A response to Devdutt Pattanaik on Hindutva and Hinduism

Hi, and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast. My name is vimoh that’s V I M O H. And that is also the spelling of my Instagram and Twitter handles, which you already probably know, because if you did not, why would you even be listening to this podcast? This podcast is devoted to whatever has been going through my mind as a creator and consumer of content online in the last seven days. And in specific, this podcast is going to be a response to something I watched on YouTube only today, earlier today. And it was an interview by Aakash Banerjee, from the YouTube channel, the Deshbhakt with well-known mythologist and writer Devdutt Patnaik. They were talking about many things, but in particular, what caught my interest and what has prompted me to make this podcast episode was the response to the matter of Hindutva versus Hinduism, because he was asked about the dismantling global Hindutva conference.

And Devdutt gave a roundabout answer. And also along with like, he did not only say it in response to Akash Banerjee’s questions. He has also said this on Twitter multiple times. And what he has said is that there is a very clear definition of Hindutva and a very clear definition of Hinduism and the two are different and that the people who say that they are the same thing are wrong and stupid. So this episode is going to be kind of, sort of a response to the things that Devdutt said in the course of this interview. I mean, no disrespect to anyone, neither to Akash Banerjee, nor to Devdutt. My only gripe with the interview was that Akash perhaps did not grill Devdutt as much as he could have, but being a content creator and someone who runs a YouTube channel, I understand his problems also kuchh bhi bolo 36 hazaar gaaliyan padti hai logon se. Maybe he just did not want this interview to become that kind of an interview.

And maybe he just wanted it to be a cookie cutter conversation with someone who’s loved a lot by a lot of people. I, myself read a lot of Devdutt Patnaik’s books. And in the early half of my career, I learned a lot of stuff from him. Also. I love how he simplifies things so that they may become easy to consume by people. The problem is that sometimes he oversimplifies things and dumps things down to such a level that the resulting stupidity is actually dangerous and helps the wrong kind of people. As far as India’s power politics is concerned. So my responses to that are primarily going to be about the things he said that have to do in some way or capacity with the power structure of India. And I’m going to try to point out that the responses that he provides are largely disconnected from the ground realities of India. I mean, philosophically speaking, religiously speaking, he may have a point, but the way those ideas manifest on the ground right now, especially the way they are manifesting on the ground right now leaves a lot to be desired. And the kind of philosophical sophistication that someone like Devdutt Patnaik can get away with though. That’s a luxury for many people and we cannot afford it.

Early in the interview Akash Benerjee asks Devdutt Patnaik what his view of the difference between Hinduism and Hindutva is. And Devdutt responds by saying that Hindutva is political Hinduism and Hinduism is an eternal religion, which leads us to a bunch of questions. Because when you say that a religion is Sonata and or eternal, you are not really saying that, right? Because you, yourself in this interview say something like Hinduism is 3000 years old. Or even if we accept the time spans proposed by proponents of Hindutva about Hinduism, we would have to conclude that Hindutva is something between 3000 to 5,000 to 10,000 to 15,000 to 30,000 to 80,000 years long. Trust me, I’ve heard all of those things from actual Hindutva people. Their their gullibility knows no limits. They are willing to push Hinduism’s history so far back in history that at some point you will end up with a saffron dinosaur, but that’s beside the point.

I’m joking at least a little bit. But my point is, if you are going to say that a religion is eternal or at least very old, you have to understand one very basic thing. And that is that the ancient definition of a religion is not necessarily something that can be applied to the way the religion functions right now, or the way the followers of that religion function right now, or behave right now with respect to contemporary realities. Even if I accept that Hinduism is an ancient religion, and that is how it must be defined. I mean, uh, what Hinduism was thousands of years ago must be the definition we use to define it all the time, regardless of how followers of that religion act today, then you are missing a huge part of the puzzle. An enormously large part of the puzzle. And that is bound to color your views on matters that have to do with that religion or the effect that that religion is having on the world, the real world right now. You could say that Hinduism is not worship of gods or going to temples.

