In over fifty years, I can only truly recall only one palpably warm and affirmative article in the British media about India. It was written by a former student of mine, the correspondent of a leading London daily in Delhi, who otherwise habitually berates India. The obscenest libelling of India was undertaken by the premier flagship intellectual magazine, the London Review of Books, which deployed the doyenne of British Trotskyism, Perry Anderson, to deplore Nehru’s India and all its evil works, with gross fabrications; not surprisingly, British Trotskyism seems to have been spawned by the intelligence services to sabotage pro-Soviet communism from taking hold among British university youth. This grotesque libelling has since been followed recently in the LRB by more abuse, penned by an obscure US-based Bengali academic, pouring venom on Indian J&K policy that a Jihadi rant could not have bettered. The rest of the British media has followed suit with scurrilous untruths, routinely echoing the most extreme Pakistani demands that implicitly entail secession. One recalls the imperious presumptuousness of a Financial Times Op-Ed, which once warned Indian policy makers to heed Western opinion and remember Khalistan rhymed with Kurdistan. Uproariously, its stablemate, the venerable London Times had solemnly compared Pakistani President, Muhammed Zia-ul-Haq, the butcher of Palestinians in Amman in 1970, to Oliver Cromwell! The British media’s revulsion for India and its civilisational claims is so entrenched that it appears chromosomal in origin, a form of sublimated pornographic sentiment imbued with racist contempt.
British academia is no different in its antagonism towards India, with hardly an exception and, as one renowned Indian academic in the UK confided to me recently, India Studies centres are the worst culprits. Tragically, one of the most virulent anti Indian British universities received handsome funding from the NDA government in 2001, which I had opposed unsuccessfully. Alas, official Indian largesse continues to this day for another similarly noxious London academic institution, to say nothing of large private donations from Indian entrepreneurs, ingratiating themselves shamelessly to network. But the virulent animus towards India actually goes beyond the two institutions and permeates the wider university social science community insidiously, as my own personal experience confirmed long ago. When External Affairs Minister, the late Jaswant Singh’s book, Defending India, was launched at the LSE, not one academic chose to attend, apparently articulating harboured scornful disregard that found an occasion to express itself. However, the worst offenders remain academics of Indian origin, almost unfailingly Hindus. Their mendacious opinions are evidently conditioned by thoroughgoing ideological brain-washing and leavened with opportunistic career aspirations that masquerade as impersonal profundity. The leading apologist of the British Raj today is a Bengali academic next to whom the embarrassing Anglophile eccentric, Nirad Chaudhuri, dismissed by his British hosts with barely concealed mirth, pales in comparison.
The British Sikh community is somehow viewed as unctuously loyal because of its role since 1857 and beyond, within India and in trenches abroad and potentially also useful. A conspiratorial British foreign policy reverie has prompted cynical manipulation of Sikh separatism. It highlights some sort of political agenda of asserting influence over an India that might be besieged by domestic troubles one day. The presence of large numbers of Sikhs in the UK and a degree of parochial cohesiveness that expresses itself in herd voting behaviour, earns them greater attention and the occasional expression of faux admiration. But that is essentially fraudulent because the political activities of the community’s militants, in collaboration with Pakistani intelligence services and diplomats, are the object of intelligence scrutiny and cooperation with India. Sikhs are evidently not cultivated with any particular respectfulness. Yet significantly, the violence against the Indian High Commission on 15th August was led by Khalistani militants under the watchful eyes of the Pakistani-born, mayor of London’s police, which evidently stood aside, leaving sovereign Indian territory unprotected. Regrettably, this suspect mayor’s election campaign was helped vigorously by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sole UK spokesperson.
British officialdom’s bottomless low opinion of resident Hindus of Indian origin is especially pervasive. Politically active Hindus during the past fifty odd years, ostensibly of Indian origin, but overwhelmingly British nationals for many generations and hugely successful in the business of money-making, are viewed with aversion. They are labelled with the unspoken racially-charged, 19th century epithet Baniya, deemed dishonest, cowardly and lacking self-respect. Unfortunately, it describes many of them rather well. Unlike their Muslim counterparts, I have never heard a peer or member of parliament of Hindu origin ever defend the interests of their own community, though they never fail to denounce the supposed misdeeds of India. One of them, unforgettably, went on record to exonerate Pakistan of committing any terrorism against India! Yet, worryingly, some British Hindus seem to enjoy unusual access to decision makers in Delhi and have taken to lobbying for British commercial interests, of which they are direct beneficiaries themselves. Indian diplomats, who are usually knowledgeable about local mischief, seem unable to deal firmly with it nowadays though Vajpayee’s UK High Commissioner and his Minister for Politics curtailed it unceremoniously. Sadly, UK affiliate counterparts of Indian nationalist organisations, led by the same ill-equipped individuals for successive decades, have proven utterly ineffective. They cannot apparently reflect dispassionately on potential negative outcomes for India of the activities of some of their influential British Hindu members. To put it bluntly, uncritical advocacy of Indo-British commercial ties, at a time when there are grounds for serious concern over British foreign policy towards India, cannot be other than self-serving.
