Do you know who Gita Ramaswamy is? No? Neither do I. Put that in the past tense: neither did I until I read this vacuous assault on intelligence masquerading as a book review. The sheer imbecility of the “review”—hereafter referred to as asssault—rebels against sensibility so badly that you don’t know where or how to begin deconstructing it. I mean, here’s what she thunders at the very outset of her assault on the scholarly Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines (Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan), which has been making waves ever since it was published in February this year:
This doorstopper of a book is really one long polemical pamphlet.
Yes. That’s the very first sentence. Nothing, not one word about the overwhelming facts and evidence that backs this monumental work. Oh and I haven’t read the book yet but when I see the kind of research that’s gone into it, mere commonsense tells me that it can be anything but a polemical pamphlet. Also, when first rate scholars like Dr. N.S. Rajaram and brilliant minds like this fine gentleman take pains to pen lengthy reviews (yes, a real review), I’m reminded of these lines from McFlecknoe after reading Gita Ramaswamy’s tripe:
Shadwell alone my perfect image bears,
Mature in dullness from his tender years.
Shadwell alone, of all my Sons, is he
Who stands confirm’d in full stupidity.
The rest to some faint meaning make pretence,
But Shadwell never deviates into sense.
Some Beams of Wit on other souls may fall,
Strike through and make a lucid interval;
But Shadwell’s genuine night admits no ray.
Actually, wait, I was wrong. It looks like even Gita “AK-47” Ramaswamy hasn’t really read the book because her review is based on the weight of the book. I’m not kidding because nothing else explains the “doorstopper” adjective. See what happens if you have that kind of a stage-setting. You “get into the skin of the characters” and begin reading their minds. Example:
The authors’ intention is historiographical confrontation with Bible-thumpers in Tamil Nadu, but what they lack is expertise in handling historical data and a professional approach.
Really? Let’s see what the authors themselves say what the book is about:
The book reveals how outdated racial theories continue to provide academic frameworks and fuel the rhetoric that can trigger civil wars and genocides in developing countries. The Dravidian movement’s 200-year history has such origins…. Its goal is to spark an honest debate on the extent to which human rights and other “empowerment” projects are cover-ups for these nefarious activities.
Where in these lines is even an iota of hint of a grand “historiographical confrontation?” Oh and for someone who pompously declares that “the authors’ lack [of] expertise in handling historical data,” Gita “AK-47”" Ramaswamy fails to provide exactly one example of what that expertise is. Does it have a name? Some definition? Is it a male? Ditto for her smugness on “professional approach.”
Bereft of any such concerns, she extracts the next miserable rabbit from her hat—or is that the next bullet from her AK-47?
Rajiv Malhotra, who appears to be the main architect of this book, belongs to the diaspora. The difference between the world-view of the diasporic Indian and the Indian of the homeland is vast.
And this bullet has a name: Personal Attack and it’s a classic that’s fallen out of fashion in recent times. To Gita “Assault” Ramaswamy Inc, “diaspora” is a euphemism for “bloody NRIs.” Let’s not get ahead of ourselves and hear Her Puffiness enlighten us about what that vast difference is:
The middle-class diaspora of Indian professionals in the States is probably the richest community of US migrants, yet they have been unable to attain either first-class citizen status or get political leverage. They know first hand the fragility of an existence which experiences exclusion in various domains of social living.
Aha! I bet you kinda expected this was coming, right? If anything, majority of the of the US citizenry (read: White Americans) actually have immense respect for Indians. Article after article, and study after study have found that Americans attribute the success of Indian migrants to strong family ties, conservatism, deep-rooted cultural values and education. Besides, Gita Ramaswamy has to define what “first-class citizen status” is. Because she’s lying. No less than 38 Indian-Americans hold important political positions in the US. The Dean of Harvard Business School and the President of University of Houston are people of Indian origin. Places like NASA have an inordinate number of Indian-Americans. The number of businessmen who migrated to the US and became millionaires is staggering. These are all hard facts as true as the fact that Gita “AK-47” Ramaswamy is smoking gunpowder.
Have you counted the number of tricks already? Three so far:
- Insinuation: that the authors lack expertise and have an unprofessional approach.
- Personal attack: Rajiv Malhotra is an NRI and therefore his worldview is incorrect and therefore the book is bad.
- False Claims: that Indian-Americans are marginalized and lack political leverage.
The fourth is actually an awesome piece of awful reasoning:
[Indian-Americans’] minority status and marginality in the US provides the ground for Yankee Hindutva.
You know what? Let me take back all the harsh words I’ve said so far about Gita “Assault” Ramaswamy. She’s done the students of Logic a favour. This article needs to be framed and made compulsory reading for anybody who wants exercises in spotting Logical Fallacies. You name the Fallacy, this article has it. I kid you not. So according to Gita “Assault” Ramaswamy: Indian-Americans are rich but marginalized. But she fails to mention which sub-groups/castes/communities of Indian-Americans are rich but marginalized. We have a Bobby Jindal (a convert), a John Abraham, a Thomas Abraham, a Saqib Ali, and a Sam Arora. Going by Gita “Assault” Ramaswamy’s variant of Aristotelian logic, these guys should profess and/or practice “Yankee Hindutva” (sic) since they meet the “rich but marginalized” yardstick. And what the fuck is Yankee Hindutva?