It is about philosophical sophistication. It’s about Sankhya philosophy. It’s about, uh, uh, you know, it’s about a whole host of, uh, divine ideas that were in circulation 3000 years ago. But then you could go out onto the street and ask the average person, what did they mean by Hindu? And they will tell you that it means Ram and temple and that’s it. The problem is that you could define a thing according to its highest possible philosophical sophistication, and you will still not be able to produce a definition that is workable, that I can use in a conversation with a normal human being. Someone like Devdutt whose work whose entire career is based on philosophical sophistication and the ideas that religion provides him with that he can base his work on is bound to live in an entirely different universe from the rest of us. When we go out, when we talk to our parents about religion, it is about bowing to a God, praying, expecting miracles and respecting traditions.

A lot of us don’t even know what those traditions are. So when Devdutt says, when Devdutt is asked what the difference is between Hinduism and Hindutva, and he says that Hinduism is an eternal religion from thousands of years ago and that is how it must be seen all the time. The thing that he’s missing is that the present is different and that it matters more. So a better answer to the question about what is the difference between Hinduism and Hindutva might simply be “look at the behavior of Hindus”. And you might come to the conclusion that the behavior of Hindus is perhaps the only parameter, according to which Hinduism or Hindu can be defined. And nine times out of ten in contemporary India, if you go out and ask someone who calls themselves Hindu, they will not say that there is any difference between a Hindutva and Hinduism.

And this may be despite the fact that there is a difference, perhaps I’m saying there is no meaningful difference for all practical purposes. Hindutva is Hinduism right now. And the burden of making that distinction between Hinduism and Hindutva is upon Hindus. And that task is not helped when someone who’s so well-respected, as Devdutt someone who is considered a an authority on religious matters says things like, uh, anyone who says that Hinduism and Hindutva are the same is stupid. Sure. They may be stupid according to some high fangled philosophical standard, but when they look out of their window and they see the kind of behaviors that are being enabled and encouraged in the name of Hinduism, you, you should think that they might be for thinking that the two are the same things.

Another question that was posed to Devdutt was, uh, about the specific matter of the dismantling global Hindutva conference. And in the response to that Devdutt said that, why should anyone dismantle anything? And this, honestly, it just reeks of privilege because it’s like, there is a village and then there is a monster. And that monster is coming into the village all the time to kill people and eat children. And some people have picked up weapons in order to fight against this monster. And one person who lives in the far corner of the village, where the monster never goes, says something like, why should anyone kill anyone? It’s just a function of privilege that Devdutt and people like Devdutt have as a result of the distance they have from the actual evils committed by people who follow Hindutva. To Devdutt and to people like Devdutt it might seem like there is no merit in dismantling something like Hindutva, but to anyone else who has even the smallest link with reality or the ground reality of India, it, it remains like anyone who is not associated with the Hindu religion associated with Hindutva power structures.

Anyone who’s not benefiting from Hindus being prioritized in India’s public policy. To anyone who’s like that, it is very clear why something like Hindutva might be dangerous and why it might deserve to be dismantled. And it also gives rise to another question, because if Devdutt’s point is that Hinduism and Hindutva are different and that Hindutva is a worse form of Hinduism. Then why does he have a problem with dismantling of Hindutva? After all, he himself said that Hinduism is not Hindutva. Why would he say that Hindutva should not be dismantled or that the dismantling of Hindutva is somehow something objectionable? It seems to me that Devdutt is happy to confuse the matter. He’s happy to confuse the matter between about the difference between Hinduism and Hindutva so that the resulting fog that is created allows him to keep his feet on two boats at the same time.

But again, that’s my subjective view of things. Maybe I’m misreading Devdutt’s intentions. At a later point in the interview, Devdutt is asked why Hindus are so angry. Akash Banerjee points out the rage in modern Hindu society and talks about why that might be. He asks, why do we see so much rage in the average Hindu mind right now? And why is there such a victimhood complex and the minds of Hindus to this? The answer that Devdutt gives appears to be like… this may very well be because Devdutt was not prepared for this question, because the answer seems so flimsy that I don’t think even he would repeat it If the same question was asked to him right now, and I’m giving him the benefit of doubt here. But the answer he gave was that there is a lot of anger in the Hindu mind because people are not nice to Hindus.

