Diversity in the Indian Constitution (Guha Chapter 6)

[Part of an ongoing series on Ramachandra Guha's India After Gandhi. Last week's entry can be found here. Next week we will skip a chapter, and go directly to Chapter 8, "Home and the World," which explains how India evolved its "non-aligned" status.]

I’ve actually written a longish post on the idea of “secularism” in the Indian constitution in the past, but of course there’s more to say. The entire proceedings (more than 1000 pages of text!) of the Constituent Assembly have been posted online by the Indian Parliament here. Guha’s account comes out of reading through those proceedings, and is also deeply influenced by Granville Austin’s classic book, The Indian Constitution: Cornerstone of a Nation, which is still as I understand it the definitive book on the subject.

As many readers may be aware, the Indian Constitution was worked out over the course of three years (1946-1949), by a Constituent Assembly that contained 300 members, including representation by religious minorities, members of marginal groups (i.e., Adivasis), as well as a small but vocal group of women.

Three of the profound disagreements that the members of the Assembly had to resolve included: 1) the proper role of Gandhian philosophy in defining the new nation, 2) the question of “reservations” for Dalits and Tribals (Scheduled Castes and Tribes), and 3) the status of Indian languages, and the idea of an “official” language.1. Panchayats.

Let’s start with the question of the Gandhian idea of village panchayats, which was essentially rejected by the Constituent Assembly in favor of a strong, modern, centralized government. The lead voice in rejecting the Panchayat system was of course the Dalit lawyer and political figure B.R. Ambedkar. Here is Guha:

Some people advocated a ‘Gandian constitution,’ based on a revived panchayat raj system, with the village as the basic unit of politics and governance. This was sharply attacked by B.R. Ambedkar, who held that ‘these village republics have been the ruination of India.’ Ambedkar was ‘surprised that those who condemn Provincialism and communalism should come forward as champions of the village. What is the village but a sink of localism, a den of ignorance, narrow-mindedness and communalism?’

These remarks provoked outrage in some quarters. The socialist H.V. Kamath dismissed Ambedkar’s attitude as ‘typical of the urban highbrow.’ The peasant leader N.G. Ranga said that Ambedkar’s comments showed his ignorance of Indian history. ‘All the democratic traditions of our country [have] been lost on him. If he had only known the achievements of the village panchayats in Southern India over a period of a millenium, he would not have said those things.’ However, the feisty female member of the United Provinces, Begum Aizaz Rasul, ‘entirely agreed’ with Amdedkar. As she saw it, the ‘modern tendency is towards the rights of the citizen as against any corporate body and village panchayats can be very autocratic.’ (119)

(Incidentally, the entire text of Ambedkar’s speech is at the Parliament of India website, here. Go check it out — it’s a fascinating document.)

I know that there are still neo-Gandhian thinkers out there who value highly decentralized government as a way of preventing tyranny. And it has to be admitted since independence, the Indian “Centre” has often overstepped its bounds, culminating perhaps in Indira Gandhi’s 1975 “Emergency” (many other instances could be mentioned).

But the fact that the most prominent Dalit representative and one of the most prominent women in the Assembly saw the “village” as a site of backwardness and repression, not liberation, cannot simply be ignored. They saw the move to centralization — and a focus on individual, rather than group or “corporate” rights — as a necessary step towards nudging Indian society towards caste and gender equality.

In my view, it’s a remarkable thing that the Indian Constitution essentially rejected Gandhian thinking, especially given how powerful Gandhi’s ideas and political methods had been in achieving the state of independence that led to the writing of this Constitution to begin with. But it may be that Gandhi had too much faith that people were going to be good to one another, and even in 1948 itself some members of the Assembly were aware that something stronger than mere idealism would be required to guarantee the rights of the disenfranchised.


2. Reservations.

Reservations is a huge topic, one that I can’t possibly deal with in a very substantive way right now (see this Wikipedia page for a brief tutorial). Suffice it to say that when the Constitution was ratified in 1950, it contained reservations for Scheduled Caste (SC) and Tribe (ST) groups in Parliament and State Assemblies, but not for what were known as “Other Backward Castes” (OBCs), though reservations for those groups would be recommended later. (And this latter question became a hot issue yet again in 2006, though as far as I know the recommendation for national OBC reservations in Indian higher education has not yet been implemented.)

