The rise of the extremist intellectual in India

People like Sai Deepak are scary.  He’s got the intensity of one who’s trying to arouse anger and hate in his audience, through invoking a sense of grievance, sounding so reasonable in the process.  Further it’s the humorless intensity that you can see in culture warriors (think Tucker Carlson/Tomi Lahren/Robert Reich/DeSantis for US equivalents). He’s the kind of intellectual that those who don’t think too much but fancy themselves to be intellectuals can easily fall for.  

He’s also twisting facts and using wrong logic to make his appeals in that very video.  The entire caste discussion there is a red herring.

Finally, it’s ridiculous to use Christian faith healing jokers to make any point about scammy conversions (as if there aren’t thousands of fraud babas who are nominally Hindus preying on the less fortunate and less educated).  To the extent these “charismatic” sects poach members from outside, they do so from all religions, including other Christians.  Most Christians in Kerala family members who ditched their ancestral Christian communities to go hang out with these evangelizing crazies.  

Deepak  starts out by saying that there is caste division among Muslims and Christians too, which is true.  This is not news to anyone except those who have never bothered to interact closely with Muslims and Christians (perhaps that’s nobody in his audience?). Then claims immediately that there is a unified Christian/Muslim community that sets aside this caste feeling unlike in the case of the Hindus who looked down on the “lower professions”.  There is NOTHING in the audience woman’s experience that suggests that the plumber, electrician, mason etc were bound by a larger religious identity. They were likely all from a single caste, perhaps going also to the same church (which also tends to be greatly caste segregated).  And Christians do, in fact, cling to these caste identities quite strongly, not transcending them. Read here: including this example “a Christian Nadar would enter into a marital alliance with a Hindu Nadar but never with a Christian of another caste and that they would dine with their Hindu brethren but never with a person of their own faith who was beneath them in the social scale.”

The argument that “look at those other guys, they are doing it better.  We need to be more like them” using some tricks.  Note how he talks about the Muslim/Christian “communities” and the Hindu “sampradaya”.  Who has ever heard sampradaya used this way? There are hindu sampradayas, never once has the word been used in the singular to refer to some Hindu Ummah. This is a new introduction in the fundie project to use Sanskrit-sounding words to describe their favored themes and foreign language words to describe others. Eg. Rahul Gandhi is a “shahzada”, not a “rajkumar”. 

Likewise, I suspect that the real message of this lecture is not really about caste at all, but just that “we Hindus should stick together” – other than small sloganeering, he isn’t talking about the ills of caste at all, but mainly how it stands in the way of Hindus being more powerful as a unified block, which he claims at these points in the argument other “communities” are.

What is sadder than the presence of these manipulative  hateful intellectuals is to see the large number of highly educated and smart Indians easily buying these messages.  Increasing numbers of Hindus (self identified) are embracing these messages, expressing concern about the “unfair advantages” given to all religions [note that this would have meant that the majority of the levers of power would be held by non-Hindus today.  In fact, the move was in the opposite direction].  It is positively Trumpian for so many of the elite to start believing they are the aggrieved class, just as increasing numbers of white people in America believe they are being oppressed.  Do they understand the side effects of the “India is for the Hindus” line of thought? If true Indianness comes from being a Hindu and it gets codified into law, what is the lot of those who are not Hindus? Are Christians and Muslims simply to be expelled from the country? Or worse things than that? What is the solution to the “Christian problem”? Of course, an ordinary middle class Hindu professional really doesn’t have to worry about this.  Whether to choose a secular or fundamentalist standpoint is an intellectual exercise for them.  For Muslims and Christians, though, it is an existential question! The average Hindutvavaadi follower need so think about and answer this question – what is to become of the Christians and Muslims in India in the endgame?