"Breaking India" by Rajiv Malhotra -A Review - Revelation Movement

“Breaking India” by Rajiv Malhotra -A Review
A Review of
Breaking India:
Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines
Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan, (Amaryllis, New Delhi, 2011)

The authors of Breaking India display a tremendous capacity for collecting data. Had they also the intellectual integrity to interpret fairly the people they critique, they might have won many hearts and minds. The authors’ goal is noble – to unite India – although they come across as terrorists, indiscriminately shooting every Western scholar, linguist, scientist, politician, philanthropist, and missionary who ever spoke out against the oppression of “lower caste” Indians. “Faultlines” that divide India can be bridged if the case for unity is made honestly, with grace and charity. After 650 pages, I was left with feeling that the authors heaped loads of insult on every intelligent Hindu who feels that caste and untouchability are wrong.
The book’s main concern is valid, i.e., many efforts to emancipate the Dalits and empower Dravidians are often corrupted by hatred for Brahmins and Aryans. Politicians and Maoist use hatred as their primary weapon. Some evangelists and activists also leverage that hatred as a strategy, since it does lure “lower castes” away from Hinduism. Some Christians repackage that “spirituality” of hate as “social justice,” “human rights”, or “scholarship” to raise money in the West.
The oppressed do hate their oppressors, but that privilege is not available to Christians, since Jesus commanded his disciples to love their enemies. Jesus viewed Rome’s Empire as Satan’s kingdom, yet, he refused to cultivate hatred against the Romans. He precipitated a confrontation between the kingdoms of God and Satan – that is between the kingdoms of love vs. oppression.
The hate-driven struggle for “social justice” has indeed resulted in a Rwanda like blood-bath in Orissa. It boosts Church-growth in the short run, but it is neither good for India’s harmony, nor for the cause of Christ.
I am a Christian and an Indian citizen. Malhotra and Neelakandan condemn me by name in three different chapters. Nevertheless I agree with them that some Christian writing about Hindu violence is indeed manipulative “Atrocity Literature.” That does not mean that no Hindu ever persecutes any Christian: twice I was arrested on trumped up charges of converting Hindus. Once the police accused me of threatening to kill a Hindu by holding a revolver to his head unless he became a Christian! Then I was accused of bribing to convert a Brahmin woman who had been used and discarded by a Brahmin gang as a prostitute. Those cases were only the tip of the iceberg; I might still be in prison if Hindu “saints” and politicians had “properly” paid the police, witnesses, lawyers, and judges. Even though sadhus, politicians, police, and criminals sometimes come together to massacre Muslims, hurt Dalits, and persecute Christians . . . Malhotra is right that some Christians have turned “persecution” into a money-making industry. Churches would be less likely to donate were they told the truth that the 2008-09 genocide against Dalit Christians in Kandhamal, Orissa was not religious persecution. It was tragic. Many victims were innocent and needed financial help. Yet it was not “religious persecution” because the violence was caused neither by Christians’ faith nor practice. That was a communal conflict that erupted for two reasons: The conflict began because justly or unjustly, wisely or foolishly, some Dalit Christians were agitating that scholarships and jobs “reserved” for tribals should be shared with their children. Then some Maoists murdered a Hindu religious leader in defense of the agitating Dalit Christians.
To turn to the main point of the book: On the very first page, Malhotra and Neelakandan admit that oppression of Dalits and Dravidians is India’s internal problem. They consider it a dangerous faultline or “centrifugal” force that could be used by the West (Islam or China) to break India. Before India’s independence (1947), the Aryan-Dravidian divide had inspired Tamil leaders like C. N. Annadurai to propose breaking India up into separate nations for Muslims, Aryan-Hindus, and Dravidians. During the Cold War, when our prime minister Pandit Nehru tilted towards the former USSR, the American government supported Annadurai to weaken Nehru. Such “Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines” generate legitimate concerns. However, the question that the authors evade is what created these internal faultlines and how they can be bridged?
