ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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On the Origins of Nationalist Pseudo-Science

There is much more than meets the eye in the “cultural” nationalist propaganda on the imaginary achievements of ancient Hindu science (“The Nationalism of Pseudo-Science”, EPW, 20 December 2014). Apart from the reflected glory that the proponents of such patently fantastic views draw upon themselves by advocating them, it obliquely reveals a profound inferiority complex under which they labour without any awareness of its ideological roots.

Originally, the words “Hindu” and “Muslim” were mere categories of classification convenient from an administrative point of view for colonial authorities. The history of the country during pre-colonial times was also conceived by them under the same rubrics. But from the middle of the 19th century onwards both the hectic and intense commercial and capitalist activities of the East India Company throughout the country and the influence of western ideas of nationhood purveyed through western education and the press fostered the growth of a national consciousness among the natives of the country. But the “imagined community” of the nation thus conceived/constructed was constrained to assume “Hindu” or “Muslim” shape owing to the categories imposed on its subjects by the East India Company. Colonial categorisation and indoctrination shaped their mindset in such a way as to rule out the possibility of a united nation. Following the mutiny (or the war for Indian independence) of 1857, the British colonial rulers did their utmost to drive a wedge between the the two great classes of subjects through propaganda as well as skilful political manoeuvre. As a result, Hindu intellectuals, products of the Western system of education introduced by colonial authorities, and forging ahead of the Muslims who were reluctant to adopt the new system of education introduced by their conquerors, constructed Indian nationhood as essentially Hindu. They conveniently ignored the fact that there were large numbers of native subjects who would not identify themselves as Hindu. The construction took on a religious colouring because of the fact that the term “Hindu” was inseparable from certain ancient religious traditions as categorised by the colonial masters. Hence the idea of an essentially Hindu nation had an ideological origin.

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