a.nihil

India

Since the start of the Covid pandemic, the Indian government's missives contained a large number of war imagery. Doctors and other essential workers became “Covid warriors” and the Indian government embarked on a War on Covid, vaccines became “weapons to defeat the virus” and the virus itself is an “invisible enemy” which the government is fighting on a “war footing”.

The BJP government's fascination for war and war imagery is well documented, first there was the “war on black money” rhetoric used during the enfeebling demonetization, then came “the surgical strikes”, “war-like fortifications” to protect Delhi against protesting farmers. There is almost a perverse affliction with war with the current regime, as it amplifies the power they have over the people without actually having to do nothing. It also satiates its core voter base and the outliers as it shows that the country is finally doing something, war is not a state of inaction but extreme kinesis, it creates an illusion of progress where no progress exists.

Golwalkar, widely regarded as the ideological architect of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh drew inspiration for the Hindu-state from Italian fascism, specifically Mussolini’s organization of fascist paramilitary forces. In comparing the supremacy of Hindus in India to the supremacy of the Aryan race in Hitler’s Germany, Golwalkar wrote, “To keep up the purity of its race and culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging of the country of the Semitic races— the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here .. a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.”

These ideological roots have permeated into the national discourse where war is used as a euphemism to quell any public backlash. Want to question the government over the vaccine policy? We are in an unofficial state of war, we shouldn't expend energy on finger-pointing right now. The state of war is an excuse to collectivize losses while any good news is because and only because of the Dear Leader, whose kindness brings glory to us Indian people. The Dear Leader is at the same time a master strategist, a shrewd politician, and a saintlike figure. Case in point is the length of his beard which seems to exude an idea of statesmanship without anything concrete to show for it.

War imagery also eliminates any nuance that is required in complex problem-solving. It replaces meticulousness with loud bangs, which becomes rhetoric in itself. By playing the “war” card, the BJP further strengthens its brute force persona popularized by the Uri and Balakot attacks in the past years. It is a reflection of the violence-obsessed society we have become, wherein the fight against real violence we infer imagined massacres. The causalities of this war imagery are however real. It is the people of India, whose orphaned bodies burned to ashes in overworked cemeteries and clogged the Ganga. The government's apathy is visible in the statistical PR exercises it does to save face, not to mention its poor war-waging ability as visible from the haircuts it took with the Chinese confrontation in Eastern Ladakh last year.

The war imagery is a distraction from the larger problem facing India, poor public infrastructure, and a middle-class governmental perspective that views and treats its large swathes of poor sections through its elitist lens and religious nationalism. War imagery is a sign of societal decay – one which relegates intellectual operations to a lower class of thought systems, where being loud is smarter than being smart itself.

#RSS #BJP #India #war #covid

An Idea of India

The news filtering from India leaves me hopeless for a country that I am confused to call mine. Having not lived in India in the last three years, each passing day the country goes farther away from the place of imaginations and dreams. I can understand that this physical untangling with a home country can create a dissonance between perception and reality. When I was in India I experienced the place through my eyes and the media reports acted as an accompaniment to refract experiences through.

Now, living in a country thousands of kilometers away one is left with chaotic tweets and servile media to base one's idea of the country upon, without the tangible element to infer the veracity of information. The internet spaces are polarized by the ruling right and the ever warring Left, with a heavy mix of pseudoscience and the general lackadaisical anything goes attitude that is in political vogue at the moment. Official sources of information have become the “battlefields” of misinformation, a place to use mind-numbing statistical exercises to always show India as the best, the largest and the greatest in the world. It does seem in the past years there has not been a single government initiative that cannot be described by a haloed superlative.

This is not the India I remember, where I had access to books and information that encouraged me to pursue knowledge and ask questions. The issues of superstition and blind religiosity were always around in the family but never overflowing at the cost of education. Now science has been politicized as an object of the West and whatever “Indian culture” is supposed to mean has taken center stage. Family whatsapp forwards are filled with recipes for various Ayurvedic potions and concoctions that are supposed to keep Covid at bay. This is a reflection of a macroscopic trend nationwide. No one questions their efficacy, otherwise wouldn't the rising caseload and deaths be already under control?

