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|Braithwaite’s egregious attack on Hindus|
|Monday, 06 August 2012 21:49|
Barrington Braithwaite’s (BB) lengthy July 30 Kaieteur News’ letter rebutting Chronicle’s Parvati Persaud’s July 3 Editorial - We must dismantle the racist victim themes now used for sinister political agendas is so fraught with egregious denunciations, shallow stock attacks and rambling mal-information on Hindus that it will require reams of pages to set him right.
Because much of his pseudo-intellectual canned attacks are Kean Gibson’s writings, I will steer him to my 2009 book (available at Austin’s Bookstore in GTown) UNDER ATTACK! THE CARIBBEAN INDIAN – Rebutting and Educating UWI’s Dr. Kean Gibson for Vilifying Hindus. Thus, I will deal with and just a few other important issues here.
BB wrote that rural Indo-Guyanese [read Hindus] are attached to “arcane and atavistic dogmas” which lead to extremism and are destructive to intercultural relationships/marriages. While “arcane” can mean abstract/complex conceptual thinking (as in science, philosophy, etc) when linked with “atavistic” (as well as, “extreme prejudices” and “fanatical” – see below) they clearly mean/imply ‘primitive, sub-human and irrational’. Were Ms. Persaud, I or any Hindu to make such damning references, say, about the African or other community, there would be massive uproar all the way to the United Nations, at a minimum. BB should understand that the Indo-Guyanese emerged from indentureship with their religious faiths and culture intact because of their “arcane” Indian legacy.
BB wrote: “[T]he Brahmins were nomadic barbarians…” And, that “[T]he pre Aryan civilisations of India before the caste system and the eventual Aryan arrival and impositions through ‘The Laws of Manu’ as I had bought this book and had digested its frightening tenets [The Nazis used these codes as a guide to develop their 1933 racial laws;]”
Regarding this continued Eurocentric, chauvinist stock postulate (pustule?), regurgitated by lazy pseudo-academics and supporters of the Afro-Dalit movement, a comprehensive 2009 genetic study conducted by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (in collaboration with Harvard Medical School, MIT, et al) trashes that canned Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) of India. According to this study which analyzed 500,000 genetic markers across the genomes of 132 individuals from 25 ethnic groups from 13 states in India across multiple caste groups: ‘based on the impossibility of identifying any genetic indicators across caste lines, that all Indians are ONE mixed people from two founder groups 65,000 and 45,000 years old; and castes grew out of traditional tribal organisations during the formation of Indian society, and were NOT the product of any Aryan invasion and "subjugation" of Dravidian people’. http://www.dnaindia.com/scitech/report_Indians-are-one-people-descended-from-two-tribes_1292864
Similar findings have been shown by the likely foremost geneticist, L.L. Cavalli-Sforza, et al.
Secondly, this far-reaching genetic study of Indians trashes BB’s assertions about the Nazi connection via, ‘Aryan arrival and imposition of The Laws of Manu’ (Manu Smriti). It just never happened! Furthermore, to edify our self-posing, inter-cultural maven, here is what Prof A. L. Basham’s seminal 600-page textbook “The Wonder that was India” (p9) had to say about India and her lawbooks: “Yet our overall impression is that in no part of the ancient world were the relations of man to man, and of man and the state, so fair and humane. In no other early civilisation were slaves so few in number and in no other ancient law book are their rights so well protected as in the Arthasastra. No other ancient lawgiver proclaimed such noble ideals of fair play in battle as did Manu. In all her history of warfare Hindu India has few tales to tell of cities put to the sword or of the massacres of non-combatants…To us the most striking feature of ancient Indian civilisation is its humanity.” On Page 81, Prof Basham writes: “Similarly the vicious punishments laid down by Manu for religious crimes…are suggestions of a fanatic and were rarely ever put in practice”. Braithwaite needs to understand that “Smriti” Hindu texts are not edicts written in stone but are relative to prevailing conditions and the rulers of the time, whereas, the “Sruti” texts (Vedas, Aranyakas, Upanaishads) are the “heard or revealed” canons (during yogic meditations) and are unchanging.
Re: ‘Exploiting fanatical Hindu prejudices’. BB wrote: “ Clem Seecharan deals with the subject of discussion in his book “India and the Shaping of the Indo-Guyanese Imagination 1890’s-1920’s”, thus the privilege by the PPP to exploit the ‘Racist Themes’ which have conveniently never been debunked remain intact “ BB also asserted that Cheddi Jagan’s Hindu prejudice was so defining leading BB to say: “Eusi Kwayana was correct [Cheddi “cannot even carry out a revolution within himself”] , because Jagan’s communist agenda was an extension of Janet’s quest, and she did not come to British Guiana to sing Chow-tal or Queh-queh songs. They both accommodated the antique prejudices that were a pool of readymade fanatical support (read Hindu prejudices)”. Yet, in B. Ramharack’s Against the Grain (on Balram Singh Rai) Prof. Seecharan, writing the Introductory Essay contrasts “Rai’s religious [Hindu] grounding, his cultural security as an Indian” to alleged Jagan’s lack thereof, and quotes from V.S Naipaul (1991) that Kwayana bemoaned: “I think he [Jagan] had a cultural problem. If he had been a devout Hindu, even in his youth, he would have had a more workable, a more human, frame of reference…” As well, Kwayana writes in a 2006 review of the said book: “The PPP did not preach or discuss religion and its constitution at no time excluded believers.
