Hello, Hindutva

By Raymond Ramcharitar
July 4, 2012 – guardian.co.tt

lettersI could be mistaken, but it seems that the Highway Re-Route Movement activists are using their protests as a medium to deploy a Hindu-centric protest language to address the national community, and (presumably) the Government. Since, looking at the visual statements, a new vernacular is making its debut in the national conversation/cussout, it might be important to point out that we’re not really sure what they’re saying.

From the “sit-down” protest at the Divali Nagar site, which featured chanting dulahins accosting the Prime Minister a few weeks ago, to the jacking-up of Jack Warner with shouts of “Ravan” at the Debe highway site, to the “Occupy Sidewalk” at the PM’s office, to images of Hindu gods at the camp, it seems obvious that the vernacular incorporates the visual rhetoric and lexis of Hinduism, and is using the photo ops to announce itself. (A photo of a Muslim woman in costume appeared in last Friday’s papers, but Hindu symbolism dominates.)

This strangeness of this element of the protests might not be immediately evident since the average (low-visual-literacy) viewer will see just a few familiar signifiers of Indo-Trinidad, if with an unfamiliar emotional urgency. But the visual consistency and fluency of the TV images, fused to a political event, signal that this is more than that.

The problem is (to repeat) that many people (like me) don’t understand the language, and I’m wondering what its wielders intend for onlookers to understand. The visual language of public protest we’re familiar with includes the rhetorical and visual tropes of urban/Afro-Trinidad, because they’ve pervaded the “national” media for decades. We know how to interpret the language because it’s been appropriated from US transnational media, movies and pop culture.

So we know what the Beetham-ites are “saying” when they block the highway, and when Nelson Street disadvantaged youth bawl how the “resources moving to central” hence their setting fire and blocking roads and so on. And we also understand the ethnic logic and the political implications—so we know/hope they’ll respond to Shaquille O’Neal.

But there’s no such interpretive fluency in decoding costumed, lotus-posed men and women, at one moment prostrating themselves in prayer while the bulldozers demolish their camp, and at the other moment, cussing and screaming that the PM say she is a mother, but she is really a “mudder,” and the Honourable Minister of Works is a “Ravan.”

But a few things can be inferred. The conventional and emotional logic(s) which generate these protest performances are to be found in Hindu practices, festivals, and public ceremonies (weddings, sat sanghs and festival observances, like Kartic or Divali) which see many people gathered in one place for the purpose.

Naturally, the people at the events would be aware of their worldview’s low value in the national political economy, and have strong feelings about it. When they meet and mingle, their ideas coalesce, and develop a group idiolect, an argot, and eventually a shared political position. (Something similar happened in calypso tents and talk radio from 1996-2001.)

Without understanding the visual and verbal rhetoric of those primary Hindu events, their stories and modes of interpretation, we derive a very limited understanding of the protests. It would be easy to assign a localised tribal interpretation to this, but that doesn’t help much.

One obvious thing is that the tactics and visual grammar deployed here resemble Hindutva—Indian-Hindu nationalism—activism, embodied in Indian organisations like the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) political party, which are associated with right-wing Indian politics. (A report in the NY Times on Nov 29, 2008, by Somini Sengupta, described the BJP as containing “radical” elements, which might have been implicated in the Mumbai bombings of that year.)

What seems also clear is that Hindu-Trini culture “south of the Caroni” is something a little more elaborate and forceful than a “marginal culture,” as PNM hacks posing as academics have proposed. It’s more of a pari passu culture, which was developing rapidly from the 1950s, alongside “Creole” culture, as a result of “south of the Caroni’s” isolation from the national discourse.

The isolated culture has now evolved and acquired enough confidence to make itself aggressively public. And thanks to UWI’s, and the national media’s lack of, uhm, consciousness, there’s no public knowledge of it. That said, whether this is an irruption from a unified movement or an anomalous tessera of the “south of the Caroni” mosaic remains to be seen. We can only say with certainty that it derives much of its visual vocabulary from transnational Indian exports—pop-culture, technology, commerce and religious, political, or quasi-religious proselytising figures who visit Trinidad from time to time.

As to what the protesters are saying, it might be that the UNC elements of the PP are savvy to what’s going on. The rest of us, however, don’t, which is worrying. Even less comforting is that there should be some contact points, or areas of commonality, between this culture and the rest of Trinidad culture, but I can’t see any.

This all says that the reroute movement’s motives, methods, and its apparent distance from the understanding of “north of the Caroni” culture reveal yet another fault line in an already too-fractured society. The level of division and fractiousness do not make one hopeful that the thing Trinidad needs the most will emerge from all this “activism”: a shared set of values and a common language.

The blame for this must go the usual suspects: the UWI, whose cultural studies and social-sciences departments have produced nothing to help anyone understand anything said above; and the managers of state cultural policy, who, as I’ve noted many times before, have handed the authority over “national” culture and the resources of the State to a set of frighteningly unqualified people for their own purposes. And so it goes.