Guha’s brief account of the debate over this question focuses on an Adivasi (tribal) political figure I hadn’t heard of, Jaipal Singh from Chotanagpur in the southern part of Bihar. Jaipal Singh had been sent by missionaries to study at Oxford, where he became a star at field hockey, and indeed, won a gold medal in the sport in 1928. In the Constituent Assembly, he made the following remarkable speech:

As a jungli, as an Adibasi, I am not expected to understand the legal intricacies of the Resolution. But my common sense tells me that every one of us should march in that road to freedom and fight together. Sir, if there is any group of Indian people that has been shabbily treated it is my people. They have been disgracefully treated, neglected for the last 6000 years. The history of the Indus Velley civilization, a child of which I am, shows quite clearly that it is the newcomers–most of you here are intruders as far as I am concerned–it is the newcomers who have driven away my people from the Indus Valley to the jungle fastness. . . . The whole history of my people is one of continuous exploitation and dispossession by the non-aboriginals of India punctuated by rebellions and disorder, and yet I take Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru at his word. I take you all at your word that now we are going to start a new chapter, a new chapter in of independent India where there is equality of opportunity, where no one would be neglected.

You can see the anger and the pain — but also the impressive willingnes to turn a new page, and cooperate fully in an “independent India where there is equality of opportunity.”


3. “Hindi imperialism.”

Finally, one of the most divisive questions of all was the status of English vis a vis Indian languages. At the moment of independence, it’s not surprising that a large number of participants in the Constituent Assembly found it galling that the proceedings were occurring largely in English, and some were insistent that the Indian constitution be “primarily” written in Hindi. There was also a strong movement to make Hindi India’s national language, which was of course rejected.

The simple truth is that there is no one, universal Indian language, and the people who were insisting that Hindi should be become that language had to give way, or risk provoking separatist sentiments from South Indians. Guha quotes one particular figure, T.T. Krishnamachari of Madras, along those line:

We disliked the English language in the past. I disliked it because I was forced to learn Shakespeare and Milton, for which I had no taste at all. . . . [I]f we are going to be compelled to learn Hindi . . . I would perhaps not be able to do it because of my age, and perhaps I would not be willing to do it because of the amount of constraint you put on me. . . . This kind of intolerance makes us fear that the strong Centre which we need, a strong Centre which is necessary will mean the enslavement of people who do not speak the language of the Centre. I would, Sir, convey a warning on behalf of people of the South for the reason that there are already elements in South India who want separation. . . , and my honorable friends in U.P. do not help us in any way by flogging their idea [of] ‘Hindi Imperialism’ to the maximum extent possible. Sir, it is up to my friends in U.P. to have a whole India; it is up to them to have a Hindi-India. The choice is theirs. (131)

What’s interesting about this for me is the way it already shows the contradictions in the desire to have a strongly centralized government — it can’t be done easily in a country with such strong regional language traditions.

For more on how “official language” questions in India have evolved since the writing of the Constitution, see this Wikipedia entry.


People have lots of complaints about the Indian Constitution — it’s ridiculously long, for one thing, and punted on several highly controversial questions (one of them being language, the other being the “Uniform Civil Code”). People who dislike caste reservations also often cite the Constituent Assembly as in effect the starting point for a system they feel has spiraled out of control.

But what I think is impressive about this process is the strong attempt made to include as many of India’s diverse voices as possible, without sacrificing a vision of effective centralized government. By contrast, the U.S. Constitution may be clearer and simpler, but it was written exclusively by property-holding white men who all spoke a single language (early America was actually much more linguistically diverse than people think). Native Americans were not invited, though in fact this was their land before the colonists came. Women were not invited, nor were African Americans. Despite its flaws, India’s Constitution did a much better job at defining the new nation inclusively than America’s did.

