It is ironic that entrepreneur Jaithirth Rao, in his article in ThePrint titled ‘Marxist Jesuits are not for tribal welfare. India and Indian Catholics both must realise that‘, opens with a reference to what he calls “the tragic circumstances around the recent death of Father Stan Swamy.”
That’s quite an understatement. He makes it sound like a spell of bad weather, unavoidable. The callous custodial murder of Fr Swamy has been roundly condemned both at home and abroad. But Rao evades all this, downplaying it as “tragic circumstances” and moves on to what to him is the “larger picture.”
The article headline seems to imply that “India” and “Indian Catholics” are separate entities, as if Indian Catholics weren’t part of Indian polity.
I would like to convey my thoughts both as an Indian, and as a Catholic in India. I find his conclusion bizarre.
Rao cites no evidence, apart from vague references to having interacted with “sensible” Jesuits (who?) who “directly or indirectly” admit to him “their frustration with the fact that the loudest and most active elements in their order today are Marxists.”
To Rao, anyone who agrees with him seems “sensible”, and those he doesn’t agree with, therefore, aren’t.
To convince the reader that he is sufficiently knowledgeable about the Jesuits, he flaunts his own, his father’s and his siblings’ education in Jesuit institutions, and bandies about terms like the Latin Mass, Gregorian chant, liberation theology, and drops names like de Nobili, de Mello, Gutiérrez, etc., but bending them to suit his own preconceived notions.
To Rao, India’s tribal population is “supposedly” helpless with “imaginary grievances.” It’s an insidious insertion, suggesting that their problems are not what they are made out to be. Again, he doesn’t bother to elaborate why he thinks they are “supposedly” helpless or which of their grievances are “imaginary.” Does he have any grassroots experience of their problems and the injustices against them at all?
Hindu victimhood, unmasked
Rao drops his mask, a Freudian slip, when the Hindu dominant (caste) male that he is, writes that he is worried about the “attack” on the “Hindu dominant male”, that ‘much-victimised’ section of society.
I watched a video of the launch of his book, The Indian Conservative: A History of Right-Wing Indian Thought, in conversation with Gurcharan Das, and his larger paranoia about the “capture” of intellectual institutions both in India and abroad (“since 1968”, apparently) is quite evident. In that video, he dismisses ideas that contradict his as “rubbish” and “nonsense.”
But having watched the video, it helped me better understand where Rao is coming from when he writes that market capitalism “has in fact done the best job with respect to poverty reduction.” There is tons of evidence that it has impoverished millions, not reduced poverty and inequality. I could provide him with a list of recommended reading, but I suspect he will dismiss them all with judgements similar to “nonsense” and “rubbish.”
Rao hints darkly at the current Jesuit propensity for violence and insurgency, but once again provides absolutely no evidence whatsoever. One simply has to take his word for it, no questions asked.
Watching the video also helped me understand why, to Rao, the Indian State and Hindu society are synonymous, as he mentions them in the same breath. He seems unable, or unwilling, to envision a pluralistic inclusive polity that is enshrined in our Constitution.
He speaks in a very condescending tone to Indian Catholics as if we are unable to think for ourselves.
Rao has written an extremely divisive, inflammatory article with no real evidence to back his claim. Having read it, this is what I, an Indian Catholic, realise.
Dr Luis Dias is a physician, musician and writer. He tweets @diasfluis. Views are personal.
(Edited by Prashant Dixit)