I seem to have been misquoted in the Indian press, but it is true that I have said that 90 per cent of Indians (not all) are ‘fools’. My intention in saying so was not to hurt anyone but to awaken people to the realities, that is, the widespread casteism, communalism, superstitions and other backward traits in the mindset of a large section of India’s population, blocking progress and keeping it poor.
The figure of 90 per cent is not a mathematical figure, it simply means that in my opinion a large proportion of Indians (and again I repeat, not all) are fools.
I made this comment not to humiliate or harm anyone but because I love the Indian people and I wish them to prosper and have decent lives. That will only be possible if the Indian masses develop a scientific outlook and temper and give up casteism, communalism, superstitions and other mental attitudes which a large part (not all) of them at present suffer from.
I wish to see India in the front ranks of the advanced industrialised nations of the world, with its people having a high standard of living, instead of suffering from the present evils of massive poverty, unemployment, inflation, corruption, farmer suicides, child malnutrition, absence of healthcare and good education, etc. The truth is sometimes bitter, but sometimes bitter medicine has to be given to an ailing person.
Having said this, I may proceed to give a more elaborate explanation.
I wish to first of all clarify that I do not regard Indians as inherently stupid or foolish. It is only at present that many are indeed foolish. But there was a time when we were leading the whole world in science and technology and India was, perhaps, the most prosperous country in the world.
With the aid of science, we had built mighty civilisations thousands of years ago, when most people in Europe (except in Greece and Rome) were living in forests. We had made outstanding scientific discoveries, e.g. the decimal system in mathematics, plastic surgery in medicine and so on. The way out of the present morass is to go back again to the path shown by our scientific ancestors, the path of Aryabhatta and Brahmagupta, Sushrut and Charak, Panini and Patanjali, Ramanujan and Raman.
Before the coming of the British, India was a prosperous country. Its share in world trade in 1700 was about 30 per cent, which fell to two per cent by the end of British rule — and even today, it is not more than three per cent.
Today, there is no doubt that India is a poor country. While there are some pockets of affluence, about 80 per cent of our people are afflicted with poverty, unemployment and other evils, and one major cause of this is the mental backwardness of a large part of its people. Consider the following: 1) When most people go to vote, they cast their votes on the basis of caste or religion, not the merit of the candidate. And this is exploited by some unscrupulous politicians. That is why many persons with criminal backgrounds get elected.
2) ‘Honour’ killings are common in many parts of India. 3) Dowry deaths are common and as a former judge, I can tell you that Indian courts have a large number of cases of young married women who are murdered in a barbaric manner by their in-laws for not bringing dowry. 4) Scheduled castes are still often treated inhumanly and an example is the recent attack on Dalits in Dharmapuri district in the state of Tamil Nadu. 5) Female foeticide is still common in many parts of India. 6) Communalism, which was almost non-existent in the 19th century, is widespread in India today. Muslims often face discrimination in getting jobs, houses on rent, etc. Muslims are often falsely implicated in bomb blasts and they have to spend years in jail though ultimately found innocent.
Up to 1857, communalism was almost non-existent in India. No doubt, there were differences between Hindus and Muslims, but there was no enmity. In the Mutiny of 1857, Hindus and Muslims jointly fought against the British. After crushing the mutiny, the British decided that the only way to control India was divide and rule. Consequently, the policy came from London to create hatred between Hindus and Muslims. The British collector used to secretly call the Panditji and gave him money to speak against the Muslims, and similarly he gave money to the Maulvi Sahib to speak against Hindus.
The communal award in the Minto-Morley ‘Reforms’ of 1909 introduced separate electorates for Hindus and Muslims. Year after year, decade after decade, the communal poison was injected by the British into our body politic and even after 1947, there are elements which have continued doing this. 7) Superstition is rampant. Most people believe in astrology, which is pure superstition and humbug. And it is not just the illiterates who believe in it, it is also most of the so-called educated people. Many ministers and judges prefer to take oath of office at the ‘auspicious’ time. 8) A large section of the media, taking advantage of the backwardness of a large section of Indians, dishes out lives of film stars, cricket and so on, as if these are the real issues before the people when the real issues are socio-economic.
I want India to become a prosperous country, but this is possible only when the mindset of a large number of people changes and their minds are rid of casteism, communalism, superstitions and other backward ideas and they become scientific and modern. By being modern, I do not mean wearing a nice suit or a beautiful sari or skirt. By being modern, I mean developing a modern mind, which means a rational mind, a scientific mind and a questioning mind.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 12th, 2012.