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Why I am an Indian

Saturday 15 December 2018, by siawi3


Why I am an Indian

by Dr A V Koshy

November 16, 2018

Bertrand Russell wrote “Why I am not a Christian.â€

Kancha Ilaiah wrote “Why I am not a Hindu.â€

Shashi Tharoor wrote “Why I am a Hindu.â€

Shashi Tharoor thinks his book will appease Hindus. Kancha Ilaiah has had his book banned in universities but that will not stop its truths from spreading.

I would like to explain why I am an Indian, in the light of these developments, via negativa, and more rarely, in a positive vein, under the present cicumstances of a crumbling economy and our present political and sociological situation. My aim is to show that India is a bigger concept or construct than what either the Hindutva brigade or people like Tharoor know of or understand, and unless one redefines it now we cannot go forward. My essay shows the cracks in the common perception of what it means to be Indian and deconstructs the binaries to show those who fall between the cracks as a result. My methodology will be confusing to those who have never seen Lacan or Derrida actually applied, or post modernism or post structuralism or deconstruction, but to those others who know of this method my essay will be clear as an atttempt to fracture the idea that there is a monolithic entity called India, which is or was instead only a post-truth shifting morass or mass that is fluid and constantly shape-shifting and the fixity I have in it or anyone else is only ideologically provisional in these days of fast changing technology and science and can at any moment be replaced with a better combination or mess and so it behooves those who think the concept matters to understand that the concept itself is now under threat and can melt away if they are not wise to realise it has to be all inclusive and dynamic, and not static, as those displeased with it can go and live elsewhere with no difficulty in these days and the loss will be for the country.

I am an Indian because I am not a Hindu or a Muslim.

I am an Indian because I don’t know Hindi or Urdu or Sanskrit or Arabic or Persian.

I am an Indian because I am not upper caste or lower caste.

I am free of caste.

I am an Indian because I am not upper class or lower class.

I am an Indian because I am from South India with no memories of partition, its riots or Mughal supremacy.

I am Indian because I do not write in Malayalam but in English.

I am an Indian because I am not a communist or Marxist or Leninist or Stalinist or Maoist.

I am an Indian because I am not a tribal or adivasi or Dalit or feminist or poor or underserved or underprivileged or marginalized or belonging to LGBTQI, but refuse to be silenced in speaking for them.

I am an Indian because I am not privileged or served or rich.

I am Indian economically because I have very little assets and wealth, but also debts, being typically petit-bourgeois.

I am an Indian because presently I am not in India.

I am an Indian because I am not in the army.

I am an Indian because I am not a farmer, but a brain worker.

I am an Indian because I was born in India and live most of my life in it.

I am an Indian because while India is my country, and i definitely do love it, I do not consider most Indians either my brother or sisters.

I am an Indian because I am proud of all of India’s rich and varied heritage and not just some parts of it or things in it others want me to be proud of.

I am an Indian because I do not mistake India for Bharath.

I am Indian because I do not worship cows. I eat beef.

I am an Indian because “satyameva jayate†seems better as a motto to me than either “vande mataram†or “mera bharath mahaan.â€

I am an Indian because I do not believe in the so-called greatness of Indian culture.

I am an Indian because I am happy with the present National Anthem. I am an Indian happy with our present flag and constitution.

I am an Indian because I do not belong to the political parties of BJP, Congress or AAP or Marxist or any other party.

I am an Indian because I am a brown skinned man from the race of Dravidians and asuras and not from the race of those who came from the North with tales of a new conqueror and the avatar of an imaginary, geographically located god.

I am an Indian because I am from Kerala. I am an Indian because I am a Malayali. I am an Indian because I love my family, extended family and my relatives.

I am an Indian because I fight for women, the disadvataged, the disabled or differently abled and the children, but only in and with words, usually, and by helping them, and not with weapons, as much as for workers and labourers and the poorest of the poor.

Presidential rule would suit India best now, in the absence of coalition rule which is the only way forward, and coalition rule is not exactly democratic and has to be replaced by another way of governance. I am an Indian as I am post or anti- democratic, anti-capitalist, anti-feudal, not fascist, not theocentric, not for monarchy, not for communism, or the republic, all of which I consider failed systems of government.

I am an Indian because I believe in the values, ethics and morals of Jesus Christ, and Buddha, as greater than that of other torch bearers of mores for civilization.

I am an Indian because I believe as Ambedkar did in reservation and conversion and as Gandhi did in ahimsa. I am an Indian as words like varna, gothra, kula, jaati make no sense to me. I am Indian as there is no urban-rural divide anymore as far as I am concerned anymore.

I am an Indian because I am a citizen with rights and duties in a sovereign, socialist, democratic, republic which is suppposedly humanist, secular, liberal and standing for liberty and equality and fraternity but isn’t nowadays and has never heard of a word like equity.