134 thoughts on “Diversity in the Indian Constitution (Guha Chapter 6)

  1. What’s wrong with being a polytheist anyway ?

    Because the Hindu gods are weird, duh. I don’t see why a belief in a multi-headed or multi-armed deity is necessarily any more unbelievable than believing in an old bearded man up in the sky, but apparently they’re akin to belief in exorcism for some, i.e. patently ridiculous. But that fails to recognize that the latter is a belief that spirits are affecting humans on an every day basis, but just the belief in multi-limbed deities in and of itself does not presuppose that they are affecting the mundane world on a daily basis (that’s not to say that there aren’t Hindu beliefs about deities affecting humans on a daily basis, but just the existence of the deities does not imply this). (Sorry, but someone said this to me recently and my brain kind of imploded.)

    Sorry for going off-topic. I just want to say thanks, Amardeep, for writing these posts. I don’t know too much about Indian history/law/politics, so it’s interesting to read these discussions.

  2. The Constitution is binding on everyone, majority and minority; and if the Constitution contains a directive that directive must be accepted and implemented. Jawaharlal showed great strength and courage in getting the Hindu Reform Bill passed, but he accepted the policy of laissez-faire where the Muslims and other minorities were concerned. I am horrified to find that in my country, while monogamy has been made the law for the Hindus, Muslims can still indulge in the luxury of polygamy. It is an insult to womanhood; and Muslim women, I know, resent this discrimination between Muslim women and Hindu women.

    This man is clearly an enlightened democrat. Thanks for the link, Quizman.

    The gods being aspects of a single God/reality is only one school of thought…it did not have much currency outside of Brahminical institutions until relatively recently. I can tell you that it is most certainly not the interpretation of people in my grandparents’ generation in my non-Brahmin rural community.

    The pluralistic to one approach is actually ancient. The dasanami sanyasins, who often upheld the approach, certainly accepted non-Brahmin initiates, e.g., Swami Chinmayananada. OTOH the Tamil smarthas did not. But yes, you’re right in the sense that this mode of Hinduism only became, as one scholar puts it, India’s “civil religion” after the appearence of the Brahmo Samaj in the 19th century, along with the rise of the “hyper-pluralism” of Ramakrishna and then the more consciously neo-advaitic stance of Swami Vivekananda. What many call “modern” Hinduism is actually the collected musings of the elite bhadralok of Bengal.

    But I agree with you in general. Most people in India are pluralistic, ie. consider the devas as separate entities and not “representations” subsumed into the impersonal “godhead”. All “philosophies” are ex post facto overlays on the pluralistic substrate, imo.

    .it’s hard to say and we get slapped when we are inclusive of all Indic philosophies (i.e the Hindu-phobic Vijay Prashad takes us to task for “taking credit” for Buddhist concepts

    I agree, we do get slapped around for this. But, I think the approach is far better. Take your pick–personal, impersonal or none at all. Rather that than say, worry about being cast into hell-fire because you’ve not had a born-again experience, as some of my ex-protestant friends tell me.

    but there was a move among the Buddhists to not have their philosophy/religion be considered part of Hinduism.

    Yes, like Ambedkar, but there is thinking otherwise too. The Dalai Lama proclaimed the unity of Hinduism and Buddhism at the last Kumbh Mela. The Hindu and Buddhist traditions grew up along side each other in a dialectal relationship. So, e.g., Sankara “co-opted” Madhyamaika dialectics into his system, Abhinavagupta’s Paradvaita metaphysics is actually based on Yogacara and the Buddhist logicians. Much of the “Buddhism” in South East Asia is actually a Hindu-Buddhist combination.

  3. –> If you consider hinduism as strictly a label,

    This just may be semantics, but I do not consider hinduism as strictly as a label … I consider it a container of a whole variety of intertwined philosophies, traditions, cultures, religious beliefs and ways of life. I am able to connect with a hindu temple because even if it follows many traditions that are hertical to the religious beliefs of my community, it also follows the traditions of my community.

    Just be clear that it also means everyone(other than you) will define and sell it the way they wish to

    LokO bhinna ruchi (unless their tastes are different from mine … in which case they become loko bina ruchi :-) )

    Seriously, it happens all the time, I accept it unless it undermines (either in the short term or long term) the ability for me to follow my faith.

