South Asia - The End of India by Khushwant Singh


India: Becoming poignant, pertinent, pragmatic
The End of India by Khushwant Singh Reviewed by Piyush Mathur "The young are given to analysis ... The elderly tell stories." - Ashis Nandy from Time Warps (2002). When a nationally respected octogenarian bursts out publicly in agony and rage at the state of his nation, it is more than just "a scene" - particularly when that octogenarian is, at the same time, reputed for his zest, wit, forthrightness, raunchy humor, journalistic objectivity, erudition, monetary riches, diplomatic savoir-faire and standing in both majority and minority communities. When such is the case, then his scream can be ignored only at the severe peril of the entire nation. Dedicated to "all those who love India", The End of India - a groaning response by Khushwant Singh, born in 1915, to religion-inspired political coercion and civic lawlessness in that nation - cannot be ignored. However, insofar as this 163-page pocketbook defies strict, generic definition, as much as the mainstream political rhetoric of contemporary India, it recuses itself from conventional parameters of review - thus asking for a patient, discerning read. Just to give a much-needed hint of where one stands with respect to our octogenarian author, Singh, 89, is 32 years older than the nation-states of India and Pakistan, and 56 years older than Bangladesh. For the past several generations of South Asians he has been a rather reliable, tasteful and humane emissary from the bygone era of British colonialism and subcontinental unity. He also is one of those few vibrant, old minds that can write authoritatively about the pedigrees of the rich and/or the powerful and tell personal anecdotes from the early years of India's independence from British rule and its partition from Pakistan. Having been born and partially educated in an area that has since become part of Pakistan, Singh is as much of an insider for the Pakistanis as he is for the Indians; and having lived on the cusp of ethnic and religious territories as an agnostic member of the Sikh minority community within India, he has also typically enjoyed a broad and appreciative audience. The playful personality of the man has exerted itself in all his projects, including television appearances, media interviews, high-profile journalistic and political interventions, and writings. Singh has also connected exceedingly well to South Asia's youth through his advice and other syndicated columns in major Indian newspapers and websites, through borderline-pornographic fiction and his artful gossip about the high and mighty of the subcontinent and the rest of the world. In fact, I feel obligated to credit Singh with pioneering gossip as a proper literary and journalistic genre within the world of English: Singhian Gossip is an original cocktail of rambunctious tittle-tattles about the author's experiences with diplomats, politicians, powerful bureaucrats, celebrities and other elite - even those belonging to the hoary days of yore and long dead. It is out of that colorful ethos that The End of India pops as a shock of sorts to Singh's typical admirer. My survey of previous reviews of the book shows that Singh has also managed to unsettle the Hindu right about as much as India's free-market enthusiasts, straitjacket academics and even Hindu liberals. In a nutshell, Singh has refused to share the so-called "feel good" factor that the Indian ruling elite, urban bourgeoisie and mainstream media have purportedly internalized and promoted to the rest of the nation and the world in the wake of the nation's (saffronized) economic liberalization. The standard academic, on the other hand, seems to have been offended by Singh's undisciplined writing, which not only lacks footnotes, but also is accursed with public relevance. What exactly does the book offer? On the face of it, The End of India provides a fearless, sometimes vulgar, admission and realistic portrayal of the cumulative growth of Hindu extremism in India, especially through the past two decades. I call it an "admission" - before anything else - insofar as Singh does not write like some highbrow, accusatory outsider to the Indian cauldron; he views himself as much a victim as a default social accessory to the declining communal situation in India. "India is going to the dogs," he screams, adding, "and unless a miracle saves us, the country will break up. It will not be Pakistan or any other foreign power that will destroy us; we will commit hara-kiri" (pp 3-4).

