Brown sahib. at Brown University

Sir Varshney, learn to see India and Hindus through a sensible lens, not brown-tinted colonial ones.

We know you work at Brown University, but we are sure that the university does not require you to be your resident Brown Sahib.

It takes a particularly perverted and colonized mind to start a tirade against Hindutva at the precise moment when Hindus and their temples in neighboring Bangladesh are attacked. Hindu workers from Bihar and ethnic Kashmiris are attacked and killed in Jammu and Kashmir.

The last one to do so is Ashutosh Varshney, Sol Goldman Professor of International Studies and Social Sciences at Brown University, Rhode Island, USA, who wrote an article entitled Jim Crow Hindutva in The Indian Express.

If you want to criticize Hindutva, at least you can do so by understanding what it means in the Indian context and not using Uncle Sam’s glasses to preach about it. The least Professor Varshney could do to decolonize his mind was to avoid using US parallels to describe Indian reality.

Jim Crow laws were introduced by the South American states that were on the losing side of the American Civil War that legally ended slavery. The southern states used their white majority voters to pass laws to deny black voters the right to vote and ignored the lynchings of blacks by white vigilante groups. These laws didn’t end until important civil rights laws were passed in the 1960s and black rights movements like Martin Luther King’s shot up like mushrooms.

Varshney uses isolated cases of lynching of Muslims Gaurakshaks and violent acts by other marginalized groups to draw a parallel between Jim Crow and Hindutva. He cites the Citizenship Amendment Act, the possibility of a national civil register (NRC) and the repeal of Article 370 as evidence that the government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Delhi and some states ruled by the BJP are on the way Jim Crow Laws.

One wonders to what extent Jim Crow’s laws that are specific to racial discrimination are even relevant to the examples he cites about India. The two basic fault lines in India are varna-jati, and Hindu-Muslim separate, not race.

Varshney refuses to see that for every Muslim lynched, as many Hindus are killed or attacked Jihad or anti-Hindu groups (example: Kamlesh Tiwari, Ramalingam, lynching of two Sadhus in Palghar and ethnic cleansing of Hindus by J&K etc.). He cannot even begin to understand that in a situation where the arm of the law does not extend beyond a few cities, vigilante groups sometimes take the law into their own hands when they see their cattle or children being traded.

The CAA is supposed to expedite citizenship for Hindus and other persecuted minorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh rather than targeting Muslim citizens of India, but Varshney’s tan glasses overlook this fact. If anything, the CAA has nothing to do with the Jim Crow Act, but has a different US law called it Lautenberg change of the 1990swhich made it possible for Jews from the Soviet Union to settle in the USA. The law has to be renewed every year and has been renewed in recent years to allow other persecuted minorities (including Christians, Baha’i, and Parsees) to settle in the United States. Varshney appears to be talking through his hat by throwing the Jim Crow Red Herring across our path.

Regarding Article 370, Varshney says that it is a matter of denying the Kashmiri majority of Muslims their rights, when in effect this is to extend the entire “liberal” Indian constitution to J&K. Does Varshney believe that more liberalism (including restoring the rights of Dalits and women) is wrong when it comes to J&K? The state that saw the brutal ethnic cleansing of the Hindus and continues to experience the same kind of violence against non-Muslim minorities today is portrayed by Varshney as a victim of Hindutva, even if the Indian state has to contend with terrorism and targeted violence. One wonders if Varshney would prefer to ethnically cleanse or kill all non-Muslims in J&K as an alternative to rule in Delhi.

As for the NRC, the BJP government has distanced itself from it, but which country will give up the right to determine who its citizens are so that they can be distinguished from illegal and undocumented refugees? But, of course, it suits Varshney to disguise that fact.

Varshney believes that the BJP’s laws concern discrimination against Muslims, but he does not stop examining the reality: he has never cited such a law that discriminates against Muslims, while several can be cited that apply only to Hindus ( uniform civil code) or discriminate against them (state control of temples, no freedom to run academic and social institutions, special minority ministries and commissions). Hindus do not receive minority benefits, even in states where they are a minority (Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Nagaland, Mizoram, etc.).

There are more Jim Crow laws restricting Hindu rights than there are Muslims. Yet Varshney believes BJP-ruled India is headed for a Jim Crow situation based only on what he believes Muslims are exposed to.

Wake up, Sir Varshney. And learn to see India and Hindus through a sensible lens, not brown-tinted colonial ones. We know you work at Brown University, but we are sure that the university does not require you to be your resident Brown Sahib.

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