There has been a collective amnesia towards logic right in the upper echelons of power in the Indian government that has trickled down into the populace through propaganda and social engineering. Any slight against the dealing of the virus is a warring statement against the country itself, to question is to be unpatriotic, while being a nameless mass is encouraged as the greatest duty one can currently do as a citizen.

It is not ironic that the adherents to the BJP/RSS's idealogy are called bhakts (devotees), reason has been long transplanted with worship and the hard rigor of reasoning filled with the ease of blind faith. Why care to understand science when pseudoscience is much more accessible? The land that has enabled me to read and reason has now been replaced by one that demands silence. This thought system has now permeated across all sections of the Indian population and there is little prospects of things to change.

Countries morph all in character all the time and what is happening to India is an abject denigration that has frayed all the pride and character amassed in the past decades. India is shining, but in the bright flames of uncounted bodies and in the dull orb of a fascist reality whose future horrors I do not wish to imagine.

#India #Covid19 #RSS #fascism #BJP

Rihanna, Greta Thunberg and a few other influential global celebrities put out a tweet calling for attention to the farmers protesting against the New Farm Laws passed in India and the entire BJP/RSS/Indian government propaganda machine comes into power play mode, amplifying the government's POV. The government's statement released on the Ministry of External Affairs twitter handle stated that “facts have to ascertained” before making “sensationalist social media comments..especially when restored to by celebrities..is neither accurate nor responsible”.

One starts to wonder, why do the tweets of a private persons trigger the government of a sovereign nation? What is it that the government fears that simple pointing of a fact culminates in a full fledged propaganda campaign that is ironically hash-tagged #IndiaAgainstPropaganda?

The problem is that of image perception. In India it is easy to silence critics of the BJP government with paid trolls and TV journalists. Coordinated smear campaigns and plain old intimidation work, which makes it easier for the government to control the narrative. But with Rihanna's 100+ million twitter followers it is hard enforce control as it would prompt global scrutiny that the Modi government cannot bully or bulldoze over. The BJP government knows that the easiest way to get out of this soup is to play its favorite the nation is under attack card which has proven its potency in the past years. By making simple criticism an issue of National Security, the BJP government invokes both paranoia and patriotism to deflect the attention of its citizens while muzzling its critics.

Whether it is the near coup attempt in the United States or the actual coup in Myanmar, voicing out one's opinion is a matter collective responsibility that goes beyond the allegiance to a State. The BJP government behaves as if there is nothing that it does that warrants criticism. On paper and in propaganda BJP is the best thing that has happened to India, period. Anyone that criticizes any of its policies or political high-handedness is an anti-national, a comic insinuation when it was first used and now a very valid threat. India is not some kind of magical superpower where everything is hunky-dory, the mythos that the BJP sells is ignorant, egoistic dreaming, a political acid trip for the weak.

For now we found a small opening in BJP's self-inflated armor: relentless international criticism. For a government that is lauding itself to be atmanirbhar (self reliant) it definitely is behaving like a narcissistic lover needing a lot of external appreciation. The country is riled up and that the farmers who are protesting against corporatization of Indian agriculture are seen as terrorists, traitors and every other identifier except as farmers. The way to reverse the narrative for now is to put the focus back on them and deny the narcissist the positive attention they demand.

As for Rihanna, Cheers, I'll drink to that

#FarmersAreIndia #BJP #India #propaganda

Preamble

The 26th of January this year marks the 71st year of the Indian Constitution coming into existence, the longest written document of its kind in the world. For most Indians it is when ceremonial Republic Day Parade takes place on Rajpath before the President of India, showcasing the diversity of India's cultural and military heritage. The unfurling of the Indian flag signifies that the nation is already independent, followed by the President's speech to the nation.

All this tradition to mark that India is a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic, assuring its citizens justice, equality and liberty, and endeavours to promote fraternity. Certain of these adjectives are losing meaning in today's New India, where a plutocratic, religious elite want to dominate the cultural and political futures of the country. Consider the word secular, a word that lacks little mention in the BJP's national conscience. In the past seven years, the word has been ridiculed by online trolls as being equivalent to pseudosecular, meaning that the laws of the country are biased towards minorities more than the Hindu majority. The initial occurrences were pushed away as a blip on the radar, now the Hindu mobs are in full force on the television and the internet, leading trails of hate, willing to distort opinions one comment at a time.

