Authored by Raghu Bhaskaran and Satish Verma
The recent episode of Rashmi Samant and the Oxford Student’s Union has brought to focus the challenges for aware, assertive Hindus engaging with the Woke folk.
There are two broad responses from Hindu activists to the increasing influence of Wokes, more in the West and particularly in Academia.
To participate in the Woke Identity Olympics and Victimhood races. Attempting to establish Hindus as victims, of religious bigotry, of colonialism, of racism etc.
“We too are victims, please give us our share of victimhood recognition and coddle us”, “Social Justice for Hindus”, “Piece of the Whiney Pie”, the approach of victims.
To reject the Woke paradigm completely – the paradigm of guilt, victimhood, resentment, oppression and outrage; all operating upon group identities dividing into the binaries of oppressors and victims; instead of considering individuals, institutions or ideologies.
To exhibit facts about bigotry and attacks faced by Hindus, in history and during contemporary times, only to show that we are survivors and legatees of a great civilization. And the threats that in history which tried to destroy us – Colonialism, Abrahamic Monotheism, still exist and operate in different forms, which are ignored by the Woke hypocrisy, when not enabled.
A precedent for the second response, are the Jewish people. A group of people who have faced bigotry, injustice for about two millennia, from everyone except perhaps the Hindus, the Jewish exhibit a sense of being survivors more than that of being victims.
Though I prefer the Survivor Approach, the Victim Approach cannot be entirely avoided, particularly when cases of individual attacks happen, like in the case of Rashmi Samant.
When a Hindu encounters an accident at the intersection of Woke causes, it is intuitive and expedient to use the Victim Approach, to appeal to the Woke system, using its language and supposed virtues, to ask for protection, to demand redressal etc.
The Jewish have done so and still do so, as well.
Yet that Victim Approach will not be effective for Hindus and be even counterproductive for the following reasons
● Appealing to the Wokes on the basis of their own paradigms, framework etc. entrenches the Woke paradigm in the society, furthering their influence. This would contribute to a system, which is fundamentally irrational and is inherently hostile to one’s own identity group – Hindus.
● The Woke ideology seeks to apply its concepts universally at multiple layers at every level of the society, all contexts are to be seen via the binary low-resolution oppressor-victim conflict. When some of its concepts are accepted and entrenched by Hindus, taking the Victim approach, then it enables the binary gaze upon Hindu society as well. Upper caste Hindus are always the oppressors while Dalits are always the oppressed. Hinduism is bifurcated into Great Tradition and Little Tradition, by accusing Great Tradition of usurping and dominating Little tradition. As ideas are now global in nature, using differential approaches for different geographical spheres isn’t sustainable, especially when ideas originating in Western academia have found their way into Indian academia without any serious obstruction.
● Like all totalitarian paradigms, Wokes can’t digest people who are successful outside the system, by their own merits and not obligated to the Wokes. Hindus in the West and increasingly in India are successful and have established a reputation of ability and achievement. So will not earn favour from the Wokes. Again, similar to the Jewish.
So, there is very little probability for Hindus to succeed in the Victimhood races and gain Woke Social justice, instead end up affirming the Woke as the dominant social narrative.
And then there is the third approach, which will work in the Woke Worldview, and that will be accepted – the Guilty Approach.
Expressing guilt for being of Hindu origins, accepting that Hinduism, its heritage and history as intentionally oppressive. And spew hatred towards Hindus, Hindu expressions and values,
Such is the approach of Abhijit Sarkar, the Hindu Hater, the Woke witch hunter, out to cancel Rashmi Samant.
Continuing with the Jewish analogy, they are analogous to the ‘Kapos’, Jewish who worked with the Nazis, in the concentration camps, torturing and abusing the Jewish prisoners.
While we should take the hard path of being Survivors, there should be sympathy for those who took the Victim path of engaging with the Wokes and then got victimized further.
A person can be a victim of crime, due to their own misguided activity, like going to a part of the city, with a bad reputation, keeping with bad company etc. or for no fault of their own, when in their own home, they were attacked by the criminals.
Either way, they deserve help and support.
Yet that sympathy does not erase the mistake of trying to engage with an ideological lynch mob, on its own terms.
So those who are trying the Victim Approach, but aren’t yet personally victimized, there is a need to counter them, sometimes even harshly; because like how shallow Secularism fogs up the dangers of invasive intentions of Abrahamic creeds, they clutter the struggle against identity politics, where the Hindu identity is seen an oppressor.
Though not exact, a parallel can be made with Shalya of Mahabharatha, who fell to blandishments of the Kaurava and ended up a regretful victim of the battle. Or with Rukmi, who flip-flopped, to be discarded by both sides.
