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May 11, 2005

There They Go Again...

Guest post by hilzoy

Via Crooked Timber, I see that those wacky guys at Powerline are at it again:

"It's great to see someone standing up for colonialism, especially British colonialism. I agree wholeheartedly with this observation, for example:

Had Britain had the courage to face down Gandhi and his rabble a few years longer, the tragedy that was the partititon of India might have been avoided." (quoting Roger Kimball.)

Offhand, I can't imagine why Kimball or Hinderaker thinks that partition could have been avoided had the British stayed a few years longer. The divisions between Hindus and Muslims were deep, and with Jinnah, the head of the All-India Muslim league, supporting partition, it seems unlikely that given a few more years of unwelcome British rule, everyone would have settled down and decided to get along. Nor is it clear why they think that Gandhi was the person who should have been faced down: he consistently opposed partition, and was assassinated because he was seen by Hindu nationalists as having given away too much in his efforts to keep India's Muslims from seeking a separate state.

But it's not the misreading of Indian history that's really breathtaking; it's the phrase "Gandhi and his rabble." Gandhi was not perfect, but for John Hinderaker to look down on him with contempt suggests a level of moral self-delusion that is, in its way, awe-inspiring.

I mean, this is a guy who accused Jimmy Carter of treason, and when he was told that he was wrong about one of the events that formed the basis for this accusation, said: "As to the 1980 election, I'm no expert...". (Before you accuse someone of treason, I think you ought to make yourself an expert.) He's a guy who can say this (movie) with a straight face:

""I mean, as far as I can tell, the left doesn't care about terrorism, doesn't care about the Islamofascists, doesn't care about hundreds of thousands of people being murdered. All they care about is their own power. All they care about is regaining the presidency. All they care about is defeating President Bush. And, I think that the left, and by "the left" I'm including now almost the entire Democratic Party, you can count exceptions on your fingers, Zell Miller, Joe Lieberman, you can name the exceptions. The whole mainstream of the Democratic party, I would say, is engaged in an effort that really is a betrayal of America. What they care about is not winning the war on terror. What they care about is defeating President Bush. And I think that the positions that they're taking, the things that they're doing and saying, are significantly impeding the progress of the war, and give great encouragement to our enemies. And I indict them for that. I don't think they care about the danger to us as Americans nor do they care about the danger to people in other countries. They care about power." "

"Gandhi and his rabble". Wow.

[Cross-posted, more or less, at Obsidian Wings.]


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Tina, what's love got to do with it?


You think they can't get any worse, then they peel off the thin human veneer, unfurl the bat wings, and suddenly it's free crack night in the ferret hut...

mojo sends

Hindrocket should try "Had Britain had the courage to face down Washington and his rabble ..." just to see how it feels rolling around his mouth.

Well, you're probably correct. But, remember that Jinnah only proposed partition in 1940, and according to Ayesha Jalal, whose monograph The Sole Spokesman is a well-respected if controversial account of Jinnah's activities during the decade, Jinnah only threatened partition to secure more safeguards for Muslims in the majority-Hindu United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh.) Many Muslims and Hindus alike were tempted by the allure of partition and its promise of self-determination by 1947, of course, and Jinnah, having created such a potent image, could hardly control the course of events after 1940, but the matter was by no means settled even in 1947. And even if Partition was inevitable (and maybe it was after the awful sectarian violence of 1942 and 1943) it need not have entailed the genocidal violence that it did. Had the British stayed on a bit longer and organized its forces more effectively, some of the horrible bloodshed associated with the transfer might have been averted.

In fact, one later memoir of partition by a Hindu politico whose surname is Moon (I can't recall his forename) alleged that the British pursued a policy of Divide and Quit (that's the title of the book.) In it, he suggests that the commander of British forces in India had come home to England in 1948 and boasted about his astounding success in coordinating the division: not a single Brit had died during the violence of 1947! Had the Brits been convinced that they needed to re-order their priorities towards averting the violence that did occur, things might have turned out better.

Finally, that violence -- and not simply general religious antagonism -- helps explain the acrimonious relations of India and Pakistan today. Maybe the Brits should have stayed a bit longer... Then, maybe India and Pakistan would get along better now.

... also, by the 1940s Gandhi had been eclipsed as a political force in India by men like Jinnah, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Vallabhbai Patel. So, double aspersions on Powerline for denigrating Gandhi and getting the history wrong at the same time!

Where I come from, he's called Assrocket.

