Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes: The current talk of decolonisation is about an exclusionary political agenda

Source– The post is based on the article “Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes: The current talk of decolonisation is about an exclusionary political agenda” published in the “The Indian Express” on 1st September 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Polity

News– The article explains the decolonisation concept being prompted by the current Indian establishment and issues related to it.

What are some facts about the decolonization project?

It calls for revamping the education system, revising laws, reinterpreting history, reimagining public spaces, rediscovering Indic culture, and even questioning the relevance of the Constitution.

It represents a loosely connected intellectual movement, often discussed in prominent and widely circulated books like J Sai Deepak’s “India that is Bharat”.

This perspective shapes intellectual discussions, particularly in various vernacular languages, with Hindi playing a prominent role.

It increasingly provides the framework for making significant policy changes. It is seen most recently in the debate surrounding the Criminal Law Code.

The decolonization project had two main objectives: to safeguard India’s political self-determination and promote its economic development.

It aimed to establish an international system that would prevent global power imbalances from making India vulnerable in the future.

The core strength of the “decolonial” project lies in its promise to decolonize the mind. It correctly recognizes that colonialism primarily operated through intellectual domination of the colonized population.

The emotional appeal of this argument centers on the language issue. For instance, the act of renaming laws is a symbolic gesture indicating that English should not be the sole language of the future.

What are issues with the decolonisation project?

It is often driven by hidden intellectual and political agendas.

It relies on an oversimplified binary narrative. It pitts the West against the Indic world as two entities locked in confrontation. It disregards the fact that Western modernity can also be seen as a reaction against its own history.

It also overlooks the fact that the evolution of Indian thought is characterized by profound transformations. It enabled Indian thought to challenge conventional beliefs. Indian thought has its own form of modernity.

There is an element of narcissism in this discourse. For example, Ambika Dutt Sharma raises the issue that despite advocating for pluralism, the Indian tradition did not engage more deeply with other intellectual traditions.

Indian society was inherently self-reliant and self-complete. It never required external engagement or definition from an “Other.” This claim is marked by an overwhelming sense of self-assuredness and complacency.

Another issue is the language used to discuss bloodlines and identity in intellectual discourse. Indian intellectual tradition is determined by its origin or lineage.

There is also a political dimension to the current decolonial project. It tends to explain everything through conspiracy theories.

There is a lack of self-awareness regarding why previous calls to “decolonize” and establish “Indian” versions of science, sociology, or political science often resulted in products that were neither truly Indian nor authentic representations of those disciplines.

Islam and Christianity are explicit targets of this decolonial project. It is because the project is explicitly framed as having its own enduring imperial ambitions.

The only condition under which Muslims are deemed acceptable is if they acknowledge the primacy of “Indic”.

There is a discomfort with discussions of social and injustice within the decolonial project.

The decolonial project is highly cautious when it comes to examining Indian history from the perspective of social justice and addressing the forms of oppression that exist within our society.

It might reluctantly admit the significance of addressing caste and gender issues. But, its ultimate objective is to downplay these concerns under the guise of upholding the idea of an inherently “self-complete” tradition.

Its primary drive is to construct a history and intellectual discourse that avoids causing any discomfort, especially among the privileged class.

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