Clash Of Cultures In Indi

Clash of Cultures in India

by Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd

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With the BJP coming to power in 2014 and also in 2019 for the second time the Clash of Cultures in India is increasing day by day. After it came to power under the leadership of Narendra Modi, who is known for his political upbringing in the Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which historically is known for upholding the anti-agrarian and artisanal productive culture, a serious need for looking at the scope of clash of cultures.    Modi declared himself as an Other Backward Class (OBC) person, without telling the nation whether his family/caste has roots in the Shudra or Bania (as many Banias also acquired OBC certificates) heritage. The Shudra/OBC masses have a culture of production of a whole range of food and civilizational commodities, technologies and instruments which is  different from what the RSS/BJP top leaders believe and practice. That itself will lead to cultural clashes as the RSS/BJP top leaders keep hegemonizing their own culture.

The Muslim society of India also has a different socio-spiritual culture which has no serious discourse in production of food and technologies. Their opposition to man-woman equalization civilizational ethic would also cause concerns in the realm of economic development. Though patriarchal controls on women are common in every caste and religion in India the Muslim male control on women is much more rigid and anti-production. They do not want Muslim women to work with other men and women in the agrarian and industrial sectors. Such controls on women’s labour power has huge implications for development.

The Shudra/OBC/Dalit/Adivasi spiritual culture and divine heritages are deeply rooted in production and fair distribution with social justice at the core of their history. The Dwijas–Brahmins, Banias, Kayastas, Khatris and Ksatriyas–do have a history of the opposite– anti-production and worshiping violence- socio-spiritual cultural swabhava ( nature). The Dwijas developed a swabhava that does not allow them to participate in agrarian activities. This swabhava has developed from their anti-production spiritual texts and social life.

The nation, just before the 2019 elections, seemed to be on the verge of a severe clash of cultures. On many fronts the Hindutva culture, at the core of which is the Brahmin, Bania, Khatri, Kayastha and Ksatriya (Dwijas) culture, and the productive cultures of the Shudra/OBC/Dalit/Adivasis have many clashing aspects. Even the spiritual cultures of the masses who pray or worship God/Goddesses who are creators, producers and protectors and the spiritual culture that worships only war heroes are poised one against the other. The universal and the Indian productive mass belief that God/Goddess is a creator, producer and protector but not destroyer. The Indian Shudra/OBC/Dalit/Adivasi masses will realise this conflict between positive spiritualism and negative everyday worshiping violence spiritualism as more and more Shudra/OBC get educated. The relationship between those who love and treat their neighbour equal with themselves and those who treat other human beings as untouchable and unequal can never be long lasting. Those who worship violence and do not soil their hands and consume the labour power of others constructing a theory that God gave us the authority to eat but no duty to work in the food  production fields are actually destroyers not only of others, but themselves too.

The notion of the Indian history of culture itself is an issue of clash. The food culture, the culture of man-woman relationships, the relationship between the divine agencies like Ayyappa and women rocked like Kerala in the recent past. The historical food culture of the majority of Indians and the BJP/RSS vegetarianism resulted in huge clashes.  Nowhere in the world communities were so seriously divided on human food culture on the lines of meatarianism and vegetarianism. Though meatarianism includes all vegetarian food items the vegetarianism is exclusive and negative towards other cultural human beings. The vegetarians want to live by the sweat of others’ brow and yet claim cultural superiority over them. This is a unique human cultural practice that Brahminism developed.

The question of spiritual rights of the Adivasis/Dalits/Shudras  will clash with the Brahmin-Bania spiritual culture which is exclusionary and spiritual fascist.  The Adivasi/Dalit /Shudra masses  hoped that a Hindutva political party like the BJP would work for equality of all castes and Tribes, if it comes to power under the leadership of an OBC Prime Minister as Modi himself claimed. But in practice it established the Dwija hegemony in a systematic way. For the first time in Indian history the agrarian Shudras like Jats, Patels, Marthas, Kammas, Reddys, Velamas, Lingayats, Vokkaligas, Naikar’s, Nairs, Mahisyas   and so on are rebelling against the Brahmin-Bania hegemony. This trend will grow more and more if the caste census are taken on the lines of the 1931 census and the Mandal Commission headed by a Yadav, B.P Mandal, desired in order to establish each caste community’s numbers by a national caste count. The counting of humans caste- wise is never part of the Hindu Brahminism and also even Islamic culture. Only Israelis have had a human enumeration culture from ancient times. In the Bible the book of numbers clearly indicates that there is a culture of counting humans in Israel from ancient times.

At times it appears that the caste cultural antagonism  may lead to a civil war of cultures within the nation. But that has been avoided time and again. Yet Brahminism does not seem to be agreeable to a serious change.

Based on spiritual and socio-political clashes the Indian subcontinent disintegrated in the past  and three nations—India, Pakistan and Bangladesh– got formed. Let me briefly examine its recent history of disintegration.

India as a nation is carved out from the larger Indian sub-continent which included,  Pakistan and Bangladesh. Based on the religious-cultural confrontation within a short period in 1947 and 1971 , Pakistan and Bangladesh emerged as independent nations, reducing the size of the land and population base of the larger Indian nation, which otherwise would have been bigger.  In 1971 even Pakistan got divided into two nations—Pakistan and Bangladesh. The first disintegration was based on religious and cultural conflicts between Hindu Brahmanism and Islamic monotheism. Apart from those reasons there could be several cultural and political differences that caused the disintegration. The disintegration of Pakistan and Bangladesh is because of geographical distance between the two countries. But those two countries have major economic problems and class and sect conflicts as of now. However, India is facing caste, religious-cultural problems of serious nature. The Dwija culture is clashing with other caste cultures as well as other religious cultures.

The history of the present Afghanistan also shows that before Islam took shape there it had Hindu and Buddhist religions. But that nation has completely gone to Islam long before the 1947 partition of India and became an Islamic tribal nation which suffers instability till now. Luckily after 1947 the Indian masses accepted constitutional democracy. We must see that the constitutional democracy survives, with a conscious understanding that the RSS/BJP kind of casteism does not further disintegrate it by disrespecting the Shudra/OBC/Dalit/Adivasis.

