India has been under attack for a thousand years. The new attacks were not like the old raids known before; these were buttressed by an ideology of heavenly sanction, a permanent motive and system of ideas. Long before Europe of the "white man's burden" appeared on the scene, Asia was witnessing in the birth of Islam an ideologically fortified imperialism commanded by Allah. Any economic and political gain - and it was in on very small - was merely a just reward for an activity which was essentially religious.
In a way, Islamic imperialism was nothing new. It had a model to follow in Christianity which had a similar mandate, but it too made significant contribution to the doctrine of imperialism. It gave us the concepts of darul-harb (non-Muslim world) and darul-Islam (Islamic world), the former subject to permanent jehad (holy war), subjugation, enslavement and even slaughter of the latter, other important concepts were booty (al-ghanimah), zimmi and jazia, etc. Islam believed that the world belonged to the believers and the infidels were mere squatters, it had to be repossessed.
Then came the Europen Era. India's contact with Europe was not negative. Through it, India came to know a world it had to know. It also received from this source unintended political help. Islamic powers in the middle-east and Central Asia and denied them sea lanes; this weakened Islamic encirclement of India gave local freedom forces a better chance to assert themselves.
India's first major contact began when Vasco da Gama landed with gunboat and priests. The newcomers were not only pirates and merchants but also believing Christians; they had the pope's mandate to convert heathens in the lands they took possession of. They found that the natives had a flourishing religion of their own. They took to destroying their temples in earnest. Within decades of their occupation of small coastal parts, they had destroyed according to their own records 601 temples in 131 villages - all important Christian Orders taking part in this pious work. Franciscan friars destroyed 300 temples in Bardez, Jesuits 280 in Salcete. St. Francis Xavier who fully participated in this meritorous work wrote back home: "As soon as I arrived in any heathen village ..... When all are baptised I order all the temples of their false gods to be destroyed and all the idols to be broken to pieces. I can give you no idea of the joy I feel in seeing this done."
Hindus got relief from the active religious persecution when the British came. But they too were not without a powerful missionary lobby of their own whose aims were no different from other Christian missions. Though the missions were not allowed to apply their usual muscular methods, they were free to propagate their religion. Their aim was conversion of heathens to the true faith and to that end they began to attack Hinduism in different ways. They attacked it for having too many gods, not one of them the right Biblical God; they attacked it for being idolatrous; they attacked all its leading ideas - karma, incarnation, moksha, compassion for all being, etc.
The attack on Hindu religion was supported by attack on the Hindu people and society. Hindu rites, customs were all evil, and their morals and manners even worse, if that were possible. With so much depravity around and and with such fine and disinterested teachers at hand, they looked forward to a Christian India in not too distant future. The colonial administrator was not unsympathetic to the missionary attack. Though he discouraged its excesses, he found it useful. He knew that Hinduism was India's definition and its deepest and also its principle of unity and regeneration and unless this principle was attacked, India could not be necessarily ruled; he knew that what upheld Hinduism also upheld India and its political struggle. A people who had lost pride in themselves, who were demoralised were welcome to him.
Colonial scholars reinforced the missionary attack by their own from another angle. They taught that India was not one country, that it was a miscellany of people, that it had never known independence, that it had always been under the rule of foreign invaders. The rulers had a clear motive, a clear goal. They wanted an India which had no identity, no vision of its own, no native class of people respected for their leadership. They were to be replaced as far as it lay in their power by a new class of intellectual comparadores. Meanwhile, the concerted attacks succeeded. They were internalised and we made them our own. There was a crop of "reformers" who wanted India to change to the satisfaction of its critics. Above all, there appeared a class of Hindu-hating Hindus who knew all the bad things about Hinduism. Earlier invaders ruled through the sword. The British ruled through "Indology". The British took over our education and taught us to look at ourselves through their eyes. They created a class Indian in blood and colour, but anti-Hindu in its intellectual and emotional orientation. This is the biggest problem rising India faces - the problem of self-alienated Hindus.
The missionary-colonial attack was reinforced by another attack - Marxism. Its source too was Europe and it was even more Eurocentric than regular Imperialism. It used radical slogans but its aims were reactionary. It taught that Europe was the centre and rest of the world its periphery - not by chance but by an inherent dialectics of History. Marx fully shared the contempt of British Imperialists for India. He said: "Indian society has no history at all, at least no known history. What we call its history, is but the history of succesive intruders." He also said that India neither knew freedom nor deserved it. To him the question was "not whether the English had a right to conquer India, but whether we are to prefer India conquered by the Briton." This also became the faith of his Indian pupils.
In India, Macaulayism prepared the ground for Marxism - early Marxists were recruited from Macaulayites. Marxism in turn gave Macaulayism a radical look and made it attractive for a whole new class. While Marxists served European Imperialism, they also fell in love with all old Imperialist invaders, particularly Muslim ones. M.N. Roy found the Arab Empire a "magnificient monument to the memory of Mohammad." While the Marxists found British Imperialism "progressive", they opposed the country's national struggle as reactionary. They learnt to work closely with Muslims both during and after Independence.
It is widely agreed that India's independence struggle derives from Hindu Renaissance, but it is not equally realised that it can also only be sustained by it. Hinduism is the principle of India's self-renewal. Anything that hurts that principle hurts India, hurts its civilisational role, therefore, hurts future religious humanity.
"Organiser", Dec. 10th, 1995