Intellectual Bankruptcy of some Indian Academics abroad
Published in the Times of India
4 August 2013
In 1947 India emerged from centuries of slavery. A civilisation dating back to tens of thousands of years which had mastery over almost every aspect of life that impacted human beings was enslaved and crushed by invading forces. In mathematics, astronomy, medicine, surgery and a host of subjects India led the way. It was to India or Bharat that people came to from all over the world to study. It was the wealth of India that attracted the invading armies and the plunder of this land has no parallel in history. Putting the past behind them the founding fathers of India began to build a nation that would bring prosperity, justice and real freedom to its people. By 1960’s the Indian education system began to produce some of the sharpest academic minds many of whom migrated to the West where they were in great demand.
There are two main groups of academics of Indian origin abroad. There are the scientists, engineers, doctors and founders of the digital revolution. Some examples of thes e brilliant minds are Vinod Dahm creator of the Pentium Chip, 90% of computers run on it and Sabeer Bhatia creator of Hotmail. 12% of scientists in the USA are of Indian origin and so are 36% of NASA scientists. 34% of Microsoft employees are Indian. New York based Simons Foundation has just announced the names of four Indians as winners of top science and math’s awards. In spite of such amazing achievements of these pioneers, hardly anyone knows about them. This is because of the very nature of their vocation which is away from any media attention.
They are the real heroes who have done India proud. The second group of academics is social scientists, economists and writers. These academics have an enviable facility to be in the public eye. They by the very nature of their profession publish books and comment on the political and social scenarios going on at any particular time. To be in the public eye they need to be seen as fierce defenders and protectors of equality and mino rity rights. They need a persona of being radical thinkers and Gurus to whom the media turn to for their wisdom. They need a country to target and prove their moral credentials. India is that country which right from its inception has been at the receiving end of moral outrages.
The Western press has always commented on the innumerable failures of India, indeed many predicted that India would not last long as a nation. There were civil wars going on in many parts of the world and dictators were repressing their subjects but it was only to India that they would look to for another heart rendering story and shake their heads in disgust. It is a role that some Indian origin academics have taken with gusto. Sitting in their comfortable homes in the West they would express their moral outrage at the many failures of India. It is a mystery to me as to why some of these individuals have such a dislike for the country of their birth. After all it was the Indian education system that helped them get where they are. They are unable to acknowledge a single Indian achievement. From starting with nothing India has become a world economic power and a politically stable nation of 1.2 billion people. It is perhaps the most diverse nation in the world with hundreds of languages, religions and adherents of innumerable ideologies.
India is actually a role model for many countries where there is no freedom and no tolerance of any diversity. For academics that have thrived on highlighting India’s failures the rise of India as a world power is deeply unsettling. They cannot come to grips with the fact that their entrenched views are becoming redundant with the passing of time. They are out of their comfort zone when a different India seems to be emerging challenging their stereotypes. They try desperately to convince themselves that nothing good has happened in India. The economic progress of India for them is worthless. They say that until all the poverty disappears India cannot be credited for anything! No acknowledgement that millions of people have come out of poverty and millions more will given India’s dynamic economy.
There is a dark side to India they say. India they say has a higher child mortality rate then Bangladesh. Given the population of India any damning statistics can be produced. They will never say that India has a bigger middle class then the whole population of Europe put together. India being India, it gives a heroes welcome to these academics when they go to India. Indian’s listens patiently to their criticisms and failures of their country. These academics can have their cake and eat it! In their adopted land they get a lot of exposure when they write about some scandal of India and in India they get a heroes welcome and also some national award! Books published by these academics about the failures of India give them a special place amongst the celebrities and the intelligentsia in their adopted land. If you can write a sensational book about a revered Indian leader especially about his private life then you can find yourself in the same league as the top writers of our times! Amratya Sen the Nobel Prize winner recently said that people should not vote for Narendra Modi. He explained his position by saying it is the duty of the majority to ensure the well being of the minorities. The majority in India is Hindu and they have welcomed persecuted minorities from many places over the centuries. The Zoroastrians, Bahai the Jewish people and the Tibetan Buddhists have all found a safe haven in India. Jewish people admire the fact that they have never faced any persecution in India and the Parsi community will tell you that there has never been a single case of any trouble for them, they have practised their religion freely and played a proud and vital role as leaders of many facets of life in India. The very fact that democracy has thrived in India is because freedom of expression and tolerance of different view points is deeply ingrained in the Hindu psyche. Jains have a special word for it called, ‘anekantwad’ meaning that truth can be arrived at from different starting points.
The Hindus of India do not need a lecture on tolerance from Amratya Sen! Lord Meghnad Desai a prominent economist recently said that the Mahabharat war if taken literally was similar to a holocaust and that Gandhiji’s endorsement of the Hindu holy book Bhagvad Gita was questionable as it promoted killing everyone. These views betray a deep rooted dislike of anything that is holy and sacred to Hindus. The Mahabharat is a masterpiece unequalled by any comparable piece produced in the West. It has every human emotion expressed and it is a proof that the people of India had developed a highly sophisticated civilization 5000 years ago. The Mahabharat war took place after every effort to avoid it failed. This was a war between two armies. A holocaust is an ethnic cleansing of a defenseless people.
The Bhagvad Gita is acknowledged as a profound piece of literature in which some of the most troubling questions facing mankind are discussed and the purpose of human life explained. Lord Meghnad Desai decided to ignore these basic facts. Pankaj Mishra is another one of the long list of India and Hindu baiters. Even if the whole world said that India has made great economic progress in Pankaj Mishra’s eyes there is absolutely nothing good in the land of his birth. He sees Hindu fundamentalism everywhere. So biased he is that he gives his profession a bad name.
The same is true of Arundhati Roy. She scoffs at the mention of anything positive about India and listening to her you would be forgiven to think that the Maoist terrorists in the Eastern belt of India are Gandhians! Like Pankaj Mishra, Arundhati Roy only sees Hindu fundamentalism everywhere. It is hard not to believe that they are driven by an agenda. These academics and writers are vehemently averse to any thing which will be considered as positive of the Hindu majority of India. The very word Hindu is anathema to them! In their antipathy towards India they fail in their elementary professional duty of looking at any issue dispassionately before coming to any conclusion.
Having been heavily influenced by ideologies like Marxism and Socialism they have a view of India and its ancient history which is highly negative and biased. Though there is no freedom in China and the repression and cruelty of the Mao era are well documented you will never hear a word of criticism from these academics of the country. Indeed their silence means an appreciation of the Chinese model as opposed to the democratic model of India. Above all they have no appreciation of the difficulties of building a nation the size of India and its immense diversity. Having left India they have played no part in nation building but feel obliged to highlight India’s failures. If they were able to albeit grudgingly acknowledge the immense strides India has taken in becoming a major player in the world their criticisms would have some credibility.
No one is denying the many failures of India and the need to do better. This India baiting by academics of Indian origin is a very peculiar phenomenon. You will not find academics of other countries so resolutely biased against the country of their birth. Some NRI’S have also fallen into this habit of criticising everything Indian. Some have become so obsessed with India that they fail to see some major issues facing them in the country of their adoption. We need a change in the mindset of Indian’s abroad. While there may be many views of how India is being governed the Indian abroad should portray an overall picture of its many achievement inspite of the Himalayan obstacles it faces. As for the academics, writers and Lords who take themselves too seriously they should know that in the grand scheme of things they don’t count to much.
Nitin Mehta MBE