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 us as indigenous (already critiqued in the past), subaltern, epistemic violence, neocolonialism etc. by people who at least theoretically claim that they’re helping Hindus in building their narrative in 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 subaltern in the global context since we have been the recipients of Islamic and British colonialism for 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, Hindu Dharma is seen as an evil system which needs eradication by Left while Hindus need to be freed from the clutches of Hindu Dharma. 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 very superficial understanding of the term and Left doesn’t understand the term in such 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 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, Hindu Dharma is seen as vehicle of cultural imperialism which deprived the real indigenous people of Bharat their own narrative and cultural understanding by replacing it with their Brahminical values. So, Hindus are seen as cultural imperialists while Muslims, Dalits and tribals are seen as subalterns in Bharat.
But a more persistent person will say that we will appeal to the Global Left that what their colleagues from Bharat have been informing them about Hindu Dharma is not true and we will show that we are actually oppressed. This is based on the assumption that Global Left doesn’t know the reality of Hindu Dharma 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 Left. Left will immediately brand such person as Hindu supremacist who uses the theories meant for real subalterns for their benefits, and such attempts 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 the 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.
(This article was published on the author’s blog and has been reproduced herein full with a few minor edits to conform to HinduPost style-guide.)