Breaking India devotes hundreds of pages to suggesting that “academic” categories of Aryans and Dravidians were created by Western linguists, social historians, scientists, and missionaries. These experts, including those who did not believe the Bible to be God’s Word, were guided by the biblical perspective or “Mosaic ethnology.” That assumes that our human race originated from one pair of parents. Initially everyone spoke the same language. Linguistic and racial divisions arose after Noah. The authors are right in saying that from the 17th to the early 20th century it was not secular rationalism but the Bible that inspired and directed Europe’s intellectual vitality, including Indological studies. Hinduism and Islam had been in India for centuries but neither of those faiths stimulated their followers to study India, its languages, history, people, or natural resources as the Bible inspired Europeans.
Someone reading Breaking India could get the false impression that India was one harmonious nation before wicked Western scholars divided it by studying vastly different features, languages, dialects, beliefs, and practices of its inhabitants. Quite the opposite is true: a tiny band of British soldiers, led by a commercial clerk, Robert Clive, was able to begin colonizing India because Hindus and Muslims had divided us into thousands of weak and warring kingdoms.
Hating for colonial rule is understandable. But intellectual honesty does demand admitting (a) that the idea of India as one nation was invented by the British, and (b) that, for better or for worse, it was the Bible that gave to the world, via Europe, the modern notion of nation-states. This idea did not define Europe prior to the 16th century biblical reformation o society, and since WWII Europe has been trying to dismantle nationalism in favor of the European Union. By contrast, the British united India. They acquiesced to our partition in 1947 for our refusal to live together because of our religious and ethnic differences.
The authors devote chapters to attacking the view that Aryans and Dravidians are distinct races. Every theory (scientific, sociological, or historical) interprets observable data starting from a particular set of assumptions. These assumptions may be right or wrong: Hindus assumed caste, Europeans assumed race, Marxists assume class. Every theory about the early inhabitants of India has gaps because India’s original inhabitants left no information on their origin or migrations. They may have walked over a land bridge between India, Africa and Australia. They may have come by sea, trudged the Khyber Pass, or originated here. Suppose a scientist in Banaras Hindu University (BHU) discovered a new method of tracing one’s genetic history. Suppose his method was so superior to current DNA testing methods that he was awarded the Nobel Prize. Would he be wicked just because his technique led to the conclusion that the Aryans and Dravidians had two distinct origins and that the Dalits belonged to the same race as the Dravidians in Tamil Nadu? What if a politician used that evidence to unite Dalits and Shudras into a Dravidian party to defeat multiple Brahmin-led parties? Would Malhotra condemn the scientist? Malhotra does condemn every person who seeks to honestly deal with the available, though incomplete, data.
Scholars like Max Muller and Robert Caldwell learned from the Bible that all human beings originated from Adam and Eve and Noah’s three sons. They worked with the best Hindu scholars in India to conclude that Aryans and Dravidians were distinct races. Hindu scholars had alternative premises: i.e., that God did not create one set of parents in Eden, but that he made Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras in India, from his mouth, arms, belly and feet respectively. No Indian scholar, however, defended this thesis publicly. (Nor does Malhotra defend it.) Therefore Western scholars kept building on the Bible’s intellectual framework. Their conclusions about Sanskrit and Tamil may be wrong – but to hold those scholars responsible for today’s animosity between Aryans and Dravidians is simply silly. It is an insult to Hindu scholars who built on the painstaking labors of the 18th-19th century European Indologists.
Those European and Indian scholars concluded that racially white missionaries were closer to Brahmins and Aryans than Dravidians. Yet most of those missionaries embraced, loved, and served the racially different “lower” castes and Dravidians. That love attracted those darker “lower” castes to the missionaries’ faith. In contrast, the Brahmins, whom Malhotra claims are of the same race as Dravidians, despised and oppressed their own brothers – the Dalits and Dravidians!