  4. Regarding Hinduism: From my perspective as an Indo-American in Boston, i believe that there is NO spiritual energy in Hindusim, when compaured to Christianity, Sikhism, Judaism, and Islam. The latter 4 religions congregate at their places of worship and associate with one another a lot. Their fraternity transcends ethnic, linguistic, and national lines. Just last night, I talked to a Moroccan cab driver named Yusuf. We both talked about one Pashtun Pakistani restaurant owner (of Madina Market) named Iqbal. However, Hindus do not go to the temple at set times, and they don’t have a set belief, and because every ethnicity has variations in the way that they worship, there is a lot of distrust between many groups and within a group.

    A Hindu is more likely, from my perspective, to not regard their Hindu background as anything tangible or of any weight. OTOH, Muslims hang out with other Muslims (like Moroccan and Pakistani), Christian Indians and Christians in general have a lot more comradery than Hindus also (but not as much as Islam). Finally, Sikhs have a ton of comradery with each other, and they go to Gurudwaras at set times and they do a lot of social work.

    Jews, like Sikhs, have a set belief. And like Sikhs and Hindus, are a non-proselytizing religion, and they have a very secular tradition. Jews, SIkhs, Hindus, etc. don’t really shove their dogma down your mindset, as they don’t really care. But, unlike Hinduism, they are cohesive in that they have a lot of spiritual energy, enthusiasm, and they all are pretty tight communities.

    The Hindu youngsters (i.e. collegiate aged) and young professionals never go to their Temple, never celebrate a holiday (most don’t even know when Diwali is typicall), don’t really care who their friends are, as long as they meet some socio-economical threshold (ideaologically very promiscous). This, my friends, is why Hinduism has a NEGATIVE conversion rate. Another words, people are converting OUT of Hinduism, and because of the caste system, people can’t convert into Hinduism. So like Zoroastrianism (which is a religion you can’t convert into), it’s a dying religion, which will probably die out (unless something drastic happens to the idealogue) in about 1,000 years or so. I only see Hindus doing social work when it’s time to apply for medical schools and/or business schools.

  5. The latter 4 religions congregate at their places of worship and associate with one another a lot. Their fraternity transcends ethnic, linguistic, and national lines. Just last night, I talked to a Moroccan cab driver named Yusuf. We both talked about one Pashtun Pakistani restaurant owner (of Madina Market) named Iqbal. However, Hindus do not go to the temple at set times, and they don’t have a set belief, and because every ethnicity has variations in the way that they worship, there is a *lot* of distrust between many groups and within a group.

    You raise some good points. What you consider a negative, I’d consider a positive – there are pros and cons of every issue depending on how and from where it’s viewed, and there are trade-offs. So far (and please correct me if I’m wrong), I’m not aware of any wholesale killings within Hinduism where Krishna-worshippers strapped bombs and blew themselves up to eliminate Shiva-worshippers because they think that the former is the one true god/way, or vice versa. As for distrust, maybe you should check the history of Northern Ireland first. ;)

    Growing up in India, we used to congregate a lot – not on a daily/weekly basis, but definitely during festivals. I actually like the flexibility – those who find joy in visiting a temple, do so, and those who don’t (like me), are not forced to. There are plenty of other occasions and venues other than a temple to socialize. My grandma used to organize kirtans and jagratas at home where the entire extended family/community congregated. I personally prefer the flexibility of self-journey that Hinduism offers, even though I’m an agnostic and not in thrall of organized religions.

  6. Amit So far (and please correct me if I’m wrong), I’m not aware of any wholesale killings within Hinduism…

    You are wrong. You haven’t read eminent history or else you wouldn’t be so unruffled about Hinduism!

    Boston Mahesh …will probably die out (unless something drastic happens to the idealogue) in about 1,000 years.

    That’s a generous estimate. Not to worry, that’s going to happen a lot sooner – 50 years anyone?

  7. I’m not aware of any wholesale killings within Hinduism

    depends on how you consider caste conflicts, i guess…

  8. You haven’t read eminent history or else you wouldn’t be so unruffled about Hinduism!

    What is eminent history? Why is it underlined and in italics? Was it supposed to be a URL?

