fromJayakumar S. Ammangudi email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
todateTue, Jun 7, 2011 at 9:52 PMsubject[breakingindia] Superpower or Balkanized
Excerpted with permission from Malhotra, Rajiv and Aravindan Neelakandan, “Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines,” Amaryllis Publishers, Delhi, 2011
Chapter: 1. Superpower or Balkanized War Zone?
(In its entirety.)
Printed Pages: 1-7
Superpower or Balkanized War Zone?
A civilization provides a shared identity composed of the images that we have of ourselves, as a people, with a collective sense of history and a shared destiny. It gives a positive sense of who ‘we’ are, and ensures a deep psychological bond among ourselves, along with the feeling that the nation is worth defending. Without this bond, who is the ‘we’ to be defended and what are the sacrifices for? Breaking a civilization is, therefore, like breaking the spine of a person. A broken civilization can splinter, and the balkanized regions can undergo a dark metamorphosis to become rogue states – transforming an entire region into a cataclysm of gigantic proportions.
Is the spine of Indian civilization vulnerable to such a rupture? And what forces, if any, are attempting to do this? Are they external or internal, or both? Where do they originate? How do they evolve? How are they managed?
This book addresses these questions with specific reference to Dravidian and Dalit identities and the role of the West in exploiting them.
India’s centripetal forces—economic growth, corporate and infrastructure development, and improved national democratic governance—bring the nation together. Much is being written about these positive forces. What is less often discussed and seldom studied in detail, are the centrifugal forces, both internal and external. The internal ones include communalism and socio-economic disparities of various kinds. The external forces that bring divisiveness among Indians, are more complex, and these have linked up with India’s internal cleavages. This shows how various global nexuses with their own agendas now control these internal forces to an unprecedented degree. Yet, this book is not screaming a doomsday scenario, but rather, an original analysis of the danger the nation is facing.
It is not just Pakistan stirring up disruptive forces in India, or China linking up with Indian Maoists, or the evangelical churches of Europe and North America stirring up separatism. It is all of these and more. These centrifugal forces are deep, subtle, complexly interlinked, and operating as loosely coupled multinational networks.
The nexus this book uncovers might seem far removed from the visions of violence and chaos conjured up by the notions of ‘secessionism,’ ‘insurgency,’ and ‘rebellion.’ Yet, it establishes that certain academic centers of the West control or at least heavily influence the socio-political discourse on India. These are coupled with political think-tanks, church activism, and social organizations that feed the centrifugal forces in India. They invent new fault lines and nurture existing ones. There is surprisingly little counter-discourse on the side of India’s unity.
India’s Built-in Tendencies to Fragment
While it is tempting to blame all problems on outside forces, one must come to terms with India’s own weaknesses and centuries-old tendencies to fragment. This troubling side has not received enough attention by those enjoying the successes of the newly vibrant economy. Some of the hard realities are as follows:
- India has the largest number of poor citizens in the world, the largest number of children without schooling, a serious and growing shortage of water that is required to sustain life in the hinterlands, and conflicts across its many groups.
- There are social injustices that are partly historical and partly modern. Some have originated within Indian society, while others are bred and fed by foreign influences to gain leverage in India.
- The trickle-down effect of economic success has not adequately filtered to the lowest strata, where it is needed with the greatest urgency. While millions of Indians enjoy careers based on a technical education subsidized by the Indian public, a much larger number have not received even a basic education. The middle class, aspiring to modernize or Americanize, boasts of the new automobile infrastructure, yet the investments made to farming and water infrastructure are dismal. India’s public health system is atrocious. [i]
- Separatist movements threaten normal civilian life in Kashmir, parts of India’s northeast, and in numerous Indian states afflicted with rural Maoist terrorism. There are sporadic Islamist terror-attacks in various parts of India, and there have been eruptions of Hindu-Muslim violence. Separatist movements by Dravidians and Dalits create violence across the South, and these are the topics of this book.
- Even cyberspace, which was seen as an Indian haven, has become India’s vulnerability. A recent highly publicized study on cyber espionage terms India as the ‘most victimized state’, whose sensitive defense networks, embassy communications, in India and around the world, have been highly compromised by Chinese espionage agents.[ii] Vital information thus obtained by the Chinese can then be passed on to the Maoist insurgency raging at the mineral-rich heart of India, where a vicious cycle of state apathy, foreign interventions and Maoist terrorism is bleeding India.
