Autumn Number 2019

Concept Of Aryan

Aryanism leads to Fascism

Aloke Mukherjee

It is often found that love of the people for their own country has been used to lead them towards chauvinism in order to obfuscate the difference between right and wrong, between just and unjust. It is natural that people, out of love for their country, are even ready to sacrifice their lives with the motto- dulce et decorum est pro patria mor- it is sweet and honourable to die for one's own country. But when it is continuously preached to them that they are superior to them, and whatever they do in order to establish their superiority is just, chauvinism takes roots. This chauvinism is promoted by continuous feeding of wrong information of various sorts so as to pollute the minds of others and create wrong notions of enmity. It can also be found that such mental perceptions are historically present among an important section of people, and they can easily fall prey to chauvinist propaganda.

It is not surprising that the idea of Herenvolk (master race), preached by Hitler in order to establish the superiority of the German race had been present in Germany from the nineteenth century. Though the idea of purity of the blood of German tribes could be traced back to the writings of Tacitus, the Roman historian of the first century, it was Max Muller who brought it into the realm of the social history not only of Europe, but also of India. By the end of the nineteenth century, pan-Germanism based on Aryanism was well-established.

Romila Thapar, in her "Historio-graphy of the Concept of Aryan" writes—"A consciousness of pan-Germanism took root..... Purity of blood became the criterion of racial superiority. The German people were said to constitute the original people, urvolk and their language was the original language, ursprache. This demarcated them from other communities of Europe where both the language and race had been contaminated". [India: Historical Beginning and Concept of Aryan, Thapar, Konegar, Deshpande, Ratnagar, NBT, 2006, p-8].

Turning to India, one finds that from the days of Smriti, the law codes were structured on the basis of casteism which presented a structure of society favourable for appropriation of surplus. The society was clearly stratified into different layers of birth decided superior and inferior people.

In the Srutis, the Vedas, the jati-caste system of the Smriti period was not so rigidly structured ; the divide was based on varna. The rights and duties of the four varnas were clearly defined. The Brahmins were at the top of the ladder. Till then, the varna-identities could be changed according to occupational expertise, and inter-varna marriages were not proscribed. But the basic divide between Aryans and dasas were there.

The Smriti peirod with the development of productive activities brought rigidity in the caste system and created a society with peculiar, unique and stable characteristics that made different sections feel that they were divinely separated by their birth.

But what is important to note is that through the jati-caste system, one section gained superior position and another was kept at the lowest rung of the society by virtue of birth. The purity of blood was maintained by banning inter-caste marriage. The most striking part of this was that the people at large were motivated to accept this, and any opposition was brutally suppressed through social sanctions, even physical annihilation.

It has already been pointed out that Max Muller brought the idea of Aryanism into Europe and India. In the Brahminical society structured on the basis of caste and divided on religious lines, the elites of upper castes gladly and readily accepted and also took up the cudgel to establish that idea in India in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It should be noted that this was the period of development of "nationalism" of Indian variety connected with different varieties of "Hindu nationalism". How can this be accounted for?

Max Muller started with "Aryan" as a specific label of language and tried to prove the closeness and similarity between German and Sanskrit, like mutter (mother) and matri, tur (door in German) and dwar and so on. But very soon, he and imperial Europe took it as a race. For example, in 1883 Max Muller wrote on Ram Mohan Roy, as quoted by Romila Thapar, "Ram Mohan Roy is an Aryan belonging to the South-eastern branch of Aryan race and spoke an Aryan language, Bengali... We recognise in Rammohan Roy's visit to England the meeting of the two great branches of Aryan race, after they had been separated ao Ions that they had lost all recollection of their common origin, common language and common faith." (Ibid, pp 10-11)

How it affected the mind-set of Hindus, especially the elite upper caste section of Hindus is briefly and very aptly explained by Romila Thapar in a paragraph of the same article—"The reconstruction of what was believed to be Aryan history superseded the initial eighteenth century Oriental search for Biblical corrections and parallels even in the early history of India. There was now briefly a focus on common Aryan origins with Europe. This included the dismissal of the Semitic peoples and languages both in European and Indian cultures. There was such an emphatic focus on the Vedas that even the Puranas were for Max Muller second order knowledge. As it has been seen, the Puranic version of historical genesis did not involve the Aryans and dasas or ethnic overtones. The exclusion of Semites meant an exclusion of any Islamic contribution in the Indian civilisation in the perspective of Max Muller. He refers to the tyranny of Mohammedan rule in India, but he does not explain why he thought it was tyrannical. This was a statement frequently made by British scholars. It is explained as implying that the Hindus were now rid of oppressive Muslim rule which had been replaced by benevolent British rule for which the Hindus would hopefully show appreciation". [Ibid, p-11] In fact, British scholars tried their best to manipulate history to confirm the ideas of Max Muller on the question of Muslim rule. But neither Max Muller nor the British scholars matter. It is how those ideas impacted on the making of an Aryanist mindset in India. How did the anti-Semitism of Max Muller took the concrete shape of anti-Islamic views among the elites in India? How could the idea of purity of blood root itself deep amongst the elites? In this context, one may recall the last remark of Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay in his Anandamath explaining the withdrawal of the Santan rebellion through the voice of Satyananda, the key character of the novel. There the establishment of benevolent British rule as opposed to the Muslim (Yavana) rule was loudly and clearly proclaimed by the author. It was also not just artistic liberty that made Bankimchandra depict Taki Khan most ahistorically in his novel Chandrasekhar.

