Food for Thought
By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee
In the review of his book, Caste, Conversion & Colonial Conspiracy (2019) Pt Satish Sharma of the UK writes: ‘Almost everyone on the planet has heard of the ‘Ancient Hindu Caste System’ and somehow, almost everyone knows how horrible it is, but what if it wasn’t ancient and it wasn’t Hindu? Similarly, almost everyone knows that the colonialist erasure of indigenous languages and ideas was a horrific chapter in human history, but what if it’s not over, what if it’s morphed into a new form, just as devastating and destructive, and what if the Caste issue holds the key to revealing it?
Caste, Conversion – A Colonial Conspiracy. Pic – YouTube
‘Every Hindu walks through life carrying a subliminal guilt that his or her ancestors were ‘caste discriminators’ and every devout Christian walks tall and proud in the knowledge that his or her ancestors helped to free the crushed, downtrodden from the depraved Hindoo caste system, and being an accepted ‘truth’ no-one questions it any more. What if they are both victims of the same deception, of the same multigenerational fraud?’
We recently commemorated the Abolition of Slavery Day. Despite its abolition though since nearly 100 years ago, racism and prejudice still persist in many parts of the world. Most people do not know that there is an even more pernicious form of slavery because it involves colonization of the mind. It is so ingrained that it continues to harm the Indian polity, because it is also present in other communities in India, notably Muslims and Christians, in addition to their own internal separate groupings/sects. That is the myth that caste is inherently Hindu – which it is NOT.
This is the very title of a book on the subject, Caste is not Hindu but is a ‘construct of the colonial invaders’ by three Malaysian authors – Guruji Prof Sundara Raj Anantha who is a historian and his two co-authors AykshyaSimrhen Raj and Pardip Kumar Kukreja. It is the result of extensive academic and scholarly research scanning material going back to about 400 years, witness the 83 references to be found at the end of the book.
Step by step they convincingly establish how the British devised the caste system to weaken, divide and rule Hindu society, and set up systems and structures to perpetuate both the narrative and the harm to India when they left the country. Post-Independence in 1947, India carried on with the same system and narrative. Abolition of caste in the Constitution of 1950 has not substantially changed the ground realities – which requires adecolonization of minds at all levels of society.
That caste is a colonial invention is substantiated by A.L. Basham in his book The Wonder That Was India. When the Portuguese came to India in the 15th century, they applied the term castas –which was later institutionalized as caste by the British — to the various groups that they saw: tribes, families or clans. Further confirmation is to be found in Nicolas B. Dirks’ Castes of Mind:Colonialism and the Making of Modern India, cited by author and constitutional lawyer J.Sai Deepak in his book India that is Bharat. In Dirks’ words, ‘caste is not some unchanged survival of ancient India …not a basic expression of Indian tradition…Colonialism made caste what it is today.’
Caste is not Hindu explains how the Papal Bull (a type of public decree, letters patent, or charter issued by a pope of the Catholic Church) legalized colonization and spurred the Portuguese and the Spanish to invade and conquer foreign lands by all means possible. In so doing they imposed in these colonies their own social structure, which was a hierarchical one of higher and lower based on lineage and purity of blood, class and later race/skin colour when they encountered other peoples. This is illustrated in the two pyramidal diagrams which clearly depict the concepts of superiority and inferiority.
In contrast to the stratified social order of Europe, what the British encountered when they came to India was an organic, horizontally integrated but vertically organized (into occupational groups or jatis) polity that had sustained Indian civilisation from its beginnings. The country was wealthy and prosperous, as a result of its pursuit of both spiritual knowledge, and of sciences and technology. This was effected through its gurukul system of education and its advanced residential universities. The most famous were Nalanda and Taxila, where hundreds of foreign students were welcome, many from China who have left records of their stay.
The social structure was based on the scriptures (Vedas, Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita): the concept of varna – simply put in the words of distinguished Indologist Jeffrey Armstrong of Vancouver, Canada as ‘the skill-based method of ancient India whichhonoured each person and engaged them in the service best suited to their inherent abilities.’ Society comprised four categories which, as will be seen, are of universal application. Read More… Become a Subscriber
Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 10 February 2023
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