- India is surrounded by unstable and radicalized nations, including those that are becoming failed states; and cross-border violence is being exported into India, tying up crucial economic and military resources.[iii] The Indian experience of democracy has led to a very large number of political parties, thereby fragmenting vote banks and voices in the social mosaic. This has brought opportunism and shortsightedness, with long-term policy compromises and vacillations. One wonders if India has too much democracy – or, at least, too little governance.
Yet India’s resilience is also remarkable. For example:
- While the US has become highly militarized to protect its homeland against terrorism, India has not done so to the same extent, despite having been attacked by terrorists far more frequently and for many more years. There is no ‘Fortress India’ mindset. After the terror-attacks killed several people in Mumbai in 2008, trains started to run, shops reopened, and normal life resumed within a few days.
- India has the second largest Muslim population in the world, and a vast majority of its Muslims remain well grounded in local, native cultures, and are integrated into Indian society with their Hindu neighbors. Insofar as it has resisted attempts to be co-opted into international pan-Islamist programs, Indian Islam offers a model for inspiring Muslims worldwide into cultural syncretism and harmonious co-existence with other religions.
- India’s resilience is partly based on its civilization’s strength of accommodation and flexibility, but also on hard policy-choices implemented by its leaders since independence from British rule in 1947. Thus, India’s version of affirmative action—known as ‘reservations’, and implemented by successive governments for over 60 years—has brought remarkable advancement in the plight of the impoverished Dalits (the former ‘untouchables’) and other disadvantaged groups. But given the scope of the problem, this is too little and too late. Many worthy Indian NGOs (non-government organizations) have filled the vacuum left by the government and provided assistance successfully.
India’s internal performance must be judged on how it benefits its least privileged citizens, and it certainly deserves harsh criticism. Yet if the nation-state were severely undermined in its external capacity to deal with other forces, the result could invite invasions, re-colonization, cultural and psychological imperialism, and other unwanted interventions. This has happened numerous times in India’s history; for instance, when the British used human-rights cases as pretexts to act against many Indian rulers.
Ironically, the British committed many horrible acts while justifying them by compiling what is known as atrocity literature[iv] to depict the savagery of Indians. They claimed that their own acts were designed to help bring about ‘civilization’ for Indians. For example:
- The Criminal Tribes Act was passed in 1871 and made it lawful to perform genocide against a list of Indian tribes who were deemed to be ‘criminals,’ including every member of these tribes right from birth. Many tribes were condemned in this way not because they were ‘criminal’ (even if there is such a things as a whole tribe being criminal), but because they were fighting against the British destruction of their jungles and other habitats. The Thugs were one such group that got so badly maligned via atrocity literature that their name has entered the English language as being synonymous with crime.
- Atrocity literature played its part in downgrading women’s rights. Veena Oldenburg’s seminal book, Dowry Murder, gives details on how the British encouraged the Indians to dish out cases of atrocities that could then be blamed on the native culture.[v] They systematically compiled these anecdotes, mostly unsubstantiated and often exaggerated and one-sided. This became a justification to enact laws that downgraded the rights of common citizens. The book shows how the dowry extortions that have become so common in middle-class India today, were actually started when women’s traditional property rights were taken away by the British through convoluted logic.
- Nicholas Dirks is one of many scholars who have shown how the British used atrocity literature in order to exacerbate conflicts between the jatis in order to ‘solve’ their problems by intervening. This helped the British to gain further power and extort Indian wealth.[vi]
- Claims of atrocities against workers were used to outlaw various Indian industries, including textiles and steelmaking, in which India had a lead over Britain. Meanwhile, the British started their own Industrial Revolution to supply these goods to India as a captive market, turning Indians from world-class producers and exporters into importers and paupers. According to British author William Digby, between 1757 and 1812, the inflow of profits from India into Britain was estimated at between 500 million pounds and 1 billion pounds.[vii] The value of this sum in today’s purchasing power would be over a trillion dollars. A more recent study by economist Amiya Bagchi establishes that the British imposed a drain on India, equivalent to 5-6 percent of current GDP <check>.[viii] The British were very diligent in documenting alleged cases of atrocities against workers by the Indian manufacturers who were their competitors, and then outlawed many Indian industries on the charge of violating workers’ rights. The massive poverty and unemployment that resulted, only made the workers’ plight worse.