Though India has a population comparable to only China but because of cultural unity China has become a super power in Asia within the same period as we were a democracy. China speaks one language, Mandarin, across the country. Now China is allowing English to become its second national language.  Its food culture was/is always multi-cuisine without any conflict or food cultural discrimination within the civil society. Intellectualism and multiple social forces writing books about their own strengths and weaknesses was allowed in that country for the last two thousand or more years. Whereas Indian caste culture did not allow such intellectual plurality to grow. Intellectual plurality could bring many experiences and experiments into play at the national level. Imagine what an intellectual loss India incurred as 52 per cent of Shudras, 16.5 per cent Dalits and 7 per cent Adivasis were not allowed to join the the ranks educate themselves and some of them to join the  intellectual cream, who have much more rational, scientific and productive experience within their civil societal body. Their knowledge was never allowed to become a national resource by way of recording and transmitting it. What misfortune of a nation!

India is suffering from a serious cultural drag of the Dwija anti-labour and pure vegetarian unethical spiritualism. The Dwija thinkers constructed an anti-productive, pro-leisure living process as a nonviolent life process. At the same time they live on pure exploitation of other communities’ labour power. There is something fundamentally wrong with the evolution of the the Dwija  culture. Nowhere in the world such a leisure loving community has emerged in the name of God. Nowhere in the world the entire productive communities were condemned to be inferior in the realm of God and were exploited for millennia. There is no sense of shame and guilt among these community members about such an unproductive cultural evolution. This cultural system was responsible for driving away the Buddhist culture from India , which is known as Shramana culture, from the Indian subcontinent. What was a loss of India became a gain of China and other Buddhist countries like Japan and Korea, North and South.

Because of the largely unified cultural, historical heritage of China, it by and large remains a Confucius-Buddhist cultural nation before and after 1949 revolution. Though there are ideological variations between the Buddhist and Confucius cultures they managed to keep them side by side without leading to conflicts between them for millennia. We saw how Catholic and Protestant sects fought in Europe. We saw how Shaivites and Vaishnavaites fought bitter battles in India. We also saw how Shia and Sunnis fought in the Islamic culture. Such bitter battles are not known among Buddhists and Confucians. That only shows the Chinese capacity to fuse old and new cultures with rational thinking.  It retained its oneness  and cultural continuity. Over a period of time the Confucius-Buddhist cultures expanded to Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Hong Kong and so on. The influence of China on Nepal is also increasing both because of Marxist and Buddhist connections and material and ideological relationship between China and Nepal. As a result the Confucius-Buddhist cultural empire has expanded quite significantly. China is a super power in this region because of its cultural and civilizational strength. Its  ancient civilization that dominated  vast regions gave is strength, but its power today is also from its material might and military strength, which India is lacking. One of the main reasons for the backwardness of India is Brahminism. It propagated absolutely un-divine  issues like touching soil to produce food is pollution and also eating meat foods also causes spiritual pollution.  There are very uncommon cultural patterns that the Dwija communities of India evolved.

China synthesized communism with Confucius-Buddhist philosophies and succeeded in co-opting Western capitalism into the Chinese mode of socialist capitalism. Thus, it has  established a new model in the world. This model was not even predicted by Karl Marx and Lenin. This is a phenomenal achievement of a nation that suffered under several modes of colonialism and feudal exploitation. All this happened because of the cultural character of China.  For a long time it had and still has a unified Pan-Chinese culture with diversities that could be absorbed  and the cultural accommodations could easily be made. While it is true that it is a repressive one party system and also its achievement and cultural cohesion is something that must be acknowledged.

India as opposed to the Chinese mode of cultural unification from ancient days gave rise to multi-cultures that constantly remained in conflict. All through the post-Rigvedic period till now there is conflict between the Shudra productive culture and the Brahminic anti-production culture. There is also conflict between Ambedkarite Buddhist culture and the Brahminic Hindutva culture. Apart from these caste based cultural conflicts the Hindutva and Islamic cultures always lived one against the other. The Indian sub-continent has had an advanced culture and civilization of organized labour, advanced in technology, constructing urban settlements as early as 4900 BC. The culture and civilizations of Harappa shows that the Dravidian races (originally Indo-African) established not only settled living but constructed early urban civilization and culture in the Indus valley region. It began to construct its own language script perhaps much better than that of Chinese. Somehow it got destroyed and the ancient Dravidian race could not produce a school of thought of Taoism’s stature  in India. That was most unfortunate.

Subsequently the Aryans who migrated to India not only hegemonized violence as against the Indian productive and positive philosophy they seem to have destroyed the advanced cultural spheres of Dravidian races particularly in the whole of North India (see Tony Joseph, How genetics is settling the Aryan migration debate. (The Hindu, 17 June, 2017 )

In order to establish very violent cultural systems as against nature harvesting labour based science and technology of the Harappans, the Aryans constructed violent texts as spiritual canonical books. Both Harappans and Dravidians were known for their hard labour, domestication of animals like sheep, goat and buffalo, building instruments of production, science and technology of ancient nature. The Aryans pushed this land into constant conflicts and cultivated a culture of violence and the Harappan masses were divided into various castes and reduced them into Shudra, Chandal slaves. They are all divided into thousands of castes, which work as spiritual, social and economic slaves under the control of Dwija Brahmin thought and ideology. They wrote Vedas and also Vedantic philosophy that has not examined the human relationship both with God and Nature. They always treated human being as an agent of violence. They never understood the idea that God created all humans equal. The Banias and other Dwijas like Kayasthas, Khatris and Ksatriyas accepted the Brahmin anti-human philosophy. Historically the  Banias emerged as  capitalist accumulators of wealth.

It was the culture of modern day Dravidians that built the earliest city of Harappa with baked bricks, properly cut stones, advanced wood crafting and also making most advanced pottery and so on. They have constructed the earliest canal system and worked for the road laying scientific processes as it is evident from the Harappan excavations now. This was possible because by then there was good animal husbandry, sheep, goat and buffalo breeding, and building up food resources not around grains and vegetables but by building up milk and meat stocks. Their sheep and goat flocks, buffalo herds were their repositories of meat and milk economy. Though there is evidence of early forms of agriculture getting deployed by Harappans, their main food was animal meat.

