What’s common between Trump, Republicans & their friends in India: selective amnesia

Racism in the US and targeting Muslims in India are symptoms of the same malaise. Selective memory that fails to remember slavery and Muslim heroes is forcing the US and India to repeat past mistakes<b></b>

India’ Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump (Twitter)
India’ Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump (Twitter)

Samir Nazareth

Even those without an understanding of psychology will realise that many in India choose to be afflicted by selective amnesia concerning this land’s history. To these amnesiacs, an otherwise glorious history is tainted by the assimilation of Mughals in this land and colonisation. Comorbidities to this amnesia include obsessive compulsive disorder and a schizotypal disorder.

A morbid focus on Muslims is a manifestation of the former while considering them as non-Indians and targeting them in revenge, for a past that neither was present, is a manifestation of the latter as is the erroneous belief that this will set history right.

This disorder had its onset in colonial India. The genius of the disorder was its prescience to suggest a remedy – target Muslims and create a Hindu nation. Over time it mutated into a political philosophy, an identity, and now a government officiated by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In this process, the touted cure has turned into a comorbidity.

America went through a Civil War, Emancipation, Jim Crow laws, Civil Rights movement. The racism that was once overt and protected by law is now institutionalised and socialised to the extent that today Republican politics includes white supremacism. Modern day Republicans and white supremacists are amnesiacs and exhibit symptoms of schizotypal disorder, unable to remember slavery or acknowledge systemic racism that targets Black Americans and other people of colour. They argue that slavery was essential. Similar to India, this lot has a manufactory, churning out conspiracy theories, targeting the free press, using the free speech argument as a weapon and crutch.

This selective memory of history forms the identity of and guides the actions of such people and their ideologies in India and America. There follows the importance given to their refurbishing, institutionalising and preserving history.

Ergo, monuments of historical figures and places named after them become scenes of ideological action.

In India, parochial regionalism whitewashed colonial vestiges through name changes – the city of Bombay was rechristened to Mumbai and so on. Now, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is replacing Muslim names of cities and roads with Hindu ones to make others susceptible to this affliction.

Similarly, schoolbooks are being rewritten. The BJP government in Karnataka has banished Tipu Sultan from school curriculum because he persecuted Hindus on some occasions, forgetting that he died on the battlefield fighting the British East India Company in 1799. They forget records of his endowments to Hindu temples and that Hindus served in key posts in his kingdom. Further, with the idea of burnishing the image of their subpar ideologues, the BJP has had their portraits adorn Parliament while government establishments and schemes carry their name.

From data available in India, other co-morbidities these amnesiacs suffer from are mythomania and the ability to digest these tall-tales easily. In the last 6 years, one has heard about the use of gutter gas in modern India, and the prevalence of plastic surgery and genetic engineering in ancient India, making noise and lighting candles to beat the virus. The nation has unquestioningly lapped this up. Recently, the process that resulted in the foundation laying ceremony of the Ram Janma Bhoomi temple was equated to the Indian Freedom Movement.

Mythomania and gullibility is not something new in the US. The mainstreaming of bigoted and traitorous Southerners and slave owners with statues and institutions named after them is a case in point. It was a sanction for racism to continue. It is another form of segregation because though they are reminders of slavery, racism and hypocrisy for the Blacks, the rest of society accepted and moved on with a whitened narrative of these individuals. Actually, for the African American, the figures and names give face to the normalisation and institutionalisation of racism and unconscious bias that replaced segregationist policies.

By seeing virtues in slave owners and the beauty of the American South, these people are creating, perpetuating and willingly falling victim to a myth which is a basis of their identity. This informs the identity of Republicans, but Trump is a moral dustbin willing to accept anything to protect his presidency.

Other than Islam, the Indian sub-continent has been ruled by dynasties belonging to other religions – Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs. Selective amnesia is a mechanism to cope with the ignominy of being ruled over by other religions. Creating collaterals like claiming these faiths as off-shoots of Hinduism or were birthed in the sub-continent aids the coping process. More importantly, finding a common enemy bolsters the results of the coping mechanism. Thus, beyond their divinity, the early Sikh kings are looked up to because they stood up to the Mughal Empire.

In the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War, the Maratha Empire supported the East India Company against Tipu Sultan. The Maratha dynasty narrative is showcased as exemplars of Hinduism and nationalism, because Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj - the founder of the Maratha Dynasty - stood up to the Mughals.

It is conveniently forgotten that the temple and math of Sringeri Shankacharya was raided by Maratha soldiers under Raghunath Rao Patwardhan during the 1791 Maratha-Mysore war. Muslim kings who fought against the British are not viewed as heroes today. To do so would mean accepting them as Indians and acknowledging their role as protectors of this land. This is the actual cure for their amnesia and other co-morbidities but would leave people without an identity and purpose.

George Santayana said, “Those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeat their mistakes.” However, as history is being cherry picked, memory manufactured and weaponised, both in India and the US, a deliberate choice is being made to make mistakes that are far more egregious than those of the past.

Today, one does not know whether to worry about the consequences of such a decision or about those making them.

(The author is an independent commentator. Views are personal)

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