The BJP high brass are spiritually guiding the mobs by themselves actively dismantling the constitution that brought them to power. Last year Mr. Modi went to the ground-breaking ceremony of the controversial Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, the leader of a democratic, secular nation sitting in a place that instituted bloody sectarian violence across the country for over three decades now. New laws brought into force also remind the minorities of their place in the country and there is the silent approval from most of the country as it pits Hindus vs. the Rest, giving potent, irrefutable political identity. To oppose against the policies of the BJP is to oppose Hinduism itself.

The word socialist, as safeguarded by the constitution is under fire as well. Though a bit archaic in a country that has embraced free market capitalism with open arms, there is a certain myopia in the country's rich and middle classes of not acknowledging the privileges they possess. The word leftist has taken the form of a slur, any discourse against the conservative elements takes on the polarization popularized by the Republicans in America. For the comfortably rich in India there is no poverty and inequality, there are only lazy people and imbeciles. This denial of the country's vast levels of poverty is further encouraged by the rosy pictures of development that Mr.Modi and his party love to portray. For the average urban voter, India is already on its way to become a superpower, if it isn't already one.

The past years have seen the pluralism of India that were once hailed in its textbooks to movies has waned away. The Hindu-Muslim bhai bhai ethos has almost completely vanished, it is confined to memory, with no-one daring to speak it out. It is important to own the idea of the nation back from the Hindu nationalists, a nation is an imagined entity where one has the virtue of belonging through birth or adoption. Each person is free to attribute the idea of the nation for an entity of their choosing, the nation could be the cuisine, the trees, the mountains or just the love of the home one is born in. It does not need to accumulate the gargantuan threats peddled by the politicians to keep themselves in power.

The Constitution of India that gives the country its democratic backbone is on the verge of total erosion in the next decades putting the lives of over a billion people at the risk of religious anarchy. As mechanisms of protest are being undermined and a complacent educated class are lulled into a comfortable jingoism advocated by the government, it is imperative that the idea of “what it is to be a nation” has to revised and re-owned by public intellectuals, academics, the Opposition and the general citizenry. The momentum that BJP amassed is on the back of the narrative it has managed to control in the past seven years, it is time to not answer the questions it asks but ask questions it has no answers for.

#India #Constitution #democracy #governance

Everybody loves a dead soldier

Dead soldiers are a political and emotional capital. People who wore a uniform for the necessity of a salary suddenly become martyrs for the sake of the “mother/fatherland”. They become a mythological cause for a government to hide behind, the veil of perfect excuse. On the 74th Independence Day yesterday, the Prime Minister Modi had this to say:

Those who challenge India’s sovereignty, be it Line of Control or Line of Actual Control, have been given a befitting reply in their own language. What India can do, world has seen it in Ladakh. Respect for India’s sovereignty is supreme for us.

What he does not mention is that the Chinese standoff is far from over. In the sectors where China has encroached upon Indian land, Indians have managed to do little. Though the Chinese side haven't released the number of dead on their side of the border, the Indian government and the Army had to account for the 20 dead soldiers at the Galwan Valley clash. The spin machine in Modi's right-wing, nationalist BJP government has taken advantage of the information opacity to say that the Chinese have been deterred by the Indian show of force. The temptation of using dead soldiers for political mileage is too good to pass in an environment which would otherwise call for more political scrutiny. India is facing the sheer brute force of COVID-19 coupled with a weak economy and increasingly receding democratic apparatus.

In the same speech PM Modi quotes:

“On behalf of the entire nation, I want to thank the efforts of all corona-warriors. All those healthcare workers, doctors and nurses, who have worked tirelessly to serve the nation amid the pandemic. Many have even lost their lives. The nation salutes them.”

What this rhetoric does is that it transforms the administrative shortcomings of the government into the same martyrdom capital a dead soldier provides. This shifts the blame away from the government and instead fools the public into blind veneration. No rational person chooses to die from work. The incentive of being a healthcare worker or a soldier comes from the paychecks they bring and the societal privilege these occupations provide. This is not to mention that most soldiers choose to become one because there's no other form of livelihood that can be guaranteed from the places they come from. They are underpaid and overworked, an occupational privilege they share with the so called “corona warriors”.

