November 2, 2002


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Tools of the 'secularist'

Rajeev Srinivasan

Fear of NRIs, fear of numbers, fear of logic

Part I: Fear of Engineering

There is also a collective 'Fear of NRIs,' I think, along with the irrational fear of engineering. The 'secular progressives' realize that NRIs, and in particular NRI engineers, especially those who made money in the high tech boom of the 1990s, are not so likely to swallow their propaganda. (Another disclaimer: I do recognize the very real problems a lot of NRIs have, of cultural confusion and displacement, but in the eyes of the JNU-ites, NRIs form a cohesive and frightening force.) These NRIs have seen the world and done well in fully competitive circles, do not have inferiority complexes, and do not need to suck up to some white academic like Doniger for crumbs like travel grants, which the 'sepoys' of Indology in India crave.

In other words, the NRI engineers are shouting from the rooftops, 'The Emperor has no clothes!' This is, of course, distressing to those who have been supplying non-existent clothes to the Emperor and profiting mightily therefrom.

These NRI engineers have also come to realize that there is something precious in India that is under grave threat from the Sino-Islamic axis and Christian fundamentalists.

And they have begun to organize; and the results are beginning to appear. Partly through NRI assertiveness, but mostly through local strategy, the Hindu right wing is beginning to get its act together regarding vulnerable Dalits and Adivasis and about the leftist-missionary stranglehold on education. Note the signal Supreme Court ruling that has, finally after 50 years of Nehruvian Stalinist fascism, allowed the school curriculum to reflect some ground realities as well as the results of new research.

As a result of all this, it is getting to be a little more difficult for Christian cultists to prey on unsuspecting tribals or to brainwash children. Thus the increasing 'secular' 'progressive' paranoia and fear of NRIs. If said NRIs become more influential, with their wealth and their general savvy, the increasing irrelevance of the Nehruvian Stalinist dinosaurs will be accelerated. Their patrons in American- and Vatican-funded missionary circles would not approve at all.

A few months ago, I was talking to a 'secular progressive' journalist, and he mentioned in passing how there was a lot of NRI money coming in from the US to support right wing Hindu activities. I was startled, for any NRI Hindu money would be a mere pittance as compared to the absolute billions funneled into India for Wah'abi mosques by Saudi Arabia and the ISI, and on conversion/terrorism activities by the Vatican, Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists, Pentecostals and sundry Christian cults. (In Tripura, Christian terrorists have killed many Hindus; in Mizoram, they have ethnically cleansed Hindus.)

Soon thereafter, there was a flurry of reports in the media, especially in the US media, about how money from US Hindus was helping Hindu militants in India. Two things were obvious: one, it is meant to equate Hindu 'militancy' with Islamic militancy, which is currently under a microscope in the US, and where links by US Muslim organizations with the Taliban and al Qaeda are being investigated. The fact that Hindu 'militancy' is pretty mellow and consists primarily of shouting a few slogans - definitely no flying planes into tall buildings is involved - is conveniently ignored. Two, this is a concerted and organized campaign, presumably led by the lunatic fringe Marxists-with-Hindu-names in the US. It did not 'just happen': there is malice aforethought.

But I digress. There is yet another fear: the 'fear of numbers and logic.' Engineers are brought up on numbers and logic, whereas a lot of Indians are functionally innumerate and illogical, especially those in the humanities. As Indiresan correctly points out, the natural sciences deal with immutable laws of nature, whereas the humanities deal with man-made laws, which are generally not based on fact, but on opinion.

I have an empirical observation: merely by throwing a few numbers at them, you can intimidate many humanities people. In years of writing columns and receiving my share of hate mail, I have seldom come across a humanities type contesting my data. They may rant and rave about what a horrible person I am, and perhaps about how little I understand their disciplines, but they hardly ever challenge the numbers. I shall, uncharitably, conclude that this is because they are innumerate. They must be the ones keeping India's lottery business going, as they fail to understand that they are almost 100% likely to lose their money.

But far more alarmingly, some humanities types are also illogical. To illustrate this, I'm afraid I have to pick on someone who is one of my favorite columnists: Renuka Naryanan of The Indian Express. There are a few female columnists whose work I always read: Sandhya Jain, Sucheta Dalal, Renuka Narayanan, and, of course, my friend Varsha Bhosle.

When I read Sandhya Jain's rational and well thought-out work, I am consumed with envy: I wish I had written that! In Sucheta Dalal's elegant and precise columns I find an encyclopedic knowledge of Indian business. Renuka Narayanan's erudition and knowledge of both the performing arts and religion are stunning. And Varsha, well, she's in a class of her own, my warlike friend: she reminds me of Rumpole of the Bailey and his 'She Who Must Be Obeyed.'

Yet, despite Renuka Narayanan's erudition, I find her grossly illogical, as a result of her extreme political correctness. In one of her columns, she claimed that 'Allah belongs to India as much as to Arabia.' Fine sentiment, indeed, but I believe this is blasphemy. For Allah, as far as I know, shows a very clear preference for Arabia and Arabs and, indeed, generally speaks in Arabic. If her intention is to say that Islam is universal, well, she should simply say so. Otherwise, I could counter with 'Yahweh belongs to Arabia as much as to Israel,' or 'The Buddha belongs to Arabia as much as to Thailand,' which I don't think anybody in their right mind would claim.