It's often noted that conservatives like to don the mantle of real advocates of human rights once they're dead. Conservatives claim Martin Luther King Jr. would have been on their side, Ghandi, etc. Of course, in their actual lives, these advocates of human rights were hated by conservatives.

Looks like Hindrocket forgot about the "you're supposed to praise morally authoritative advocates when theyr'e dead, after attacking them when they're alive," and just kept on attacking Ghandi as if he were still alive.

This seems to be off the same chuckwagon as Bush's comment this past week blaming FDR for the loss of Eastern Europe. Would that we could all look through our legs behind us with such ex post facto perspicacity. Somethin' in the wingnut water, methinks . . .

WTF?! Hindrocket is slipping fast...

Didn't the British play Hindu against Muslim as a political strategy, thereby creating many of the hard feelings that made partition inevitable?
And didn't Churchill promise India independence as soon as the war was over in order to prevent a mass uprising in favor of the Japanese?
By 1947 the British Empire could not have held on to the Sub-continent even if it wanted to.

The hindus were not particularly for Partition, especially the ones who lived in present day Pakistan. This is true of even the most extreme hindu groups (one of whom was responsible for Gandhi's murder.). The reason they and the Sikhs were against it was because they knew that they would be the main losers in Partition, given that the demand was a separate nation for muslims. And so it turned out-what was a 10-15% (or more) minority of hindus in present day Pakistan is less than 2% today. Additionally, many of the areas in present day Pakistan had a majority non muslim population (hindus+sikhs), and one of these areas is the site of one of the Sikh holy shrines, however according to the terms of the award, these areas went to Pakistan, and are today practically denuded of these groups.

Jinnah was never really a mainstream political leader in India, and Gandhi's influence only waned in the mid to late 1940's. And for much of the independence struggle, the Muslim League failed to win most of the provincial elections that it fought. It was only in 1946, that it managed to win most of the seats *reserved* for muslims when an attempt to form the interim govt was made. The truth is also that the British consciously followed a policy of divide and rule on communal grounds, by actions like the 1905 partition of Bengal, and the concept of communal electorates.

The violence in 1942-43 was not sectarian in nature but was a violent offshoot of the Quit India movement. The serious sectarian violence that essentially forced the issue of partition was the riots of 1946 following the "Direct Action day" called by Jinnah and the Muslim league to bolster their threat of civil war if their demands were not met. Ms Jalal is lying if she claims that Jinnah was asking for partition to protect the rights of muslims, and was not serious about Partition. The fact is that the Muslim league was not very prominent before World War II and it is only the events of 1945 and later when the prospect of Independence was near, and when Jinnah consciously forced the issue through incitement of sectarian violence that this issue became unavoidable. Ms Jalal is also lying when she said that the hindu majority desired partition. The Congress party represented mainstream hindu, and even a large percentage of muslim opinion, and was extremely reluctant to concede the demand for partition, until it was faced with the threat of civil war.

Incidentally, there are equally reprehensible remarks made by Mr Roger Kimball in "Armavirque" which is the original passage referred to, when he tells a South Asian woman to be glad that India was a British colony, essentially because the British civilized India. This is like violating someone's dignity and then telling them the experience was a good one because the victim gained a new perspective on their life as a consequence.

Hindrocket sez: "I mean, as far as I can tell, the left doesn't care about terrorism, doesn't care about the Islamofascists, doesn't care about hundreds of thousands of people being murdered. All they care about is their own power. All they care about is regaining the presidency...."

Can you spell "projection"?

Nice catch and nice post, Majik.


Somewhat OT, I found myself by circumstance and co-incidence at the Gandhi memorial in Delhi only one week after the 50th anniversary of his death (darn, missed it, but may have been difficult even getting near it the week before, I guess). The memorial describes his life and actions and philosophy, the various phases in various rooms, with letters, memorabilia, etc. Very touching. And on the ground, they have concrete footprints leading on the path he walked fifty plus years ago up to the point where he was shot, and ending there. Walking them and thinking about this amazing life chokes you up.

Hindrocket (and Kimball) are eedjits.


v above is closest to the truth in this matter. Apart from some inaccuracies about the timing of the origins of the divisiveness in Hindu-Muslim nationalism (which dated more from the early 1930s than the post-WWII period, see David Arnold's highly insightful biography of Gandhi), the core reality is that, far from the British being capable of avoiding partition, the seeds of partition had been sown by the "divide and rule" policies that the British had followed to secure their power in India since the 18th century.

