New Epistocracy and Displacement of Science in India

Salman Rushdie

The karma of colonialism is refusing to go away. We are born again into a postcolonial era where the past lives complexly into our present.  Scholars admit that colonialism has produced enduring  subjects and knowledges- the colonizers and the colonized, the occidental and the oriental, the civilized and the primitive, the scientific and the superstitious, the developed and the  under-developed.  Historian Gyan Prakash for instance, tells us that the scholarships in different disciplines  have made us all too aware of complex differences and interactions to binary  self/ other  logic of the colonial power. This subjection to the colonial logic of power is named as colonization of the mind by Ashish Nandy.   The colonizers stamped their authority by constituting the native people as inverse of their image.  This led to the construction of the image of the colonizer in the language and the figure of the native people assuring their supremacy and legitimating their rule.  This is why there is a slice of truth in the Salman Rushdie’s  statement that we are translated people.   These translations produced and maintained colonial power relations like the master/ slave dialectics in Hegel. In a very real way colonization was about knowledge and power.  These knowledge/power relations that were effectively exposed by French thinker Michel Foucault afflict us even today as the colonizer / colonized hierarchies are reproduced and reordered as national/anti-national with the loyalty/betrayal politics of our country. 

The colonial logic of power along with its civilizing mission is continuously mimicked particularly  by the right wing in our society. Colonial representations persist in our country in the language and figure of the colonizers but in inverse relations of power.  This is why may be we have to discern how the desire to become an inverted image of the west and beat it is at work in our post-colonial society. It is mimetic resistance taught by Luce Irigaray. Colonial logic of power still lives with us as its hierarchies, stereotypes and supremacist myths are mimicked and reproduced in our society today. This leads to the alienation of several Indians as hierarchies and stereotypes are reproduced and divide and rule policy is born again.  The colonial right to rule is reconstructed through the new self and the other polarity that is religiously constructed by the right wing Hindutva forces. We can see how these forces   assign spaces to our citizenry based on their perception of loyalty and betrayal. One can clearly notice the continuity of the colonial modes of power in the manner in which the colonial sedition law is slammed on ordinary students of JNU.  The desperate power play in this case is visible in the fact that it took three years for the Delhi police to frame the charge sheet. Some among us have raised eye brows about the timing of the charge sheet as it came just before the national elections scheduled in May 2019. Once again colonial stereotypes and hierarchies are reproduced as we may be forced to debate on who is national and anti-national while the ruling benches successfully hide their failures behind this deflection. 

We can notice that colonial categories are reinvented  to continuously animate the power equations in our society.  This might enable us to see how the old modes of domination still persist and acquire new sustenance. We as a society seem to be operating from the prison house of colonization as the colonizers are replaced by new power elites of our own flesh and blood.  Thus, in a very real way, we are still under the colonial modes of power while the strings of the same are held by those from amongst our own.  Within the struggle for dominance, we may locate the push of pseudo-science as science by the Hindutva forces.  One does not have to be extraordinarily learned to discern how this agenda fits within the larger Hindu supramists world view.    What happened in the recent science Congress in Jalandhar  brought disrepute to our great nation.  While the proponents of aggressive Hindu imperialism may not be able to understand the grave harm that this dismissal of real science and embrace of pseudo-science has done to us in the eyes of the global community, right meaning Indians will certainly understand how it was more than an attack on Science.  There is no doubt that the colonial modes of knowledge production were an intellectual assault on Indian intellectual traditions but unfortunately we seem to have not yet recovered fully from it. 

Sudipta Kaviraj

Historian Sudipta Kaviraj teaches that colonialism ‘triggered  an immense intellectual assault on India which has led the privileged castes to review and reformulate their religion and tradition.  Kiran Kumbar in his recent article, on the wire reminds us that this led to the re-appropriation of Hinduism and its reconciliation with the ideals of the superiority of the west in terms of rationality and science.  Historian Gyan Prakash  teaches that by the end of the 19th century discussions around Hindu religion and society acknowledged the authority of science.  This means science was not thought to be alien to India. Although the recent attacks on Sir Isaac  Newton and  Albert Einstein at the science congress are totally different to this tradition, they are not far removed from the colonial logic of domination.  These absurd views expressed at the said science congress is no surprise as all India council of technical education had already   proposed to introduce a new text book that would teach pseudo-scientific claims of the supposed inventions and discoveries of ancient India sometime in September 2018.  ‘This move will make our engineering graduates unemployable or under-employable than already they are’, says Vasudevan Mukunth in his recent article on the Print.   The new found epsitocracy has displaced knowledge democracy of science. This subjection of science to power and allocation of funds to pursuits of pseudo-science is one more demonstration of logic of power that mimics the modes of dominance employed by the colonizers. This dismissal of science is still based on the hierarchies, standards, stereotypes and myths  that are rooted in epistocracy of the colonizers. We have still need moksa from the reproduction of colonial modes of power in our society. 

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