Hindus are not asleep at the wheel – Vijaya Rajiva

To exempt Dr. Elst from criticism because of a false sense of political correctness is to do a disservice both to him and to the Hindu cause. Dr. Elst is a mortal and like everybody else is a creature of his own historical development and upbringing. To ignore this is to engage in an abstract and an a historical frame of mind. Hence, his solutions and suggestions while they should not be rejected outright, they should not always be treated as the panacea for all evils.” – Dr. Vijaya Rajiva

It was refreshing to see some spirited defences of Dr. Elst (and that includes the editor of Bharata Bharati) which indicate that Hindus are not being smug or are indifferent (as alleged by the Elst articles)! However, some of them have missed the bus (forgive the mixing of metaphors!) in trying to be politically correct. Some are likely friends and camp followers. Some have even gone and called him a Kshatriya (a label which Dr. Elst himself might be reluctant to accept)! Others have attempted to say that only he has done a great deal of service to the Hindu cause and so on and so forth.

These reactions are to be expected.

Some rare exceptions have understood the point of the present writer’s arguments, which are not intended to be a racial or caste slur (as alleged). And it might be useful to clarify the situation immediately.

First of all the personal angle. The present writer is fully aware of Dr. Elst’s contributions to the Hindu cause. Criticising his recent articles is not a sign otherwise. However, his views are not sacrosanct and should not be treated so. And the fact that he is a non-Hindu is significant. This point has already been discussed in previous articles but may require further elaboration.

The real arguments can be clarified by asking why it is important that his being a non-Hindu may at this juncture of our history affect his view of Hindus not doing the heavy lifting that they should do (in previous articles I have indicated the actual work being done by Hindus, which if he were au courrant with them he would see that things are being done). The reason that the results are not showing as well or as fast as they should is because the asuric forces do not want them to. In such a context Hindus should continue on course, adopting a variety of methods, new and old and this is the tried and tested method that Hindus have used to survive the onslaught of the asuric forces for several millenia and which will ensure their survival in the future. A case in point is that of the traditional acharyas retreating into their mathams with their rituals and texts. Or another graphic example of priests fleeing with the sacred prathistas during the Ghazni raid. There are several ways of defence and attack in a battle. An outright victory cannot be assured.

To wish for that is to miss the ground realities and is unwise. We cannot have the charge of the light brigade!

While I disagree with the Radhakrishnan remark about Elst conducting a crusader’s battle against the Muslims on Indian soil, there is a grain of truth in this which cannot be forgotten. Elst brings his insights as a Westerner and does not escape his own history. An Abrahamic style of confronting the enemy may not be in the best interests of the Hindu nation. He cannot in his arguments against the asuric forces call upon the Veda as a source of his arguments. He would be laughed out of court! A Hindu can and must. The asuric forces will not listen to either, that is not the point.

The Hindu cannot let go of a valuable source of strength even while fighting present battles. In an article on Veda, Agama (and Village Agama) which was printed in Vijayvaani, and written by the present author, a respondent peevishly said : STOP this nonsense about religious Hinduism!

In an article on Shri Aurobindo ‘A Critical Examination of Shri Aurobindo’s Secret of the Veda’ (published in Vijayvaani.com) the present writer had argued that both ritual and Vedanta are the special blend of Hinduism. Aurobindo had downgraded ritual, if not actually denigrated it.

The point being made in my articles in Bharata Bharati which some readers have missed is: there is no need for Hindus to be stampeded into anything. A non-Hindu cannot understand the mix and will be impatient for the job of getting on with it!

Meanwhile, Hindus must continue to attack the past history of colonialism, the present attempts to exploit the resources of the earth and nations, masquerading as globalisation (one commentator found it irrelevant concerning the existence of caste as the basis of India’s retail trade! while Walmart is trying to enter the Indian market!), the white racism (under which brown sahibs and brown clergy can be subsumed) and the ongoing attempts by the generic Church to insinuate its way into the country by diverse means, and so on.

