On August 5, 2019, the republic of India, bounded many of Kashmir’s leaders to the premises of their own houses by means of house arrest, scrapped the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir and silenced dissent by arresting those of us who were dissenting. The republic of India fashioned the scrapping of Article 370 in a colonializing manner as the article was the only piece of material that enabled the integration of Kashmir with India. As the integration of Kashmir with India was forced last August, India’s integrity came to question. Today, many ethnic nationalisms in India like Tamil nationalism feel threatened to be conjoint with a republic, under BJP and the RSS, that fashions its interventions in a colonial manner. Here, I agree with my tribal friends (and other friends who study India’s tribal communities) who work towards indigenous justice in India when they say the republic of India has always been colonial in the manner of utilizing and exploiting their Jal, Jamin and Jungle.
This August 5, the BJP won its long-stretched battle of “christening” Ayodhya with the Ram Mandir or Ram Temple rendering Ayodhya as Ram Janmabhumi. As events unfold, the meaning of places changes and emerges with new connotations and even newer and brutally surprising, material implications and affects. In such a way, events are that which name places, and they define the meaning of such places, ultimately changing the nature of the place. Hence, on November 9, 2019, when the Supreme Court gave its judgment on the land settlement dispute over Babri Masjid, it did not at all recognize that the land had always been Ram Janma Bhoomi as many Hindutva wadis and a few Hindus have it. But instead the day the judgment was given, the Supreme Court inaugurated Ram Janma Bhoomi over the land and ruins of Babri Masjid. With the judgment, on August 5, 2020, the construction of Ram Temple was inaugurated over the land—a land that now covers up the skeleton of many people (be it, Muslims or Hindus, or Christians or transgender people or others) who were brutally massacred in the riots that followed Babri Masjid demolishing by Hindu right wing “anti-social elements,” many of whom were acquitted by the recent C.B.I Special Court’s verdict.
From the ruins and skeletons arose the unified majoritarian voice of India that desires a Hindu Rashtra which would ironically take over “India, that is [already a] Bharat” (as stated in Article 1(1) of India’s constitution). The voice claimed, “justice served” as the Supreme Court judgment entered the bloodied alleys of the Hindu Rashtra that is India (or always has been). Striking the voice were rhetorics and discourses at the popular level that framed and categorized Muslims as colonizers. A person who used to be my friend commented on one of my Facebook posts on the construction of Ram Temple that Muslims are “the colonizers” (note: not just invaders) of India and India’s freedom struggle is one that is not completely finished. He also claims that he draws his inspiration from the struggle against the American State by Black and Indigenous peoples of Americas including the tearing down of confederation statues and burning down all symbols of white racism, if not white supremacy. To him, Babri Masjid is a monument of Muslim (not just, Mughal) oppression in India and that Muslims are the colonizers. My question is, “Where is the colony that Muslim own?”
Postcolonial Hindu Studies at Hindu University of America, Florida, which could otherwise be termed as Saffron Postcolonialism refer to a strange “protracted colonialization” that has been happening in India. Kalyan Viswanathan, the president of HUA, claims, “[b]y any objective empirical measure, the Hindus are primarily the victims of colonization – in fact, the Hindus have been the victims of at least two distinct eras of colonization, the Islamic and the European… However, very little academic effort has gone into investigating the cultural consequences of such sustained colonization.” To this Viswanathan adds, “[o]n the contrary, enormous ink is being spilled in continually demonizing and dehumanizing the Hindus, and presenting them as the aggressors and victimizers, while the so-called minorities of India i.e. Muslims, Christians, and everyone else as the victims of majoritarian aggression in the academia and the media today.” To this effect, Viswanathan offers a remedy, “[w]e may think that similar analysis of Cultural Marxism when applied to the context of colonialism would naturally place the colonizer as the oppressor and the colonized as the oppressed, and the Hindus would be acknowledged as the victims of protracted colonization and violence.” He identifies this as “a mystifying cognitive mis-direction – where the oppressed is turned magically into the oppressor, without a whisper of protest from any quarter.” He further critiques postcolonial studies does not acknowledge the need for a “Postcolonial Hindu Studies” and calls for one that “begin with an acknowledgment of the nature of the colonial encounter and its inherent violence towards the Hindu culture and civilization – epistemic, cultural, economic, political, and military.”
