Indians are God's rotis, cooked "just right"
July 28, 2014 10:02 AM   Subscribe

A right-wing Indian politician's racist, xenophobic, and anti-Muslim books are making their way to schools in Gujarat.

More on the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the rise of Hindu nationalism. It's important to note that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP are both part of the Sangh Parivar, a group of Hindu nationalist organizations that is pretty closely-knit. The BJP recently won India's general election and installed Hindu nationalist poster boy Narendra Modi as Prime Minister.
posted by Ragini (35 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Just goes to show that the existence of reactionary, bigoted, ill-informed textbooks is a universal problem.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:06 AM on July 28, 2014

Did he just plagiarize SCTV?

Does he also think that the world will end when one person from each race licks the fuzz off an overripe peach?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:08 AM on July 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

♫ From the BJP to the BNP ♫
♫ We've got awful ultranationalist reactionaries ♫
♫ From sea to shining sea ♫
posted by Ouverture at 10:08 AM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

"God" singular?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:15 AM on July 28, 2014

"God" singular?

It's my understanding that the Hindu faith doesn't teach that there are multiple gods; more like, there's one God that just has a lot of different manifestations, and you deal with the one who's most relevant to your interests.

(Caveat - not Hindu, but intellectually and spiritually curious WASC from New England who read a damn lot and once wrote an article on Ganesha. PLEASE correct me if I am mistaken.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:18 AM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's not really one uniform "Hindu faith." The thing with Hinduism is that people from different social groups and geographical locations practice each aspect of it very differently. Some people pray to idols, some people don't. Some people celebrate Holi or Diwali, some people don't. (The BJP would have you believe that Hindus are a monolithic entity, but that's...not at all true.)

The word "God" ("Bhagvan" in Hindi) is often used to indicate a general deity, when saying things like "It's God's will" or "Only God knows." It's not so simple as one god v. many gods. Even people who believe in the existence of a whole pantheon of gods use those expressions.

And that's leaving aside the whole lost in translation thing. When Indians write/speak in English, they often default to just "God," presumably in the interests of simplicity and convention.
posted by Ragini at 10:28 AM on July 28, 2014 [8 favorites]

The religion is cool.
I Agree,Hinduism contains many groups.
And they do not have a leader or "official " dogma.
posted by CIA Tunes at 10:37 AM on July 28, 2014

My parents are Hindu and always refer to God in the singular in English and Marathi. Also agreed that Hinduism isn't a monolith.
posted by sweetkid at 10:54 AM on July 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

For a second there, I thought the FPP read, "A right-wing Indiana politician's..."
posted by jonp72 at 11:06 AM on July 28, 2014

The concept of "religion" as in west is not really translatable to "hinduism".

And in fact hinduism is, itself, a name given by west to the patchwork quilt of beliefs and ideologies that co-existed for so long that they exchanged a lot of rituals and ideas.

these particular assholes (the books are one of the many things that they want to change) who claim to believe in Hinduism are actually influenced and guided more by the western view of one holy book, one holy god and one prescribed set of rituals.

In fact, the key organizations backing the "hindutva" are inspired by Nazis and their "Aryan" ideologies.

It would be a shame (and is very likely) if these creatures are able to spoil symbols of Indian cultural heritage the same way Nazis spoiled swastika.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 11:12 AM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, the BJP looks pretty fucked up from here.

Twenty years on from demolishing that mosque and they're still a bunch of thugs.
posted by flabdablet at 11:20 AM on July 28, 2014

I'm Hindu, I don't typically talk about God much at all but could refer to God or gods depending on the context of the statement, and Hinduism is about as unorganized a religion as an organized religion gets, not that Hindu nationalists really give a shit about Hinduism.

For what it's worth, the second link is about 20 years old and fairly outdated politically.

Also, the BJP are fuckheads and I'm honestly terrified of this Modi adminstration. Here's an article about their new president, who is a racketeer, extortionist, and murderer.
posted by Errant at 11:22 AM on July 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Also, the BJP are fuckheads and I'm honestly terrified of this Modi adminstration.
posted by infini at 11:40 AM on July 28, 2014

EmpressCallipygos: ""God" singular?

It's my understanding that the Hindu faith doesn't teach that there are multiple gods; more like, there's one God that just has a lot of different manifestations, and you deal with the one who's most relevant to your interests.

(Caveat - not Hindu, but intellectually and spiritually curious WASC from New England who read a damn lot and once wrote an article on Ganesha. PLEASE correct me if I am mistaken.)