And this, for the most part, seems to me, a disproportionate, uh, an answer that has to do with the disproportionate nature of the response. If people are not nice to you, you don’t go into other people’s houses and beat them up. Devdutt has given an example here. He says that in, in global academia, the topic of Hinduism is not taught by Hindus. The topic of Christianity is taught by Christian priests. The topic of Islam is taught by Muslims, but Hinduism is not taught by Hindus. And when he said this, the first thing that came to my mind was that I have heard this before somewhere. Where was it that I have heard this same argument, that Western academia is biased against Hindus because Hindus don’t get to teach Hinduism. And that it’s always some Christian professor or some Western academician who does this job.

Oh, I remember this argument was first presented, at least as far as I’m concerned. I first heard of this argument from a book by Rajiv Malhotra you, in case you don’t know who Rajiv Malhotra is, he is a sort of a writer on Hindu matters. I guess he’s an NRI who lives in America, who writes about this kind of stuff. He has written a book called breaking India and another book called Indra’s net. And I read his books back when I was somewhat more stupid. And, uh, there was also some amount of disagreement between Rajiv Malhotra and Devdutt Patnaik in a very open way. Rajiv Malhotra’s YouTube channel even has a video criticizing Devdutt Patnaik, but Devdutt Patnaik does appear to be making similar arguments as Rajiv Malhotra here. I have heard these same points being made by Rajiv Malhotra and people who follow him. And I myself have like back when I was a right-winger I myself have made such points also my, my response right now would be that it doesn’t matter because it is in no way, something that justifies what handled, what does today? Are we really being told that the reason Hindus are angry is because Western academia is not allowing Hindus to teach Hinduism to Western people? No, this is one example. It may give rise to some kind of discontent and it may have something to do with the way the West treats, uh, India and the east in general, a lot of things in Western academia are seen through the Western lens, and that is a long-term problem, but it is by no way, it is no means a justification for what, for, for the atrocities that are committed in India in the name of Hinduism and Hindutva. It is just not it’s, it’s a very flimsy little thing that was brought up as an example, maybe it was only brought up as an example, and Devdutt wanted to make a larger point, but, uh, he doesn’t make it at this point.

He makes it at a later point and we will get to it when we get to it as a way to sort of justify this, uh, Western academic bias against Hinduism. Devdutt also brings up monotheism. He says that monotheism has, uh, always attacked Hinduism because these are according to them false gods. And he says that this monotheistic bias has also entered Western academia. And therefore they have this bias against Hinduism and the way Hinduism functions, there may be some merit to this argument, but it is in no way. And our response to the question that was asked, because the fact that monotheism attacks pagan traditions is very well known. There are many pagan religions in Europe, in Africa and Australia, which were completely obliterated by monotheism, Christianity and Islam, but that attack needs to be seen in the context of power structures. Christianity, for example, found a Rome as a source of power, and it used that power to overpower other religions, persecute them and make its place in the world.

Christianity has done the same thing to multiple religions. And in all those situations, Christianity was in a position of power. But what happens in India is that a similar thing is done by the religion, which is in a position of power in India. If we live in a country where a monotheistic religion is in a position of power, because most people who live in that country follow that religion. And a lot of political power is also centered in that religion directly or indirectly. For example, if a country is openly a theocracy, then obviously the religion has a lot of power and the religions dictates are part of law. But even in a country like America, where white evangelical Christians hold a lot of power, we have to see the behavior. They display towards their minorities through the lens of the power they hold. A religion like Hinduism, which is a minority religion in America is a majority religion in India. And a lot of talking points that you even hear from Indian Hindu right-wing quarters are straight up stolen from American Right-wing. Like the war on Christmas that, uh, Fox news keeps talking about in India. It becomes a war on Diwali. Every time a local government says iss baar patakhe thode kam phodenge kyunki there is a lot of pollution. Somebody says it’s an attack on Hinduism. So, uh, we, we have to look at this behavior, not as behavior emerging from any particular religion, but as behavior that is emerging from majoritarian biases. In America, that bias happens to be Abrahamic. In India, that bias is most definitely Hindu. Another point Devdutt makes in response to why Western academia is biased against religion or, or Hinduism is that, uh, he says there is a science versus belief dichotomy in Western academia. But honestly that has very little to do with Hindutva versus Hinduism, which is again, as I mentioned, a political and power related issue.