What could have been a political disaster for a nationalist party that cannot secure its nation has now become the very strength. The more people that are killed through the pandemic and along the border with China, the more people would be willing to buy the hokey bullshit that Mr. Modi has to peddle. Aided by the media which have fallen for the Hindu propaganda over the past six years, the failings of Modi's government are easily forgiven and forgotten.

This masculine chest thumping is a worrying sign, the only independence the country is celebrating right now is the independence from common sense and empathy. India has devolved into a puppet state where the puppets are the people participating in the democracy. There is very little hope when the spilling of blood is seen as a sign of power than a crisis of morality.

#India #independence #nationalism

Greatness. Glory. Us, the people. India, the land of the ancient great. Superpower, $5 trillion economy. A land of beauty, color, mystique, good food and IT coolies that get the job done. India, shining and proud – a collective of people who lead and inspire the world. These are all PR terms that are supposed to evoke pride in who we are, the stamp of a passport on our souls. When this rosy idea of the country is challenged, through accounts of poverty, income inequality, rising authoritarian streaks it becomes a cause to be fought against.

India like most nations today suffers from jingoistic nationalism that is formed on thoughts and ideas that not everyone has access to. Let us examine the term “Migrant Laborers” which in itself is devoid of any moral or meaning. These are the masons, carpenters, pani-puri wallahs and load bearers that camouflage in the brick and concrete dust in countless constructions sites across the country, forming the backbone of the informal Indian economy that is 81% of the total workforce.

The word “laborer” itself serves a negative function in the Indian middle-class discourse – they are still seen as the low caste (regardless that according to the Article 14 of the Indian constitution, discrimination according to caste is illegal), overpopulating and not worthy of an equal status. A poor that brings down the name of the country through their lack of effort. The middle and the political class are far removed from what poverty means, it is “those” people that inhabit the corners of their eyes, almost polluting their line of sight. The millions of middle class Indians living abroad or even working cushy jobs in metro cities are not migrants workers, no. They are Indians. The migrant laborers are Indian but not really, they will be the soldiers for future wars if needed, but people they are not.

Here lies the problem with Modi government's response to the COVID-19 crisis. It was addressed to the middle-classes of India who had enough resources to survive the lockdown but the poor were left with nothing and nowhere to go. There was no aid for those who needed it the most. The rules issued by the Modi government by now seem arbitrary and without any scientific precedent:

From the limited information available in the public domain, it seems that the government was primarily advised by clinicians and academic epidemiologists with limited field training and skills. Policy makers apparently relied overwhelmingly on general administrative bureaucrats. The engagement with expert technocrats in the areas of epidemiology, public health, preventive medicine and social scientists was limited. – Indian Public Health Association, Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine & Indian Association of Epidemiologists

Taking into consideration even the survivorship bias and assuming that the government has acted quick, the current spike in cases just when the lockdown is supposed to end and the spate of the migrants still far away from their homes are still critical failures that could have been avoided with scientific consensus and proper planning. We can see the results in the laborers that were hosed with chemicals, left to struggle without food, shelter or security for weeks at an end in cities that they could never call home. Why weren’t the migrants first ferried to the villages when the cases were the lowest?

“If the situation is not handled in these 21 days, the country and your family could go back 21 years… Several families could get devastated for ever… This virus spreads like wildfire… There is no other method or way to escape Coronavirus (except social distancing)… Jaan hai to jahan hai… Carelessness of a few can put the entire country in jeopardy.” Modi, March 24th 2020

Modi in retrospect looked like he was making a political gamble, if the lockdown somehow managed to eliminate the virus from the populace, he would’ve been hailed as a hero furthering his curated god-like image. But that’s not how viruses work, there was sufficient literature evidence by around the third week of March that the virus is here to stay. By the end of May the mask of foolishness and image the government has been hiding behind for two months fall apart. Daily cases are reaching a new peak everyday and by all measures the lockdown can be touted as a failure. The spin from the official mouthpieces of the government focuses on the recovery rate and how the quick action to shut the country off has paid dividends because the hospitals now aren’t full. But who is to believe the statistics that come from governmental agencies? When the government itself is in denial of inadequate testing and community transmission (”it’s a question of semantics”). With an average of 7000+ cases in the last days of Lockdown 4.0 the government is in frantic need of good public posturing. With that burden we are presented with Unlock 1.0 which has the same function as the previous lockdowns, to boost the image of the government and not saving the people.