Hindu revivalism based on Aryanism took its shape under the garb of so-called nationalism. Yet this was a representation of subjective ideas. But the scholarly attempt which was widely popularised among the political fraternity was by Balgangadhar Tilak. In 1898, through his book on the Arctic Home of Aryans in the Vedas, first published in 1903, he not only took up the cue from Max Muller, but went one step further to push the antiquity of the Rgveda back to 4500 BC, whereas Max Muller's proposition was 1500 BC. Through his book Tilak also sold the idea that the Aryans travelled from the Arctic region in 8000 BC, one section moving towards Europe and another towards India. The European section relapsed into barbarism, but its Indian counterpart retained its original superior culture by imposing it on local non-Aryans.

It must be admitted that though Tilak tried to establish Aryanism in Indian culture, his works were more scholarly than politically oriented. But his historical probings on the origin of Aryans, along with varnadifference and later, the jati-caste system, created an atmosphere with which to put the elite upper caste section in a superior position. One section even went to the extent of establishment of cordial relationships with British rulers. In 1923, Keshab Chandra Sen, an eminent leader of the Brahmmo Samaj, stated, " the advent of the English nation in India, one can see a reunion of parted cousins, the descendants of two familiar cousins of the Aryan race".

All these developments took place during the period from the late nineteenth century to the first quarter of the twentieth, the most heinous section came into its own in the second quarter of the twentieth century, and that too after the archaeological findings of the Harappan civilisation. On the one hand, the scholarly attempts were transformed into political exercises for developing the idea of Hindutva based on Aryan supremacy, by using, along with the Vedas, Smritis, mainly Manusmriti, with the preachings of Aryans migrating from India and their return.

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar started this variety of Hindutva politics with strong anti-semitism. It is no wonder that Savarkar, who wrote the infamous letter of capitulation to to the British rulers started propagating the thesis of purity and impurity of blood along with Hindutva, thus making Hindutva coterminus with Aryanism. He was an overt supporter of Nazism in India. He wrote, "Nazism proved undeniably the saviour of Germany under the circumstances Germany was placed in." Golwalkar, the father theoretician of the RSS, was much more explicit on the racial question. He wrote, "German race pride has now become the topic of the day. To keep up the purity of race and culture, Germany has shocked the world by purging the counjtry of Semitic races—the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures having differences going to the roots to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for the people of Hindustan to learn and preofit by... There are only two choices open for foreign elements; either to merge themselves and adopt national race or line in mercy so long as the national race allows them to do so and to quit the country at the sweet will of the national race." But there were strong arguments against connecting Aryanism with national pride. Arguments were that Aryans also migrated to India and in a sense, they were also invaders, not autocthons. Real autocthons are the tribes, the Dravids, the lower castes etc. So, new attempts started to disprove the fact of Aryan migration to India. Had they been only scholarly attempts, it would not have been harmful, but there are attempts to tamper with history, archaeology and even linguistics. Here lies the difference between the ilk of Balgangadhar Tilak with a Brahminical background and these RSS national chauvinists.

Over the last two decades, especially in the last few years, attempts are made to propagate all sorts of unbelievable, nonsensical ideas as research work. Scientists, historians, even vice chancellors are being roped in this effort. One such effort is to propagate that the Vedas contain the engineering knowledge taught at modern universities.

To establish fascism, a false notion of racial and national supremacy is an essential factor. In India, the idea of Aryan supremacy is one such notion that can act as a factor in developing the ideological-cultural mindset for fascism. Scholarly attempts to find what happened in the Vedic or pre-Vedic period is one thing. It is quite a different thing to depict myth as reality, to tamper with the historical findings with an attempt to create a fanatic mindset of national superiority. This must be opposed at every step and in every conceivable manner.

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Autumn Number 2019
Vol. 52, No. 13 - 16, Sep 29 - October 26, 2019