Meera Nanda describes Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel as “two ardent Hindu revivalists and anti-Communists”. (2011) What she does not write, is that they had been Leftists themselves in the late forties, and that Goel failed to become a Communist Party member only because of Sardar Patel’s crackdown on the party the very day Goel had an appointment at the party office. What she does not write at all is that their anti-Communist stand, brave and lonely in the fifties, has totally been vindicated by history. This she doesn’t want to know because she still has a soft corner for Marxism.
Indeed, she treats “anti-Communist” as a swearword. That is why she calls them “anti-Communists” even as late as 1981, not to speak of 2011. After the Chinese Communist invasion in India in 1962, Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel knew that Communism’s chance to take over India had gone. To be sure, the Communist hold on the entire cultural sector kept on increasing, but political control was forever with centre-left dynasts. But let us not focus on them, let us focus on Meera Nanda. In respect of anti-Communism, now a historical subject, she is still a Stalinist.
Meera Nanda goes off on a tangent about the European Nationalist Right, about Jean-Marie Le Pen and such, who have nothing to do with Voice of India, not even with its European sympathizers such as myself. Then she turns around and asks: “One could ask: why we in India should care about these European racists?” (2009:112) Well, nobody in India paid them any attention, nobody there cares about them. It is only Meera Nanda who has them in mind. Like the medieval theologians who wondered about the earth being in the middle and the devil living in the earth, hence the universe turning around the devil, she is obsessed with European racism and drags it in where it has no place. Because she has no way of countering Voice of India’s case, she has to fall back on associations, and false ones at that.
Or, well, there is one thing she has to say in defence of Islam. By way of conclusion, she ends her article in the Economic and Political Weekly as follows: ““Monotheism does not automatically translate into totalitarianism and polytheism is not a synonym for tolerance, as the triumphalists would have us believe. Theology is not destiny. The (more or less) peaceful coexistence of many religions that India is justly famous for, is not a gift of Hinduism: all of India’s religions contributed to it in ways without compromising their religious beliefs. To forget their contribution is to forget the love and patriotism of India’s Muslims and Christians for their country.” (2009:114)
No, theology is destiny, if taken seriously. Of course ideas have consequences. That monotheism leads to intolerance has been admitted by Christians like Rodney Stark in his book One True God or Jan Assman in The Price of Monotheism. Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel are not the first ones to assert this, it is a matter of worldwide consensus. The great pioneers of monotheism, Pharaoh Akhenaten, Moses and Mohammed, all distinguished themselves by killing large numbers of dissidents. Fortunately, many Muslims are people first and Muslims second, they don’t take Islam very seriously and that explains their less-than-Islamic conduct.
That Muslims love India is only Meera Nanda’s contention. In the last and only de facto referendum, the last election before independence, 87% of the Muslim electorate voted against India and in favour of the Muslim League and its programme: the Partition of India. While the Hindus voted for a multicultural India, the Muslims voted against India and against multiculturalism. That is a historical fact, and Meera Nanda cannot alter it. Today, most Indian Muslims are against a further Partition, but that is only because their leadership class has determined that the same mistake should not be made and that the Indian Muslims should seek to Islamize the whole of India. It is only on these terms that the Muslims love India in one piece.
As for the Christians, on p.292 of Decolonizing the Hindu Mind, the only book of mine that figures in her bibliography and which I therefore assume she has read, I have written: “However, while Christian separatism is indeed a reality in the small and peripheral states of the Northeast, in most tribal areas both native and foreign-missionary Christians have definitely accepted the fact of India.” Contrary to what she implies, we are well aware of Christian patriotism. The only way for her of overriding Voice of India is to falsely put words into our mouths.
Voice of India is only secondarily an Indian nationalist movement. It is first of all a civilizational revivalism. It attaches no particular importance to the differential degree of patriotism of the average Hindu, Muslim or Christian. Even if a religion fosters patriotism, as long as it troubles others and tries to impose upon them its irrational beliefs, we have to do something about it.