9 thoughts on “Hello, Hindutva”

  1. Religion and the Cultural War!!! Rhetoric and Sign language, to most of the Population present as onlookers don’t even know the play offs!
    This is the Blend of Politics and Religion, the Mohandas Gandhi March of Non-Violence, he operated in a society that contained Millions as the existing Population.
    So was Martin Luther King- the civil rights Leader, he also operated in on vast array of People. But Trini is exceptional with its 1.3 Million.With the Essay of Gandhi and Luther, pressure groups and Religious sector became activists overnight in some localities.
    This is stonewalling of the Pundits!!! laws of Karma and Dharma is turning individuals into sages, suffering for a just cause in the mind’s concept. Sando Hills the Himalayas, and Ganges the Caroni
    Rama ascending to deliver Sita, up against Rawan- Destination :lank ah. Mine you we shall see the inevitable Hanuman to the Rescue.
    When Baboojee was confronted by Dulaha after the prayers,Dulaha conferred his assistance to Baboojee; “Baba, you need help carrying the pisa? ($$),no Baa-tah, was the response, Baba know how to hop Train.”
    The prose would continue with Light Over Darkness- Politicians (Devotees) gone wild!!! Victims- the Untouchables-through Ramayan and Pooja will prevail. If Rama and Sita should Conquer, Rawan can never prevail.
    Another re-shuffle is forecasted, what would diminish, would diminish, pertaining Sita keeps strong in Parliament

  2. Raymond Ramcharitar’s analysis is impressive without being informed and informative.

    It is like designing an expensive, powerful diesel … without an ignition system.

    His disjoint is, however, no personal fault, but in fact, communicates most powerfully (and ironically), the distressing inability of TnT’s diverse ethnocultural communities to communicate with and to each other.

    And do so with courtesy towards each others’ cheek by jowl presences; and based not on mauvais langue, but instead from an informed consideration of each others histories.

    This lack exists in his analysis, despite his observations of the ease with which to interpret the familiar tropes of ‘urban Afro-Trini’ protests, culled, as he blithely concludes, from ‘US Transnational media, movies, and pop culture’.

    There is a debate ‘there’, but here is not that ‘there’.

    By comparison, according to him, interpreting on the other hand, the protestations of what appears to be ‘Hindu’ inspired narratives is more difficult if not impossible to interpret.

    Well, what is not difficult to visualise and sense, is that while the culture of Afro-Trinis, urban–and by interpretation politically atomised and culturally approachable–is an open book, easily interpreted and manipulated by whosoever will; that of Indians is less approachable, more secure and communal.

    In this, he is more correct than he might think he is. There are observations left to be concluded, if understood.

    Among these is the unequivocal impact Black people have had on this hemisphere: culturally, socially and otherwise.

    Moreover, Black peoples in this hemisphere, from Palmares in Brazil, to Gonaieve in Cap Haitien, and to the Tallahatchie in Mississippi, have initiated and borne substantive ‘protests’ against oppression of themselves and of others.

    They have been thus, more than have any other race or people who now inhabit this western hemisphere.

    In fact, Black people have done what even the First Nations in this hemisphere have not done: fired major cities in the most metropolitan of North American countries: America and Canada.

    Despite their heroism and stalwart character, they bring changes enjoyed by late-comer others while being themselves subsequently left outside the doors they have unchained.

    As a Hebrew who knows who he is, and from whence he has come, unlike too many other Afro-Trinis who drift aimlessly without past, present or future through the social cul-de-sacs to which they allow themselves to be confined, I understand, as Walter Whitman once said, that the ‘past is not dead; that in fact, the past is not even past’.

    The alphabet of symbolism seen by Mr. Ramcharitar, and which he has difficulty interpreting, is writ against a backdrop in which one race, Indo-Trinis (a cachement basin description here) have an inherent sense of legitimacy of themselves, their memories, beliefs and culture, while Afro-Trinis do not have a similar sense of legitimacy of themselves in these spheres.

    It is not that Afro-Trinis, like other Black peoples are powerless.

    You cannot be the object of prophecy and not be powerful; one cannot be powerless, and one’s creativity be so set against one’s cultural health and social wealth.

    In fact, it is because others understand–even more than Black people do–the powerful presence we inherently carry why we are universally hated; a hatred born essentially of a free-floating sense of fear and inchoate envy.

    There are historic and as well contemporary reasons why such conditions exist. However, the cornerstone causes are the prophetic reasons which rail against the idolatry against the Most High into which Black peoples have fallen.

    Among these are some prophetic descriptions found in the Torah, Talmud, Midrash, and the Tanakh, for example in Psalm 109, 9-14:

    Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow. Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.

    Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labor. Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favor his fatherless children.

    Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out. Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the LORD; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out.

    While this is the judgement of Yahweh, untilm we return to Him, He also has a curse for those who benefit from oppressing His Chosen.


    1. neverdirty:

      As usual you make a lot of sense. I would like to add to what you say, but I’m swamped …


      1. Ain’t this something , as our Jewish buddy Y,aruba , and his Islamist pal Bob Ali, and, neo shy god ,white heaven friend Trini , are still arguing as to who god is greater , while former immigrant ,Buddhist Chinese, and Spiritual Baptist octogenarian Grenadian Trinis , are getting murdered , left , right , and center, with bullets , and dead rocks to the head.