In his landmark monograph written a century ago, Hind Swaraj, Gandhi discusses how the Indians working for the British Empire were unwittingly helping to sustain it. They imagined themselves as being patriotic Indians because they were unaware of the larger picture, and of the British aims that they were serving. A hundred years after Gandhi wrote his famous diagnosis of the colonized Indians, we need to introspect:
- Whether the West has become even more sophisticated in its nurturing and deployment of Indian sepoys than its British predecessor. It co-opts Indian intellectuals at various levels, ranging from lowly data-hunter-gatherers, to identity-engineering programs in the murky backwaters of NGOs, to mid-level scholars in India, all the way to Indian Ivy League professors and award-winning globetrotters.
- What the civic society’s and government’s relationship is to Western churches.
- The role of the human rights industry as a ‘fifth column’ to selectively target and undermine political opponents.
- In what ways the leading private foundations—Ford Foundation, Carnegie Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Luce Foundation, Pew Trust, Templeton Foundation, to name just a few—serve as vehicles for the US government and billionaires to collaborate on fulfilling what many Americans have seen as their manifest destiny.
This book shows that Indian centrifugal forces have not only up-linked with the international forces, but also have strategically interlinked among themselves for greater synergy. What, then, should be the proper definition of a ‘minority’ when such a group now functions as part and parcel of a global majority? Specifically, this book exposes the formation of Dravidian and Dalit identities over nearly two hundred years, and the role played by Western nexuses.
[i] In his article of Oct 19, 2006, Suman Guha Mozumder quotes the well known journalist P. Sainath who told an audience in New York that while food courts are springing up almost everywhere in India’s big city malls catering to the palates of well off Indians, ‘The average rural family today is eating nearly 100 grams less of food grains than six or seven years ago and the average per capita availability of food grains has declined sharply. In 1991, when reforms began, availability of food per person was 510 grams, today it has fallen to 437 grams.’ He said, ‘At a time when people of our class are eating foods like we never had in our lives before, India’s agriculture sector is in the midst of a collapse.’ He said that while India has eight billionaires and hundreds of millionaires, the country ranks 127th in the Human Development Report Index. ‘So, on the one hand we have this incredible emerging tiger economy. . . (on the other hand) it should be remembered that the incredible tiger economy produces a very shameful kind of human development indicators,’ Sainath said. ‘The life expectancy of average Indians is lower than people in Mongolia or Tajikistan.’ He said the Vidarbha region in Maharashtra has seen 968 suicides by farmers, including 120 on an average every month in the last three months. In March, 2006, Parliament was told by Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar that in the last ten years over 120,000 farmers have committed suicide in India. ‘Suicides by farmers today are actually a symptom of a much wider crisis in India’s farm and agricultural sector,’ Sainath said, that this was the result of a systematic and structured move to shift to corporate farming from small family farming practices as well as mindless deregulation that has ruined the farming community. He said, ‘The claims that India is shining are true. I believe it, although it is happening for just the ten percent of the population.’ (See: http://ia.rediff.com/money/2006/oct/19bspec.htm )
[ii] (Information Warfare Monitor and Shadowserver Foundation 2010, 43)
[iii] In fact almost all nation states surrounding India have been listed as within the first 25 of the Failed State Index 2009 released by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: Afghanistan is ranked 7; Pakistan 10; Burma 13; Bangladesh 19; Sri Lanka 22; Nepal 25.
[iv] Atrocity literature is a technical term referring to literature generated by Western interests with the explicit goal to show that the target non-Western culture is committing atrocities on their own people, and hence in need of Western intervention. This will be elaborate in a later chapter.
[v] (Oldenburg 2002) Oldenburg, Veena Talwar. Dowry Murders: The Imperial Origins of a Cultural Crime. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
[vi] For example see (Dirks 2004) Dirks, Nicholas. Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India. Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan, 2004.
[vii] (Digby 1969, 33) Digby, William. ‘Prosperous’ India: A Revelation from Official Records. New
Delhi: Sagar, 1969.
[viii] (Bagchi 1984, 81) Bagchi, Amiya. The Political Economy of Underdevelopment. Cambridge
University Press, 1984.