Hand in hand, there can be clear presentations of the caste system etc. (the previous articles have already mentioned some of the work being done).

In forging a specifically Hindu approach it seems to be already there, especially in the work of the Sangh organisations inside the country.

It is here that Dr. Elst’s foreign ancestry (he has himself said publicly that he has not travelled much in India) acts as a handicap. He has not seen at first hand the many organisations that work 24/7 in good causes. All of this adds up and it is mandatory that Hindus should not get side tracked from what they are already doing very well. Dr. Elst himself has said publicly that he is not a Hindu. While being a non-Hindu is not exactly a crime, it does inhibit the fullness of what is applicable in Hindu India and what is not.

To exempt him from criticism because of a false sense of political correctness is to do a disservice both to him and to the Hindu cause. Dr. Elst is a mortal and like everybody else is a creature of his own historical development and upbringing. To ignore this is to engage in an abstract and an a historical frame of mind. Hence, his solutions and suggestions while they should not be rejected outright, they should not always be treated as the panacea for all evils.

» The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university.

3 Responses

  1. I do not know Dr. Elst personally — I have met him twice — except from his writings, but I think he would be the first to agree that his opinions should be subjected to critical examination by knowledgeable people.

    But that is not what happened on this site. Here he was viciously attacked by an hysterical Hindu activist and a very calculating senior journalist with an international political agenda because he was a white foreign intellectual (whom they both know personally!). It was a racist attack, and brown Indians can be as viciously racist as their white European counterparts — so lets not pretend otherwise.

    The result was that some Hindus who knew his work came to his defence as best they could. None have ever claimed that he is the only one to have done service to the Hindu cause (a ridiculous idea!), and certainly he would not make such a claim himself. Nor does he claim to be either a Hindu or a Kshatriya. In fact he is very much part of the European agnostic secular humanist tradition and if anybody in India is to learn something from him, it is our own pretentious secular humanists so-called.

    I would say that his superior intellectual rationalism does make him insensitive to our religious culture and traditions. But he would probably agree that he has no insight into what the Vedic tradition really means to us in our heart of hearts (and which feeling we do not express very well in public discourse).

    But I don’t think this insensitivity has anything to do with his race, his non-Hindu European birth. It has to do with his cold rational mentality, and that counts here. There are many more born-Hindus of Indian ethnicity who are as insensitive of the meaning of the Vedic tradition, than he is.

    So your continued harping on race doesn’t ring true. But who am I to criticize you on this point? I am not an ethnic Indian myself, and was not born in a Hindu family, so my views on this point don’t count.

    As for your own position, Dr. Rajiva, it is really rather precarious. You are hanging on to your traditional Hindu past by the skin of your teeth — do you lecture us to persuade yourself? You crossed the kala pani decades ago to live the good life in Canada as a western academic in a Catholic university (Concordia is, or was, a Catholic university). That in itself negates your traditional Hindu upbringing and youth in India to some extent if not completely. And there are orthodox Hindu pundits who would agree with this point.

    So please don’t patronise us, Dr. Rajiva. We do not need a certificate of authenticity from you to confirm our Hindu faith and Vedic Dharma. And please stop pontificating — and repeating yourself — about things we already know and are dealing with the best we can in a very unsympathetic political environment.

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  2. IS one more point, if I may. You had on some comment asked whether I was writing these articles with the intention of getting Elst to respond. Not at all!

    I am writing for Hindus who may have read his recent articles, especially the Rejoinder, I am not addressing non-Hindus.

    I had a similar experience in Vijayvaani where a respondent wrote as if I was addressing his concerns. I replied to him, no I am addressing Hindus who are concerned with this topic. Interestingly, he got the point.

    Hence, while Dr. Elst is obviously free to respond, it is not mandatory, it might even be interesting, but not essential. In that context I must point out that I have been interested in the responses by Anonymous to a Hindu (presumably) respondent Dr. Rajaram. I second his analysis.