I am an Indian as its land, air and water and flora and fauna belong to me and my family as much as to anyone else and I belong to the same land and can own it and its water and air and flora and fauna which is my actual metaphoric mother and father. This naturally entails eco- and environmental responsibility.

I am an Indian who believes that nationalism, nation, state, India, religion, culture, caste, class, gender, history, race and other such flashpoints of ideology are all as much constructs as myth is, being partly compounded of the imagination and lies as well as reality and the truth.

I have explained both why and in what all I am an Indian and what or in what all I am not and if this makes me not Indian or less of an Indian in the eyes of anyone else in India or the world, whereas to me all this uniqueness makes me more of an Indian than anyone else, it is because they do not understand the diversity that is actually India and the possibility for unity that it actually offers.



Why i am an Indian - part II


My previous essay in this series of Essays for Our Times addressed to India got three hundred shares on fb. This surprising fact has made me keep quiet for a long time, wondering what to write next. It was on “why I am an Indian.†Meanwhile, while I go on reifying the definitions of nation, India and what it means to be an Indian today or who an Indian is or should be, philosophically speaking, now, BJP has lost in five state elections. I started this series, this second book of mine, with a one point agenda, which was to make BJP lose in the 2019 elections. I can say that somehow I have partly succeeded along with all those involved in the same fight. But the fight is not by any means over. We cannot stop fighting unless the fascist forces in India are fully defeated.

At the same time, following on from my first book, I had begun to outline India’s real problems like the Dalit one, which is sociological, of air, and water, and was about to go on to food, but went on instead to understanding that there was a much deeper problem at hand which was the one referring to the thorny issue of national identity, so my last few essays have dealt with that issue.

The comments on my wall to my previous article and reading today’s press as well as being able to read everyone’s opinions on today’s social media networks has made me understand something that is worrisome. People, including Rahul Gandhi, are ready to put up with the BJP and its satellites, and enter into a dialogue with them, showing to me that India is after all not a secular country and there is precious little to choose between it and a Saudi Arabia, a precious little that is being eroded steadily by politics without an eye being kept on what the country really needs. The attitude of both Rahul and his cohort is similar to that of their opponents which is one of giving the people what they want –

Ram Mandir or loans from IMF, both not priorities – and not what is actually essential for the country’s growth. As in the time of the breaking down of the Babri Masjid done during Congress rule what this means is as far as secularism is concerned India remains a country that is sliding towards unashamedly declaring itself ruled by a Hindu upper caste upper class bastion, and the choice offered to people is one of choosing between one such set in INC and another such set in BJP. However I believe that there is a third set consisting of people like me who often do not vote or vote NOTA etc or vote looking at the candidate to at the ideology of the party and so on and so forth.

This set, as I stated earlier, is not Hindu or Muslim and it is not Congress or BJP. I will talk on this now.

Jacques Lacan was the psychologist who spoke of the Other. By the Other Lacan meant initially “other people,†a term he borrowed from Hegel, signified primarily by the Muslims in India to upper caste, upper class north Indian Hindus or Brahmins and Nairs in the South etc.

Muslims are to many Hindus, I have come to increasingly understand, what the Jews were to Nazi Germany, as many people from the North have a version of history, distorted or not, whereby the golden age of what they imagine was a unified Bharath, under empires like that of the Mauryas and Guptas, seemingly, was put on a decline by the Mughal invasion, and Buddhists were failures in being too soft in facing the Islamic sword, and the Hindus lost their power, meaning the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas and the Vaishnavites did, by which power was meant not only their power of/over their kingdoms but also over the shudras and mlecchas and Dalits and tribals. That this version of history is primarily North Indian is something they are not aware of or don’t want to be aware of.

This fear of Muslims as the other is compounded by groups like the RSS, Bajrang Dal, Hindu Vahini and so many more such groups now proliferating after BJP came to power who claim that Muslims increase in number drastically in population and thus will soon become more than twenty five percent of the Indian population and will then demand another country in India, which is the fear that causes them to unleash ‘pogroms’ on Muslims like the one in Gujarat in 20002, the fear of the other.

Thus a group of Hindus in India are driven by three things towards self definition of their identity which is a nostalgia for a golden past for the loss of which they lay the blame on the doorstep of the Muslim invasion by the Mughals, for which they hate them, along with a fear of the presence of an increasing population and migrants, rightly or wrongly, and a desire for a restoration of an imaginary past of glory where the nation-state is purged of the other that Muslims are first. Compounding this is the memory of the Partition of greater Bharath into India and the ever smouldering wound that is Kashmir, that again pits both sides against each other constantly in a never ending, ceaseless, escalating war, made even more complex now with questions like Bangladeshi refugees who are both Hindus and Muslims, but are seen as only Muslims, and Rohingya Muslims.

