Sandeep Balakrishna is one of those rare scholars with a deep understanding of tradition and the problems facing Hindu society in the modern period. In his book, 70 Years of Secularism he brings together his knowledge of these two domains to weave a narrative of how the monstrous deficiencies one feels in modern India stem from a wilful and intentional disconnect from tradition, created by the state. He shows this through the praise lavished upon both Jinnah and Stalin. Jinnah single-handedly created Pakistan through a series of well-orchestrated pogroms against Hindus which were often dubbed as Hindu-Muslim riots. Stalin was perhaps the most notorious mass-murderer in human history. Yet Jawaharlal Nehru, who projected himself as the paragon of democracy, went into raptures in his eulogy of this mass murderer. When one reads Nehru speak of Stalin as the “man who created in his life-time this bond of affection and admiration among vast numbers of human beings” and about his “giant stature and his mighty achievements” etc., one wonders what notion of democracy Nehru actually had in mind when he was paying accolades to democracy in his flowery language. Sandeep Balakrishna contrasts this with the deep aversion Nehru had for Hindu culture and tradition.
The book does not demonise Nehru but diagnoses the problem of Nehruvian secularism through the symptoms and results it has had on the body health of national organism in post-independent India. How does one understand this implicit love for Jinnah and Stalin on the one hand and hatred for Hindu tradition on the other?
Sandeep shows how this deep-seated aversion for Hinduism, inbuilt in Nehruvian secularism, manifests itself in almost every action of the state. Particularly poignant is the way the author shows the way Ajanta caves and Ellora caves are maintained. The cult and myth of Asoka that the Nehruvian state built, moved the Indian state towards a faulty understanding and sympathy for Buddhism. But if one notices everywhere, Buddhist states are the most violent and when they met the more violent invader in the form of Islamist forces, they gave in and got converted. India survives even today despite the invasions and painful loss of geography (again as Sandeep points out, thanks to proto-Nehruvian Congress), because of its Vedic nature. India is India because of Hinduism. India has not imploded because of Hinduism. On the other hand, the Nehruvian state, if given to itself, would have allowed India to implode and Balkanize into a hundred pieces, resulting in monumental human tragedies. In fact, what happens in JNU with the “break India” brigade is what would have happened to entire India, had Nehruvian secularism alone had been the imposed reality. It’s the implicit and existential reality of Hindu nation, permeating all aspects of Indian life that has stopped India from getting Balkanized. Hindu nation is not a political goal to be achieved, but a historical and existential reality to be realised.
There is also an article on atrocity literature. In our book Breaking India (Malhotra & Neelakandan, 2011) we have done an exhaustive survey of this genre and how it is used in the Indian context by “Breaking India” forces. The article is indeed a succinct summary along with updates of what the book has exposed in 2011.
Sandeep Balakrishna’s exposition of Ramayana traditions present in the most ancient of Tamil literature, Sangham poetry, is interesting. The tangential reference to Rama, which in turn connects to non-Valmiki episodes in Sangham poetry (but very much Valmiki in spirit), shows how much Ramayana was an integral part of Tamil life. Perhaps the first ancient identity of Rama with Godhead outside Ramayana can be ascribed to Sangham literature, where the words of Rama are called as the same as the sacred Vedas, which have an effect on non-human life forms like birds. Sandeep has traced the references of Ramayana in Tamil literary and art life from Sangham literature to the composers and poets of yester-century, an unbroken tradition continuing for more than 2,000 years today, challenged by the pseudo-rational racist narrative of the Dravidian movement. In a way both Nehruvian secularism and Dravidian racism capitalise on the cultural illiteracy which they perpetuate through the state institutions.
That takes us to another very important aspect of the book and in this reviewer’s point of view it is the most important: The step by step institutional capture of India’s history narrative by leftist-Islamist cabal of historians, which has today become a virtual stranglehold. The downfall of Jadunath Sarkar in the history establishment while the simultaneous rise of Islamist-Marxist scholarship is well documented by the author. It unfolds as a grand national tragedy. Even as India strives for political independence, Nehruvian infatuation with totalitarian Marxism creates a situation where Indian education becomes colonized by Marxism. Eventually, it creates a pro-Islamist mindset that through the Marxist framework of history justifies the Islamist aggression on India. The chapter “Rise and Fall of History Research in India” reads like both a thriller and a tragedy: It shows the systematic elimination of fact-based history research to agenda-driven ideology-oriented history research, championed by Muhammad Habib in the 1920s and passed on to his son Irfan Habib, who treated ICHR as his fiefdom for eliminating any research that would question the Marxist distortions. This chapter alone should be rewritten in a detailed manner as a complete book.
There are two major forces working in India, the Indian state and the Indian nation. The Indian state was taken over by the Nehruvians and they have kept the Indian nation barely alive to serve their purpose. And they blamed the Indian nation for all their systemic failures. From social disharmony and injustice (which was more caused by the identity politics of vote banks spearheaded by Nehruvian politics), to slow economic growth (the socialist economic stagnation dubbed as Hindu Rate of Growth), the blame was put on Hindu tradition and Hinduism. Yet, as Sandeep Balakrishna clearly demonstrates in this book it is the intentional disconnect between the Nehruvian state and Indian nation that has been responsible for most of the systemic ills and failures that the nation faces.
The author has tried to give a cohesion to the various articles he has written and has mostly succeeded, yet a certain discontinuity exists, which cannot be avoided in such a compilation. The message of the book is clear—it is high time the Indian state came out of its self-imposed Nehruvian prison and embraced the Indian nation, failing which there will be immense cultural and human losses for all of us.
Note: This review was first published in The Sunday Guardian
Fair Disclosure: The author of the reviewed book is the editor ofThe Dharma Dispatch.