Section 2.05 Sketchy South Asian History

Figure 2 on the right is an extract of a page on South Asian History from FOIL’s website.  For all the South Asian history and cultural expertise of FOIL’s members, it is indeed surprising that they only cover ‘Indian’ history and leave major gaps in their ‘sketches’.  Prehistoric Era is defined as 5000-1500 BC[1].  It is interesting (and perhaps FOIL is unaware) that when one clicks on the link, it actually takes one to a different website on the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, contain links that actually has certain articles and papers debunking the racist Aryan Invasion Theory, the same theory that FOIL and its members subscribe to.  In the section called Ancient India (1500-711)[2], we only find two write-ups.  The first one is about the Greeks and their expedition to India in search of the Ocean.  The second one is about ‘The First Victory of Caste in South Asia’.  Interestingly, FOIL could not find anything else to write about India in the roughly 800 year time span!  How about the Gupta Empire?  How about the Maurya Empire?  How about Indian trade with Persia, Greece and other parts of the world?  How about the famous Indian institution of Takshashila?  How about achievements of India in sciences, math, ship building, architecture, etc.?  How about the travels of Chinese pilgrims Fa Xian and Xuanzang (Huen Tsang) to India and their documentation of the richness and inclusiveness of Indians? Or, is all this not as important as highlighting the Greek invasion of India?  FOIL’s obsession with caste resurfaces again in the second article.  Even though, there is growing evidence that Caste identity fault lines became invigorated and politicized through the British Censuses of India[3], the only two things that FOIL can find to talk about are a foreign invasion of India and the so called victory of caste.

The Medieval Period (712 – 1564)[4] is completely blank.  It begs the question why?  Could it be co-incidental that 712 AD marks the first Muslim Invasion of ‘South Asia’? Mohammad Bin Qasim invaded India in 712 AD and conquered Sindh which became the province of Omayyad Khilafat. [5]Following his conquest, for the next 800 years, there are a series of Muslim invasions, establishment of the Delhi Sultanate between 1206 and 1526 and culminating with the establishment of the Mughal Dynasty in 1526.  How about the achievements of kingdoms like the Vijaynagara Empire or the Maratha Empires? Or, even the Mughal Dynasty?  Why isn’t FOIL including such important historical points in the history of India?

Continuing on, in the Early Modern Period (1565-1946)[6], one can see a similar pattern – only three articles.  The first one portrays Shivaji and his ‘complexities’.  The second talks about the Revolt of 1857 and the third is a brief history of the Communist Movement in Kerala, citing the works of the General Secretary of the Community Party of India (Marxist) Prakash Karat and showing how the Left ‘liberated’ the oppressed castes from the clutches of upper caste Hindus.  The article is essentially a defense of an argument made by Victor Fic in his book Kerala: Yenan of India, Rise of Communist Power: 1937-1969 (1970).[7]  Fic argues that the communist movement manipulated local castes and religious identities in its road to power in Kerala.[8]  Prashad, in his essay, declares: “to utilize caste for electoral purposes or to hold power is to play with a politics of fission … The Left movement, Menon shows us, neither ignores nor manipulates caste”[9].

KP Joseph, a former Civil Servant and a consultant to the United Nations, the Director of INSIST (Institute of Studies in Social Transformation) as well as author of several books, has extensively Marxism/Communism and their claims of emancipation of the Kerala underclass.  In an interview with Pradeep Krishnan of Haindava Keralam, Joseph highlights the hypocritical of the Communist party in Kerala:

In Kerala, Marxism provided opportunity to the scions of feudal families to extend exploitation and domination of the underclass feeding the latter with visions of Utopia. Instead of seeking emancipation through education, large numbers of youth of the underclass became followers of Marxist upper crust feudal leaders and the (sic) perished in the flames of Calcutta thesis uprisings.  It took fifty years for the Marxist parties in Kerala to put an avarna [i.e. an ‘outcaste’ or ‘untouchable’] in the chair of the Chief Minister (VS Achuthanandan). It is not known how many years will it take for West Bengal to do so.  Feudalism in Kerala would have crumbled without Marxism and feudal scions would have been compelled to work hard for a living but for Marxist politics.  Leaders like Jyoti Basu to EMS to Nayanar to AK Gopalan to Prakash Karat (the Marxist supreme leaders) rose from the upper crust of feudal society. Much of their stories show that they used ideology to ride and cling to power, rather than for emancipation of the oppressed from poverty and backwardness. If the Marxists leaders were indeed , different from the normal run of leaders , they would not have been Chief Minister for life ( like Jyothi Basu ) or assumed chief minister ship again and yet again (like EMS and Nayanar ).  In 1957, EMS was working for the party in New Delhi and TV Thomas was the elected leader in the Kerala Assembly. TV Thomas was a capable leader. EMS had therefore, no business to come down to Kerala to take up Chief Minister Ship. Afterwards also, there were occasions to yield chief minister ship to Suseela Gopalan, VS Achuthanandan etc., but the upper caste leaders clung to power.  The record of the leaders proved that the secret agenda of the Marxist leaders was always power and not emancipation as is the case with other political leaders[10]

Finally, the entire section from 1947 when India gained independence is blank.  Can’t there be at least some good historical aspects of India (or ‘South Asia’) that can be included here?

Thus, for the entire 5000 years history, FOIL finds it relevant to highlight a foreign invasion of India, some caste politics and supposed history of it, ‘complexities’ of Shivaji and the communist role in the Malabar region of Kerala along the lines of caste.


[1] “Sketches of South Asian History”, http://www.proxsa.org/history/index.html, accessed June 28, 2011

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Six Provocations”, from the website of the book Breaking India. Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines, (India: Manipal Press Ltd, 2011), available at http://www.breakingindia.com/six-provocations, accessed June 28, 2011

[4] Ibid.[1]

[5] “The Delhi Sultanate (1206-1526)”, http://www.facts-about-india.com/the-delhi-sultanate.php, accessed June 28, 2011

[6] Ibid.[1]

[7] Vijay Prashad, “Caste, Nationalism and Communism in Malabar (1900-1948)”, http://www.proxsa.org/history/malabar.html, accessed June 28, 2011

[8] Prashad, Ibid.

[9] Prashad, Ibid.[7]

[10] Pradeep Krishnan, “The day of Communism/Marxism in India are over”, in an interview with Sri KP Joseph, June 6, 2011, http://www.haindavakeralam.com/HKPage.aspx?PageID=13997&SKIN=B, accessed June 28, 2011

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