In other words, Hindu identity has got caught up with the unfortunate strands of hatred, fear and the fascist desire for a purity by cleansing itself of the other which is no longer possible in today’s world even as it never was possible as no such thing called purity ever existed in ideological terms, as Sartre understood, as existence always precedes essence and not vice versa.

However, India has, not only, religiously speaking, as it is religion that Indians understand most, one other in it as understood by these upper caste upper class Hindus who hold to this carefully built construct of what Muslims are, but many “others†like

a. tribals,
b. Dalits,
c. Sikhs,
d. Buddhists,
e. Jains,
f. Christians,
g. Mormons,
h. Church of Scientologists,
i. Seventh Day Adventists,
j. Jehovah’s Witnesses,
k. atheists,
l. antitheists,
m. Satanists,
n. agnostics etc.

This is problematic as as both groups probably view these others as ‘the other of the other,’ the underbelly of the other, that can be dispensed with in the overall picture as democracy or rule or might or power or governance is a matter of numbers. but the recent elections just conculded have shown that they cannot be dispensed with, that minorities and people’s groups matter much more than thought of before, whether in terms of party affiliations or in terms of class or gender or holdings, or occupation etc.

Again, India not only has the above groups in matters of religion and more, as I have wanted to highlight the pattern rather than the whole matter, but also another set of political groups that were already there and are now rising according to today’s needs.
There are the regional parties like:

1. MNF
2. TRS
3. BSP
4. AAP (Delhi)
5. The neo- Marxists (rising up in places like Rajasthan)
6. The Independents (whose support becomes critical in the case of hung assemblies or Parliaments.)
7. Samajwadi Party.
8. DMK
9. JD (S)
10 RJD
11. TDP
12. Anarchists, violent and non violent
Etc. Etc. Etc.
There are also groups of people India does not think matters but do greatly.
Women. (feminists, especially)
The differently abled
Nomads or semi-Gypsies (the Kathua case highlights their plight)
Migrant labourers within the nation

Subcultures that are new in origin like the New Age religious groups coming even from places like Japan or even economic grups like Amway etc.

Those whose livelihood and habitats (ecological &environmental) are affected by industrial and technological change like farmers, tribals, reappearing again here in this list too, the people who deal in making and selling handicrafts, our craftsmen etc.

These tortuous lists I am making or drawing up are not aimless. They are meant to show through a new kind of demography delineation and cartography that a nation while a construct and a half real or half imagined community that is both something that extends into the past and across space and place and so not only geographical but in memories and made of people, land, flora and fauna is also sometihng creating itself now, but haphazardly and not in any planned manner, and while this leads me to use Gayathri Chakraborty Spivak’s “strategic essentialism†as a tool to map it, my real aim is to show that its real problems are not being addressed by the BJP or the Congress, whether it be disaster management or food security or ecological and einvironmental security etc. What can we do against or ongioing financial collapse and international debt, for instance? Demonetisation and GST failed in this respect, as it was done by poor planners who do not know the ABCD of economics, The RBI is also under threat now.

To return to the main thread of this essay, Lacan posits an Autre/Other that is the big Other which for the BJP and to the Congress is symbolized by upper class, upper caste Hinduism and not democracy. Democracy is also wrong as it speaks of the rule of the majority when what we need now, as clearly demonstrated by the recent elections, is a rule of minority coalitions working together for the common best interests of the nation. To redress these wrongs we have to see that the big Other is not a religion’s or worldview’s (Hindusim’s/ Islam’s/ Science and Technology’s/ Capitalism’s ) best version as a grand narrative – the one ring to rule all the other rings – as we live in the time of post modernity as pointed out by Lyotard where such grand narratives no longer work even as they never worked, or a political party’s best version, or an idealized view of a nation as the greatest when it is not, but a projection of a vision of the nation as a possible future Utopia and Arcadia, a heaven on earth, accompanied by a withering away of the state as administative and governmental apparatus as the citizens in it are all happy and self governing and peaceful and community conscious , to which one has to strive forwards, which is the only way to create a sustainable growth pattern for the country that will lead to our actual halting of and revamping the present steady decline of its future prospects and those of our people.


Dr A.V. Koshy is an established author and writer who is a poet, critic and artist. He has a doctorate in Samuel Beckett’s Poems in English from the University of Kerala, now published. He has co-authored and published a monograph of essays called Wrighteings: In Media Res and has several, published research papers to his credit. His greatest desire is to build a village for people having autism where all their needs are met. He runs an NGO called “Autism for Help Village Project†with his wife for this dream to come true. He has fourteen other books out now as fiction writer, literary critic, poet, academician, literary theoretician, essayist, editor, anthologist, co -editor, co-author and co-contributor. His latest and perhaps best book is a collection of short stories Scream and Other Urbane Legends.