It is a common sense knowledge that the earth at that time was much cooler than what it is today therefore, their meat food stock even of slaughtered buffalo, sheep and goat remained for a longer period to be roasted and eaten. The fact that they constructed scientific pots, bricks, wood houses, canals and so on indicates that they started cooking their meat food by overstepping the earlier mode of eating roasted meat. We have, thus, developed the earliest food cooking methods. But in the post-Aryan times all that science has gone out of existence. The Sanyasis after they emerged in the process of composing Vedas, Upanishads, Ramayana, Mahabharata and so on  have killed science and anti-production and anti-science culture became part of Vedic civilization. The society has been set back since then.  The Hindutva brahminic forces want to make that anti-production literature as the foundational syllabus in the schools, colleges and universities. The Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis have every reason to oppose such imposition as that will weaken the productive culture of the nation. Nationalism for Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis must be understood in terms of the productive spiritual ethic

Though we do not have full details of the Harappans’ social life it could be easily inferred  that there was a marriage system in their civilization. Their men and women were living in properly constructed houses. Without there being a family system how do people live in homes that were small family quarters. The Harappa Township shows that there were even rich and poor in that city as there were bigger houses in uplands and smaller houses in the lowlands. There must have been a good child care system based on community taking care of children otherwise the community would not have built cities like that. City life became possible only when a properly established family system, with guaranteed production of goods and commodities was done. All this certainly necessitated some kind of marriage system also.

Aryans who migrated to India did not show any cultural love for physical labour and hard work to harness nature. As they were mainly invading warriors with horse and iron resource power at their command they seem to have focused more on destroying what was already built. They could therefore defeat the Harappan  civilization builders in the wars but never seem to have built a culture of coexistence of physical labour of man- women in harmony and sought human development as their goal. This can be understood from the simple fact the Aryan books do not show any respect for labour and material resource building. The Harappans on the other hand have proved by developing animal and agrarian economies and building cities that were far more advanced than the cities in other parts of the world at that time.

The Aryans later on seem to have established the culture of living on the labour of suppressed Harappans, who subsequently declared  Shudas in the Rigveda as slaves,  who were forced to look after the cattle, sheep and goat, buffalo and cow and bull herds without involving in reading and writing. While the Aryans remained war heroes and leisure centred love makers (Kautilya’Arthashastra and Manu’s Dharmashastra and Vatsyayana Kamasutra were written towards that end), their writings starting with Rig Veda were done around those themes. The Aryan period of pastoral economy appears to be based on the Aryan culture of oppression and exploitation of Shudras, who were nothing but the modern Dravidian  masses. It was during this leisure time that they must have constructed their spiritual books called Vedas, Upanishads and so on, over a period of time. They do not show any semblance of physical labour for producing food or building up productive technology. Their post-Independence life in the 20th century also did not change much. All five Dwija communities–Brahmin, Bania, Kayastha, Khatri and Ksatriya–did not get into agrarian food production tasks even in that period. They took control of educational institutions, both English and regional languages, state apparatus and businesses and kept the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis in the agrarian and artisanal sectors. The Shudras who had better means of livelihood in the form of landed assets did not realize what was happening to them. They remained under the control of the Brahminic spiritual practices and Nehruvian brahminic state.  The Nehruvian Brahminic state adopted a language of secularism and liberalism but actually it was fully under the grip of the Dwijas.

The entire Vedic literature does not show any evidence of dealing with pot making, wood work, leather work, cattle rearing, constructing villages and towns. The Rig Vedic text which is considered to be earliest of the Aryan literature does not have any evidence of respecting and owning the Harappa and Mohanjo Daro and Dholavira kind of cultural heritage nor does it talk about building of new cities with involvement of Aryan and Shudra masses together.  It mainly talks about Brahma the Purush, Indra, Agni, Vayu and so on as great war hero gods. Though it has prayers and praises for Aryan hero gods it never mentions about God being present among the Harappan labouring people who were described as Shudras in that text.  The cultural conflict between the Harappan (Dravidian) civilization builders and the Aryan civilization destroyers is very clear and that conflict got carried into modern times up to our age. The Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janatha Party and its allied organizations work to upkeep that Aryan anti-production, anti-Dravidian culture. The Hindutva forces–particularly the Dwijas working in that network keep on talking about  greatness Aryans only with reference Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas and so on. The Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis do not figure in those texts.

In opposition to Aryan culture two significant Indo-Mongoloid schools emerged: one was Buddhism  and other was Jainism. Gautama Buddha and Vardhman Mahvira built two different cultural systems against the existing Dravidian and Aryan cultural systems. They also got carried into modern times up to our generation. The former is popular among Dalits ( though majority Dalits are not yet Buddhists)  and the latter is popular among Banias (Majority Banias are not Jains but most Jains are Baniyas) of India. The contemporary Buddhists are meatarians whereas the Jains are very strict vegetarians. These two religious groups have totally opposite cultures of food, dress code and so on to each other. The Jains along with Brahmins were anti-agriculture and anti-productionists. Both of them are strong ideological   vegetarians who consume grains, vegetables and fruits without soiling their hands. In food cultural domain they find themselves totally opposed to Muslim beef and meatarianism. On the other hand, the Indian Muslims prefer meat more than vegetables. The Shudra/OBC/Dalit/Adivasis of India eat both meat and vegetarian foods. The Jains played a key role in organizing anti-Muslim campaigns as part of the RSS/BJP ideologues and also finance contributors. Their food, prayer and human interaction modes are also different. The Jains are very powerful business force working in the ranks of RSS, VHP and BJP and the Buddhists are strong supporters of Ambedkarism. Slowly Buddhism seems to be emerging as Dalit religion as the Shudra/OBCs not yet thinking of moving away from multi-idol worshiping culture of theirs. As the RSS/BJP are working from a power position with a strong Hindu fundamentalist –called Hindutva–ideological framework, by giving up the post-colonial secular, liberal and democratic institutional framework  the clash of cultures will hasten.

