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Wednesday 21 May 2014

India, Sri Lanka and nationalism

BJP has won the elections to Lok Sabha with an overwhelming majority and Mr. Modi can form a government without the support of the other parties that went into an alliance with the BJP. However, it is very unlikely that in India we would see a pure BJP government, in spite of BJP having a clear majority. There have been some “moda” (foolish) statements made on the victory of Mr. Modi (Modi gena moda katha) , such as it would create a dark age for South Asia, but we should not be disturbed by the statements of politicians and political commentators who see the world through dark glasses. They only see dark ages. The BJP has won in most of the states, the glaring exceptions being Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal. It is clear that Hinduthva nationalism, somewhat akin to Sinhalathva nationalism in Sri Lanka has swept the polls at the elections. Incidentally it has to be mentioned that I have been using the term Sinhalathva for some time, and when this concept was criticized sometime ago by people such as Peter Shalk, I was disowned by the Sinhala nationalists. In any event it has to be emphasized that we have graduated from Sinhala Buddhist nationalism to Sinhala nationalism over the years, especially after the school takeover in early sixties, and the latter has been reinforced after the victory over the Tamil terrorism of the LTTE.   

In Asia there is no nationalism in the western sense, a concept that has been evolved in Europe only after Capitalism became the mode of economic production. In this part of the world what we have today is mainly a cultural nationalism, as we do not know how to evolve a political nationalism and an economic nationalism that go hand in hand with cultural nationalism, after centuries of colonialism that is still in existence. India and Sri Lanka have cricket nationalism (could be considered as part of cultural nationalism), the only phenomenon that make the people to think as one entity. As the Asians including the Chinese are grappled with political institutes and economic models of the west the final establishment of political nationalism and economic nationalism will take place only with the overthrow of western Judaic Christian colonialism. However a kind of political nationalism is operating through cultural nationalism, and in Sri Lanka political, economic and cultural nationalism had been in existence since the Anuradhapura days, long before western nationalism was evolved. In fact it had been only the Chinese and the Sinhalas who were able to establish nationalism before the westerners did so.  Sinhala (Hela) Buddhists had a nationalism that incorporated all three aspects, cultural political and economic even before the arrival of Arhant Mahinda Thero and it was in existence until the Rajakari system was abolished after the plotting of Colebrook and Cameron. We still refer to the work of these plotters as reforms and to our independence struggles as “kerellas” (rebellions) and in a teledrama currently being telecast the freedom fighters refer to themselves as “keralikarayo”! Our political nationalism is to be reestablished. In any event we still have remnants of combined cultural nationalism and political nationalism but it cannot be said of economic nationalism that has been ruined by the open economy of J R Jayawardene following western economic structures.

India is somewhat behind Sri Lanka in cultural nationalism, due to historical reasons as there was no India as such before the arrival of the English. However, Ramayanaya and Mahabhratha had unified most of what is known today as India culturally though not politically and economically, and it is this unity that is expressed by the victory of the BJP. We should not forget that the BJP fielded only ten Muslim candidates and that all of them lost at the elections. In Sri Lanka if not for the politics introduced by Ashraff, Muslims, especially the Moors would have joined hands with the Sinhalas in cultural nationalism. It is unfortunate that Ashraff decided to follow the Tamil racist leaders even going to the extent of attending the infamous Vadukkodai conference in 1976. The Malay Muslims though fought against the Sinhalas as soldiers of the English, and police constables,  have now closed ranks with the Sinhalas, some of them sacrificing even their lives for Sri Lanka fighting against the LTTE terrorists. Organisations such as Bodu Bala Sena are only reactions against aggressive politics of Ashraff, still being followed by some of his “golayas”.

The three major states that did not vote for the BJP did so because they are not bound by the orthodox cultural nationalism of Hinduthva. Both Kerala and West Bengal have had Marxist governments and their Chinthanaya does not follow the orthodox Hinduthva Chinthanaya. Bengalis find it difficult to think as Hindus in the other regions do with a culture associated with goddess Kali, and also their “national pride” makes them feel somewhat superior to the other Hindus. The artistic talent found in Kerala and West Bengal makes them somewhat different from the other Indians, and Hindi cinema has failed to unite Kerala and Bengali with the rest of India in general. There is a kind of intellectual pride that can be found in both these states and they are first Malayalis or Bengalis before they are Indians.

The nationalism of Tamil Nadu is influenced by Christianity than by Hinduism. Though the majority of Tamils are Hindus their opinion leaders are influenced by Judaic Christian culture and it makes them different from say Uttar Pradesh or Bihar Hindu. The Tamils think that their language is one of the oldest in the world and some of them would try to dissociate from Sanskrit as much as possible. This is mainly under the influence of Christian opinion leaders, some of them being clergy, and sort of “anti Sanskrit” and “anti Pali” attitudes can be found in “linguistic nationalism” dissociated from “religious nationalism” in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu. Cultural nationalism should combine “religious nationalism” and “linguistic nationalism” but there are cases that do not follow this rule due to some other reasons.  The LTTE was influenced by Judaic Christian Chinthanaya and not by any orthodox Hindu Chinthanaya and Prabhakaran was interested in dropping any connections with Sanskrit whenever it was possible to do so. He even Tamilised his name and called himself Piripahiran, and there were more Catholic and Christian clergy than Hindu Kurukkals sympathetic to his movement.

It is very unlikely that Tamil Nadu would be able to influence the Modi government, and the Congress that went to the extent of obeying Jeyalalitha, as they were both influenced by western Judaic Christian Chinthanaya would now be watching Sri Lankan affairs from very far. It is up to the President of Sri Lanka to educate the Prime Minister of India on Tamil politics in Sri Lanka, and the latter would understand the commonalities between Sri Lankan Tamil politics and Indian Tamil politics that stem from the same Chinthanaya. Anti colonialism of both India and Sri Lanka at present mainly springs from cultural nationalism as we still depend on western political structures, their theories, economic and development models.

However, even in the sphere of culture we still depend on western knowledge and it is here that India, China and Sri Lanka should try to develop non western knowledge systems that have been there for millennia. The common axis that would make Asia the leader of the world is nothing but Hindu Buddhist Tao axis and we should be thinking in terms of new silk route and new political theories and try to break away from the western abstract thinking that is not our forte. 

Nalin De Silva