Most leaders of nominally Hindu organisations in the UK universally aspire to emulate their more successful community counterparts to reach the pinnacle of British political status, by gaining a peerage, to be referred to as Lord, or enter parliament as a MP. In the meantime, they settle for trivial honours titles that celebrate the imperial excesses of Britain that their own ancestors laboured under, as indentured slaves. Such is the embarrassing desperation of this growing cohort of hapless British Hindus for gaining status that all caution has been thrown to the winds, with inarticulate and semi-literate amateur activists competing with the very wealthy to be identified as community leaders. They constantly put themselves forward eagerly on public platforms and television interviews to discuss issues incoherently, despite a paucity of knowledge on the relevant subject, making fools of themselves. The result is disastrous for the community since representation for it is effectively non-existent, with some supposed Hindu organisational fronts effectively under the control of the authorities, in the final analysis. The scale of the infiltration of organisations of all communities by government agencies is being daily exposed though only Muslims seem to react with outrage.
In more than 40 years, the community boasts one solitary triumph, which is a claim to have campaigned successfully to ensure vehicular access to a temple in northwest London. But the community’s ignominious irrelevance was resoundingly demonstrated by its inability to oblige the political class and the police prevent the second attack against the Indian High Commission, by an illegal demonstration launched by Pakistani and Khalistani hoodlums, after the first assault barely three weeks earlier. The leaders of the Hindu community subsequently wrote letters, sans grammar and diction, in preposterous make-believe protest to British political leaders who presumably binned them unread. They knew the community was powerless and its instinctively timid leaders would be easily soothed by invitation to tea with a junior minister and the possibility of their names appearing on the New Year’s honours list, with a suitably humiliating imperial decoration! Some of the so-called leaders have also assumed the dishonourable task of damage limitation over the UK’s duplicitous stance recently at the UNSC in NYC over Indian policy in J&K. They have taken to peddling official lies handed to them despite overwhelming evidence of what actually transpired, confirmed by some of India’s most senior officials.
The most graphic illustration of official British disdain for Hindus is the behaviour of a coalition of church and state resorting to blatant lies to foster religious conversion of Hindus to Christianity, which is rampant among Nepali Hindus in Britain. All British political parties have joined hands to enforce judicial intervention to curb alleged caste discrimination in Britain, with barely a shred of sustainable evidence to justify it, the imperative established procedural prerequisite for legislation and judicial intervention on an issue. The only evidence produced to rationalize it pertained almost exclusively to alleged discrimination against Ravidasis by Jat gurdwaras in Britain, but the debate imperceptibly shifted to denouncing casteist Hinduism. The prime mover remains the church and slippery Archbishop Justin Welby’s recent self-serving and hypocritical shenanigans at Jallianwala Bagh merely add insult to injury. Yet the execrable British Hindu leadership falls over itself to engage in ‘interfaith dialogue’ though its Semitic protagonists have never officially accepted the legitimacy of Hinduism, maintaining it is a ‘false religion’, like the missionaries of empire in the 18th century.
The bad faith that has accompanied the excuse for judicial activism on caste has been through crass political manipulation by the authorities and an ignorant lower court setting the case law precedent, by making a grossly partisan ruling, though comprehensive legislation is currently suspended. Quite disgracefully, Britain’s political parties have managed to suborn and mobilise self-appointed Hindu leaders and misuse a fraudulent public consultation to insinuate that Hinduism is mostly about caste racism. The evident upshot is the need for the Hindu dispensation to be curbed by promoting anti-caste legislation worldwide and instigate Western Christian government intervention in India to promote Christian evangelism. The immediate goal is to harass the Indian government at international forums to compel extension of reservation privileges to Christian converts, by arguing it is in breach of equality provisions of international treaties.
The contrast with policy towards Islam and its adherents could not be more glaring. Evidence of the criminality of sections of the Muslim community is replete, with rape of minors over decades by mostly Pakistani-origin men on an industrial scale across the entire country, often with the complicity of local Labour Party officials. The principal organiser of the recent protest against the Indian High Commission, Lord Nazir Ahmed, is also accused himself of sexual assaults now. Nor is there adequate response at the planting of bombs by terrorists, prisons heaving with Muslim inmates at massive cost and medical services drowning, in many parts of the country, owing to birth defects originating in consanguineous procreation. On the contrary, despite legislation, only one prosecution has resulted in over thirty years for widespread abuse of girl children through genital mutilation, the practice of circumcision. Instead, the fearful official response has been to fill television channels with Muslim anchors, in an apparent attempt of officialdom to ingratiate itself with forlorn displays of successful integration.
Most astoundingly, local governments across the country and in the whole of Scotland have now effectively prohibited criticism of Islam, including the accusation that it conquered by the sword or that minorities are oppressed in Muslim-majority countries. These bizarre injunctions on alleged examples of Islamophobia have been imposed with the enthusiastic support of Hindu Labour Party councillors. And national legislation forbidding Islamophobia is being contemplated by a thoroughly Islamised Labour Party though the Tories are also caught up in the cross currents of hysteria over supposed injustice to Muslims. The main victims of such outlandish injunctions, with accompanying sanctions, are Hindus who will no longer be allowed to speak of the historical sufferings of their ancestors during Islamic conquests, India’s partition, the establishment of Bangladesh or even the expulsion of Pandits from Kashmir. Their second-class, subordinate status in Britain is poised for official endorsement.
Dr. Gautam Sen taught international political economy at the London School of Economics and Political Science for over two decades.