Subsequent to the development of Buddhist and Jain religious cultures, India has also acquired the Christian cultural heritage from 1st century AD with Saint Thomas, a disciple of Jesus Christ, coming to India. Since then Christianity established its roots side by side with the Dravidian, Aryan, Buddhist and Jain cultural systems. Its growth is slow but steady. Its  expansion in the South and Northeast India created several Christian cultural centers. The advent of colonial rulers from Portuguese, Britain and France created different versions of Christianity and acquired a pan Indian base. By the time BJP came to power in 2014 the Christian cultural and educational institutions had established strong influence over the Indian education system, food culture, dress code and so on. The BJP wants to undo what all the Christians did in the education field and take India to the Aryan mode of gurukula education. There is a well English and Sanskrit educated saint and Hindutva Brahmin intellectuals force (Sri Sri Ravi Shakar, Jaggu Vasudev, Osho, Jiddu Krishna Murthy and so on highly Englih educated Dwijas)  who want an anti-Muslim and Christian educational ethos to develop on the model of ancient gurukulas. They want to see that the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis cannot get English medium education through the Christian institutions. A section of Catholic Jesuits are being roped into the RSS/BJP networks and they are willing to serve them. Similarly a section of Shia Muslims (The majority of Indian Muslims (over 85%) belong to the Sunni branch of Islam while a substantial minority (over 13%) belong to the Shia branch) are roped into the RSS/BJP ranks and they  played a critical role in stabilizing the RSS/BJP.  With this kind of cultural conflicts getting sharpened during the BJP/RSS rule, India is likely to enter into unstable and conflicting civil society and even the democratic state may be slowly subverted.

Islam which occupied vast regions of the Indian sub continent built a strong counter culture to the age old Aryan Brahmanic culture. In a way Islam weakened Aryan Brahmanism more than Indian Christianity because Islam took away Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh historically  from the fold of Aryan Brahmanism and established a big Islamic cultural Asia. Within mainland of India Muslim population is quite sizable.  Its egalitarian spiritual book, one Allah and entirely anti-Brahmin food, dress, man-woman relationship attracted the Adivasis, Dalits and vast number of Shudra castes, who were being exploited and humiliated by the Aryan Brahmanism. Though  the Muslim man-woman relationship is regressive and not at all what would suit Shudra/Dalit Adivasis now the fact that huge population of South East Asia got rid off Brahminism is a significant thing. A lot of Dravid Shudra/Dalit/Adivasi masses have also gone into Islam all over India. There is a cultural clash between Indian Muslim culture and also with other cultures including the Dravidian Shudra/Dalit/Adivasi culture now. Aryan Hinduism, however, was/is the central enemy of Islam. Of course, the cultural conflict between Muslim food, education, man women relationship and the Aryan Brahmanic food culture, dress code, physical appearance, and man women relations have many conflicting zones.  Both religions subordinated women  and the whole of living process of men and women is in bitter conflict after the feminist ideology emerged . The Hindutva understanding of man and animal relationship particularly cow and its progeny has become a source of several communal riots, mass murders and it is likely to lead to civil war if the BJP remains in power for more years at the centre and in the states.

The very birth of Indian Islam did not take place because of Muslim evangelical ideology but it took place because of strong desire of the Dravidian Shudras to join a universal religious culture, as a revenge to the Aryan Hindu isolationism. Around 622 AD a Shudra king in Kerala by name Cheraman Perumal made a revolutionary voyage to Mecca and met Prophet Mohammad and became a Muslim. He, thus, brought Islam from Mecca and the culture of building Masjids in India got established in 629 AD. The Muslim Masjid culture challenged the Brahmanic Hindu caste and untouchability based temple system.   This entry of Islam in the South combined with the other invasive Islamic campaigns from the western side expanded Islam in a massive scale and over a period of time the whole of Afghanistan, Pakistan in Bangladesh  in the East have become independent Muslim nations themselves.

By 1925 when the Hindu Mahasaba and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak  Sangh were established Afghanistan already became an independent Muslim nation but Pakistan and Bangladesh were part of mainland India. The birth and aggressiveness of the RSS and Hindu Mahasbha led to serious cultural conflicts between the Brahmanic Hindus and Muslims at ideological level. The vegetarian Brahman-Baniya leaders of India in the course of freedom struggle realized that Muslims and Dalits will pose a major threat to their hegemony after the British leave India. They were confident that the Shudras (there was no OBC category by then) were fully under the spiritual spell of Brahmins and with Bania money power that can be strengthened after Independence. A constant fight with Muslims would keep the Shudras fully under their control. A similar view was part of Brahminic mind in the Congress too. There was a caste connection between the Congress forces and RSS/HM forces. They saw to it that Pakistan and Bangladesh go away from India and the Dalits get accommodated with reservations. There was a serious conflict between the Brahmin Baniya leaders and Muslim leaders leading to partition. (The Shudras had no major role in that conflict). Though some Muslim leaders were anti-partition the major Muslim leadership went with Jinnah and made the partition a reality.

By 1947 that political conflict and also British policy led to the creation of Pakistan. And in 1971 Bangladesh became an independent nation from Pakistan. What is surprising is that before Bangladesh was born as a Muslim nation in the East there was no such big Muslim country in that part of Asia outside of Indonesia. The Bengali Brahmins because of their strong Hindu agenda starting with Rajaram Mohan Roy and Bankimchandra Chatterjee, without acknowledging the caste oppression against the Shudras and Dalits constructed a culture of oppression and inhumanity. Even the so-called Bengal renaissance did not make them caste free.  It helped them to consolidate the three Dwija castes–Brahmin, Kayastha and Baidhyas. Now they call themselves Bhadralok.

It was  Bengali Brahmanism that has driven massive number of Shudras–like Gandabaniks,  Suvarnabaniks, other trading castes, then some agricultural ones like Sadgops– Namashudras  and tribals into the fold of Islam and many also into Christianity. The emergence of Bangladesh as Muslim nation with very positive relations with China in the recent past, Malaysia (the majority Muslim nation) and Singapore (which significant number Muslms) will have huge implications for South East and for Eastern nations. Though there was Indonesia as a major Muslim nation in that region the location of Bangladesh is more important for expansion of Islam in the main land India. The Bengali Islam has created its own cultural variant. The Bengali Muslims speak Bengali language and dress like non-Muslim Bengalis and are also hugely fish eaters. The RSS is worried about the expansion of that kind of Muslim population.

