Who is an Indian?

India. A secular democratic republic.

India does not have a state religion like its neighbors - Islamic Pakistan, Islamic Bangladesh and Hindu Nepal. India has around ~75% Hindus, ~20% Muslims and ~5% others like Sikhs, Jains, Christians etc. We are equally famous for the Islamic monument Taj Mahal, Hindu cricketer Sachin, Christian tennis player  Leander Paes or an entertainer like Cyrus.

So who then is an Indian. What is the identity of India?

The name India is derived from Indus which again is derived from the ancient Sanskrit word Sindhu सिन्धु which is also the root for the word Hindu, the set of religions of the indigenous population of India for thousands of years. Islam came much later and Christianity was a very late entrant. Ironically, Sindhu or Indus as it is known today, is in Pakistan.

"Hinduism" is a generic term covering the set of religious beliefs practiced by Indians across the length and breadth of country before the entrance of Abrahamic faiths like Christainity or Islam. Instead of Hinduism I would prefer to use the term "Indic" to distinguish it from latter faiths and also as it sounds more "secular" - a very important word in today's age of political correctness (or what I call anti-Indicism). And the introduction of these external faiths was more often than not extremely violent and catastrophic and brutal and involved a planned systematic program of identity-destruction of the Indics - thus apart from the usual looting, pillage and murder, there was also a large scale destruction of Indic temples and idols. 

Yet Indians are an assimilating lot - Qutub Minar is as much a part of the Indian psyche as the Somnath temple or perhaps more than the Somnath temple which was destroyed God knows how many times by the Islamic hordes. Victoria Memorial is as much a part of the Indian psyche as the Tirupati temple. The Parsis in India who mainly reside in Mumbai are more Indian than Indians themselves. The Mughal and the British may have successfully destroyed the Brahmanical culture by eliminating, slaughtering and discrediting the Brahmanas - but the basic religious "Indic" framework the Brahmins had set is still functioning today - despite 1200 years of Islam and 600 years of Christianity.

As an aside, in 1931, Brahmins were 4.32% of Indian population. In 2011, they are much less than ~1% given the anti-Brahmanical movement in different states, genocide on Kashmiri Pandits by the Kashmiri Muslims and migration of many Brahmins to US/ UK/ NZ/ Australia given the anti-Brahmanicial caste based racial discriminatory policies of the Indian government. So essentially the people whose ancestors had drafted the "Indic" religions are nowhere to be seen or are minorities. What the Islamic hordes had started and Christian invaders had advanced, the anti-Indic post-independence government completed quite successfully.

But enough digression. To come back to our topic on who is an Indian we need to delve deeper and look at it sect by sect.

Dalits
In recent times there has been a proliferation of anti-Brahmanical web-sites like "Voice of Dalits", "Dalit Speaks" etc who publish hate blogs and conspiracy theories on Brahmins. A survey of these blogs give the general impression:

a. That Dalits or Backward Castes or Shudras as they are variedly called (Scheduled Castes/ Schedule Tribes/ OBC's) think of themselves as Indics but not Hindus. Hinduism is, they feel, an external religion foisted on them by the Invading Aryans. In fact a majority of Dalits in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are now Christians. This is not the platform to discuss the merits of Aryan Invasion/ Migration theory which is essentially a linguistic hypothesis that hypothesizes that based on the affinity of various Indian and European languages, it is quite likely that all these language evolved from a single language, the proto-Indo European, and thus the proto-Indo European speakers must have come from a distinct geographic region from which they colonized Europe, Iran and Indian sub-continent. And based on the way languages work, these linguists opine that the homeland of these proto Indo Europeans or ancient Aryans could be any other place but the Indian sub-continent. Thus in one fell swoop, the Hindu segment of the Indics have been transformed into external invaders similar to the later Islamic marauder or Christian invaders. 

b. That "Dalitism" is the most ancient adi-religion of India distinct from Hinduism and thus they do not consider caste Hindus (especially upper-caste) as Indians

Hindus
The practice of un-touchability is still prevalent in many places in India. While caste-Hindus (to use a Dalitist phraseology) do not consider Dalits as non-Hindus, there are a substantial number of people who in fact do look down upon the Dalits especially in the context of a highly political reservation-oriented divide and rule governmental policy. Additionally there is a reasonable number of Hindus who even after 1000 years of Muslims presence in India treat all Muslims as outsiders. According to these Hindus, the ancestors of today's Muslims were either tyrannical foreign invaders or converts from Hinduism who have even today not accepted/ retained the "Indian" or "Indic" way of life and values - in fact many Hindus accuse Muslims of becoming even more anti-Indic and pro-Arabic than 50 years ago. A walk in old city of Hyderabad, or Raja Bazaar in Kolkata is same as a walking in any town in Pakistan or Bangladesh - in fact in many of these places we still see Pakistani flag (to be distinguished from the flag of Islam).

