On March 3, 2019, I had an opportunity to speak with Aravindan Neelakandan when he visited Pondicherry and Auroville area for conducting a couple of sessions at the Tantrotsav 2019 at Kalarigram.
Aravindan Neelakandan is a prolific writer on many aspects of Indian culture and society, and is well-known for his book “Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines,” co-authored with Rajiv Malhotra of Infinity Foundation.
With academic degrees in agricultural studies and psychology, Aravindan has written extensively on topics related to science and Indology in Tamil and English. He has also worked with Vivekananda Kendra-NARDEP (Natural Resources Development Project) for ten years. Aravindan is currently a contributing editor of Swarajya magazine.
The following are some key highlights from my interview with Aravindan. It has been edited primarily for brevity and clarity. I express sincere thanks to Aravindan ji for granting this interview. And also, many thanks to Tuhina Roy for transcribing the interview and editing the pictures that accompany it.
Beloo Mehra: Thank you for agreeing to do this interview.
Aravindan Neelakandan: It is my pleasure.
BM: My first question to you naturally concerns your well-researched book “Breaking India.” I must applaud and commend you and Rajiv Malhotra ji for this important work, because in many ways it has become even more relevant in today’s India. This book came out in 2011 and since then many things have happened. What key ‘Breaking India’ forces do you see at work today? And do you think in some ways these forces have become more aggressive?
In your book you focused more on what you called as the Dravidian and Dalit faultlines as well as other historical forces such as the evangelical church and related organisations and other institutional forces from the West. Do you think that over the past few years some of these forces have also become louder or stronger, and why so?
AN: Without taking any political sides, I can say very clearly that the pseudo-secular polity has become the den of breaking India forces today. And to put it bluntly, one of the major political parties of India has inherited the ‘Breaking India’ forces that were present during the colonial times and it has given them a kind of official sanction and recognition. The difference between secularism and Breaking India forces is almost gone. Now Breaking India forces have become sort of mainstream, like they have the right to break India. It is as if like they have the democratic right to break India and ifyou question this right then they will label you as fascist.
Point is, India itself is essentially a democratic nation. Its core values are democracy and pluralism. These forces use this very democracy and pluralism to break the nation, and unfortunately these forces don’t even tolerate some of the more pluralistic or syncretic ideas within themselves. For example, there are pan-Islamic forces trying to break India but these pan-Islamic forces do not accept ahmadiyas. There are forces in Tamil Nadu which in the name of Tamil chauvinism try to break India but these Tamil chauvinists do not accept other Dravidian languages as their brothers.
So, these people are inherently fascists, yet they say that they have the democratic right to break their really democratic and pluralistic nation and call the ones opposing them as fascist. And what makes it even worse is that all this is being supported by one of the main political parties of India. This is like the end game. We are approaching the end game where we see the ‘Breaking India’ forces on one side and the ones that are trying to oppose these ‘Breaking India’ forces on another side.
BM: So, the forces that are opposing the ‘Breaking India’ forces – let us call them the ‘Making India’ forces, those which are concerned about the unity of India as a nation – how can they counter these highly organised or institutionalised forces? And what is the role of an ordinary citizen in all this? I mean, an ordinary citizen of India who sort of intuitively feels within that India is one nation, my nation, and he or she wants to somehow contribute to work toward its unity and integrity. What can such a person do?
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