All these factors lead to constant clash of cultures in India between different religious cultures and ethics. To these cultural clashes a new dimension was added with the emergence of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar during the freedom struggle. The untouchable masses in India who by and large have the Shudra/Adivasi Harappan heritage  have launched  a massive counter cultural movement for abolition of untouchability and expansion of neo-Buddhism in 1956. Though Ambedkar himself was the author of Indian constitution he realized that the cultural clashes will be more aggressive in future because of the democratic polity. So he opened up a more organized religious front for Dalits by embracing Buddhism. Though he tried to minimize the racial conflict between Dalits and the Brahmanic Hindus by tactically avoiding the Dravidian Aryan race discourse, he established a very serious ground for cultural battles by evolving Neo-Buddhist religion and the reservation policy.

In the post-independence period the Indian National Congress that ruled India adopted a principle of secularism to rule the country. Even the left parties used the notion of secularism to balance with their class war communism and negotiated with several conflicting cultures within India. But that secular approach both of the congress and the left parties and groups helped Hinduism to sustain as a caste cultural socio-spiritual system. At the same time they did not work out any instruments to abolish caste inequalities and untouchability. But they have checkmated the process of lower caste going into either Islam or Christianity. Because once secularism was made the ideological anchor of both liberals and the communists, the Shudra/OBCs/Dalits thought that a gradual process of equalization of castes and communities would happen. But all the political structures that believed in secularism did not disturb the cultural control of Brahmins and Baniyas in both spiritual, cultural, business and social systems. The partition of India with a massive Hindu Muslim conflicts and murders helped them and they could convince the Shudra masses that they would get liberated from all forms of oppression through secular mode of administration, education with a grumbling acceptance of the reservation system.

The upper caste intellectuals working in the left and Congress platforms did not see the cultural conflict between the Shudra/OBC/Adivasis and the Dwijas who live in opposite forms of ‘labour as life’ and leisure as life’. The Brahmin Baniya intellectuals and political leaders, who came from the culture of ‘leisure as life’(that is they were never involved in Agrarian production and artisanal productive occupations) did not see any problem in their own social location.This led to stagnation of the social transformation in the country. The productive masses, who mainly constitute the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis of India, did not get liberated from the clutches of the caste oppression started organizing themselves into political parties like the Bahujan Samaj, Samajwadi party, RJD, DMK, Telugu Desham, YSR Congress and so on. Apart from these parties hundreds of Dalits, Tribal, OBC organizations were formed. They began to challenge the Brahminic Bhadralok structures across India in all spheres of life. Added to this a strong women’s movement has also shaken up the foundations of the patriarchal structures that controlled the women’s body and mind. Both the reservation movement after 1990   and the women’s movement  that were ongoing by then, have created a parallel consciousness of liberation and equality. This in turn led to weakening of the Congress and also the communist parties.

Marginalizing Minority through Vegetarian Food Culture

Meanwhile the Muslims and the Christians of India, both socially and politically, got marginalized. A long drawn out campaign by the Hindutva forces that Muslims and Christian are un-Indian has its impact on their psyche. Their food culture came under huge attack. The Muslims were attacked as beef eaters, pro-Pakistanis and the Christians were attacked as proselytizers by supplying dollars. The Shudra/OBCs started believing in this propaganda as there were not many intellectuals among them to verify the propaganda from their point of view.  Using this situation the BJP and RSS and their sister organizations took up anti-Muslim and anti-Christian campaigns by massively deploying the vegetarian food cultural practice of a section of Brahmins, Baniyas and Jains and projected India as a vegetarian nation. It is here that cow came to play a critical counter cultural revolutionary role. The assumption of the Sangh Parivar leaders that only Muslims and Christians eat beef in India is wrong. Actually the Adivasis, Dalits and sections of Shudra/ OBCs (some of them would be nomadic and also semi-nomadic) are the largest number of people who consume beef. Even in remote villages beef is a staple food of the Adivasis and Dalits. This anti-beef campaign may in the long run create huge food crises in the Indian food market.

After the BJP came to power in 2014 in several states the state governments enacted very stringent laws to prohibit beef economy in India. The beef economy is not just about beef food. The entire leather industry and growth of leather technology, the animal bone economy and thousands of people who got jobs in that economy. The Hindutva ideology hugely affected the very right to life of millions of Indians.

The strong anti-beef cultural conduct of the Sangh Parivar forces, of both from state power and outside, is based on the Sangh Parivar’s pure vegetarian culture that it adopted from the culture of vegetarian Brahmanism of the Western, Southern India and also North Indian Brahmin food culture.  The Baniya food culture and also the Jain food culture is the same. In other words, they are trying to project India as a vegetarian Hindu nation in the whole world. They have completely negate the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasi food culture. The vegetarianism of the Hindutva forces is bound to weaken the food resource of the country forcing the masses to starve.

This runs into a serious contradiction with its ideology of “Dheer Bharat” brave and strong Bharat of the same Hindutva forces. They must explain to the nation how the citizens of India without eating good protein food from childhood onwards become dheer; how do the youth of India become brave and strong? When they have taken away a protein rich food item- beef and meat from their menu how do they become strong and courageous? And also if India is made pure vegetarian there will be food scarcity because vast sections survive on meat foods both of naturally available and consciously cultivated. The meat food consists of animal and bird flesh. For example sheep, goat are a source of food for millions of people and these animals are grazed within the natural resources available in their surroundings. Similarly chicken. Huge amount of food resources comes from chicken grown as a family bird in the rural setting without investing any finances. Masses in our tribal areas live more on meat foods but not so much on vegetables.  In fact it is unnatural to bring up children only with one kind of–meat or veg– food. Human beings should eat many kinds of food. Creating cultural conflicts among people of a particular nation around food culture certainly creates social and cultural tensions. Whether Hindu or Muslim or Buddhist or Christian food culture must be left to the individual choice of persons.  In fact every house must keep its kitchen free of food taboos, irrespective of their religious beliefs.

The children should be fed with all food items, meatarian and vegetarian. After the children grow into adulthood if they choose to become vegetarian on a rational ground such a decision should be definitely respected. Democratic values within home would enrich democratic values in the civil society and also in the state structure.