How can we as Indians harp on our glory and feel united when the disenfranchised have been exposed in such glaring light? The natural chest thumping that the BJP resorts to when provided with a problem is absent from the discourse. The party leadership will ignore the questions about the logic of the lockdown, the situation of migrant workers, inadequate testing because how can they bring themselves to explain that India is for them a land for the few? The Indians the BJP harps about are not walking in the streets with their humble belongings, they don’t have glamour of working in the cold battlefields of Kashmir or Siachen. The laborers have metaphors that those in the higher echelons in Indian society use for denigration and shame.

For a government that always likes to consider itself better off than Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, this is time to look and learn from countries that have handled the crisis better. Germany, South Korea and Taiwan have all handled the crisis with humility. They thought about their children, about their aged, their disadvantaged and their disenfranchised. It is not hard work, after all it is the job the government has been elected to do.

#lockdown #India #COVID19

and his pots, pans and candles.

Hail Modi

Narendra Modi hasn't seen much crisis since his coming to power than the ones he has created himself. Demonetization, the CAA-NRC fallout and the abrogation of the Article 370 of the Indian Constitution are a simulated reality for him, where he created response to the world he built. The COVID-19 crisis however is something out of his dictatorial territory, it has flummoxed him and his followers and the reaction and messaging is clear and fair. There has been no live press meets but only taped words of distant balm. The first time he addressed the nation on the 19th of March, his response to the situation looked more like a middle-aged Indian's knee jerk reaction with spiritualism, dharma and a loud ritual thrown into the mix. On paper his instructions read more like a recipe to a bhajan than a pandemic response.

The reaction to the “soft” voluntary lockdown on the 22nd of March and the we-will-bludgeon-you-to-death version unleashed two days later. Millions of daily wage laborers left broke and homeless had to fend for themselves before the government machinery woke up to repeat some numbers. They still are repeating those numbers, with more preference given to covering up the situation and giving a narrative than answering questions that matter. As is the case with the Chinese, the Indian culture also values social image more than the truth, not answering a question would equal to the problem not existing. Given that India's health spending is just over 1% of the GDP, the response shouldn't come as a surprise.

Mr. Modi plays out the crisis to his core base of exhausted high caste, middle-class uncles whose end value of education is reduced to a certificate and for whom there exists answer for every problem in “Indian culture”. His appeals for banging pots and pans, lighting lamps and dancing in the streets appeal to the emotional Indian, while the rational one flinches, her voice taken away and drowned in the sea of maniacs for whom devotion has taken the place of reason. This is a planned gimmick, a testing ground to see how servile the country's populace are. The people have obliged without raising a furor, for the first time it looks like the unity of the people is detrimental. A strange fear creeps in when does not comply, almost as if a mob would be waiting outside with torches, demanding compliance.

With an easy prey found in terms of the Tablighi Jamaat congregation, the Modi government can shake off all future blame for the spread of the pandemic — it was the Muslims who did it, always. Not a word that the government didn't wake up almost until three weeks into March and then implemented a haphazard plan that looked good, not because of structure because of the emphasis. Mr. Modi's has shown time and again that he'd prefer using a nuclear bomb where simple mosquito spray will suffice, but it is not the end result he and his political force are after but the sheer spectacle of it. It is not to be forgotten that this man was facing severe opposition for his controversial anti-minority bill (read Muslim) and also presided over a brief pogrom in Delhi in February.

All these issues are clean from Mr. Modi and his party comrades hands now, the COVID 19 couldn't have come at a better time for them. In a country where information is scarce, the official narrative and all the theatrics are enough to substitute a cohesive response. We need to remind ourselves that Mr. Modi likes subtly comparing himself with Mahatma Gandhi. He is one indeed, a wolf under Gandhi's skin.