Even that is really - well... not quite true. That is really a sort of ex post facto unification of the polytheism that originally existed (though, perhaps like the middle east, henotheism would be a more appropriate term than polytheism? I may be wrong, here), but what you're describing, again, as I vaguely understand, is really Advaita Vedanta...
posted by symbioid at 11:42 AM on July 28, 2014

As for God, I'll pull my favourite Swami Vivekananda quote out of my back pocket again:

I may be a little drop of water, and You may be a mountain-high wave. Never mind! The infinite ocean is the background of me as well as of You. Mine also is that infinite ocean of life, of power, of spirituality, as well as Yours. I am already joined — from my very birth, from the very fact of my life — I am in Yoga with that infinite life and infinite goodness and infinite power, as You are, mountain-high though You may be.
posted by infini at 11:43 AM on July 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

Brahma is the chief dude in the Hindu pantheon...yet she dies in yugas long. Those dudes know a thing or two about the lay of the universe, yet the day to day situation is created by the usual desires and aversions of samsara. Yippeee kayooo!!
posted by stirfry at 11:46 AM on July 28, 2014

Last bit... Papa votes BJP. He says Modi will bring development, though I shudder to think what that might actually mean. Nothing wrong with a bit of good old fashioned self-reliance.
posted by infini at 11:48 AM on July 28, 2014

On Modi's "development" agenda (in The Hindu):
Everyday, you see perfectly decent, educated, and otherwise civil people normalise the Gujarat riots and Modi, because he is, after all, the "Man of Development." "Yes, it might be that he is ultimately responsible for the riots, but look at the roads in Gujarat!" It is a strange moral world in which roads have moral equivalence to the pain of Zakia Jaffrey and other victims.

Ironically, along with evil, development itself becomes banal. Development becomes hollowed and is reduced to merely economic growth. [...] But when development is banal, people do not matter. Nor does the ecosystem. There are no inviolable ethical principles in pursuit of development. [...]

But what is fascinating is how such a banal understanding of development has captured public imagination. The most striking aspect of the Gujarat model is the divergence between its growing economy and its declining rank on the Human Development Index (HDI). For instance, in the UNDP's inequality-adjusted HDI (2011) Gujarat ranks ninth in education and 10th in health (among 19 major states). On gains in the HDI (1999-2008), Gujarat is 18th among 23 states. In the first India State Hunger Index (2009), Gujarat is 13th out of 17 states (beating only Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh).
posted by Ragini at 11:54 AM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Speaking of "Development" - What's the current status of the Naxalite movement? Last I followed a year or so ago - there were some huge captures of major people and they seemed to suffer a setback. I wonder if Modi and the BJP coming to power will cause more fightback and growing strength in the Red Corridor...

Isn't one of the things overlooked often the strong racism against Adivasi people (who are people in which the Naxalites have a strong foothold?)

We often hear so much about BJP in its relation to Muslims (what do they think of Sikh people?)... but their "Aryan" mythology certainly denigrates South India and related territories, no? Part of the development is seeing them fit for "conquest" as indigenous peoples.

And I realized when I went to get lunch a bit ago that I'm wearing my Aum shirt, how apt.
posted by symbioid at 12:02 PM on July 28, 2014

God's rotis are made in Trinidad.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:15 PM on July 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

These halfwits would end up corrupting the aum symbol and the saffron color.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 1:25 PM on July 28, 2014

"Hinduism," as a monolithic thing, was basically invented by the British to make ruling easier.

What's really darkly funny is how really, the BJP /hindutva have basically taken the old colonial dichotomies and just flipped the good and bad sides. They're performing Orientalism, enacting a Victorian Briton's idea of "indianness".
posted by PMdixon at 1:29 PM on July 28, 2014

Indians are God's rotis, cooked "just right"

Good Lord, that takes me back!

When I was a small child in the 1960s and in the charge of earnest and progressive teachers, we were told a fable of how a cosmic people baker set up the oven and rolled out the races. Black folk were over cooked (mistake one), white folk under cooked (mistake two), and brown folk were cooked just right. The origins of the story I do not remember (indeed, if I ever knew), much less what we were supposed to take away from this oddity. All I can add is that the school was in Amsterdam and international in student body; I'm pretty positive that the teacher was Canadian WASP, of all things. I don't recall the story made much of an impression at the time (we were in single digits and therefore young enough to be pretty oblivious to the whole race consciousness thing), and I have to wonder how she lived down the black folk over cooked part - but I absolutely remember the story.

Mind you, it could simply have been a cute narrative in her mind. Back in those days, Little Black Sambo didn't raise eyebrows.
posted by BWA at 3:40 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

@PMdixon, that's fairly a standard totalitarian/nationalist tactic. Define one thing as the proper, real, national design and have everyone cleave to that (or at least give lip service to it).

Nowhere is monolithic, probably not even Luxembourg. Certainly no nation with more than one or two big cities can be. But by pretending that there is a monolithic nationalist ideal to strive for the politicians who benefit from nationalism prosper.

Not only does this approach provide a model for the nationalist types to get behind, it also provides a convenient way to denigrate the opposition. They aren't "real Hindus", or they hate real Hindus, or whatever.

Look at how the right wing in the USA pretends that there is a monolithic definition of "American", and that they (and their voters) embody it, while other people aren't Real Americans.