  9. depends on how you consider caste conflicts, i guess…
    Amit So far (and please correct me if I’m wrong), I’m not aware of any wholesale killings within Hinduism…

    And both of you had to use part of my sentence to make a point. :) Please read Mahesh’s comment and my response to it, instead of zeroing in on one part. I already agree that caste system as implemented is a social ill. Happy now? :)

    jyotsana, sorry if I don’t agree that Hinduism is all evil and needs to be thrown out, and neither do I agree that it is all wonderful and needs to be placed on a pedestal. But I give credit where it is due and I’m not interested in taking wholesale sides with either ideological group. Yes, my knowledge is incomplete, and I’m still exploring, so my views on it may change. When I reach a conclusion, I’ll let you know. OK?

  10. You haven’t read eminent history or else you wouldn’t be so unruffled about Hinduism!

    Maybe you’re talking about how Hinduism is used for political purposes, which to me, is separate from the philosophical part of Hinduism that I (can) explore on a personal basis. I think the same can be said of almost all -isms, which have been twisted and used by people to gain power and kill others. I also prefer to get ruffled about issues that are within my sphere of influence, which is pretty small. :)

  11. And both of you had to use part of my sentence to make a point. :)

    my point is that the violence inducing divisions in hinduism might not be on lines of which gods you worship, but on other lines. that’s all.

  12. my point is that the violence inducing divisions in hinduism might not be on lines of which gods you worship, but on other lines. that’s all.

    Yes, which I already agree with. I was responding to Mahesh’s comment where he was talking of fraternity among other religions vis-a-vis Hinduism.

  13. Maybe you’re talking about how Hinduism is used for political purposes,

    She talking about “Eminent Historians” by Arun Shourie, a critique of Marxist interpretations of Hinduism and Indian culture, and I think she’s being sarcastic :-)

  14. She talking about “Eminent Historians” by Arun Shourie, a critique of Marxist interpretations of Hinduism and Indian culture, and I think she’s being sarcastic :-)

    Aha. :) Thanks risible. I wasn’t aware of that. Is that a required reading? Do I have to get ruffled and pick a side – BJP or CPI/Congress? :)

  15. Boston Mahesh,

    What crowd you hang out with? My experience in Queens and Long Island, New York is very different. Most Hindus only hang out with other Hindus. 6 of my cousins are married or engaged to other Hindus and me and the rest of my cousins only date Hindus. During Navaratri, there were plenty of places that held garba and raas every night for 9 days. There are also clubbing events for Diwali!

    I’ve checked into motels and been invited by the Indian owners to come over their houses (usually behind the receptionist desk)in the morning for chai, puri, gathas, etc.

  16. Nice post Amardeep. I agree with your conclusion that given the complexities involved, the framers of the constitution did a pretty good job. There may be flaws but that is natural when there is a such a complicated and long history dating back to early civiliazation and not to mention that the concept of a country or modern nation state like the European nations, hardly every existed before the British. The fact that Hindi was not allowed to dominate, English was embraced and a linguistic basis of division of states is one of the most important decision that binds India together in a federalist structure today.

  17. More importantly, the SM crowd is ‘under-religious’ compared with India. As “Razib the Atheest” could probably show with some numbers, South Asia is one of the most religious regions of the world. The “edifice of faith” in India isn’t going anywhere, and haggling over adoption laws won’t change that.

    Actually, the important people who were involved with the constitution were far ‘under-religious’ than the SM crowd. Nehru and Ambedkar being the key drivers of the constitution. It is too bad that they weaseled out of reforming all personal laws (and just focussing on the Hindu Personal law) and not forcefully imposing the uniform civil code when the time was actually ripe.

  18. Hello JGandhi,

    I’ve read some of your previous posts, and they are good. You ask great questions. I hang out with mostly Indian born Indians who are quite secular. Your experience is good, and I can believe this. I’ve seen many Indian communities with lots of desi pride, and I appreciate this.