Few people in the US -- and certainly not the wingnuts who purport to opine with any "knowledge" about the "virtues" of British colonialism -- are aware that Muslim rulers governed most of the subcontinent encompassed by colonial India as the Mogul Empire for most of the period between the 12th and 18th centuries, that there were (in the context of the times) reasonably amiable relations between Hindus and Muslims under most Mogul rulers, that a few (such as Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal) even sought to develop a fusion between the two religions, and that Mogul leaders who resisted British domination -- such as Tipu Sultan in Mysore -- are seen as heroes today in many overwhelmingly Hindu parts of India.

The British were nothing if not shrewd manipulators, and knew that they could never unify their empire, much less hold it, if the regions of India united against them. That's why they heightened divisions of religion, region, and even caste, to ensure that Indians would have more to fight about amongst themselves than against their British exploiters. They succeeded so well that ironically, even today English is the lingua franca among the roughly 20 major languages in India, and the Civil Service they built to rule above the squabbling nawabs at least gives India a greater potential for governance than most other developing nations, though it remains rife with the self-serving corruption it was designed to respond to under the British.

British rule in India was certainly less bad and much more mixed in its legacy than, say, the fairly genocidal rule of the Dutch in Indonesia or (via the Boers) South Africa, or the virtual slavery, destruction of education, and substance addiction of the French in Indochina or (to a lesser extent) the British and (somewhat) the US in parts of China.

But it was still, beyond dispute, the source of divisions that led ineluctably to the partition of India.

all historical revisionism aside, Roger Kimball's column is a very racist/anti-feminist column. as much as i hate to read through it again, here are some choice quotes for those that haven't actually read the Roger Kimball post.

What so exercised Ms. Sari-in-a-twist was our Notes and Comments for May, which includes said reference to the despicable Franz Fanon--"When the native hears a speech about Western culture," quoth this paragon of third-worldism, he "pulls out his knife--or at least makes sure it is within reach"--and poor Andrea Dworkin, a feminst fruitcake of the first water. As for her being pitiable, what do you think? Here she is on the subject of sexual intercourse; and here she is in propria persona, as it were.

As for colonialism, this third-world feminist of color should get down on her knees and thank Siva that her country was the beneficiary of British colonialism. Without it, she would never have heard of feminism or even of the third world, since the very concept depends upon the freedom, education, and language that the West brought to savages countries in the 18th and 19th centuries.

THAT is what outraged me more than anything. Kimball is a racist, sexist and history-revising asswad. as they say, a triple threat. and this is what the powerline idiots approve of? Jeebus have mercy on their soul when the revolution comes.

"Say you wanna revolution..."

Now watch the feds come after me cuz I quoted the Beatles...

Steady Eddie, what U.S. parts of China are you referring to? I don't think the U.S. ever had a sphere of influence in China. The British, the French, the Japanese, the Russians, the Belgians, and the Germans all did, but the U.S. got into the game too late, so it advocated the "Open Door Policy" of all countries trading with all of China freely, rather than different countries having privileges in different territories.

As for colonialism, this third-world feminist of color should get down on her knees and thank Siva that her country was the beneficiary of British colonialism.

Actually, what's funny is that the real neo-nazis and racists embrase Indian culture. The "swastika" (along with shubhtika and laltika) are all Hindi words (also, varna, arya etc) and holy symbols used in ALL Hindu/Aryan temples, weddings and ceremonies.

In fact, the nazis not only adopted the symbol but even specifically spoke Hindi to emphasize this connection (the native german word for swastika is hakenkreuz).

Even today, the largest neo-nazi organization in the US (national alliance) sells books by a SARI-wearing woman -- savitri devi.

English itself belongs to the same language tree (and is descended from) the same language as Hindi and other Indo-European languages (the 'Indo' stands for India) such as Bengali, Punjabi and Sanskrit. Of the 1 billion plus people in India, there are 2 main divisions -- half are Aryan and other half are Dravidian. (both are Hindi words and terminlogy).

The Aryan religion is defined in 4 holy books called
the "vedas" and is called Hinduism. These books are
all online is anyone is curious to read them.

The north Indian aryans tend to have names like sweta, virek and arjen -- same as the dutch and are genetically indistinguishable from North Europe -- same facial structure, bone structure, and genetic diseases like celiac sprue, found only in Europe and India -- [that is say INDO-European].

As someone implied earlier, it would have been so much better for us in the 13 colonies if the British had not given in to Washington and his rabble. These people don't even think before they write.

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