It is easier to adopt a realist position pointing to facts and historical evidence to defy this construction of Muslim as colonizer. But do today’s conditions of possibilities in a Hindu Rashtra enabled realism, shaped by enlightenment principles of objectivity, truth and rationality, to take foot hold at all? Even after the Supreme Court said that there is no archeological evidence that suggest that there was a Hindu structure under Babri Masjid, we are told over and over again that the Supreme Court in calling forth a Ram Temple recognizes that this land is one that belongs to Hindus—an imaginary gets constructed. Certain Whatsapp messages stretch this imaginary out to suggest that the SC verdict testifies that there was indeed a Hindu structure under Babri Masjid, churning out “facts” to Hindu households and manipulating /framing their pysche for the purpose of electoral gain and ideological victory. Against such robust imaginaries constructed by powerful majoritarian players, to resort to realism and facts seems a pathway to spiral down the elastic stairway of relativism. In other words, it’s a recipe for an absolute disaster where the possibility for enabling conversation to bring about reconciliation becomes impossible.
The emergent field of postcolonial Hindu Studies espouse three possible dangers: 1) Muslims will be forced to decolonize, if not exterminated, some of which are already at play (leave the country? give freedom to Hindus?), 2) Any symbol of Muslimness will be destroyed (the construction of Ram Temple, Ramchandra Guha calling for no skullcaps in public) and lastly, 3) in decolonizing India from Islamic colonization, postcolonial studies as carried over in India would also lose the trace of its origin. It is the last one of the three that Frantz Fanon who pitched postcolonialism as an academic discipline was gravely concerned with in his essay, “Travelling Theory.” Today, we are confronted with the grave possibility where Fanon (an excellent thinker who was deeply invested in systems of oppression against Algerian Black people and Muslims) and his life work on postcolonialisms and decolonialization are being appropriated by a regime that desires the genocide of Muslims, Dalits and other minorities in India in order to create a pure nation of Aryans. As theories and ideas get “creatively borrowed,” “appropriated,” Fanon states, “[such appropriation] necessarily involves processes of representation and institutionalization different from those at the point of origin.”
Postcolonial Hindu Studies is the next in line of saffron institutionalization, after Yoga, in the West to garner its liberal sympathy. Both share the grounds of Hindu Supremacy. While one argues how a superior civilization like Hindu civilization is looted and destroyed by Islamic colonization, the other, that is Yoga, asserts that the practice represents the superiority of Hindu culture making the comforting tradition of Yoga a whip in the hands of bloody saffron nationalism. However, it is in the failure of Postcolonial Hindu Studies to trace the origin of their decolonial work against Islamic colonization of India to Fanon, a theorist deeply vested in Algerian Muslimness and Blackness, the shallowness in the institutionalization of Postcolonial Hindu Studies is revealed. Will postcolonial Hindu Studies offer the credence of their decolonial work in India to Fanon? With little effort to trace the origin and more effort to reconstruct, re-narrate history of colonization of India in order to usher genocide of Muslims of India in the future, Postcolonial Hindu Studies is merely saffron postcolonialisms or even accurately saffron colonialisms.
By means of the institutionalization of Postcolonial Hindu Studies, the category of “Western colonialists” are translated in “Abrahamic colonialists” thereby including both Christians and Muslims who Gowalkar saw as strong “internal threats” to Hindu Nation’s “freedom and security.” One of my other friends in India claimed that the dualism between Indic and Abrahamic doesn’t interest her as a leftist. Such insensitivity is appalling as it is at the intersection of this dualism, Muslims of India find themselves as colonizers of their own country. While the category of Indic covers within itself the rationale for continued caste oppression, the category of Abrahamic provides the rationale for the construction of Akhand Bharat, the pure land of Aryans. Nothing new argued here but as I remarked, events create places. The construction of Ram Temple hence has to be seen as an event joining the hands of other events like scrapping of Article 370, the continued terror to India’s security and integrity by Pakistan and China to orchestrate the place, Akhand Bharat.
But the question, “what happens to doing postcolonial studies after postcolonial Hindu studies?” borrowing from cultural Marxists work on hegemony seems to be up in the air. Could this be an agenda for Muslims of India—to understand and deeply engage like never before what colonization of Indian subcontinent means? This involves fervent fabulations of the Muslimness of India’s Freedom Struggle. Secondly, it involves asking the question, “how neo-liberalization of India through Modi’s mantra, People, Profit, Planet, continues the legacy of colonization?” This further involves joining the hands of the indigenous peoples of India in their fight against the destruction of their Jal, Jamin and Jungle, in the name of people, profit and planet, and ultimately, calling for their swaraj and the right to their self-determination and the self-determination of ethnic nationalisms. It is at the event of coming together of different groups that have always been marginalized by a Hindutva state (note, I do not say Hindu State) that a space for Muslims could be created in today’s Hindu Rashtra. Call it colony if you want and decolonize it further by means of extermination—at least you would have an artifact to play with this time and not simply an imaginary.
How can one be, when their friends, kin and neighbors frame one as colonizer, especially when one’s work is centered around questioning western colonialisms and imperialisms? Against Postcolonial Hindu Studies, (Lal) Salaam!