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This paper closely follows the text of a paper presented at the National Seminar on the contributions of K. P. Chattopadhyay and Iravati Karve to the development of Social Anthropology, organised by The Asiatic Society, Kolkata, September 8-9, 2009. The article hypothesises that the reason for some of the social ills embedded in the meta-culture of India as an independent former colony are the result of unconsciously holding in the mind British Imperialism as the aggressor, even though over sixty years ago India got rid of the yoke of being a colonised country. What the founding fathers of newly independent India did not take into consideration was the impact of two hundred years of barbaric control over the indigenous population of the sub-continent by an imperial power. Most of the ministers of the newly formed Government of India came from the stratum of Western educated upper middle class elite who had little idea of the realities of 80 percent of rural Indians at the time of independence. Yet in their push for creating a country wedded to the ideal of democracy, they decided to introduce election to all seats of State power based on adult franchise.

Inevitably this resulted in gradual dominance in the state legislatures and the central parliament, the lower house of which is known as the Lok Sabha, of people from rural areas still maintaining a feudal outlook with 200 years of slavery internalised from under a punitive and ruthless British yoke.

Keywords: Colonisation-in-the–mind; Internalisation of aggressor; avoidance of punishment.

I have chosen the topic of Colonialism in the Mind to present in this seminar at the invitation of the Asiatic Society. I am grateful to the Asiatic Society for according me this opportunity to honour my late father’s memory, particularly because I had missed participating in the centenary celebration of his life and work by the Asiatic Society, as I was in Australia at that time. I shall leave out any reference to the work of Iravati Karve because I moved away from the field of Social Anthropology about four and half decades ago to the area of Behavioural Science. One of the consequences is that my memory of Iravati Karve’s work has become dim. Thereafter, about three decades ago, I had further re-invented myself as a Socio-Analyst to work with unconscious group dynamics, which remains my current field of interest. As a result, the focus of this paper will be largely based on the interpretation of one aspect of collective unconscious behaviour of Indians, with special reference to Bengal. Like all interpretations of unconscious dynamics, whether those of individuals or of groups of various sizes, the contents have to be treated as a series of hypotheses. Based on their experience and internal evidence, it is for the individuals in the audience, and later in the readership, to decide how many of the hypotheses are true.

The second reason for choosing this topic is to remind those present in this seminar that K.
P. Chattopadhyay’s scholarship extended to include the unconscious aspect of human mind and behaviour as well. Not only did he teach in his class at the Calcutta University some basic theories of psychoanalysis, he also published a paper on the case study of amnesia.

The third reason for choosing this topic is to highlight yet another important area of K. P. Chattopadhyay’s life and interest. KPC, as my father was known to many, went to England shortly after World War One ended to pursue a doctoral degree in physics under J.J. Thompson. However, he gave up the idea halfway through as Sir J.J. would not allow him to enter the area of nuclear physics. He then wrote an essay in Social Anthropology, on the basis of which he received the Anthony-Wilkins Scholarship and joined Cambridge to work under W. H. R. Rivers. He could not complete the residence rule to get his degree as he was deported from U.K. for his political activities in that country in organising Indian seamen to stand up against discriminatory treatment.

My father was not only a freedom fighter, but a man of great personal integrity. He had felt at the time of independence that the Indian National Congress and the Nehru Government had betrayed certain vital aspects of the pledge for complete independence that they had earlier taken. That, according to him, would result in a colonial hangover in free India, which will be very difficult to acknowledge and deal with later on. So he resigned from the office of President, Nadia District Congress Committee as well as the membership of the Indian National Congress. He also refused to accept any of the privileges offered by the government to former freedom fighters who had been in British jails. Instead, he joined the West Bengal State Legislature’s Legislative Council for several terms as an independent member, supported by the Left. In view of that aspect of his life, I felt it appropriate to choose the topic that is the subject matter of this paper.

While I agree with Ashok Mitra’s (2005) hypothesis regarding colonial hangover in present day India, my intention in this article is to show that this hangover of colonialism runs far deeper in the Indian psyche. It is difficult to realise the presence of this continued hangover of colonialism most likely because it has been lodged in the collective unconscious. The process was started by the British imperialists, I guess, soon after Lord Macaulay was supposed to have delivered the following address at the British Parliament on February 2, 1835:

I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth is seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore I propose that we replace the old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self- esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.

To that end, first, I shall examine some of the overt phenomena that are part and parcel of life in India today.