I do worry what will happen in India with these people as the government. If nothing else its a bad time to be Muslim or any other minority.
posted by sotonohito at 3:42 PM on July 28, 2014

(The interaction with the late-phase East India Company and religious institutions is really banally bizarre. They basically coopted the kazis/qadis into the bureaucracy, for example.)
posted by PMdixon at 4:24 PM on July 28, 2014

The roti story? This reminds me that almost every country/culture is xenophobic. My partner is half Japanese and thinks the Japanese are the most racist people on the planet, but the Indians as portrayed here, the Chinese…who doesn't think they are the best thing on the planet. Translate indigenous names and they usually mean "the people." Anyway, a scary time for India, if you ask me. (And yes, Hinduism is not exactly "a religion." It's a complicated thing. The Vedas are at the root of Hinduism, which could conceivably make them one religion Otherwise, no, probably not. And concerning Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva…well, the primary object of worship in India is Ganesh/Ganesha.)
posted by kozad at 4:46 PM on July 28, 2014

First time I heard a variant of the roti story, it was from an East Asian. I've always wondered why God thought it was a good idea to put us in ovens.
posted by learnsome at 6:21 PM on July 28, 2014

And, every mention of RSS should include its direct involvement in the assassination of Gandhi.
posted by learnsome at 6:22 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here's a really good piece that connects the dots; how INC's ineptitude in governance has given way to the right-wing winning landslides (in Madhya Pradesh, in this case), which in turn, has enabled the crazies. The piece argues that there should be a fair distinction between 'right-wing' (and the Indian Express, which ran the piece in the OP, would count as right-of-center, a bit like The Economist) and Sangh-parivar, one that needs to be enforced by the right-wing parties themselves:
Today, while we keep saying the country has shifted rightwards, we do not make an important distinction. To turn rightwards and to turn Sangh-wards are not equivalent. A rightwards turn need not mean a shift away from intellectual rigour—certainly, moving to the right as an economist does not involve accepting the Sangh view on the economy. Nor should leaning to the right mean a denial of facts; a Sangh-wards turn, however, does.
(The piece talks about the 'earlier' controversy involving an appointee to head the Indian Council of Historical Research; he had previously held similar abhorrent views.)

Not that sections of 'new' left-leaning parties aren't racist; the (once?) popular Aam Aadmi Party was involved in some ridiculous targetting of African economic migrants in January in Delhi (there was a Mefi post on this?)
posted by the cydonian at 8:02 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ragini: " It is a strange moral world in which roads have moral equivalence to the pain of Zakia Jaffrey and other victims."

One can divide the majority of people who voted BJP/Modi into three groups: 1) Saffron types - either fundamentalists or just bearing a huge inferiority complex 2) Anyone But Congress types - they'd probably have voted AAP if they hadn't behaved so miserably in Delhi, and 3) the Development First people.

The third group are probably the most contemptible. Buying votes in India has a long and rich history, but I think it has reached a new low this time. Traditionally you could buy votes for a blanket, a wad of small-value notes or a bottle of booze. You can almost excuse people for selling themselves out in the long run for those, as those things can have a fairly large transformative effect on a poor person's life (at least in the short term) and arguably more than voting for someone else.

But the Development First people? They will readily state that social justice is secondary to a few more new roads and a few more hours of electricity. I want to use an analogy here that mefi will probably dislike, so I'll just stop here.
posted by vanar sena at 7:17 AM on July 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

And not just new roads, but the vaguely insinuated promise of new roads. It doesn't get cheaper than this.
posted by vanar sena at 7:19 AM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

They will readily state that social justice is secondary to a few more new roads and a few more hours of electricity.

Agreed, but they also hide behind defenses of Modi that boil down to either a) he didn't know about the Gujarat pogrom, or b) it wasn't actually a pogrom (usually something about Hindus being the actual victims).
posted by Ragini at 10:32 AM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

That really is what worries me about Dad's preference - does he even know what exactly he's supporting, given that he hasn't lived in India for the past 45 years? I know where he's coming from though and it has less to do with today's BJP and more to do with his mother and uncles being part of the grassroots Quit India movement. The uber elite Gandhi dynasty runs counter to the khadi cowbelt crowd.

tl;dr - he's in your 2nd category, vanar sena
posted by infini at 10:39 AM on July 29, 2014

Anyone But Congress

This same thing happens regularly in Australia: an incumbent Labor government gets voted out because we're sick of them, but with fuck-all thought given to who it actually is that we're voting in instead.

And then everybody cracks the sads and acts all baffled and confused when the pack of reactionary silvertail pricks they just voted in fucks everybody over, which it was perfectly clear from the outset they would do because as well as being every bit as incompetent as the mob that just got voted out, the new lot and their big business mates have always been pathologically evil.

The electorate has a memory like the stereotypical goldfish.
posted by flabdablet at 11:13 AM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

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