She obviously doesn’t disappoint us—again—by not defining it. But that doesn’t prevent her from using it as if it’s Revealed Truth:
The authors see three major civilisations competing for global dominance today—the West (especially the US), China and Islam. All three have diabolical designs of splitting India, according to them, and they focus on Western efforts to break India. The problem we have is not in the study of Western intervention, though, curiously, Yankee Hindutva attempts to usurp the language of anti-imperialism. Often enough, the reader does a double take—is s/he reading Prakash Karat or Rajiv Malhotra?
I hereby offer a generous reward for anybody who manages to successfully decipher this code language.
And then it gets even more interesting. Actually this forms the “core” assault from the Gita “AK-47” Ramaswamy. Let’s begin with this juicy bit.
The problem is in analysing Dravidian and Dalit faultlines. They don’t get wished away by denial. One would expect the authors to analyse these faultlines, acknowledge the limited validity of conversions and identity politics, and discuss their limitations.
It’s natural for Gita “Gunpowder” Ramaswamy to say this because we’ve seen what she’s smoking. The problem doesn’t lie in said Dravidian and Dalit faultlines. The problem is the terminology, the erroneous definitions, and the dangerous nonsense that followed (and continues till date) as a consequence. The root of the so-called “Dravidian movement” lies in the discredited Aryan Fantasy Tale. The faultlines were created by a motivated colonial administration, which used the Missionary Vultures among others, to retain its grip on India. As Dr. Rajaram shows, the original DMK was “the handiwork of Christian missionaries.” The same motivation also led to the creation of what’s called the Dalit Faultline. An enlightening read is Arun Shourie’s Falling Over Backwards, which documents how the British manipulated the every Census and created newer castes and sub-castes with just this goal: to pit Indians against themselves in order to preempt and/or break any nationalistic feeling that might arise. This doesn’t mean there was no Dalit oppression. Indeed, the Constitution and laws still do contain provisions for uplifting them. But then it was flawed not merely because Nehru became the evil Empire’s worthy successor. Over the decades, attempts on the part of governments—both at the states and the center—to uplift these unfortunate people were frustrated by these selfsame Missionary Vultures who preyed on them at a pace far faster than the government’s efforts to reach out to them. If you want to know how dangerous that has proven to be, witness the events in recent times when the Christian (read: Evangelical/Missionary) lobby wields frightening amounts of power. Movie bans are sought. Murders of Hindu saints are covered up. A sitting Chief Minister is denied visa. Prominent people in this lobby, once Dalits, have now turned against their own countrymen. It’s true their ancestors (even they) were ill-treated but the way forward is reconciliation, not revenge. What’s cleverly obfuscated is the fact that the so-called upper-castes were the ones who spearheaded various reform movements during the Freedom Struggle period for uplifting the Dalits. But then centuries of backwardness takes at least decades to eradicate. Which not one government since 1947 pursued with seriousness it merited. The Missionary Predators filled this gap through various means: spurious spiritual teaching, allurement, fraud, coercion, violence, and social service, which was anything but selfless. Where they could get away with it, they fed these poor souls with "take your revenge on the evil upper castes” poison.
This is the faultline, Gita “Rabid” Ramaswamy, is in denial about. This is but a small sample of the “limited validity of conversions.” As for identity politics, it’s the fancy new term for “secularism,” which says it’s ok to murder someone belonging to the majority community simply because the murderer belongs to this or that minority group.
But nothing stops the discharge of an AK-47. So she continues:
Instead, [the authors of the book] are in denial throughout and consequently fall into outrageous positions. According to them, Maoists in Dantewada get vital information from the Chinese (from their espionage on India’s defence networks and embassy communications), famed Bharatanatyam dancer Leela Samson is an evangelist, former CEC Seshan is quoted to prove that Annadurai was a pawn of the CIA. Malhotra bemoans that China’s government controls academic studies there while India’s government does not, he wonders if India has too much democracy, he is angry that there are studies on how Raja Rao is prejudiced against his Muslim characters, or how there are very few Muslim characters in Tagore’s works (now isn’t that interesting?), and he speaks extensively of the Maoist-Chinese venture in the Red Corridor from Chhattisgarh to Nepal.
Gita “Assault” Ramaswamy proudly rushes in where even fools fear to tread. Ignorance in her case is evidently a virtue—Outlook—has published her so I guess that kinda says a few things about the magazine. It’s superfluous to provide evidence about the Maoist-China link but a simple search reveals interesting things about Leela Samson. What’s more amazing is how Gita “Assault” Ramaswamy hurls these accusations at the authors without mentioning even once that evidence has been provided to back their assertions.
And after that’s done, she moves on to her next trick:
More than half the book deals with a father-and-daughter duo, Devianayagam and Devakala; have you heard of them? They are Tamil evangelists, and while I hold no brief for either of them, I find it hard to believe, as Malhotra does, that they are Enemies Number One and Two in India.
