How the Hindu mind has shrunk in its capacity for free thought and self-critique – By Ramachandra Guha
….In 1873, the social reformer, Jyotirao Phule, published a searing critique of the caste system. Entitled Gulamgiri, the book was written in Marathi, yet it carried a dedication in English. This expressed the author’s admiration for “the good people of the United States” for their “sublime, disinterested and self-sacrificing devotion” to the abolition of slavery.
Phule hoped that the passion for racial justice expressed by reformers in America would act as a “noble example” for Indians who sought “the emancipation of their Shudra Brethren from the trammels of Brahmin thraldom”.
I was reminded of Phule’s dedication when reading reports of the prime minister’s speech in Parliament, warning Indians against what he damned as “foreign destructive ideology”. The capacious cosmopolitanism of the lonely, struggling reformer on the one side versus the paranoid xenophobia of the most powerful man in India, on the other. Clearly, the Hindu mind was far more open when we were still under colonial rule than at present….