So, here we have BB castigating “fanatical” Hindus, and Jagan for relying on ‘fanatical Hindu prejudices’ whereas, Seecharan and Kwayana see Jagan being bereft of ‘Hindu empathy’ as a major fault-line. Are these critics talking about the same Hindu values?
On the matter of caste, Barrington Braithwaite should strive to read Seecharan and Kwayana less selectively. In Tiger in the Stars, Seecharan cites Bronkhurst (1883, 1888) to say, in “Caste distinction [in British Guiana] …influence is very slight on the minds of the bulk of the Coolie population”; and Jawardena (1963) to say: “The organising principle here [among the indentured labourers] is the equality of social status…expressed in the notion of mati [ship mates- jahajis & jahajins]…” and that these Indians (“even between Hindus and Muslims”) adopted each other’s families as “fictive kin, with whom marriage was frowned upon” . As a result, Seecharan argues that “Every stage of the indentureship system…was subversive of the retention of the caste system. Also, Rev. Dale Bisnauth made similar observations.
Incidentally, as empirical though anecdotal evidence, I came from Enmore Estate and was never told of my ‘caste’, as were mostly people of Indian descent I knew across Guyana.
Kwayana wrote Aug/03 in a review of Kean Gibson’s first book: “Is African society or Amerindian society without caste? I suggest that caste is deep-seated in our psyche. Paule Marshall, the gifted novelist, exclaims through one of her woman characters, ‘Class is our curse!’ Not in every household now or ever in Guyana will some persons be allowed to drink water from the same vessel as the caste of the household. This is widespread folklore!” http://www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.com/kwayana/kwayana_080403.html
On the matter of pigment and social position, Prof Raymond Smith wrote in British Guiana: “[The] Negroes were the first to become assimilated to the common English-based culture which it is convenient to refer to as ‘creole’)…If the Negroes strove towards ‘whiteness’ in word and deed and devalued whatever they felt to be peculiarly their own, they looked down even more on the Indian immigrants who were brought to replace them as cheap labour on the plantations”.
On the matter of “Varna”, it is commonly translated as colour or “pigmentation”. But Sanskrit words are built around a root system and the root “vr” means to choose, select and classify”. So while Varna is commonly associated with colour its root tells us that any classification system is a varna, as in the Sanskrit/Hindi Devaganari alphabet which classifies root sounds as to whether they are gutturals, cerebrals, dentals etc (very unlike the Roman alphabet which reveals no pattern). This said, the (only) four varnas as laid out in the RigVeda and Bhagvad Gita relate only to functional-social classes – the intellectual/teachers (Brahmins), governance/security (Kshatryas), commerce (Vaishyas) and ‘blue collar’(Shudras). If BB takes the time to look around he will see ALL human societies/functions can be so classified.
Lord Krishna laid out in the Bhagvad Gita that the four varnas are merit based (NOT birth) viz. a combination of two elements – guna = aptitude/intrinsic quality and karma = past stored ‘repayments’ to be credited.
In the Mahabharata epic the ethical Yudhisthira revealed that the sages proclaimed that because of the intermixing of varnas over time, a person’s “conduct” is the only determining feature to judge a person by.
The prevailing Caste system in South Asia is Varna-Jati mix (Jati is clan, birth, tribe-based system attached to the Varma matrix) and is too complex to develop here but BB should be told that extraneous/exogenous factors have a large influence on what obtains today. Firstly, caste is derived from the Portuguese ‘Casta’ meaning lineage. From the time of Vasco da Gama, caste was used to describe the Varna-Jati system, which reveals lineage was prevalent in Europe. Secondly, India, whole or in parts, was under foreignors’ rule via Alexander satraps, Portuguese, Dutch, French, then Arabic speaking and Mughal overlords, off and on, for 800 years followed by the British colonials for another 200 years. So, Hindus had to be dealing with foreign ideas overlaid, corrupting or replacing their Hindu/Buddhist (dharmic) ones. But most significant of all is the British imposition. Lord Risley, used European-devised “Race Science” (using a Nasal Index and Anthropometry via noses an head measurements) to classify Indians in the 1901 census into 2,378 castes and 43 races. This then became the institutionalized paradigm and standard for today’s Indian socio-functional system.
Compare: The Vedas and Gita prescribe only four (4) varnas; and very recent genetic evidence asserts that ALL Indians are one people (“race”)!
This reliance on shallow stock theories has been noted by Prof. Wilhelm Halbfass writing in India & Europe (1988): “India is invoked to articulate and justify ideas and programmes of unparalleled arrogance and destruction”. And, Raul Hillberg (Destruction of European Jews) quoted William Nichols to say “… a remarkable table of comparison between canonical laws of the Church in the medieval period and later measures of the Nazis…”
For further education, Barrington Braithwaite should look at the Bible story of Ham and his descendants’ eternal damnation into slavery (by Jehovah speaking through Ham’s father, Noah) and that said slavery of Africans and other non-Christian non-whites, and colonialist rule have been legitimised by this biblical Hamitic injunction conflated with pigmentation. The Abrahamic faiths subscribe to the Hamitic myth. Not Hindus. Prof. Basham has written: Hindus are “humane”!
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