more than 5. Throughout the rest of the book. had done little to bring justice to those guilty of the fatal torching in 1984 of more than 3. he deems it impossible to retrieve it in contemporary India.for the New Delhi parliamentary seat in 1989 (p 20). "Ask yourself.. for disallowing Muslims "to flourish" and for fanning the Sikh militancy of the 1980s until it got completely out of hand (p 113). both as a genuine nationalist and a liberal cosmopolitan. takes a swipe at the falsely glorified. utility." he concludes (p 137). does strict adherence to the routine of prayer or telling beads of the rosary make someone a better person? Is it not true that even dacoits pray for the success of their mission before they set out on it. and the Indian army inside the Golden Temple during Operation Blue Star in 1984. and that the worst black marketers and tax evaders are often very devout?" (pp 156-157). for providing a secular foundation for Indian polity (p 6). For example. Gandhi and [Abul Kalam] Azad were wrong. and the subsequent landslide victory of Narendra Modi in the elections will spell doom for our country. Most notably perhaps. His objectivity. of course. Singh attacks V D Savarkar for "propounding the two-nation theory. "if a developing nation like India can afford to expend so much time in pursuits that produce no material benefits? Also ask yourself. Singh blames that error on his disillusionment with the Congress party that. and the history of post-colonial India. Hindus mutilated and sexually tortured a great many Muslims in addition to massacring more than 3. (Many of the guilty were regular members. Singh nevertheless . nationalism. self-righteous and chauvinistic journalist Arun Shourie (who has been disinvestment minister with the National Democratic Alliance dominated by the Bharatiya Janata Party. but he also rallies against simplistic or inaccurate positions taken by sections of liberals and other secularists.000 of them. he asserts that it is "wrong and counterproductive to pretend that communalism is something the Sangh Parivar invented in India". rationality.. Observing that religion retains within it enough irrationality to lend itself to political abuse. as well as Praful Goradia. especially under the leadership of Indira Gandhi.the hawkish leader of the Hindu right and deputy prime minister of India . of giving us "selective information and plain lies" for the sake of their own political gains (p 121). Singh attempts to persuade the Indian reader by invoking patriotism. the Sangh Parivar for making communal stress the order of the day by enforcing Hindutva in all aspects of Indian public life. he goes well beyond auditing the forces of Hindutva to give us a sketch of the evolution of the religious question through the regional history of the state of Punjab. The octogenarian accuses Shourie. and. of the Congress party.) Elsewhere. Singh also attempts to remove popular misconceptions about religions and religious conflicts within India and elsewhere and reports highly relevant facts that have been barely publicized within the Indian information sphere.000 men and women . and even leaders. under the leadership of Rajiv Gandhi. In arguing for secularism. Furthermore. and the 10:1 proportion of Muslim loss of life and property to its Hindu counterparts through most Indian communal conflicts. The latter include the number of innocent Sikhs . The End of India also shows the reader the hollowness of some prominent arguments and concepts that New Age spiritualists. As such." Singh urges at one place. members of the radical Sikh organization Damdami taksal.killed in the crossfire between Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindarawale's men. on one hand. however. No religious community or political constituency is spared criticism in Singh's account. transcendentalists and theocrats have proffered in their favor within the region. is not merely a matter of being even-handed (as the dictum is in much of contemporary journalism).000 Sikhs in Delhi. the subcontinental Independence Movement. and admits to his own past errors and fallibilities. as practiced and advocated by Mahatma Gandhi. Even as Singh concedes the virtue of genuine spirituality. whom Singh credits. Singh attacks theocratic polity. With appreciable success. In the riots. however. One such notable error includes his endorsement of L K Advani . the grandfather of English-language Indian journalism. and the murder of many others in other parts of India. materialism. "Time has shown that as far as secularism is concerned. another powerful journalist and author. but of being truthful. the "Sangh's genius was in creating a monster out of existing prejudices" (p 80). Singh. referring to the Hindus and Muslims as separate nations" (p 46). The riots themselves were in retaliation against the torching of a train allegedly performed by some Muslim miscreants at the railway station in Godhra. on the other. Through all that. honest and self-critical. Perhaps the only prominent figure that comes out unscathed in Singh's account is Jawharlal Nehru.The immediate cause for Singh's despondence is the Gujarat riots of 2002 and the politics that followed them. "The carnage in Gujarat . commonsense and non-violence. the Congress party. often with the support of the state. Instead." Singh warns (p 3). The fire killed scores of politically mobilized Hindus that were going by the train to the controversial religious site of Ayodhya. he attacks hypocrisy and political opportunism. or BJP). for taking "the wind out of the communists' sail by making India a socialist country" and. Nehru was right.