    Regarding the spiritual energy, for lack of a better term, about Hindus VS other religions. One poster views the unstructuredness as a positive and not a negative. I think it’s negative. How many Hindus do you know who eats beef, wears leather? On the other hand, how many Muslims eat pork do you know? All my secular, non-practicing Muslim associates, except for one African-american Muslim, don’t eat pork. So Hindus not only have a promiscuous belief system, which eases conversions out of the religion (i.e. Piyush Jindal), but Hindu people are not pro-active as to organize their beliefs, what they stand for, etc. (like a annual delegate system where elected committee votes on the party’s platform).

    Disparate Muslims (Turkic Uzbeks, Punjabis, Tajiks, Chechens, Arabs) fight for one another in Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc (this is NOT a great thing, but it shows that brotherhood between Muslims). On the other hand, I’ve never heard of Hindus helping out others in this manner. Which explains why it was so easy for many, many invaders, with just small bands of men, to conquer and rule India for so many centuries. From ~1200 AD to 1947, an indigenous Indian never ruled Delhi? I know you’re going to talk about the Mughals – the Mughals were Central Asian Turks (Baburnama biography is written in Turkish), who patronised Farsi language (again, not Indian), Arabic religion (not a bad faith, but not a dharmic faith like Sikhism, Buddhism, etc.) hired Pashtun soldiers, and married Pashtuns (Aurangzeb married a Durrani Pashtun). So what’s Indian about their beautiful minarets and Nastaliq script? They only thing Indian about it is how they imposed their culture/hegemony over such a HUGE population of apologists and religious promiscousists.

    R

    JGandhi on November 2, 2007 09:15 PM · Direct link Boston Mahesh,

    What crowd you hang out with? My experience in Queens and Long Island, New York is very different. Most Hindus only hang out with other Hindus. 6 of my cousins are married or engaged to other Hindus and me and the rest of my cousins only date Hindus. During Navaratri, there were plenty of places that held garba and raas every night for 9 days. There are also clubbing events for Diwali!

    I’ve checked into motels and been invited by the Indian owners to come over their houses (usually behind the receptionist desk)in the morning for chai, puri, gathas, etc.

  19. How many Hindus do you know who eats beef, wears leather?

    What exactly is wrong with Hindus who eat beef and wear leather, anyway?

  20. Actually, the important people who were involved with the constitution were far ‘under-religious’ than the SM crowd. Nehru and Ambedkar being the key drivers of the constitution.

    I wouldn’t call Dr. Ambedkar “under-religious.” If he were truly so, he wouldn’t have been compelled to convert to Buddhism, indeed form his own Buddhist sect, which he dubbed “Navayana” in contradistinction to Mahayana, Hinayana, and Vajrayana. On the other hand, his Buddhism is predicated on “rationalist” Dewyan thought (ie, the American philospher John Dewey, who recognized the functionalist value of religion, and whose worked Ambedkar steeped himself in at Columbia) and contains a strong element of social protest against brahminism.

    I read a while back that one Vaishnava Jeeyar had actually related a conversation with Ambedkar in which he told him “I’m a religious man, but the Brahmins turned me off” or some such thing. …

  21. Errr…Besides the fact that Hindus worship cows and they are forbidden to eat cow?

    119 · Yogi on November 3, 2007 12:30 PM · Direct link What exactly is wrong with Hindus who eat beef and wear leather, anyway?

  22. Errr…Besides the fact that Hindus worship cows and they are forbidden to eat cow?

    all the gay hindus i know do their part to save on leather usage by wearing only assless chaps.

  23. How many Hindus do you know who eats beef, wears leather?

    A Hindu friend of mine used to eat beef. And he was a brahmin to boot. Leather ones. ;)

  24. Dravidian Lurker,

    That was funny. Too darn funny man. One thing that I want to clarify: I love India, and I respect Hinduism, even though we’re not Hindus. But I really don’t see such a bright future for the pagan (i.e. monkey and elephant gods building bridges) and tribal (the clique element of castes and sects which hinders intermarriage) elements of Hinduism.