Some folks claim partnership. but there can’t be partnership with totalitarian ideologies, without either being enslaved by them or expelled by them. An example is J.K.Rowling, she was an ally with Feminist section, but fell afoul of the Trans section, therefore expelled.
Apart from the above observer social dynamics, there are fundamental reasons why Hindus can’t and should not play the Woke game, which is inbuilt in the very ideology of the Wokes, be it in the definitions and structures.
Satish Verma explores that below.
Whenever I oppose the attempt of Hindus to be a participant in the identity politics madness of Western world which emanates from the fusion of theories and concepts emerging from the broad fields of Literary Theories, Postcolonial Studies and Postmodernism, I get a predictable response along the line of turning the existing concepts on their own heads and utilizing those for our interests. The response is a characteristic of the great deal of confusion which these theories have created and for a person not very well versed in the terminologies of these fields, it does appear that these concepts can be used for our leverage. There are many examples of such concepts such as the concept of referring to us as indigenous, subaltern, epistemic violence, neo-colonialism etc. by people who at least theoretically claim that they’re helping Hindus in building their narrative in the global world. Their confidence is probably a reflection of their entry level position in Western academia where such theories are in vogue.
The first question is why can’t we use these terms if they’re so malleable and lack a definite meaning? Why can’t Hindus refer themselves as subalterns in the global context since we have been the recipients of Islamic and British colonialism for the past 1200 years broadly? The answer is relatively simple – because these terms are the exclusive creation of the Left and they’ve complete monopoly over how these words are defined. The definition of the words and the groups which will be covered under the definition are dependent on the Left’s political considerations rather than the actual realities. Irrespective of the space and time, Hinduism is seen as an evil system which needs eradication by the Left while Hindus need to be freed from the clutches of Hinduism. Alliance of Left and Islam in global context is a complex phenomenon which is based on the ability of Islam to inflict violence on its enemies and the assessment of Left which considers Islam to be the counteracting force of Western civilization.
To give a very simple example of how Left defines the meaning of these words, take the word ‘subaltern’ into our consideration. A general reader understands subaltern as someone who doesn’t have any privileges, faces multiple disadvantages in the current world, lacks access to power etc. But that’s a very superficial understanding of the term and Left doesn’t understand the term in such a generic way. Last year, an Indic portal had published an article on Holi using the paradigm of subaltern to argue that Hindus are subalterns whose opinions are being excluded from public discourse. The word ‘subaltern’ in the context of Postcolonial Studies has been popularized by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak who is an extremely influential postcolonial theorist. She is the one who popularized Derrida in American universities to a great extent. How does she define subaltern? She defines subaltern as someone who has no access to cultural imperialism. A Hindu will think that we have no access to cultural imperialism, so we are by definition subaltern. But in the world of Postcolonial theories and Postmodernism, Hinduism is seen as a vehicle of cultural imperialism which deprived the real indigenous people of India of their own narrative and cultural understanding by replacing it with their Brahminical values. So, Hindus are seen as cultural imperialists while Muslims and tribals are seen as subalterns in India.
But a more persistent person will say that we will appeal to the Global Left that what their colleagues from India have been informing them about Hinduism is not true and we will show that we are actually oppressed. This is based on the assumption that the Global Left doesn’t know the reality of Hinduism and it’s an impartial collectivity which provides equal space to everyone. If one believes so, it’s a testimony of their complete ignorance of history and ideology of the Left. Left will immediately brand you as Hindu supremacist who uses the theories meant for real subalterns for their benefits and it should be treated as the crime of cultural appropriation. In fact, Meera Nanda has written on how Hindutva movement tries to use Postmodernism for their own benefits from a critical perspective. Left doesn’t only create new concepts but guards its zealously against the ones who seek to appropriate those, as these concepts are the expression and tools of Left’s power dynamics.
Gayatri Spivak had clarified in the 1980s that subaltern doesn’t mean oppressed and if someone wants to claim subaltern status because they’re from a minority group in college campus, they can’t be granted the status of subaltern. In the current context, Rashmi Samant doesn’t deserve the protection accorded to a subaltern since she has access to cultural imperialism (Hinduism). In their framework, she is an oppressor who still undertakes the endeavour of cultural imperialism by practicing Hinduism. Epistemic violence which is used by a certain individual now and often is another term coined by the very same Gayatri Spivok by utilizing the concept of Episteme as defined by Michael Foucault. Like the term subaltern, it has their own criterion to classify something as epistemic violence. All these concepts are already being taught to Hindu students in Indian universities in relevant disciplines which alienate them from Hinduism and bring rich dividends for the Left. Whatever may be the case and irrespective of the person propagating the fraud of Critical Theories, Postmodernism, Postcolonialism etc. will be opposed with all the efforts because you can only confuse and mislead the ones who aren’t well acquainted with the Left and their power dynamics.
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