Muslims
For a Muslim the challenge is even bigger. Many of the educated Indian Muslims of today face an identity crisis of sorts. Not many Indian Muslims know Arabic especially ancient Arabic and many have in fact neither read the Koran and Hadiths in original nor in translation. They offer their daily prayers and diligently do their Ramzaan without understanding the true essence or significance of these customs. On the other hand there are many conservative/ orthodox/ bigoted Muslims especially in places like Hyderabad or Aligarh who are strict proponents of the Sharia law. 

Islam as a religion does not believe in the concept of country, state or nation-hood and whatever the Msulim apologists might say, Sharia and democracy do not go hand in hand. Islam believes in a global brotherhood of people who follow the injunctions of Koran. The duty of a Muslim is always towards Allah and fellow Muslims - not towards a nation or state. Thus we have one sect of Muslims in India especially in places like Hyderabad, UP, West Bengal border who solely owe allegiance to Islam and not to India, and clap and rejoice with every Islamic terrorist attack and praise the almighty for successfully slaughtering the infidels. In fact these people would like nothing better than to see India fail, Indicism fail, Hinduism fail and convert India into an Islamic state.

On  the other hand, there is that educated group of Muslims, mostly middle class who are bewildered with what is happening all around. Like typical middle class "Indics" they have not read their Holy books and neither do they care and thus many of them are not aware of some of the violent aspects of their faith and the bloody history of the Islamic rule in India. They look forward to living peacefully and prosperously in a democratic India and consider themselves "Indics" who are in the forefront of developing India. For me nobody is more Indian than A.P.J. Abdul Kalam or M.F. Hussain (for all his faults). Yet suddenly a terrorist attack happens, and suddenly this same average middle class educated Indian Muslim notices the coldness around him, the burning rage around him - where the non-Muslims feel hatred against Muslim terrorists but do not say anything. On the one hand they see the bigotry of the Islamic hard-liners, on the other hand they feel the burnt and pain of being associated with terrorism which they themselves protest against. And thus this group of educated middle class Muslims is becoming isolated because of appeasement oriented government and politicians who would love nothing more than to divide India on the basis or religion or caste

Christians
The matter of Christianize in India is gaining extreme complexity. Scores of Dalits are willfully converting to/ forcibly being converted to Christianity after being promised food and shelter by Christian  missionaries. And given the obscene amount of funding many of these hard line Christian missionaries receive especially from Scandinavian countries, it is no wonder that conversion to Christianity is on the rise. So on the one hand, on account of being a dalit, the person considers himself a non-Hindu and on conversion he she becomes a Christian - thus we have an anti-Hindu Christian. That in itself is not bad, as religious affiliation is a person matter - what is bad is that many Dalits because of political brainwash, confuse Hinduism (a religious framework) with Indicism or Indian-ness. And this is a particularly dangerous thing for India. Many Dalits especially in southerh states refuse to talk in Hindi - the national language of India and speak exclusivley in English (albeit broken) or their reginoal language.

On the other, there are many anglo-Indian families in India, especially Kolkata and Mumbai, who have not only embraced the Indic way of life but also ensured that religious fundamentalism does not come in the way of their daily dealings. Thus actors like Tom Alter, George Baker, John Abraham, Dino Morea or quiz-family of O'Briens are quintessential Indians - they have adopted the local culture, values, ethos, language but also practice their own faith.

So who  is an Indian?

In fact, I believe, India is not the best way to describe us as the term India is closely tied to Hinduism. Bharat Varsha would be a better word - the land of the ancient Bharatas.

An Indian is one who follows the Indic way of life which entails:
a. Respect for mother, in fact even elevating her to the level of God, which is more than evident in most Bollywood or regional movies - but many hard-line Islamic clerics insist that worship of mother is against Islam as Islam does not condone the worship of anything but their God
b. Respect for Hindi as lingua franca or national language of India - a country to develop needs to have a common language so that people may commmunicate - but many Dravidists as  well as Dalits especially those belonging to the Dravidist ideology, refuse to have anything to do with Hindi
c. Respect for India as a Nation - as it is, India has a lot of external non-friends like Pakistan, China, Bangladesh - it does not need anti-Indian divisionist enemies within India, especially with hardline Islamic clerics espousing a Muslim brother hood rather than nation.

If India must progress, we must necessarily iron out all these differences. A 20% growth would not be impossible in an united India.

Comments

  1. Christianity in India predates Catholic church.
    The legend is that ST Thomas landed in the Kerala (malabar) cost in AD 50s.
    The Syrian Christians of Kerala have been there almost 2000 years!
    Islam also has been in the Malabar coast since the prophet days. Arabs were there for trade, married locals; and after the Prophet, these Arabs accepted Islam...

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