    122 · dravidian lurker on November 3, 2007 10:20 PM · Direct link Errr…Besides the fact that Hindus worship cows and they are forbidden to eat cow? all the gay hindus i know do their part to save on leather usage by wearing only assless chaps.

  25. “Boston Mahesh,

    What crowd you hang out with? My experience in Queens and Long Island, New York is very different. Most Hindus only hang out with other Hindus. 6 of my cousins are married or engaged to other Hindus and me and the rest of my cousins only date Hindus. During Navaratri, there were plenty of places that held garba and raas every night for 9 days. There are also clubbing events for Diwali!

    I’ve checked into motels and been invited by the Indian owners to come over their houses (usually behind the receptionist desk)in the morning for chai, puri, gathas, etc.”

    Going for garba and raas doesn’t necessarily make you religious.. they’re more aspects of Guju culture than Hindu necessarily, as I know tons of guju muslims who do garba too, and some sikhs too…

    most of the youngsters I know who do garba do so to meet members of the opposite sex than from any sense of devoutness :D ..

    I’m sure if tamils had something fun like that for navarathri Boston Mahesh would see other south indians engaged in it, but not necessarily devout, just as many people who do not view themselves as very Christian have christmas trees and exchange presents.

    but generally, south indians (well, tamils) in the US, have cultural traditions that are quite dour and ‘highbrow” so it’s not surprising that many in the south indian diaspora reject much of them quite vehemently, as Mahesh finds..

  26. Errr…Besides the fact that Hindus worship cows and they are forbidden to eat cow?

    Well that was a rhetorical question, the beauty of Hinduism is there is not set of universal laws that all Hindus have to follow. Unlike what the Sangh parivar would have every one believe. Its always dangerous making blanket statements about Hindus in particular or Indians in general, there is a great diversity in how Hinduism is practiced all over India, depending on your family and region among other things. Though it is true that most Hindus don’t eat beef, some Hindu communities in southern India have been traditionally eating beef. As far as I know there is no injunction against wearing leather either, I have seen many devout Hindus, from many parts of India who do wear leather. Not wearing leather is a Jain tradition not a Hindu one.

  27. Guha’s brief account of the debate over this question focuses on an Adivasi (tribal) political figure I hadn’t heard of, Jaipal Singh from Chotanagpur in the southern part of Bihar. Jaipal Singh had been sent by missionaries to study at Oxford, where he became a star at field hockey, and indeed, won a gold medal in the sport in 1928. In the Constituent Assembly, he made the following remarkable speech:

    As a jungli, as an Adibasi, I am not expected to understand the legal intricacies of the Resolution. But my common sense tells me that every one of us should march in that road to freedom and fight together. Sir, if there is any group of Indian people that has been shabbily treated it is my people. They have been disgracefully treated, neglected for the last 6000 years. The history of the Indus Velley civilization, a child of which I am, shows quite clearly that it is the newcomers—most of you here are intruders as far as I am concerned—it is the newcomers who have driven away my people from the Indus Valley to the jungle fastness… . The whole history of my people is one of continuous exploitation and dispossession by the non-aboriginals of India punctuated by rebellions and disorder, and yet I take Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru at his word. I take you all at your word that now we are going to start a new chapter, a new chapter in of independent India where there is equality of opportunity, where no one would be neglected.

    Good job Missionaries!!

    So here we have the famous Aryan Invasion Theory as propogated by Mueller again, in full bloom told to a tribal so that he quivers with outrage at the raw deal given to his people by the dastardly Aryans.

    Good gravy, now genetics has disproven this trash, and the adherents – the Thapars, the Witzels will gradually be consigned to the detritus of history.

    FYI, having spent quite a bit of time amongst tribals, its rather obvious to me that there are remarkable similarities with mainstream Hinduism. War, economic issues- mostly the former forced a lot of tribes into the interior for survivals sake.

    And the noble Missionaries promptly dubbed them animists, lost souls for the saving and began their noble work– the consequences of which can be seen even today.