For argument’s sake, let us agree with Malhotra and Neelakandan that neither Aryans nor Dravidians came to India from outside. Let us assume that all Indians (and perhaps all humanity) originated in India. In that case, what created our divisive faultlines? Didn’t the Brahmins teach that castes are different because they were created unequal, from different parts of God’s body? Didn’t Hindu scriptures teach that dharma (religious duty) required upper castes to treat the lower castes as polluting – untouchable?
In this diatribe against “Western” interventions in Indian faultlines, Malhotra who is an American, attacks the Dravidian scholars Deivanayagham and his daughter Devakala (D&D). Both are Indians. They live and work in India. Repeatedly this American Hindu gentleman denigrates Deivanayagam and fulminates at the “stupidity” of Indian Hindus who have been granting this “crackpot” enemy increasing acceptance and influence in academic and political circles.
What makes Deivanayagham a “crackpot”? He is declared insane because he keeps unearthing evidence that the best features of ancient Tamil spirituality and literature originated after 53 AD as a Dravidian response to the Apostle Thomas’ work near Chennai.
I do not know Tamil, therefore, I cannot directly judge D&D’s thesis. I suspect that Malhotra also lacks the training to actually examine D&D’s evidence. He is relying upon critics who may be biased. What everyone can see is that Kerala has a community of millions of Christians who trace the origin of their faith to Thomas’ visit. I have been to St. Thomas Mount outside Chennai, where tradition says he was martyred. If Thomas was indeed murdered in Tamil Nadu, then we can reasonably assume that his preaching was impacting Tamil Nadu, as it had influenced Kerala. What happened to the Tamilians who believed in Jesus Christ because of Thomas? Since Tamil Nadu does not have a church that claims lineage to Thomas, it is perfectly plausible that his teaching was assimilated into Tamil literature and spirituality. That possibility makes fair-minded Hindus open to examining D&D’s contribution to the study of ancient Tamil literature. Is it arrogance then that makes an American writer, who may not have even the capacity to study ancient Tamil literature, to imply that Hindus who listen to D&D’s thesis with open minds are fools? India did get its national language, Hindi, and the literary version of practically every modern vernacular from Bible translators. India’s modern education, science, law, political, and economic systems all came from Western Christians. So, what is wrong if some Indian scholars explore the possibility that some of our ancient spirituality and literature of Tamil Nadu may have been influenced by an apostle of Jesus Christ?
Closer scrutiny might show that some of D&D’s conclusions are unsustainable. Yet, this father-daughter duo is certainly right in teaching that the way to bridge divisive faultlines is to destroy the dharma of untouchability and embrace Christ’s commands to love not just our neighbors but also our enemies. Shouldn’t an American scholar respect Indian Hindus who open their minds to investigate a new thesis that promotes love?
Those who have read Malhotra’s personal attack on me may want to know my response. I feel honored at being called “India’s Pat Robertson.” I’m sure Malhotra does not mean that I have the kind of abilities or influence that Pat does. He must mean that Pat and I give a similar answer to the question: What father would teach his children that it is their religious duty to oppress their brothers as untouchables? I think that the religiosity that requires one Indian to despise another could have only come from demons. If Malhotra means that Pat Robertson shares a similar view, it is right to label me India’s “Pat Robertson.”
When Malhotra declaims that Vishal Mangalwadi has become a leader of “heavily-funded Western evangelical programs in India . . . .” (p. 220), he exposes his “research” to be nothing but prejudice. Had he actually investigated he would have known that I neither lead nor finance an evangelistic program in India: neither my organization, nor I, (nor my wife), own an inch of land or a room anywhere in the world – neither for residence, nor for office, nor for retirement. Neither I, nor my organization owns a vehicle of any kind, anywhere in the world! I raise no money for any mission in India because plenty of others (whether good or crooked) are raising money. I need not duplicate what others do better. The poor do need financial help, but I believe that Indians should believe Jesus only because he is true. Since a commitment to seeking and following the truth emancipated the West from its poverty after the 16th century, and since India can be transformed only if we commit ourselves to obey the truth – notwithstanding the persecution, I focus on writing and speaking.