Similarly, Narayanan recently said she was ashamed of Hinduism because a Muslim Kashmiri acquaintance of hers had been abused and kicked by a ticket examiner in a train just because he was wearing Muslim Kashmiri clothing. Now she is guilty of at least four logical fallacies. One, she is attributing motives by assuming Mr Kicker is a practicing and religious Hindu and that he kicked the Muslim precisely because he is a practicing, religious Hindu. Yet she does not tell the reader why she concludes that Mr Kicker is not a. a Marxist, b. a Christian, c. a Muslim of some other persuasion, say Shia or Ahmediya or Sufi, d. an atheist, e. just a jerk.

Two, she is guilty of rapid generalization: even if Mr Kicker is a Hindu, it does not follow that all Hindus are like Mr Kicker. Three, she is guilty of callisthenic leaps of faith, no pun intended. I am not aware of anything in Hinduism that suggests kicking Muslim Kashmiris, so why should anybody be ashamed of Hinduism for Mr. Kicker's actions even if he's a Hindu? Four, this is known as 'poisoning the well,' casting aspersions on an opponent's character, rather than focusing on his arguments, by putting any Hindu interlocutor on the defensive by insinuating he should be ashamed.

Another example of her lack of logic (or common sense) was her claim that when colonial and Christianity-crazed Portuguese sailors in distress off the Chennai coast were guided to safety by a mysterious light emanating from the Kapaleeshwar temple, 'they built a church right next to it.' I have news for Narayanan, although in fact I am sure she knows this already. The Portuguese did not build a church 'next' to the temple, they built it 'over' the temple. That's right, they demolished the ancient temple that had stood there for at least a thousand years, and built their San Thome Cathedral right on top of it! For full details, see Ishwar Sharan's book, The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple, (Voice of India, 1991), excerpts on the Web at

Finally, almost all of Narayanan's columns have gratuitous positive references to Sufism. Since Sufism is accepted as part of Islam, and Islam has well defined behavior for all Muslims, it is exactly as tolerant or peaceful or spiritual as Islam generally is. At best, it is a marketing variant, meant for the consumption of particular groups of people. It cannot be fundamentally different, or it would be a heresy. Yet, many of India's painfully PC people ascribe to Sufis, their music and their dance and their spirituality, some grossly over-rated importance. In effect, the claim is that whatever spirituality Hinduism can boast of, Sufism has the same or better. Jalaluddin Rumi this, qawwali, that. Wah-wah! Why, I don't know. After all, Sufis are the original whirling dervishes: the object of mirth in many travelogues. Why the pinnacle of Indian music and dance are supposed to be Sufi I shall never know. It must be yet another example of dhimmitude, Nehru style, that is, Islamic=good, Hindu=bad. Persian and Arabic=good, Sanskrit=bad.

It's unfair of me to pick on Renuka Narayanan, but her dhimmitude (in relation to both Christianity and Islam) is particularly galling, as she is clearly not brain-dead, unlike most of the 'secular progressives' in the Indian media.

Coming back to engineers, I guess it must be pretty clear by now that they are bad people. But wait, not all of them. There is at least one IIT Madras product who is a big wheel at Frontline (isn't that China's national magazine?); an IIT Kanpur product is a big shot at Outlook magazine; another IITian is Sandeep Pandey of ASHA, Magsaysay award winner and advocate of separatism for Kashmir. Jairam Ramesh, Congress bigwig, is from IIT Bombay. Does the fact that these folks exist and are 'secular progressive' give at least a temporary reprieve to engineers? I guess not.

Those who demean science and technology would be well advised to wonder why they call one of their specialties 'Political Science.' Is this like 'Palmistry Science'? Or 'Creation Science'? What is scientific about it? And why is Economics the 'dismal science'? My belief is that humanities types secretly admire the precision and reproducibility of scientific disciplines. And naturally they trash that which they are in awe of and cannot understand.

Just look at the new-fangled humanities curricula in the market. Unbelievable that people actually pay good money to take these courses. 'Post-Modern Studies.' 'Cultural Studies.' 'Post-Colonial Studies.' 'Cultural Anthropology.' 'Gender Studies.' 'Deconstruction.' Yeah, 'Advanced Basket-Weaving,' too. A lot of turgid, meaningless texts, which remind me of the Marxist vocabulary that I just love: bourgeois, revanchist, dialectical, revisionist, imperialist running dog, class struggle, etc, and equally arcane stuff. I strongly recommend Foucault and Derrida if you suffer from insomnia.

What is a good way to identify these humanities fraudsters, you ask? Simple: anybody who says 'trope' or 'praxis' is undoubtedly one. If I were you, I wouldn't touch any of their specialties with a barge pole.

I must end with another disclaimer: there are many in the humanities who do excellent work, diligently and with great integrity. I salute them. It is not them that I target, it is the shysters of the media and the self proclaimed 'intelligentsia' who, far from being 'progressive', are the most reactionary elements around. They are the ones, the 'sepoys' in Rajiv Malhotra's terminology that have to be engaged in battle and trounced. They are the ones who have manufactured a mythical history of India; they are the ones who are shouting loudly about errors in textbooks when they have done nothing but bowdlerization for fifty years: see my earlier column on historicide. In short, they are the barbarians within.

Rajeev Srinivasan

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