        In the interim, our leaders ,led by uncle Jack Sprat Warner, and his Canadian COP , are running around the nation , like chicken whose head was chopped off , promising to bring back Flying squad, and reincarnate, Randolph Borroughs maybe, and What ah tragedy, eeeeh? Go figure!

        1. Never knew about Racism! until Neo Historian came upon the Scene. What White Heaven You Talking about? Did you guys study History?
          Secular History? Yep! Babylon, Medo-Persian, Greece and Rome.Never seen anything like this!!! Secular History has drawn me to the Authentic Reality of The Bible.
          Yep! World History -according to Secular world History, when I say secular, I mean nothing Religious!!, but the core of the matter is, Secular History has outlined History Just as it Was.
          Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. When you look at the scriptures in the Book of Daniel Chapter 2 and 7, you cannot be mistaken as to what was predicted about World History.
          This is not about who’s god is greater? But the core of the subject remains to be examined, what do we have as the facts and evidence to this UN-explained Question?
          Readers! If you are being bombbarded? simply go in to History from a Biblical point of View. The King James Version of the scriptures. yes!
          In the Book of Daniel look up Chapter 2: from verses 36-45. The King of Babylon- Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, the meaning was given to the dream-
          The ending up of verse 38 shows that Daniel made known to the King that he was this head of gold. ” Thou art this head of gold” Dan 2:38.
          “And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.
          And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: Dan 2:40.
          Daniel 2:38 later part showed that -Babylon was the head of gold. Chapter 5 of Daniel shows that “thy kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians (Daniel 5:28).
          Daniel Chapter 8:20-21 show that ” The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia. And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king (verse 21).
          Secular world history show that after Babylon, came the Medes and Persians, then the Greeks with Alexander the Great, followed by the Romans.
          Do we have to keep guessing at the outline of World History? No way! Chapter 7 of Daniel speaks about four beasts -coming upon the scene, the Lion:(Babylon) Bear: (Medes and Persia) Leopard: (Greece) and Rome: (The dread and terrible Beast).
          Daniel 7: 3-7. Verse 17 shows that ” These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.”
          This is not about some white god and heaven, this is history and what took place in history- First was Babylon from the times of Daniel, Next was the Medes and Persians ( the times of Cyrus and Darius) then followed Greece with Alexander the Great, after we have the Grecian empire being divided by Alexander’s top military Generals, this era was followed by the Romans coming upon the scene.
          What white god do we see here? What Anti-Bible concept is this? White heaven is being played by others to have you my friend all mixed up as to who and where you are in world history…

        2. The Spate of events will never Stop, Why? Because of Mankind wickedness and Trespassing against Heaven.The same book that outlined world history, has also given the Answer…
          Search and You would See…

  3. Modern day Hebrews Have their roots in Europe not from the Middle east.The Place where the Blood of the Prophets and Holy men were spilled. The Messiah was Crucified, the only thing holy about this Land is its History, When Yahweh used to Condescend in the Earthly Sanctuary.
    ” And many of the people of the land became Jews” (Esther 8:17). “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” (Romans 2:28,29)
    Mythology and Mythology Prose is one thing, and dis-connected history is another.
    According to the BIBLE- Sola scriptura- the BIBLE is sufficient with history, theology, and Spirituality.When words are used as Symbolic, it cannot mean Literal. So to with Metaphors,Similitude’s, Signs and Figurative form of Speech.
    In the Book of Revelation we have words appearing such as
    Egypt-is this literal or Symbolical? :rev 11:8
    Sodom- is it literal or Symbolical?:rev 11:8
    Babylon- is it literal or Symbolic?:Rev 14:8;17:5
    Euphrates- literal or symbolic? :Rev 16:12

    Israel -Literal or symbolical? Rev 7:4
    The entire chapter of Hebrews chapter 11 spoken about the great men and women of Faith.
    ” These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them,and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
    for they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
    But now they desire a better country, that is a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city”. (Hebrews 11:13-16).
    ” And I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God.” (Rev 3:12)
    It began in Palestine, Continued in Asia Minor into Europe, from Europe to the further regions of the Earth.
    The Almighty is ever concerned about the various Nations, Kindred, and Tongues- this is in it self shows that God has a people scattered all over the Earth , made up of all nations, Kindred, and tongues.
    Yahweh is not a Tribal petty God that is only concerned about one race of people, He is concerned about all people everywhere.The Chosen one’s are the one’s that are doing His will- spreading the Gospel near and far. The One’s that hols fast to the Commandments of God and the Faith of Jesus:Rev 12:17; Rev 14:12; Rev 22:14.
    The Laws of Yahweh, especially His Fourth Commandment; The Seventh Day Sabbath Law, we don’t want to keep nine and break one-don’t we??? As Jesus has Broken down the meaning of the 10 Commandments, the first 4 points and shows our relation towards God, the other 6 points and show our relation to our fellowmen, upon these two hangs all the Laws and the Prophets.
    If we are right with God, we should be right with our fellowmen, if we are not right with God, we cannot be right with our fellowmen.
    This is what we are confronted with in this Life…


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