Breaking India: Western Interventions In Dravidian And Dalit Faultlines

Book Cover: Breaking India..

Authors  Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelkandan  put light on how the various western bodies like the Church, Researchers and thinkers, Western government groups and organizations brought about a crisp distinction between the blurred identity of the Dravidians and the Dalit communities and also the other parts of the ‘then India’. Half a decade of research and information gathering from multiple reliable sources has finally led to the compilation of ‘Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines’. The researchers followed the trail left behind by the business groups, which are deceiving in nature and faulty in their sole claim of ‘good work’. The book gives a clear perspective of the state of affairs in the varied organizations. Here are excerpts from the book:

“Prior to colonialism, the jati-varna system in India had little, if anything, to do
with race, ethnicity, or genetics. It was better understood as a set of distinctions
based on traditional or inherited social status derived from work roles. Jati is a
highly localized and intricately organized social structure. One of the important
aspects of jati, which was conspicuously overlooked by western Indologists, is
its dynamic nature – allowing social mobility as well as occupational

These rural social structures were more horizontally organized
than vertically stratified. It was this inherent feature of the jati-varna system that
led Gandhi to postulate the model of ‘oceanic circle’ for the ideal Indian village
society, rather than the Western pyramidal model.

Nevertheless, the colonial imposition of the hierarchical view, coupled with
distortions of jati in order to fit it into a racial framework, grossly distorted the
characteristics of jati and greatly amplified its negative features. Max Müller,
who was largely responsible for entrenching the racial framework for studying
jati, had his own evangelical motive. In his view, caste:. . . which has hitherto proved
an impediment to conversion of the Hindus, may in future became one of the most powerful
engines for the conversion not merely of the individuals, but
of whole classes of Indian society.

Max Müller’s interpretation of the Rig Veda claimed that only the first three
varnas are Aryan, while the fourth, shudra, is not Aryan. However, he explicitly
admitted that there was no evidence of physical differences between Aryans and
non-Aryans in Sanskrit texts. He made only one incidental reference to physical
differences – that noses were described differently for different tribes in the Rig
Veda . He based this notion on a single Sanskrit word, anasa (Rig Veda :
V.29.10), that was used infrequently. Müller himself drew no important
conclusions from this casual observation. But his prejudice was passed on
through others who were more eager to do the dirty work openly. One of the
common threads throughout the West’s study of India has been the manner in
which subsequent scholars pick and choose from someone else’s work, often out
of context, and with their own arbitrary assignment of priorities. This is what
happened between Max Müller’s writing and its manipulative use by Risley
years later.

The younger Risley was greatly influenced by the senior and legendary figure of
Max Müller. The development of racist theories between these two men was an
important step in shaping the future identities of people across India. Publicly,
Müller was cautious and wanted to protect his image, so he criticized the use of
linguistics for racial profiling. But indirectly and privately, he encouraged it in
various ways. For instance, Müller gave the following input in a private letter to
Risley, prior to Risley’s census of 1901:

“It may be that in time the classification of skulls,hair, eyes, and skin may be brought into

harmony with the classification of language. We may even go so far as to admit, as a
postulate, that the two must have run parallel, at least in the beginning of all things.”

In the same letter, he encouraged Risley by saying that students of ethnology
have regarded ‘the skull, as the shell of the brain’ to be an indicator of ‘the
spiritual essence’ of the person.

In other words, Max Müller spoke from both
sides of his mouth when it came to racial implications of cultural and linguistic
factors. This ambiguity was often deliberately nuanced in codified terms, which
enabled more blatantly racist men like Risley to proceed further.
Ronald Inden has pointed out that Max Müller’s caution against conflating
language with race was an act of hypocrisy:
“We should not be misled by this into thinking that these scholars were anti-racist. They did not
have to rely on a theory of race as such, for they had their own global theory that was fully
able to inferiorize the languages (and by implication the cultures) of the other purely on
linguistic grounds. Max Müller’s linguistic taxonomy was a Hegelian hierarchy in which . . .
cultural geography [becomes] the same as world history.”

(This book is available at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.