But in Brahmin, Baniya and Jain families the children are being fed with vegetarian food from generation to generation. That has not only become their family, community food culture but also become their  spiritual, divine food culture. However, can they make it a regular food culture of the Indian army? They cannot. If they do so the army will have very weak physical strength. No sensible country can make its army confined to pure vegetarianism. The army has to sustain in varied weathers and and live and fight in varied terrains.

Only the Brahmanic cultural system is operating in pure vegetarianism and the Hindutava forces coming from Brahmin, Baniya families would be comfortable with it but what about the Shudra/Dalit/Adiavasis drawn into that network? They will have to be forced to become vegetarian. The Shudra/Dalit/Adivasi historical food culture cannot be humiliated like this.    No nation’s strength would be judged based on the technological energies of the army and other state institutions; it is the physical energy of people that matters. The physical energy of people depends more significantly on their protein food intake and the exercise that they do. That is the reason why all over the world people consume both meatarian and vegetarian food to balance between strength and also the other life longevity issues. It is important that up to a certain age for humans to have meat foods, which have high protein, in more quantity. In older ages they can consume more vegetables and less meat but people should not live only on vegetarian items in their young age. Though some medical experts who themselves are vegetarian are trying to argue that humans live longer with pure vegetarian food. But the history of human evolution does not support that argument. In the process of evolution humans ate both meat and fruit food. Where was agriculture to produce the modern vegetables in prehistory and ancient times?

In the villages there are a number of proverbs that tell us pure vegetarians are timid people. For example the proverb that so and so ‘Pappuwala’ (Pappugadu in Telugu) is only to tell that those who eat dals and pure vegetables are timid because they are both physically and mentally weak. People also talk about how people cannot do hard physical work by eating vegetarian food. The food culture of the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis, the Muslims and the Christians is in a clash with the Brahminic pure vegetarian food culture. As the modern education advances the clash will increase.  Once more and more Shudra/Dalit/Adivasi masses get modern education and realize that their own food culture historically never was pure vegetarian the clash will increase.

The only mainstream state that resists this Aryan Hindutva cultural campaign is Kerala. The conflict between the Kerala masses and Hindutva Aryanism is leading to a lot of conflicts. It is in this state that a democratic multiple synthesized cultures are surviving with a blend of  co-operative democratic pluralism. The co-operative democratic pluralism allows individual choices to operate freely with one another. In Kerala this exists with a strong base. May be because the development of different modes of left and Congress ideologies in this state and also multi-religious cultural modes of life lived side by side without leading to clashes. The Kerala civil society and left and liberal parties that have been coming to power alternatively have preserved that social structure. The Shudra/OBCs have played a leading role in the left democratic movement of Kerala. Because of the social reforms that were started by Narayana Guru, Ayyankali and other leaders and thinkers made Kerala ‘God’s Own Country’. The BJP is trying to disturb that plural co-operative and deepened democratic relations in every sphere of life—spiritual, social and food culture in Kerala. The BJP wants to use violence as a weapon to disturb that cultural coexistence. If the BJP is going to continue in power for a longer time at Delhi the violent conflicts in Kerala may increase and even the whole South India that has more democratic civil society than North may get drawn into these cultural  conflicts.

Though the vegetarian cow vigilantes have been unleashing terror on meat and beefarians ever since the BJP came to power in 2014 because of the state and police support the resistance movements are keeping the civil society hugely undisturbed. If the vegetarian vigilantes are so strong and capable of defending the nation they should be sent to the China and Pakistan borders to fight against the China and Pakistan army. In the recent past they have lynched many helpless individuals in the streets who were out to do their day to day human activities. They did that in the name of nationalism. In fact that has nothing to do with nationalism. Once the historically food producing Shudra/Dalit/Adivasi masses realize how this kind of food related violence works against their interest they can easily stop it.

THE LONG TERM IMPACT OF FOOD CULTURAL CONFLICTS

India as a country of ancient civilization consisted of social groups that had diverse food cultural habits– meatarian, beefarian, fisharian (all of them also eat vegetables) and so on. India produces a lot of meat and fish food. Even then no social group gets enough meat food required for healthy survival. There are many communities that like only meat curries in every meal. If India is forced to become a vegetarian nation, which though is impossible, many social groups face a major food crisis.  On the other hand there are pure vegetarian social groups like Jains but they do not participate in productive labour. There are South Indian , West and North West Indian Brahmins who are pure vegetarian. There are non-Jain Baniyas across India who eat only pure vegetarian food. They all do not share the labour work which is essential to sustain India as a nation. Yet if they continue to attack the labouring masses because they eat the food that enables them to work in all seasons the nation will collapse within a short span of time.

Even the food cultural ritualism varies from community to community. No social group has a right to impose their food culture on others as superior and insult other food cultures as inferior. The present ruling establishment under the leadership of BJP is trying to hegemonize vegetarianism over other food cultures. The Indian Muslims and Christians as a religious practice like meat food culture. The Muslims for example sacrifice sheep, goat, camel, bull, bullock, cow and so on as ritual practice once in a year on the day called Bakrid, but they never offer any vegetarian food item to Allah or even in any Dargah. Similarly many tribes and Shudra?Dalit/Adivasis sacrifice animals on their festivals, but never impose that culture on others. For example they never try to impose that culture on Jains, Brahmins or Baniyas. Any such imposition would lead to a cultural clash in India. Once this clash leads to violence that violence will continue in the society for long. This conflict will also weaken the food basket of the nation. In the process the children and old people would starve.

Dress Code and Cultural Clashes 

India is a nation that evolved with multi cultural dress codes. Historically each caste has varied dress codes based on their work and culture. Many Shudra/Dalit/Adivasi castes and communities have their own dress codes which are completely opposite to priestly Brahmin dress codes. Several Hindu Sadhus roam naked (Naga Sadhus for example) and semi naked. Generally the Hindu priests in Temples live without shirts and only use un-stitched garments. The Shudra/OBCs have varied dress codes based on their work ethic and occupational practice. Dalits and Adivasis also have their dress patterns. Uniformity of dress codes was never the norm for Indians.