Why do I believe the Bible to be true? If I did not believe the Bible, I may have to believeAdwaita or non-dualism. That would imply that India and all its contradictions are but an illusion (maya) – not worth worrying about. I do find it repulsive to worship Shiva’s penis; and since I know my sin and foolishness, it is hard to believe that I am God. Should I therefore believe the myth called Atheism? If I did, then I would need to believe that we descended from monkeys. If one ape could become a human then others could do so too. Why shouldn’t an atheist assume that Aryans and Dravidians originated from different sub-species of apes? That would mean we were never brothers, except as prehistoric amoebas. I believe the Bible’s teaching that all of us are brothers because all human beings came from one set of parents. Every Indian is precious because each of us is made in God’s image – even if we did divide into separate races and linguistic groups.
Rajiv Malhotra is brilliant, but if he were also honest, he could have won my respect. The way he twists my statements about Maoists destroys his credibility as a reliable interpreter of those with whom he disagrees. When Hindu-Tribal vs. Christian-Maoist violence erupted in Orissa in 2008, I wrote many emails to Christian leaders. (Part of one email may have been extracted in a French magazine that I have not seen and I doubt that Malhotra has read.) My write ups were public and published on the internet. Malhotra lists those links that makes it easy for readers to actually read them and judge whether he is fair or if he twists people’s words.
The essence of my writings was that the widespread violence against Christians was not religious persecution by Hindus. That violence erupted against Dalit Christians because the agitation demanding that Dalit Christians be re-classified as tribals was a threat to the hopes of tribal children. In that particular case a Hindu Swami was, in fact, on the side of the poor. The Christian youth were wrong in attacking Swami Laxmananda’s car and beating up his driver after failing to find him. The conflict reached boiling point only after the Maoists killed the Swami with some of his associates. The Maoists claimed that they murdered him because he harassed Christians. Since the murder was committed on behalf of Christians, I urged the church in Orissa to stop condemning Hindus, repent on behalf of the Maoists, and seek reconciliation.
Why would Maoists murder a Hindu to defend Christians? One factor, I am told, is that many Maoists and Christians are related. Oppressed by Hinduism, poverty, corrupt democracy and capitalism, one brother may become a Maoist, other a Buddhist, and a third a Christian. Murder is terrible, but a Maoist supporting his brother should not be surprising. The challenge for the Christian is: how should he treat his Maoist brother or neighbor? That problem goes beyond family relations.
I heard that in one district, government teachers from some 30 village schools fled from Maoist harassment. The parents invited a Christian mission from South India to teach their children. Missionaries sought District Collector’s permission. The Collector, presumably with permission from the Chief Minister and home ministry, allowed missionaries to use deserted government schools. During the day Christian missionaries used the schools. In the evenings, the Maoists used those same buildings to train older kids! That is the reality I was addressing in my emails. What would Malhotra recommend?
He does not look upon (misguided) Maoists as his brothers. Would he post the army in every village to protect teachers, educate poor children, and defend corrupt capitalism that birthed Maoist militia, already too strong for the police? Thankfully, for now intelligent Hindus and the Government of India seem to be listening more to Arundhati Roy than to a heartless American Hindu.
I requested the Indian church to understand and love the Maoists because they are my brothers. I will say the same thing to Rajiv Malhotra: build bridges over the faultlines created by the kind of Hinduism you champion. Through Arundhati Roy, Malhotra’s Infinity Foundation should fund schools that are educating Maoists’ children. That would build the bridge over which Mr. Malhotra can accompany Roy into the Red Corridor and gain an opportunity to win both Maoists and missionaries who are serving these God-loved communities. Do I love the Maoists? Yes, I do. Would I convert them to the Gospel of love? Yes, I would love to redirect their commitment to truth that can transform India.

Vishal Mangalwadi
July 15, 2011
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