The discussion started with the fundamental question of the prospects of attempting to recover and maintain indigeneity in the face of the phenomenon of colonialism. The colonial paradigm is entrenched in academia all over the world, including India, and hence, it raises the question of what are the prospects and pitfalls of the Hindu effort to retain and preserve indigeneity amongst Hindus.
Sanjay Dixit responds that while the road to preserving indigeneity is difficult, he is quite optimistic now because of the number of voices that have started to speak up to address the problems on this path. Even five years ago, he was very pessimistic about the future. While there were some lone crusaders like Rajiv Malhotra doing a lot of background work, there was a dearth of individuals speaking up against the issues and diagnosing the problems. But now, he can see that the landscape is changing. Sanjay says he is also heartened by seeing the number of responders increase. Even programs like ‘The Jaipur Dialogues’ and other similarly-formatted programs generate tremendous interest in people. They are reaching out to support the programs so that these channels are becoming financially viable ventures. So, in short, the prospects look very promising, but that does not mean the pitfalls have disappeared. The pitfalls are in the form of the Western lens staring at us in full glare, and its adherents continue to be strong, well-funded, well-connected, and are now in cahoots with the emerging anti-Hindutva forces.
The next question was about the younger generation in India and whether they are part of this new voice rising in the country and are receptive to new ideas. Or if they are still caught in the crosshairs of Westernization vs. the indigenous Hindu civilizational values and culture due to the educational policies of the country? Sanjay explains that what was ironic was that when the Marxists held sway on the Indian Education System, students had no interest in the Humanities as a subject. Most of the students during that time opted for STEM. And whatever little bit of humanities classes they had attended, they had promptly forgotten them once they moved to higher education. So, the extent of damage was comparatively less. But in today’s world, with online education gaining ground, therein lies both a pitfall and an opportunity to turn around the disintegrating education system. While platforms like Byju remind us of the pitfalls, platforms like Agastya Gurukulam show us where the opportunities are. Sanjay says that the reception of Hindu writings by young Hindus has been very encouraging. He refers to books by Amish Tripathi, his own book ‘Unbreaking India’ and ‘India that is Bharat’ by Sai Deepak as some examples of literature that has received love from the Hindu public. This shows that an ecosystem is developing. And now, that ecosystem needs to be fed, nurtured, and grown across all Indian languages. Sanjay also cautions that while the new education policy recognizes the pitfalls, it is very important to implement it effectively.
The discussion on the educational policy was a good segue into the next question of whether there is an absence of an educational environment that can systematically and reliably produce scholars for the future. To what extent is this an inhibitor? And are there any good signs of setting up educational institutions and platforms of learning that can more effectively turn the tide and shift the paradigm? Sanjay answers that the Indian system never placed a premium on monopolizing knowledge. We believe in the concept that the more you share your knowledge, the more it will grow. However, the Coloniality that overpowered India initiated this concept of monopoly on knowledge through the peer-review system, the reward-punishment system, and the idea that one cannot write anything of value unless one has been trained. While these systems ensure that it is not a free-for-all, they became especially harmful to Hindus as we have never claimed a copyright on the Vedas. Indians did not protect their knowledge, especially scientists. Sanjay points out that our knowledge was stolen and never given credit for, and at the same time, we were colonized and all our initiatives suppressed (He refers to the seminal work Dr. C K Raju had done in this area). This has resulted in the current situation where we are condemned to study our past from the Western lens. Not only were our frameworks stolen, but they also got altered by Westerners who deliberately removed the spiritual and experiential element, aka Para vidya, to suit the Western approach and lens. Sanjay mentions that we need to counter the knowledge barrier that has been built in the form of the pursuit of 10 years+ of degrees and PhDs. He notes that the emergence of social media has loosened the grip of this system a little bit, and information is getting disseminated more promptly. Today, someone good on YouTube can reach tens of thousands of people and get them to view their content.
The panel then shifted to J Sai Deepak. To the question of what prospects and pitfalls he, as a lawyer, sees from his vantage point of Hindutva as an indigenous effort to recover and protect indigeneity, Sai Deepak felt that there was a fair case to be made for Hindutva as a Hindu or a Dharmic de-colonial movement or a dharmic civilizational reawakening of sorts. While he sees a clear need for decolonization, Sai Deepak says the major mistake the Hindu society has made is to rely entirely on the State to fight for that cause. Just by its nature, a State tends to be a secularizing entity. The State has a tendency to succumb to multiple pulls and tugs, and as a consequence, it typically compromises on certain core values. Therefore, while we must undoubtedly push the State to create a multiplier effect, we must also have autonomous institutions. These self-reliant society-based institutions draw from our own repository of thought and philosophy and sustain our way of life. So, the goal of creating knowledge and transmission of knowledge must primarily fall in the realm of society. Sai Deepak further notes that even in a place like America, where temples are not under State control, Hindus do not have the confidence or wherewithal to establish their own Hindu institutions. So we can perhaps conclude that the Hindu community has comfortably ceded the space on education to the State and other non-Hindu players as opposed to taking on that responsibility themselves. He further says that Hindu Americans in the US should lead the way for the rest of the Hindus by establishing institutions that will allow for creating conscious Hindus with the resources at their disposal.
Regarding the types of institutions, Sai Deepak opines that both new-age virtual institutions and conventional institutions have a role in creating aware Hindus. And the fact that new-age institutions like Byju are rendering school curricula almost redundant and useless provides an opportunity for us. Since children are comfortable consuming content from outside their school textbooks, they can be surely exposed to rigorously created curricula by Hindu institutions, which can strive to make knowledge addictive. Sai Deepak opines that introducing content with the Hindu take on Mathematics and Hindu notions of Science – even if students choose STEM careers – will help them realize the economic utility of these programs. It will also help them become confident with the knowledge that Hindus have made indigenous contributions to Science, Logic, Reason, Mathematics, Law, Medicine, etc., and that Science is not just the repository of the West. Instead of waiting for the State to take action, Sai Deepak suggests that Hindus create something along the lines of a World Hindu Congress or Parliament, which would be an apolitical, civilizational body under whose umbrella multiple organizations can come together with the common intent of pushing the Hindu agenda at all levels, at all platforms, in every direction possible, so that they can collaborate with respect to material & human resources and content. We clearly see a willing, hungry, captive audience for Hindu content, so the next step is to create ambassadors who can push such content in a very attractive manner.
The next question postulated that the reason the Hindu American community has not started schools, universities, created chairs, learning, and educational institutions at even one-tenth percentage of the number of temples they have built in the US is that they still carry the burden of Coloniality and tend to only focus on Hindu identity at home. When asked if he agreed with that thought, Sai Deepak responds that colonial consciousness is certainly present in the Hindu diaspora. He says they are affected by the concept of the model minority. They take extreme pride in assimilating successfully into the Western structure and have consciously relegated religion to a private space. In contrast, followers of other faiths are very comfortable taking their religion mainstream. Sai Deepak also opines that the educated Hindus are fundamentally the most colonial vs. the uneducated Hindus who are decolonized in their default mode, having not been educated in the prevalent education system.
Sanjay Dixit is a marine engineer who was formerly the Additional Chief Secretary to the Government of Rajasthan. He is currently the chairman of the Jaipur Dialogues and is an avid writer.
J Sai Deepak is a Mechanical Engineer turned Lawyer who has been involved in many recent high-profile cases in India. He is also the author of a landmark book, “India That Is Bharat: Coloniality, Civilization, Constitution.