#India #Modi #COVID19

If you are thinking seriously of developing the social consciousness of the masses, if you believe that the middle class cannot come to power without the active participation of the illiterate and property-less majority of our people, then you should not dismiss the discontent of the workers and peasants as “simply economic”. No community is ever involved in any political movement unless urged on by economic motives. The patriotism of the “thinking portion” of our population originates in the clearly-defined consciousness which this class has of its own economic needs. If you want the masses to take an active part in the political movement, you will have to go down into the economics of their lives, find out their basic necessities, and arouse in them the consciousness of these necessities and how to go about winning them in the political struggle.

Why do the so-called “thinking” elements of our people take a more active part in the political movement than the “common” people? It is not because this class is specially created by God to monopolize the political destinies of the nation, but because as a class, it is more conscious of its own economic interests. And why? Not because of any natural superiority, but because they have more access to education. Some want industrial development, which will increase the amount of their profits; others want the doors to the higher government positions thrown open to them; still others want such a system of education as will enable them to earn more wages, etc. etc. Politics is based upon economic interests and necessities. Consequently, the political movement in which we want the masses of our people to take active part, must take into consideration the economic desires and necessities of the latter. That is all I have to say. If a party will be organized in India upon this principle, with an economic programme translated into political activities, backed up by direct action of the masses, there will be no further need to bother you with unwelcome heaps of literature.

A few concrete points. You seem to be very much concerned with the problem of Hindu-Muslim unity. This is the logical reaction of our old exclusively Hindu Nationalism, which was simply Pan-Hinduism when carried to its extreme conclusion, forming the antithesis of the aggressive Pan-Islamism. Now permit me to point out to you that, so long as you will endeavor to rear the structure of this much-needed Hindu-Muslim unity upon the thin surface of the “thinking portion” of our people exclusively, you may achieve mutual cordiality, but real unity will remain an unsolved problem. Here again, we must go down to the roots of things. It is upon the dynamics and not the statics of the question that we must base our calculations. The preachings and exhortations of well-meaning patriots have their subjective significance, but the main problem can be solved only by the development of objective forces. The unity of the various communities inhabiting India should not be regarded as a mere political exigency. This unity will be achieved only by a social readjustment taking place as a result of the growth of new economic forces.

The vertical divisions of our society can be eliminated only by the intensification of the horizontal division. That is to say, the divisions of caste, creed and religion will be replaced by class-cleavage, which divides society as a whole into two great, hostile camps, – that of the propertied exploiter and that of the expropriated and exploited working class. Such being the case, Hindu-Muslim and every other communal unity can and will be realized only through the gradual process of development of class-demarcation. There is no other way. You may hate it; you may try by all means to prevent it; but it will be in vain, since the natural and inevitable development of social forces cannot be set at nought by our desires. If you are courageous enough to get a firm grip on the economic foundations of our movement, the question of communal unity will not worry you so much; because then you will see how the pressure of economic forces is breaking down the ancient communal and religious prejudices and traditions.

A landlord is first of all a landlord, and a Hindu or Mussulman or anything else after that. He does not take any less rent from a tenant who is his co-religionist than from one who is not. The same holds true of employers of labour. Have you ever seen a Muslim or Hindu or Parsi employer paying. a higher scale of wages to his brothers in the faith? These are general laws of economics that hold good everywhere. One can take them a priori for granted, because they have been proved and are proven true wherever tested. One dare not say that they are applicable to some countries and inapplicable to others. We cannot seek to escape from the working of these economic laws by trying to believe that.

India is a special creation of Providence. Our communal unity will be realized through the economic development of the country, just as communal unity has been realized everywhere else. Sentimental propaganda is useless. Your “thinking portion of the people” will on the contrary, try to preserve our communal animosities, since by this way they can keep their hold on the situation. No my dear friend, we must determine our method of work, not according to the convenience and capability of our handful of intellectual aristocrats, but according to the economic interests of the overwhelming majority of our people. Just so long as we delude ourselves and others on the subject of superiority as measured by a university degree, just so long will we live in our heaven of intellectual isolation, happy perhaps, but condemned forever to our chains of slavery.