No Gita “AK-47” Ramaswamy, I haven’t heard of them. But then, neither have I heard of you. And after whatever little I’ve discovered, I have a very uncomfortable feeling about you. But did it ever occur to you that if Rajiv and Aravind have devoted that many pages to this duo, maybe, you know just maybe, they are pretty dangerous. Commonsense no, Gita? I mean you’ve read the book—or have you just weighed it?—and I don’t think the authors will make such serious charges if there wasn’t enough supporting data.
What follows is even more hilarious:
….the largest numbers of Bible-thumpers are in Andhra Pradesh, which also records the largest volume of Christian funding from abroad and the largest number of ngos. But strangely the authors have no explanation why this should be so, despite Andhra Pradesh not being noted for Dravidian rhetoric as Tamil Nadu is.
If someone close to you is suffering from constipation, please ask him/her to read this bit. Gita “Bullshit” Ramaswamy, ever heard of a guy called Y.S. Rajashekhara Reddy? And what the fuck does Dravidian rhetoric—by your own twisted logic—have to do with Christian funding? What is the core ideology of the Dravidian movement? Have you even read the book, Gita “Weight-lifter” Ramaswamy?
And then we get to the precise point that really prompted me to write this blog post:
Should we be embarrassed when Dalits take their issues to international fora? Maybe it sounds distasteful to you and I, but possibly we are not Dalits. As long as the Indian state and society oppresses Muslims, Northeasterners, Kashmiris and Dalits, it is natural for them to garner what support they can.
Nothing, I repeat, nothing can equal this kind of servility. This woman beats Genocide Suzie hollow with just one paragraph. I suppose India is specially cursed. Not one citizen of Tunisia, Egypt & Libya, sought the help of other countries to solve their internal problems however bad they were.
She follows this up with yet another layer of ignorance that pretty much by now characterizes her:
The Aryan invasion theory occupies considerable place in the book. While Dravidianists insist on the fact of an Aryan invasion (and are supported by studies of scholars such as Romila Thapar), Malhotra disproves them—but uses the same tiresome polemic without the attendant scholarship.
Right. So while the Aryan Fantasy Theory is “supported by the studies scholars such as Romila Thapar,” there is only polemic on the other side. Let’s see what polemics are: research supported by solid data from such diverse fields as linguistics, satellite imaging, archeology, metallurgy and chemistry. Right. This is polemics. And Romila Thapar is a scholar. And they are all honest men. Even worse, Gita “Assault” Ramaswamy says the reader “would certainly have wanted to know about important scholarship in the area.” Thank Heavens the reader is not made of the same degenerate material as her: again, look what a simple search yields. And this is a fraction of what is available just on the Internet.
And suddenly, just like that, she reaches the “conclusion.”
The conclusion is rather surprising, or is it? Malhotra sees the possibility of an alliance with the US. According to Malhotra, the US wants to build up India (containment of Chinese and Islamic threat, as a market, etc.), and it could possibly stop giving aid to India’s Dravidianists and Dalits. The conclusion reveals that the book is really aimed at US policymakers in a bid to promote an alliance between the US state and Yankee Hindutvavadis.
Even an ordinary newspaper-reader can do a trillion times better than this hocus-pocus masquerading as something insightful. Which brings us to examine just where Gita “Gunpowder” Ramaswamy comes from. She’s involved—or used to be involved—with a certain NGO-type thingie called Ashoka. She got their Fellowship—whatever that means—in 1991. This bit from her complete profile is interesting:
Born female in a male-dominated orthodox south Indian Brahman family, Gita turned her disadvantages to advantages from a very early age. She was a top student and, very early, was bothered by the many inequalities in society, and went to work to reduce them and also to attack poverty.
She quickly became active in student organizations focused on these issues and ultimately left the university with a master’s degree to work for social change full time. She went to work at the grassroots level in association with other young colleagues from the far left. She eventually decided that she did not believe in that path and helped to found and build up the Hyderabad Book Trust,
A “lapsed” far Left person in other words. But that’s not all. She’s also written a book entitled INDIA STINKING — Manual Scavengers in Andhra Pradesh and Their Work, which traces the origins of manual scavenging to—surprise—the Narada Samhita and the Vajasaneyi Samhita. And there more. Guess which publications have reviewed her book? The (anti) Hindu, Countercurrents, and Outlook. The Outlook review is by the very dear and erudite Kancha Ilaiah. But there’s still more. Gita “Author” Ramaswamy spent some time with one Mr. Bezwada Wilson in the course of her book research. Guess who wrote the foreword to her book? The foreword though is a minor thing. The important thing is that Mr. Bezwada Wilson coincidentally also happens to be a Ashoka Fellow.
Small wonder then, that she’s written what she’s written. Gita Ramaswamy and her ilk are only happy to allow the present state of things to continue: to put it charitably, to witness the gradual dismemberment of India as a nation and people. Which is why wake-up calls like Breaking India upset them to no end. This sloppy hatchet-job would’ve fetched more money and fame if she’d written it in a Pakistani or Chinese newspaper or magazine.