And if there is a belief versus religion bias, then that conflict is also visible in America, in contexts where Hinduism is not present. For example, there’s an entire atheism versus religion conflict in America being undertaken by secular quarters. There are organizations devoted to free thought critical thinking. So to say that belief versus science is which is, I admit a fraught topic to say that belief versus science is something that causes Western academia to be biased against Hinduism is not justified because this bias also shows up in their dealings with Abrahamic religions. If this bias exists, then it is plain to see that it is also affecting Christianity and Islam. So that part of the argument does not really hold very true when Devdutt is asked about why the Hindus are angry. And this is kind of the second part of that point, Devdutt mentions that it is because of lack of Lakshmi, which is money.

I could go about answering this point in multiple ways. But I think the most, uh, the, the place where I would like to start is that this seems to me to be, uh, you know, it’s, it’s just another way of making that tired, old argument about how the reservation should be based on financial status and not caste because when you turn things into money, when you say that the only reason, social inequality, social justice issues, social, angst exists is because people don’t have money. You are literally, de-legitimizing a whole lot of issues that have to do with people being made to feel like they don’t belong in cultural spaces. Like anyone only lives in India knows about people being denied housing because of their caste and religion. Anyone who lives in India knows about people being denied, respect in the workplace because of their caste and indeed positively facing discrimination because of their caste and their cultural identity.

And the number of stories we have heard about how there is caste solidarity in professional circles, whereby people get jobs because of their second name and not because of their qualifications is also quite well-known to say, all these problems will disappear. If everyone just focused on money is, I don’t know. I don’t think Devdutt Patnaik is that stupid. I do really do not think that he’s that stupid. And I don’t think that he was making this argument after having carefully thought about it. I think it may have been something that slipped his mind and he made the, he, he, he went for the low hanging fruit where he said, uh, frequently, we hear this argument that anyone who’s rich will not want to harm other people. And this is also a foundational argument in defense of capitalism. Whereby people say that if everyone has money, they will just do good.

And if everyone has money, they will stop doing bad things. A lot of rich Hindus are full of hate. A lot of rich Hindus go on their Facebook profiles and demand that, uh, you know, people be persecuted and a lot of rich Hindus are unhappy whenever the government does not go as far as they would want it to go in denying people, access. Money has got nothing to do with it. And indeed, if money has something to do with it, it would seem that people who are more well to do are more bigoted than the people who are not because the person who’s not well to do at least has some sense of priority about hunger. The problem that arises out of people having more than enough is that they lose track of what is most important in life. And then because khaali dimaag shaitan ka ghar hota hai their brains come up with bizarre ideas about how to solve society’s problems – unnsab logon ko maar dena chahiye. Inn sab logon ko kuchh nahi dena chahiye.

And that is how we come up with arguments like “if everyone had enough money, every problem would disappear”. The presence or absence of money does not solve the problem that, you know, uh, academic institutions are full of casteism. Uh, offices are full of casteism, public services are full of casteism. Money does not solve these matters. There are, uh, there are Dalit people who are well-to-do and who still face a lot of casteism. No amount of money, no amount of power will get rid of casteism because casteism at the end of the day is an issue that arises straight out of Hinduism. It is scriptural. It has, it has cultural sanction. It is taught to children in their homes.

At one point Devdutt says that the reason Hinduism is amazing is that it adapts it’s it’s. It has always adapted. According to the times, it has always managed to change itself in response to the pressures of the ages that people found themselves in.

And my biggest problem with is that, SO WHAT! Everything changes in response in response to time, you think other religions have not changed in response to time, Christianity has 10,000 sub sects. Islam has broken up multiple times. new religions come up every couple of years. time causes human beings to change their behavior. To claim that Hinduism adapts is not a claim that Hinduism has a special power that nobody else has. That’s a human thing. People change, countries change, political systems change, economics changes. Time has a way of making, forcing people and organizations to adapt. Hinduism has adapted because it had to just like everything else. It’s not a special super power that only Hinduism has. And also the other problem with this argument is that only two questions ago Devdutt was saying that Hinduism is a 3000 year old religion and it must be defined as such.