— M.N. Roy, 10.11.1922 (Source: Marxist Internet Archive)

#India #communalism #caste #religion

India's caste system is, of course, unique in the way all national institutions are unique. But it is far from the only caste system and it is not so different as is usually supposed. There were similar and contemporary systems in China, Korea, Japan, pre-Christian Igbo and Mande societies... And as for historical precedent, there are even more. Nor is India's system unique in surviving on a social level. If anything, it's unique because the government of India has taken such strident measures to counteract it in a democratic context. For example, Japan has a caste of untouchables and they are still discriminated against.

So the premise of your question is flawed. As is the idea that Islam, Christianity, and Sikhism couldn't affect the caste concept. While it didn't eliminate it completely, the way a Christian, Muslim, or Sikh experiences and conceives of the caste system is radically different than a Hindu. This is even true for Buddhists. And generally Sikhism and western Christianity is considered to have strong anti-caste sentiment and is attractive to certain castes as a result.

Why did it exist and with such elaboration? The British. (This is also why it's common even to religions that reject it: the British didn't exclude Christians or Muslims etc.)

The modern caste system was created by the British in 1881. Now, the British did not invent the concept of caste or that it was a system or invent any castes or ethnic groups. What they did do was conduct a census where every single person was categorized by caste, religion, and ethnicity. For the first time ever there was a coherent, India-wide system of castes with different ranks and laws applying to them. At least in British territory: the princely states could be more varied.

It's controversial if the British made any modifications to the census for political purposes or if they simply accurately reported what they were told. What is not controversial is that they prevented people from changing caste and created laws that applied by caste. This system, whereby there were different laws for different castes, persisted with modifications until 1948.

To transport it to an American context, imagine America is being colonized by Britain (again) except we're an alien people and they don't really understand us. (Okay, that's not so hard.) Now, you have racial, religious, work-based, and other conceptions of yourself. You may or may not believe you can leave some, all, or none of them. Their importance varies vastly depending on location and how they interplay. The system is complex and more than a little chaotic and it varies from state to state.

And the British don't understand it. So they send out a bunch of census takers. Alright, a census taker is knocking on your door. Now, what are you?

You're a mixed race Democrat living in Albany and working as a school teacher named Gloria van der Wafel? What races? White and black? Oh, well we've decided that if there's a mix you count as white. Also, from your name and the place you live you're obviously Dutch. And you're a member of the school teacher profession? Have you worked in it your entire life? Great, that makes things easier. Okay, I've got what I need. No, I don't need to know what your religion is: we've discovered there are no real differences among Americans due to religion. Silly you.

Anyway, here's what you are. Now, we've decided White Americans aren't very good at running things so you'll be forbidden from holding any kind of high office. However, you're a Dutch White American and we know the Dutch caste are really good at fighting so you can become a high ranking soldier if you join the army. Also, you and your children will put into the 'school teacher' class which will be allowed to teach school or do related work like being a secretary or coal mining. We've determined the skills and predilections of your profession make you ideally suited for that. And lastly, because you're a Democrat, you'll be paying a special Democrat tax. Also, you can't go to New York City anymore. But you can move to Buffalo or visit (but not move to) Boston.

Oh, and your neighbor has been determined to be of a criminal caste. Canadians, you know. Can't trust them. So we've arrested him and are currently rifling through his stuff to find evidence of his crimes. Don't worry, it won't happen to you. You're Dutch and the Dutch aren't predisposed to crime!

Toodles, spot of tea, what what. (And yes, they really did have things like that.)

Did the British invent the concepts like 'black' or 'white' or 'Dutch' or 'Canadian'? No. You would have articulated your own systems and rules before they showed up. Were there no laws or customs or beliefs about any of this before? No, there were. But despite that, the situation is rather different now, isn't it? And your place in society is now explicitly and entirely reliant on these classifications. Which are all unchangeable, by the way, and recorded in a very official looking office. And the rules are now made by the British, beyond your control. This was the effect of the British census and their use of it to rule India. And this was not particularly unusual, by the way. The British undertook similar measures in other societies. And more widely, the ossifying of social boundaries through censuses is a fairly common part of projects to make the population legible to central authority, even in non-colonial regimes.

