, at least in thought? But more on this later!
To continue,”….conservatives to find a plausible indigenous intellectual alternative to the European ideas of the last three centuries”. And, pray, what are the European ideas that are giving the ‘local’ A-H&SR such an inferiority complex? “Modernity, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and the nation state” proudly proclaim the AR. Bereft of ideas and wracked by an awful inferiority complex the A-H&SR demonizes the West in “incoherent, illogical, factually suspect and sometimes not even topical manner” My, my!
“This vitriol is not borne out by any logical analysis”, says the AR. Well, the A-H&SR humbly begs to disagree. We shall consider some facts, shall we?
In 1750, India and China accounted for 75% of the world’s industrial production. Even till 1830, that is a mere 180 years ago, India and China accounted for 60% of the world’s industrial production. India produced better steel than Sheffield, built ships, produced vast amounts of textiles, dyes and a hundred other diverse commodities.
Paddy production in Chengalpattu (near the present Chennai) in 1760 to 1770 amounted to 5 to 6 tons per hectare, probably better than the output in modern India. Indian agricultural labourers earned higher real wages compared to labourers in England.
“Every village has a school”, Sir Thomas Munro. “There is hardly a village, great or small, throughout our territories, in which there is not at least one school, and in larger villages, more.” G L Prendergast, 1820. “There are 1,00,000 village schools in Bengal and Bihar alone”. William Adam 1830. (The Legend of the Hundred Thousand Schools). Further reports to London from the local Collectors state that the duration of study varied between 5 to 15 years and all the four castes were represented amongst the students. Contrast this with England. The total number of schools, both private and public, in England, in 1801 was 3,363. The total number attending those schools was around 40,000 and “…the average length of school life rises on a favourable estimate from about 1 year in 1835 to about 2 years in 1851”.
India had a written Constitution and a functioning democracy in the 9-10 century AD itself. The Constitution and the Methodology of Elections and Administration is chiseled in stone and empaneled for all to see in Uttaramerur Temple, 35 Km from Kanchipuram. Did not the same Cholas spread the ‘local’ culture all over the Far East?
The local A-H&SR “lacked plausible, indigenous, intellectual alternatives to European ideas” – Bah! Humbug! (apologies to Dickens!)
The ‘local’ A-H&SR did have very much better intellectual alternatives to European ideas, and that is the reason the Europeans risked life and limb to come to India. The ‘locals’ grasped the hand extended supposedly for trade in good faith but later discovered that it had morphed into a balled fist for loot and rapine.
The AR still blithely sees economic opposition to the West as “economic nationalism that bears an eerie similarity to protectionism”. No wonder the A-H&SR become rabid at the sight of the AR!
Well, as I said earlier, the aim of this article is not to merely critique JAP or speak up for the A-H&SR. The aim is to try to understand the thought process of the AR which makes it think in this manner.
“A reliable alternative should be offered” cackles the AR. Shall we flip the statement around? Has the AR offered any real alternatives except engagement with the West? “India needs all the help it can get from international investors in most sectors of the economy”.
Why is the AR unable to see beyond the West? The answer lies in the fact that the Brown Sahibs of the past and the present are all products of their Anglo education and are prisoners to that paradigm. Poor education – bring Oxbridge, bad retail – get the Company back, no medical care – privatize and increase competition! The AR is indeed a stuck gramophone record, it just keeps repeating “West, West, West” ad infinitum. The Brown Sahibs of the past have merely evolved into ‘Dubashi Sahibs’ of the present – note how they subconsciously consider the A-H&SR as ‘locals’! Agreed the Dubashi Sahibs are all quite erudite, but alas, unless the Anglophile Dubashi Right, hereafter referred to as the Dubashi Right (DR), come out of that paradigm, they will have incommensurable difficulty in finding lasting solutions to India’s problems. Solutions which may seem to work in one particular paradigm certainly fail in another different paradigm.
Is there an alternate paradigm? There is, and it is staring at us, right in front of our eyes, at Uttaramerur. It is just not obvious to the DR! Being prisoners of their paradigm, they are simply blind to it. Was not the decentralized Panchayat System and through it, the King, the rightful owner of Power and upholder of Dharma in India since ancient times? Was this system not ‘reliable’ enough to produce a school in every village, 6 tons of paddy per hectare and sublimely beautiful philosophy, spread by word of mouth and not through the sword?
Should not the British Imperial Power been transferred to the original rightful owner, the Panchayat Administration System in 1947? Were the Indians, 90%+ villagers in 1950, just liberated from slavery and recovering from the horrors of Partition offered adequate explanation about the new Constitution and means of governance? Was the opinion of the common man (there were no mango men at that time!) consulted by any means at all? Or did the Anglophile Brown Sahibs just casually usurp the ancient right of the Panchayats by gratuitously continuing the old thought process of the British, “…that barbarous India could be civilized only by discarding its innate Indian-ness (Mill), embrace Christianity (William Wilberforce), or become anglicized (Macaulay) and become Western (Karl Marx)?”
Reinstall the King, I say! Vazhga Glorious Viranarayana, Prosperous Parakesari, the Illustrious Parantakadeva Chozha Maamannan, the Conqueror of Madurai, Vaazhga!Vaazhga! Needoodi Vaazhgave! (Needoodi Vaazhga – long live in Tamil) (Ordered the inscription to be put up)
Lest we forget, our humble thanks to Kadadipottan Sivakkuri Rajamallamangalapriyan, the scribe who chiseled the inscription, vaazhga! vaazhga!
May the Lord Sundaravaradhan, (Uttaramerur) liberate the DR from Maaya!
Koi hai? Bada peg lao, and while you are at it bring my Nietzsche! (A thousand apologies, Mr. Krishna Rao!)
 All the information, figures and quotes (not attributable to JAP) are taken from Dharampal’s Collected Writings in 5 volumes. These books can be downloaded from www.samanvaya.com/dharampal I strongly exhort everybody to put them on their reading lists (at least as the 101st!). They are certainly useful for paradigm shifts!
 Uttaramerur – please Google. The inscription and its translation is freely available in the Web.
 Also see www.ifih.org/uttaramerurinscription.htm