So it seems to me that Devdutt wants to claim … Wants to keep his feet on both boats. He wants to be able to say that Hinduism is an ancient religion, and that is how it must be defined. But he also wants to say that Hinduism is an adaptive religion. And therefore the definitions, according to which we define Hinduism must be based on the adaptations that Hinduism has had, which is, it seems a little dishonest to me. I’m not saying he was deliberately dishonest. Maybe he did not think about it enough. Maybe he could have done with a little more introspection on this matter because he is happy to claim both modernity and eternity.

Devdutt also says that respect is, uh, some kind of, he says that respect is some kind of a defining characteristic of Hinduism as in Hinduism is based on respect. I am sure everyone who has ever been disrespected because of Hinduism and the caste system, that it is based on demands it, will be very happy to hear this. Everyone who has ever had to face casteism caste-based discrimination, everyone who has ever been called a casteist, slur, everyone who has ever said, uh, who has ever been told that they don’t belong in India because their religion is not Hindu. I’m sure they will all, uh, you know, they will all attest to the fact that Hinduism’s defining characteristic is respect. And by the way, that argument can be made by the followers of any religion, any religion can claim that my religion is based on respect, if for nothing else, then the God that that religion follows, or the holy book of that religion or the principles that, that holy book contains.

It’s not a unique thing for a religion to be based on the respect. And indeed part of the problem with religion is that it values respect too much to the point where people and institutions, which should not be respected and should in fact, be ridiculed are not ridiculed enough. In modern times, followers of more than one religion are S you know, scampering to prove that their religion is a scientific or feminist or believe, uh, believes in equality. But these are just, these are just products of the time. In another time. These same religions could have done just fine without claiming to be, uh, you know, based on the respect, these religions, once upon a time, like right now, someone like Devdutt is having to justify Hinduism as by saying that it is a religion based on respect. But I have heard the same argument from Islam and Christianity or people who believe in Islam and Christianity, more like the fact that religions claim to believe in equality, feminism and science in the present day is not something that is mind blowing.

It is only normal, and it is done to hide the truth to that discrimination like casteism and Hinduism is an integral part of the religion in question and not a minor side hustle that some people engaged in, like everything was fine and dandy. And then there’s some people said, okay, let us start doing untouchability. And that is the only thing that needs to be taken out. We have entire epics, we have religious epics, where the heroes, uh, all belong to upper castes. In fact, all the major characters belong to upper castes. And there are stories which have to do with people who do not belong to those castes, which we never hear because our religion is defined by the heroism of characters from certain classes and, uh, castes. So talking about Hinduism, talking about Hindutva in the year 2021, without coming to terms with the fact that our religions have a very distinct flavor, is if not dishonest, at least ignorant and such ignorance is not expected from someone like that who is respected as an authority on these matters.

The other solution, in addition to control your mind and get rid of your anger, the other solution that Devdutt suggests to social problems after, uh, Aakash asked him, how can we solve things Devdutt says something completely inane, which is which is time, solves everything.

And the problem with this is that of course, time solves everything. Given time, time will solve the universe itself, but that is not an answer to the question about how can we solve something it’s. So it’s an, it’s an excuse to keep our eyes closed. It’s an excuse to say that everything will happen in due course of time. Why do I have to do anything? Why should I fight? Why should I stand up for justice? In time, everything will happen. It is true that when you give something enough time, it will happen, but it won’t happen on its own. You still have to do something. You still have to put some amount of effort into the thing that you want to happen. Saying that time will fix everything is an excuse essentially, to not do anything. It is a license to apathy and inaction. It is permission by the way, it is also permission to be “apolitical”.

“I’m not political, all those things, these political things are so political that it, it politicalized things. And it, it makes everything political. And I think that if we just focus on our own work, everything will be all right.” You have heard all these things from people who are not very much unlike what they’ve done is at least in this interview, time will fix everything. Let us not do anything, is not advised that someone whose life is in danger because of bad policies can, uh, it’s not advice that they can take seriously, because if they allowed time to do everything before, a lot of time has passed, they will find themselves without their property. And maybe even without their life.

Akash Banerjee asks Devdutt after this, that if he were to go to the Dismantling Global Hindutva conference, what would he say there? And in the response to this Devdutt gives a completely unrelated answer. He says that he would go to this conference, which is called dismantling global Hindutva. And he will say, let us have a conference on dismantling global monotheism. Now I should add a mention at this point that I’m an atheist and I have absolutely no problem with a dismantling global monotheism, but again, why would he raise this point at a conference, which has nothing to do with it? It’s a bit of, whataboutery, if you ask me, honestly, there is a conference that is happening about topic A, you are asked, what would you say about topic A, if you go to this conference, which is about topic A and you answered by saying, I would ask for a conference about topic number B.