Muslims on the other hand wear their own cultural variant dress depending on the region and area but there are some common Islamic norms for dress code. Their women’s dress code–particularly, burqa and hijab, is under attack in many parts of the world. The Hindutva forces in India are attacking the burqa and hijab system. That dress code also is also under attack in many other Asian and European countries. The separate identity of Muslim school and office going children and women through burqa and hijab dress is under attack in several countries. In countries like Afghanistan because of dress code the Talibans are attacking many women. If women are seen in jeen pants they get killed. The Christians would have mostly western dress code. However, their dress code has been allowed to change as times change. The Indian Christians allow different dress codes without much interference.

Several tribes have their own dress codes, in everyday life and also in times of their ritual performances. Particularly women of different castes, tribes, religions have different dress codes for their day to day life and also for their special ritual occasions. Unless each caste group or religion agrees for the peaceful coexistence of these varied people’s dress codes even this can lead to clash of cultures. Already the conflict between Muslim dress codes and in Hindutva perception of that dress code is leading to lot of classes. Though  globalization has made most people switch to western dress codes, religion still plays a key role in defining what is nationalist and what is anti-national; what is good and what is bad. The Hindutva school keeps on attacking Muslim cultural codes, though many aspects of that codes have developed within the Indian geo- environmental  context and also time frame. It attacks their cultural codes without realizing that as a reaction to such constant attacks they get into more and more Pakistan-Afghanistan mode of Islam. This is very clear after the brazen display of Hindu saffron clothes, threads on wrist, tilak on the forehead the Muslim men and women getting into more and more Afghan-Pakistan kind dress, body styles like wearing burkha, hijab by women, long beard with shaven upper lips, Afghani-Pakistan pyjama and long kudta and so on by men. Polarized visibility of Hindutva forces and Muslims could be seen in the streets and market, educational institutions. Muslims do not imitate Brahmins as the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis do. Because when they were in power for hundreds of years they themselves made the Brahmins to adopt their cultural codes.

Cultures of Marriage and Death 

There are different kinds of marriage rituals in different castes, different tribes and different religious groups. People’s  practices at the time of child birth and marriage and also death differ from religion to religion and also community to community. The rituals of Brahmins, for example, at the time of birth of a child are totally different from that of Dalits or many OBCs. In many Brahmin families the employment of midwives from that of Shudras/Dalits and Adivasis was not allowed, when deliveries were taking place at home. In some castes a Brahmin blessing is necessary immediately after the birth of a child. Some castes do not even allow the Brahmin to come to their house on the occasion of a child birth. Some invite a Brahmin and perform a ritual. The menstrual untouchability and child birth untouchability for women among Dwija  is a serious issue. Among Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis also there are different birth and death ritual practices.

Muslims have their own child birth related rituals. For example, a newly delivered woman is not allowed to do Namaz for forty days. After the monthly menstruation a woman cannot do Namaz for seven days and should not read the Quran. This practice is, perhaps, with the view of ritual pollution. It is written that “ During nifas going to a mosque, doing tawaf, reciting the holy Quran or touching it is forbidden.” These anti-women cultural practices in religions and castes have a huge conditioning impact on women’s life and also democratic relations between men and women within the family and also in the civil society.

The very idea that childbirth and menstruation are spiritually pollutants is destructive and anti-human and against the idea that God created women equal with men. The ideology of purity, pollution in every religion has a serious implication for production and development of material resources for human advancement. Though these anti-women and anti-God values were part of Christianity, Buddhism and Judaism slowly Christianity has overcome some of them.

The Christians have their own method of praying on the occasion of child birth and also mother’s well being.  Because India is a vast country with a huge number of people in every religion the cultural clash happens frequently. There are different living modes and  methods of cultural practices; if one group hates the other and one culture claims superiority over the other, there  will be a clash. Cultural clashes can easily escalate into riots, mayhem or a civil war. Because culture is seen as the soul of a social group.

Even in a marriage also there are varied methods and practices within the framework of religion or the cultural history of castes or tribes. If any political party or social organization tries to homogenize them with or without the support of some people within that group even then a clash of cultures is likely to occur.

Similarly, there are varied, sometimes opposite death ceremonial practices, some of them rational and some of them are irrational. But if one group feels that their death related rituals are superior and others are inferior that may also lead to clash. In many places the Hindutva forces are opposing the burial practices of Christians and Muslims and want them to burn the dead bodies like they do. The practice of burying the dead is also there among many non-Muslim or non-Christian castes and tribes. Many bury their dead. The Hindutva forces project mainly the Brahmin or Dwija practice as Indian or of Hindu. They did that with regard to vegetarianism. The Dwija Hindutva forces made the world believe that India is a vegetarian nation. This kind of cultural construction may lead to major clashes. Religions do not compromise on some of these basic cultural heritages.  Only markets can change societies in a slow and systematic manner without leading to violence.

Memory and Culture

Throughout human history it is proved that a human being’s identity with culture is much more emotionally linked to survival than the identity with wealth. As the famous Italian thinker Machiavelli said that human beings easily forget taking away one’s own property or even killing one’s own father but will not forget cultural humiliation of his/her being. Unfortunately the Sangh Parivar, ever since it got hegemonic place in the socio-political society of India, it has been humiliating the Muslims, Christians, Dalits/Shudras/Adivasis in terms of their culture as I have shown above. They  humiliate the Shudras with many of their Dwija  cultural practices. Food culture, dress code, and religious ritual practices and their man women relations are attacked. The  memory of cultural attacks will remain with the victims for centuries. Though they have recruited many Shudras, Dalits and Adivasis into the RSS they function within the Brahminic cultural domain that the Dwija leaders prescribe. For example, all of them have to eat only vegetarian food in their meetings, or camps or in collective living places. All of them have to respect only the Brahminic God/Goddess images. The Shudra/Dalit God/Gddesses do not figure in their history and memory. Whatever rules and regulations the Brahminic head of the organization prescribes they have to follow. The head invariably would be a Brahmin, at least till now.

More than any other cultural issue the food culture is very dear to human beings. It is linked to their living environment and civilizational growth. If any groups’ food culture is rubbished or attacked or humiliated the retaliatory feelings remain for long.  The Brahmanic abuse of others food culture as impure historically remains very strong with Dalits and Shudras. Even though the Brahmin priesthood, the Brahmin Peethas, the Brahman headed temples, Ashrams have insulted the Shudra/Dalit food culture, dress code, marriage rituals, and death practices and so on they remained spectators for long. The Brahminc forces constructed everything of theirs as pure and everything of others as impure. This humiliated memory of the Shudra/Dalits is surfacing in many forms of counter cultural movements.