  28. Errr…Besides the fact that Hindus worship cows and they are forbidden to eat cow?

    Boston Mahesh, religions evolve. At least Hinduism does. Meat eating was quite common in ancient Hinduism but the increasing impact of Buddhism and the dharma aspects of not harming any living life both played a substantial role in making meat eating a no-no amongst the Brahmin community which then internalized this practise over millenia. Note, that Kshatriyas and other varnas did not adopt this practise and were not forced into it either. The cow in particular got reverence on account of its importance in the rural agricultural lifestyle and it being the animal equivalent to a kalpa vriksh. Todays Hindus are not particulary religious, and meat eating is on a rise (has to do with lifestyle choices and economics as well). Hinduism a century from now, might not be anywhere near todays Hinduism as far as meat eating goes- who knows!

  29. @ 25,

    If Muslims are brutally slaughtered in communal riots, it’s justifiable because of what happened at Vijayanagar 800 years ago.

    Amardeep, you will be interested in this article in american scholar – Apologies All Around, Today’s tendency to make amends for the crimes of history raises the question: where do we stop?

  30. “Going for garba and raas doesn’t necessarily make you religious.. they’re more aspects of Guju culture than Hindu necessarily, as I know tons of guju muslims who do garba too, and some sikhs too… “

    Doing garba and raas during Navaratri is religious. Something non-Hindus don’t understand is that dancing and singing is part of Hinduism – it would irreligious to not dance during Navaratri.

    And of course young people go to Navaratri partly to meet the opposite sex, thats one of the reasons why I go too:P. Whats wrong with that? Hinduism is more about practice than belief.

    Mahesh – find some Guju friends and start going to Garbas!

  31. BostonMahesh’s comment:

    On the other hand, I’ve never heard of Hindus helping out others in this manner. Which explains why it was so easy for many, many invaders, with just small bands of men, to conquer and rule India for so many centuries. From ~1200 AD to 1947, an indigenous Indian never ruled Delhi?

    True, but implicit in your statement is the assumption of a continuous linear ascendancy of a culture/religion/civilization going from strength to strength, instead of a cyclic nature of birth-death-regeneration, or the ups and downs of a sine curve – everything changes. If you want to look at it through the lens of yin-yang philosophy, then the rise-and-fall doesn’t come as a surprise. It could be seen as the resilience and flexibility of a culture/religion that it is still here in spite of all the invasions, and has adapted itself. I mean there must’ve been something good happening in India of those times (wealth /prosperity /knowledge /foo) that attracted those invaders in the first place, right?

    Vijay Prashad is a lal salaam comrade based out of LA. Anything Hindu, and he’ll be there, talking of the ….

    Akash, thanks for the info. Good to know.

  32. Dear folks

    I have been informed that a discussion on the Indian constitution is underway here. I hope some of you with a few spare moments would be willing to review chapter 4 of my book which deals with the Indian constitution (the complete draft is available on the internet – link below) and provide a critical summary of that chapter for this website. It is a very short chapter.

    Could I also suggest that you consider sending a link to my book to all your young friends and relatives in India (preferably in the 16-25 age group) – for their comments to be sent to me directly at sabhlok AT yahoo DOT com.

    Link: http://www.sanjeev.sabhlokcity.com/breakingfree.html

    Much appreciated.

    Regards Sanjeev Sabhlok Melbourne

  33. Since there was a discussion on the “ban on women into a majority of Indian mosques” in this board, where folks commented that there is nothing like that, I’d like to add Sania Mirza’s apology here..

    Sania’s apology

    “While I am fully aware that a woman must not enter the sanctity of the mosque, I was unaware that even entering the outside gates of a mosque was seriously objectionable, specially without permission, which I was assured by the agency they possessed.”

    We have people complaining about the denial of Dalits’ entry into Hindu temples. Do you folks think this issue falls in the same bucket?.

  34. “While I am fully aware that a woman must not enter the sanctity of the mosque, I was unaware that even entering the outside gates of a mosque was seriously objectionable, specially without permission, which I was assured by the agency they possessed.”

    Ponniyin: You are right as she is saying it pretty explicitly that women ‘must not enter the mosque’. I cant imagine its a North-South thing. Maybe its a women allowed into small mosques and not high profile mosques thing. Who knows, though its pretty clear that at least in that particular mosque, women are not welcome.