It does not like I, in what universe does this make any kind of sense? Devdutt seems to imply that conversations such as the one that he just mentioned don’t happen in the west where, uh, people apparently don’t talk about dismantling religion, but the entire new atheist movement in America powered by Richard Dawkins and the like is essentially about dismantling monotheism. They do talk about it. There are conferences that are events that are organizations like freedom from religion foundation, which are engaged exclusively in this, uh, in this pursuit. They, that seems to imply that there’s conversation about monotheism does not happen in the west. And apparently the west is occupied preoccupied solely with destroying Indian religion. And that is kind of false. Not only because as I just pointed out, there are organizations and initiatives focused on countering the influence of monotheism in Western society. But even if we accept that monotheism has been a destructive influence on many indigenous ways of life, it is again, a function of power. Monotheism in the west has swallowed many indigenous religions, including the Wiccan religion, and many European pagan religions. But the same can be said of Hinduism in India. There are, there are, there are, uh, Hindutva bodies, which are actively engaged in the process of subverting tribal religions. There are many tribal, there are many tribal practices which have disappeared after being assimilated into Hinduism. Uh, there are Buddhists who say that their traditions were assimilated into Hinduism when it was claimed by Brahmins, that Buddha is an avatar of Vishnu. As a Hindu, that is what I grew up hearing. That Buddha is an avatar of Vishnu. It was only after I became an adult that I heard for the first time that people that Buddhists are not actually very happy with this. They want Buddha to remain the Buddha.

They don’t want him to become just another God in the Hindu Pantheon. So as far as the question is about a certain powerful worldview, being dangerous to world views, which are less powerful than it. I completely agreed. Monotheism has done this. Monotheism does do this. Monotheism has significant opposition in the west from secular organizations and atheistic organizations in India. We have similar opposition to Hindu when these same people organize a conference called dismantling global Hindutva in the west. They’ve that we’ll go there and remind them that they should focus on monotheism, a thing that they already focus on. And the thing that has nothing to do with the thing that we are talking about here, it seems to me that he is diverting the attention of his listeners, at least a little bit on this matter. I don’t want to imply that he’s doing it deliberately, but he is most definitely doing it.

That part is not in question. It’s very clear that he is doing it. Oh, and by the way, in India, if you want to find out what Hinduism and our dominant Hindutva power structures have done to tribal religions, you don’t even have to look at the past, which is thousands of years back. You can look around right now and look at what the powerful lobbies, which are a combination of Hindutva politics, the 1% capitalists and other similar groups. You have to only look at what they’re doing right now to tribal spaces. Laws are being made to deny tribal people, access to their own lands. Laws are being made to evict them from places where they have lived for generations. Hinduism came around, uh, uh, laws are being made to, uh, assimilate their religious practices into so-called mainstream handled. Well only a couple of days ago I read news reports about how there are Hindu organizations, which are undertaking the task of telling tribals that they are basically Hindu, quote, unquote, “basically Hindu”. If that is not the kind of assimilation, which monotheism effected against the pagan religions of Europe, then what is it surely that understands that this kind of religious assimilation happens everywhere. This is the way of large religions. Hinduism is definitely closer to paganism than Abrahamic faiths are, but that does nothing to change the power that it occupies in the context that is India. And we cannot afford to close our eyes to it, whether or not that is deliberately closing his eyes to it, I cannot say, but there is definitely some closing of eyes happening here.