Singh's religion is customized for India and is based on environmental conservation. as such." and he offers it as "the motto for modern India" (p 161). attractive lies. vulnerable to systematic prejudice. Notably. Singh seems to fall victim to his frustration at the situation within India. In accordance. "The instigation [of Hindu religious violence] usually comes from the educated middle class of tradesmen (incidentally. their instruments are lumpen elements and the educatedunemployed and . Insofar as Singh himself is a famously jovial workaholic. he in fact brings to a full circle his prior assertion that in his religion "God has no place" (p 149). perhaps less supportable is his conviction in modernity as the force against theocratic irrationalism. the dispossessed who can be swayed by a dangerous cocktail of passionate rhetoric.and that it's certainly not the only answer. However. but discourages "uncreative pastimes" (p 160). but also to the local idiom of speech (which should not be read too literally) (pp 134-135). So. To that one my response may sound altogether too cliched: Amen! ‘The End of India’ by Kushwant Singh Posted on 17 February 2013 By Jaspreet . Hence. but does it in a way that stops short of contradicting his genuine dismissal of theocratic religion. Fortunately.. In calling "for summary trials of mischief-makers" and their "public flogging". the rise in the rate of literacy in India has been coterminous with the rise in Hindu extremism and the deterioration of the communal situation. In fact. holds little ground (p 54). if not more. In line with the above. Declaring that "good life is the only religion" (p 163). and plain hard cash" (pp 91-92).goes on to argue that it be restricted to the personal domain through strict administrative means. while Singh's expressed preference for a heavy-handed secular state may be excused for now. he ends up proposing a new religion for modern India. modernity may well be equally. and that. There is enough evidence to suggest that literate education could be used as a vast apparatus for the propagation of statist dogma and world views. Singh declares: "Work is worship. the constituency of the BJP) and politicians (except perhaps the communists). and that India is contrarily more vulnerable to prejudice because of its low literacy rates.. Singh's idea that Germany "succumbed to the most irrational sort of prejudice" despite being highly literate. Singh realizes at some level that the tough secular state may not be the answer . non-violence and a strong "work ethic". and as Singh himself concedes elsewhere in the book. but worship is not work. it should come as little surprise that his religion provides "leisure time to recoup one's energy to resume work". for example.

So this so-called Sikh. As well. Though there is a Sikh PM. people of Sikh origins who come from India are surprised to see all these people of Sikh origins practicing Sikhism and Sikhism flourishing in places like Canada where the state does not repress it. So it became very scary to be a Sikh. the bastard hates it. art. In the 80s and 90s. When Sikhs in other places protest against his genocidal MPS and ministers. in their vehicles. he and his government have said it lots of times. killings of Amritdharis. Basically famous Sikhs like Banda Singh Bahadur have their names changed and are described as Hindus. Then all this preaching by people like the RSS started. The immigration minister a few months ago even told them there is nothing wrong with advocating Khalistan if it is done peacefully after they asked him to start deporting Sikhs who are Indian nationals in Canada if they campaign for a separate Sikh state. mainly the Amritdharis. Anyway.The way it kills and maligns those who are not of the majority. to declare Sikhism a part of Hinduism. I for one am a Sikh who would be very happy if China were to conquer India.” The end result is this. Since then.Manmohan the coward and rat. It is just not good for trade but the Indian are just so ***. so much so that the Canadian politicians seem to have gotten sick and tired of it and have said Sikhs have the right to freedom of expression in Canada and can campaign for a separate Sikh state if they wish as long as it is peacefully done in response to India’s demands though they did not want to say anything initially. They don’t just go preach. Well. Sikhs were declared a criminal tribe as soon as the British left. their formula for trying to get rid of Sikhs ranges from genocide and all out murder. many of our religious leaders are puppets of India through fear and greed.If you want to see what happened to Buddhism. He feels Canada can be bullied as India successfully carried out a plane bombing and got it blamed on Sikhs (a plane whose pilots were Sikhs and most of the passengers on it were Sikhs too). Even Maharaja Ranjit Singh is said to be a Hindu by these people. A lot of the Sikhs killed in the name of terrorism dominated certain industries according to Kushwant Singh in his book “The End of India. just check out what has been happening to Sikhism. He also works with and has promoted killers who led mobs that went around burning Sikh temples and killing. maiming. He is a guy who worships penises at Hindu temples but cannot tell France to listen to the UN and let Sikhs wear turbans. or anywhere else. and there is financial suppression too. it seems like some of the ancient Buddhists were glad when invaders came according to Hindus. on public transportation. and raping any Sikhs they could hunt down in their homes. they also commission art showing the Sikh Gurus to be Hindu gods basically and have written all sorts of books to distort Sikh history. had the audacity to throw his weight around against Canada and say Canadian Sikhs are causing problems (though the police in Punjab denied it and so did CSIS). hiding in the Gurdwaras. obnoxious that they never know when to quit. well I don’t wish it well trust me. movies (Bollywood plays a role in the ethnocide and ridicule of Sikhs in a big way). hundreds of thousands of Sikhs were slaughtered. he was appointed. . books. Sikhs refused to sign the Indian constitution due to that. Legally Sikhs do not exist in India but are just Hindus.

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