The control of Brahmins was established by telling a lie that they were sent by God to lead these people. Since the Shudras and Dalits were not educated they obeyed the Brahmins treating them as bhoodevatas. There is a corrupt consciousness among the Shudras and Dalits. But that will not remain so for long.

So far it may not have resulted in a massive civil war between the Shudra/Dalit forces and Brahaminic forces but the cultural conflict between these forces is on a position of war of nerves on the battle ground. The Sangh Parivar forces are trying to divert this battle to a battle ground of Hindus versus minorities namely Muslims and Christians. They are using the international and national tension between Muslims and Christians to their advantage. The disunity and unfriendly atmosphere between Muslims and Christians helped  the Sangh parivar to win the 2014 elections. And subsequent to that election they have mounted a series of cultural attacks on Muslims and Christians through their campaigns of Ghar Wapsi, Love Jihad, Cow protection, beef ban,  Triple Talaq,  Uniform Civil Code, FCRI issues and so on.

The Sangh Parivar intellectuals though celebrate, Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilization” thesis  which predicted a major clash between the Christian and Islamic civilizations but actually what Huntington was talking was about two biggest religious culture of world namely the Christian culture and the Muslim culture.  They think that such a clash between the Christian culture and Islamic culture would give scope to the  Brahmanic culture to weaken the Muslim culture and civilization in India.

But their Ghar Wapsi agenda has attacked the Christian culture of proselytization than that of Muslim culture because Indian Islam does not believe in open conversation. By attacking the Christian culture they indirectly attack the Dalit and Tribal culture because the Dalits and Tribes are more inclined towards Christianity.  When Christian world reacted very sharply against the Ghar Wapsi programme the Hindutva rulers shifted their agenda to Beef ban thinking that this would directly attack the Muslim food culture. But what they did not realize was that the beef food culture is far more embedded in Dalit and Tribal food cultures of India. Having realized about the unintended consequences of Dalit getting alienated more and more their focus shifted  to Triple Talaq issue because it directly involves the Muslim and only Muslim man woman relationship.

The last few years of BJP governance with full majority in Delhi and also in many other states has proved that they were pushing the cultural agendas more and more on to the multi cultural , plural coexisting Indian society than any economic development agendas.  The BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his deputy Amith Shah will be judged more for their cultural campaigns more than their economic development agendas.

HOW DO WE OVERCOME THE CLASH OF CULTURES?  

To end this long saga of clash of cultures India has to turn to the discourse of production and its historicity. Let us not forget the fact  that both the Hindutva thinkers and writers and also the Muslim thinkers and writers do not seriously engage with the discourse of labour, production and organization of economy. God for both the schools is not a guiding force in improving the skills in labour, technology and science. God for them is mainly a guide on cultural issues  in this life on the earth and hereafter, in heaven. The Hindutva thinkers and writers have come from mainly Brahmin backgrounds. The Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis earlier were not allowed to think, read and write any strategic literary texts. Strategy and ideology came from Brahmin thinkers. Among Muslims also, historically, the Dwija converts have become thinkers and writers. If the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis were not allowed to read and write by Brahmins, among the Muslims the duel mode of madarsa education in Arabic, for spiritual purpose and Urdu for speaking and writing purpose, did not allow thinkers to emerge from the Shusra/Dalt converts.  The cultural codes and spiritual interpretations are simply imposed from the Dwija converts within Indian Islam.

In the Hindutva school the historically hegemonic Brahmins have total control on Sanskrit and English even today. They impose the cultural codes and spiritual interpretations from a centralized organization–RSS and temple system.  The Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis have no role in constructing the Hindutva philosophy at all. If the Hindutva forces continue the anti-Muslim campaign and the Muslims get drawn into Afghanistan – Pakistan kind of Islamic mode of rigidity the clash of cultures will definitely reach to higher levels in future. If the Hindutva forces think that the Muslims could be controlled as they controlled the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis, they are mistaken. The Muslim community has both spiritual and cultural relations with rest of the Muslim world–good and bad.

If 200 million Muslims of India get drawn into medieval mode of self-defence the clash of Brahminic Hindutva culture and Muslim culture will take a serious turn. It could even move into a serious civil war situation. About the possibility of such a civil war I have examined in my book Post-Hindu India. The Hindutva and Brahminic writers never imagined the possibility of a cultural clash leading to civil war in India. Because the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis never challenged the Brahminic forces and they have never witnessed a civil war against their hegemony and control. But the Muslims have  a different cultural and historical evolution.  Civil wars within Muslim nations based on the sect politics–Shia and Sunny– and differences are common in the twenty first century as well. Similarly oppression and control over Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis by Dwijas in the twenty first century is as bad as it was earlier. The Dwija false anti-production merit theory did not allow even the top Shudra communities like Jats, Patels, Marathas, Kammas, Reddys, Velamas, Lingayats, Nairs, Nayakars, Mahisyas and so on into any central institutions of higher learning. All the major positions of central governance are in the hands of Dwijas.

The Indian Muslim leaders also do not allow the Shudra/Dalit/Adivas converts into any key position within their institutions of higher learning. They never allowed the poor Muslims to learn English. Thus, Hindutva Brahminism and Muslim Brahminism are poised to keep India stagnant and underdeveloped. Neither the Shudras in the Hindutva camp nor the Shudras in the Muslim camp understood this strategy. Both of them constantly look towards Pakistan, which could not strike deep roots of democracy in that country for the last seventy five years. Only the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis can save the nation from the impending danger of cultural conflicts by overthrowing Brahminism in India.

Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is the author of many important books like God As Political Philosopher–Buddha’s Challenge to Brahminism, Why I am Not a Hindu, Buffalo Nationalism, The Weapon of the Other, Untouchable God, From a Shepherd Boy to an Intellectual–My Memoirs and The Shudras–Visison for a New Path,  Turning the Pot, Tilling the Land–Dignity of Labour in our Times. 

https://countercurrents.org/2021/10/clash-of-cultures-in-india/