A curious point that I also noticed was about, uh, how they’ve that keeps saying that, uh, Brahmin is not a caste. He, he, in the earlier part of the interview, at some point, he said, when he was making the point, that Hinduism is basically about respect. He was saying that when we say respect, we talk about respect to knowledge and he kind of fumbled a bit. And he said that it was about respect to Brahmins, but at a later point in the same interview, he said that when he says that, uh, uh, he says Brahmin, he does not mean a single caste. He means “someone who thinks”, and that’s his exact phrase, by the way, quote, unquote, a Brahmin is quote unquote, “someone who thinks” now there are many problems with it, obviously, but not the least of which is that I know plenty of Brahmins who don’t think at all, but let us go to the deeper issue here, which is that it’s a little sad. If they said this is a, this is an old, this is an old talking point used by Savarna people. And it, it is basically the, uh, kind of, uh, de-linking of the word Brahman from its caste context and an attempt to make it common usage as a word for anyone who is smart. Uh, there have been a right-wing writers who have called themselves intellectual kshatriyas that have been right there with the right-wing figures who had called a true Brahmin, because they’re apparently smart. So this de-linking of the word Brahmin from the caste system is dangerous because it legitimizes the caste system itself. Because what it does is that like for a moment, think about what would happen if someone said White, isn’t a race, anyone who is an adventurer and Explorer is white, that doesn’t make much sense, does it? And that’s the, the, the reason I made that comparison is that every privileged category of human beings has a list of nice things that it likes to think about itself.

White people think that their history is not defined by the operation that was committed in the name of racial superiority. They like to think that being white as something to do with being colonizers, being exploders being, uh, being on the frontier, being adventurous, basically you look at a lot of Hollywood movies even right now. And the trope of the white Explorer has not gone out of fashion. Indiana Jones is an example by the way. But the point is that every privileged category of people have a bunch of nice things that they think about themselves. And later on, when it is pointed out that your history is not just those nice things, it is a bunch of other things also. And by the way, those nice things are also not very nice things. Ugh, you’re just trying very hard to remember them in a nice way.

So the problem is that when Devdutt says that a Brahman is someone who thinks he’s turning the word Brahman into a dictionary word, meaning smart, and there are very real dangers associated with, you know, associating an Intel associating, a cost identity with some kind of intellectual caliber, because a large part of the cost based discrimination that young people face in academic institutions, universities, colleges, and even in the workplaces has to do with this toxic idea of merit whereby they are told that just because they are from a certain cost, they cannot be meritorious where their access to a reservation and, uh, you know, opportunity is questioned because apparently they are not meritorious and they got it as a result of states Dole. And that is exactly the kind of caste-based behavior that also causes a lot of young people from backward so-called backward castes to commit suicide. So associating the word Brahmin with intelligence is the same kind of dangerous as associating, any kind of casteist slur with lack of merit. In a similar vein Devdutt also says something that is equally cringe-worthy. He says that, uh, India does not have many businessmen who are of high caliber. India needs hundreds of Ambanis, apparently as if one was not enough as if one was not doing enough damage.

The problem with Devdutt largely is that he appears to, he, he wants to, he, it seems like he wants to deny at all costs the role that power structures play in society. He does not want to acknowledge that power structures exist. He does not want to accept that power structures affect the lives of many people, because they don’t have power. And he does not want to accept that people who have money, people who have power, people who have caste and cultural privilege and social capital, he does not want to accept that they have power. This is a complete denial of power in society. He thinks that happiness has to do with money. He thinks that sadness has to do with lack of money. He completely closes his eyes to any other way of looking at society other than what his, apparently his, his mythological education has taught him.

And I think this is dangerous because although, as I said in the beginning, I very much appreciate the ability to simplify concepts and explain to, uh, explain them to people in terms that they will easily be able to understand. I do think that he oversimplifies things. And nowhere is that more evident than in this interview. Sure, if you go through his Twitter timeline, you will find a bunch of things that are equally more authentic, but in this interview you will find a summation of all the stupidities Devdutt Patnaik has ever said on social media. And therefore, again, I would remind everyone that you should go to Akash Banerjee’s YouTube channel, and listen to this part, listen to this interview.

So, yeah, that was kind of what I had to say about Devdutt Patnaik’s interview on the Deshbhakt YouTube channel. Uh, if you are displeased, feel free to let me know as politely as possible, why you are displeased. And if you are in agreement with any of the points that I’ve made, also feel free to message me on social media. My handle on Instagram and Twitter is vimoh, VI MOH. I also have a YouTube channel on which I have started putting out these podcast episodes. If you go to YouTube and search for vimoh, you will find the channel, uh, is just search for VI M O H. And if not on YouTube, then you can find this podcast on Spotify, apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Amazon music, and wherever else you listen to audio content. Thank you very much for listening. I will see you in the next episode.