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  3. Let me begin by pointing out IS that it was your good self who asked me to send my first article in this series to Bharata Bharati. I was planning to send it elsewhere. And do continue to publish my articles on other Hindu topics if you wish. I had not personally sent them to you. You had simply reprinted them (a common practice amongst editors with acknowledment to the other site).I am easy, either way. And I do want to thank you for the interest you have shown in my work. I also do not want to ‘patronise’ you (it may simply be my style of writing that generates that impression). The fact that you belong to Adi Sankara’s Dasanami Sannyasi order itself has restrained me in my responses to you. I am not in the habit of being ‘cheeky’ to a sannyasin.

    I think the issue about Elst needed to be clarified because some respondents accused me of racism, and I am afraid you are repeating those arguments. I had hoped that this article would have clarified the issue.

    Your elaborate defence of Elst is again beside the point. I am addressing myself to those who want to accept his role without any questioning, as revealed in some of the comments. You don’t fit into that category.

    Yes, there are many insensitive Hindus who do not relate to the Veda, however they have not appeared on this site, and if they do I shall criticise them. It so happened that you republished Elst’s 2007 article and the rest followed. He also is different from these other Hindus in that he has occupied an important position in the literature of those of us who read these things. And now he has written on this specific topic of Hindus being smug and not doing the heavy lifting in defence of their positions. My response was critical, but respectful and was making an important point (in my opinion). He does not have to be apologetic about being European, but it does affect his world view, that is the point I have been trying to make.

    Here, I believe, his inadequacies relate not merely to his cold rationalism (that is your phrase, not mine) but yes because he has a history as any mortal does. His Abrahamic background comes into play unconciously, in my opinion, and that is the reason for his impatience with Hindus. Also, as I pointed out in my very first article on the topic, he has not read the many articles, books, blogs etc. by Hindus. It would be useful for him to catch up on these articles and activities. Not too long ago he had sent around an article that criticised the Sangh for its inadequacies. Most of us ignored it, since we all know the excellent work that the Sangh is doing. None of us expressed any rancor towards him for that, because we believed that he was honestly motivated. And I still believe that he is honestly motivated. But the point has been reached when he must be criticised. One of the respondents expressed puzzlement as to why after praising him, I was criticising him.

    That has to be done, since the question was raised that he might be demoralising and confusing Hindus (unintentionally). In fact, Srimathi Radha Raja had earnestly prayed that his current interventions would not so distract us. My response to this outstanding Hindu woman intellectual (and other concerned Hindus, who may not go public) was to say no, that this is not what is going to happen. It may temporarily distract us, but that the show will go on. We Hindus have survived for several millenia and will do so again, and we have our own methods of survival.

    Nor should we jump up and down each time some new method is proposed.

    I do not know who this foreign intellectual is that you are talking about. And I have already indicated that the two Hindu women intellectuals who have been ‘attacked’ are people of integrity and intelligence.

    I do not know why you are ‘attacking’ ( I am using this popular word, because at the moment I cannot think of an alternative) me at this juncture. Leaving India could have been for a variety of reasons, and those do not affect my stature as a Hindu. If that is intended as a counter defence of Elst, the argument is not valid. And I do continue to hold the position that a non-Hindu has to work doubly hard to understand Hinduism. Those of us who were born into the faith are at an advantage. I will also readily admit that many do squander this heritage. And they too must be criticised.

    And something which had puzzled me earlier. No, the university I taught in is not a Catholic institution [Concordia is, or was, a Jesuit university and has a Loyola Chapel in it – IS]. At any rate that is not relevant.

    I think I have answered most of your criticisms. Even if I do write again on this topic, please feel free to exercise your editorial freedom and reject it. No need to explain. If it does not appear on BB then I will simply assume that you as an editor have rejected it.

    However, I have communicated most of my reservations about the Elst articles, and do not need to write again. Thank you once again for giving me the opportunity to present my thoughts to date.

    I think too, unless there is a specific criticism coming from a respondent I will not make any comments on this site.

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