So was there anything unique? Well, yes. Orientalism meant there was a far greater interest in the Indian caste system and the 'ancient wisdom' of their society. This made westerners far more aware of it than they are about caste in (say) Nigeria. But sociologically or in imperial terms? Not really, no.

From Society, and Politics in India from the 18th century to the Modern Age, the Making of the Raj, Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of New India, The Peasant and the Raj, and Religion and Personal Law in India

u/Erusian

#India #caste #colonialism

Attacks on a indistinguished minority usually takes the rhetoric of a cockroach, pigs, rats and termites. These words show the status of this minority in the society and in the minds of the powerful who view them as sub-humans or even less, legitimizing violence against them. the Nazis used Untermensch while the killing fields of Rwanda saw “exterminate all cockroaches” radio broadcasted across the territory.

This tells us something about the oppressed and the fear and status they occupy in the oppressors head. Cockroaches, rats, termites and pigs are all scary and filthy beings. Most people do not want to have a contact with these organisms because of their irrational fear towards them. This means that these organisms hold a certain psychological power over the oppressors which can be used to their advantage.

Imagine a scenario where you are afraid of cockroaches. You hate them, deep inside your mind you want to exterminate them all. You think of nothing but the darkest thoughts for them but here's the catch, you do not see them that often. Your experience of the cockroach is built on slight interactions and group think. They are everywhere, but not around your eyes. You are seething with passive anger as you go with your day, there is no call for exterminating the cockroaches yet though the messaging is loud and clear — the world will be a better place only after all the cockroaches are killed. There is disease outside and crumbling infrastructure. Someone says that the infrastructure is decaying because the people are sick all the time. The causation is made. Then some more, it seeps around. Into politics, into education, into how people behave. Why? The infrastructure is corrupt, dead. It was always for whatever reasons. It can be institutional apathy but who wants to blame oneself for wrongs that can be attributed to someone else? The “infiltrators” start gaining more and more prominence and outcomes someone who connects the dots. It is the vile filth of the termites, cockroaches, pigs and rats that have contributed to this decay, look, we were a glorious civilization all the way back (we have no proofs because the vermin have digested them all!) until these “infiltrators” have come in caused us pain and disease.

These cockroaches are so because they cannot speak their needs. They are reduced in form and shape because they cannot assimilate in this society of humans because their needs are not legitimate in the human sense. When one speaks of these sub-humans (and accepts them), then the delegitimizing is complete. What powers do the cockroaches/vermin have, as the narrative is already prejudiced against them?

The psychological fear that they carry along with them is their biggest power. What they have in unity is what the people on the top fear the most, a tumbling mass of cockroaches and rats gnawing through. Their unision itself is a thing of horror as the narrative of infrastructural loss and disease cannot be forever harangued upon them. There will be repurcusions of course – a strong backlash coupled with violence, but how many of these insects have to be killed before one knows that it is too much? Other worlds start to take notice and the narrative falls flat on its face. The expelling of blood is a natural consequence but the narrative was the bigger enemy – to classify something one doesn't know as evil but one must recognize that they were part of the society very much so and they had particular functions that the people living on top cannot fathom.

This hate can seen through the lenses of poverty, generational discrimination and racism – the images of cockroaches and termites are not something that the cockroaches and termites have given themselves but it is in the eyes of the powerful who choose to disseminate these ideas against the general masses for escaping scrutiny and for their own good. The vilification once instituted cannot be satiated without direct confrontation but it is for every society to decide if such a narrative is necessary in the first place. This is a hierarchial system we all function in and the nature of hierarchy itself is to place things without power so that the powerful can amplify their own presence and give enough space for a mass to flex themselves. The consequence of multiple narratives are upon us but we choose not to learn either because of laziness or shortsightedness. Together, the underlings can constitute a larger terror to be fought against and creating enough doubt in going full on with the institutions of state power.

Changing these narratives would need an open mind. To welcome people inside without letting their terminology be the first filter. To not let politicians makes gambles on entire populace based on a single vote given by you. Knowing that all this has happened before and will happen after but your place in the world should not be on the basis of the same bigotry. Invite for a coffee, reach down and listen. All beings speak the same language as you do, drink some coffee or invite for a beer. One man's cockroach is another man's best friend, repeat not what the powerful say but know that choices are all of yours to make.

#racism #India