According to Meera Nanda (2011): “What distinguishes the VoI-brand of Hindutva—and pushes it into the global network of Islamophobia—is its staunch opposition to the mantra of sarva dharma samabhaav, the Hindu equivalent of multiculturalism. Hinduism, they assert, is not any ordinary religion, but rather contains the very essence of religion itself: it is sanatan dharma, the Eternal Cosmic Truth. To equate Hindu dharma, this mother of all Truth, with violent, materialistic and monotheistic ‘creeds’ like Islam amounts to equating dharma with adharma, the ways of devas (gods) with the ways of asuras (demons). (…) This equality is not acceptable to cultural nationalists: if all cultures are equal, how can they oppose the influx of what they see as inferior cultures? If all cultures are equal, how can they carry on their ‘consciousness-raising’ campaigns against The Quran and Sharia?”
We will ignore Meera Nanda’s confusion between nationalism, which only divides religions between national and non-national, and religion critique, which divides religions between true, false and every shade in between. What distinguishes Voice of India according to her is that it really practices religion critique (which, according to Karl Marx, is the beginning of all critique), whereas the RSS family only practices nationalism. The RSS, following in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi, asks people to suspend their power of discrimination and treat all religions as equal save to the extent that they are anti-national.
In reality, religions make truth claims and these can be judged. In particular, Christianity and Islam are based on truth claims which aren’t true. They differ by more than their country of origin, they differ by their beliefs. And these can be found wanting. It is only a common use of the human mental faculties which leads to the questioning of religions.Islamophobia is, according to Nanda, based upon the view that Islam itself is so innately barbaric, irrational, sexist, violent and aggressive that “the followers of Islam must exhibit these abominable behavioural traits”. Indeed, “Muslims are reduced to automatons prograrmmed to obey these dreadful commands”. (2009,p.106) That is again a projection from the eye of the beholder unattested in Voice of India writing. It is, moreover, logically incompatible with the reconversion option advertised many times in Voice of India publications.
As she herself writes: “To add insult to injury, debunking Islam from a Hindu perspective is supposed to be good for Muslims because: ‘Muslims of Bharatvarsha would start returning to the Hindu fold only when they realise how obnoxious a doctrine Islam is, how false and fraudulent, how degrading and dehumanising, how unethical and superficial. History has bestowed a role on Hindu nation to help Muslims discover that Islam is a prison house that deprives them of their freedom of thought, powers of reasoning and qualms of conscience… When, and only when, Muslims find out the reality of Muhammad and his creed, they would start walking out of Islam and feel proud to join their ancestral culture.” (2009:110, with reference to Abhas Chatterjee in S.R. Goel, ed., 1997: Time for Stock-Taking: Whither Sangh Parivar?, p.64-65). Exactly. And what is wrong with “reality”? What problem does Meera Nanda have with it?
But such a stand does not make Voice of India popular, for it does not go well with the widespread trait of laziness: “ It appears that eventhough the cadre of RSS are avid readers of the VoI literature, they tend to distance themselves from the Goel-Swarup camp in public ‘because of their extremist anti-Muslim tirades’.” (2009:109) At least we have it on her word that there is a deep cleavage between Hindutva and Voice of India.
How did the Marxist intellectual Meera Nanda find employment with the Christian Templeton Foundation? Why, she led them to believe that she was a scientist and philosopher of science, sharing with her prospective employers a proven anti-Hindu animus. I do not doubt her competence to do whatever it is that microbiologists do. She has certain scientist’s skills, but she doesn’t have the mind of a scientist. She has the mind of a believer, or at least of a politician who wants to keep the believers happy. By contrast, Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel had the real scientist’s mind. They questioned. In particular, they questioned the beliefs which are so obtrusively propagated, those of Christianity and Islam. They had no patience with the unscientific assumption that all religions can be equal. Of course truth and untruth are not equal.
“Once they got rid of the mantra of sarva dharma samabhaav, VoI militants declared an open war against Islam.” This of course is Meera Nanda the liar speaking. No Voice of India author has ever hurt a hair on the head of any Muslim. By contrast, many Muslims have been killed by politicians who praise Islam. Tony Blair, George W. Bush, Nicolas Sarkozy, Barack Obama or David Cameron have never said a bad word about Islam, but their bomber pilots have killed a great many Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya. The less Islam criticism, the more Muslims get killed.