Continued in Part 2

Biographical Note

Gouranga Chattopadhyay is Emeritus Professor of HR of the Academy of Human Resources, Ahmedabad and an independent OD consultant, executive coach and personal counsellor. He can be contacted at gipisi2@gmail.com.

Unconscious processes are those we are not aware of. Before all the high IQ internetizens assault me, let me say, most of what we do is unconscious. We are automatically reacting to many things which come to action only if there seems to be no automatic response possible, or if something unexpected happens. Like, you are reading this page and scrolling as needed automatically. If I changed the behaviour of the page in how it responded to the mouse, you'd notice, consciously figure out how to achieve what you wanted.

There are also many layers and processes happening simultaneously - sometimes related, sometimes independent. For example, while you read the page and scrolled, you were also maintaining balance, evaluating what you read, planning a response.... none of which changed or even became conscious when you addressed the dissonance with the scrolling.

Many, many things we understand somewhat are unconscious. Stereotypes, superstitions, bias, reactions, perceptions....

Usually, when something is inexplicably illogical on the conscious plane, something contrary to what is in our consciousness exists in our unconscious. This is a vast and diverse subject, which I cannot do justice to in article, so I suggest reading up a variety of writers and learning from observing the world, if you find this intriguing. Good start is "Shadow Aspect - Jung" or Freud. But there are many.

The thing is that these processes being UNconscious, pointing them out is usually met with utter disbelief, rejection and disagreement. That is because they are not conscious, duh. It takes some digging and examining data rather than memory - which is 'written' by the unconscious anyway.

Unconscious perceptions rarely evolve without conscious intervention. For example, a child's instinctive fear of heights keeps getting revised with his awareness of increasing capacity to handle it. Even an adult will balk at a fall greater than he believes he can jump, but that distance keeps getting revised as improved ability is registered. People also fear heights irrationally. They have usually 'clubbed' all heights as dangerous rather than 'graded' their threat. Point being, new information needs to be assimilated in order to revise old perceptions.

I have a diagnosis on Kashmir's problems with the Army.

Kashmir is an integral part of India is the government line. Kashmir feels occupied rather than included is the Kashmiri. There are a million dimensions and psychological processes.

One big thing. The unconscious is fairly primitive. Expect ghastly things, zero logic beyond action-consequence, imagery rather than complex ideas and feelings driving everything once you step into the 'zone'.

Kashmiri Pandits were persecuted out of the valley. It was horrendous. It 'hurt' India deeply. The Army presence increased. The Army are 'protectors'. The Kashmiri Muslims were the 'culprits'. India is largely Hindu. The unconscious perception of the country as well as the Army becomes that the Army is dealing with the Kashmiri Muslim barbarians to protect the country from their criminal acts.

Since then, militancy has become better understood, better controlled. However, we have not stopped thinking of the Kashmiri common man as inherently dangerous. The Army is still "protecting" the country from its own citizens.

In effect, the country has unconsciously judged Kashmir for the ethnic cleansing of the Pandits and the Army holds them imprisoned for the safety of all. To the unconscious, these things like human rights don't exist. Either you are for, or you are against, and if you are against, you will be picking up fights. Be it detentions, rapes, tortures, killings, whatever. Consciously, of course they don't. OF COURSE. They fully believe that they are protecting the Kashmiri citizens as well, but some will keep 'breaking rules' so to say. The unconscious sense of revenge is a powerful thing.

It is equally true for the Kashmiris. To them, the Army is the 'enemy'. They can do no right. No matter what they do, they are evil. Anybody being hurt for any reason by the Army is an intentional Army atrocity intended to attack kashmiris. Etc

This process is locked in a strong, defining perception. It isn't going to go away unless addressed specifically. It is powerful enough to create memories to illustrate, and it is powerful enough to suppress memories that don't fit - on both ends.

Similarly, the separatists, Pakistan, etc have their own narratives. Equally illogical. The only reason I'm not listing them out is that there is no point in the specifics and getting into arguments - the point is in looking beyond assumptions of reality. These 'jumps of logic' will actually be individual to each person and it reflects in what they speak of the most.

The unconscious 'knows' what is right/wrong based entirely on the experiencing. I can tell you a tale of some atrocity done by a fictitious king of a fictitious country on fictitious citizens of unproven innocence and if you even have so much as a strong opinion against that king now, I can give you a book a year later with the hero having the same name as this fictitious king, and you'll call it a lousy book. You may not even remember the story I tell you now, but still! How many times have you been inclined to think of someone favourably or unfavourably simply based on look or name? Your unconscious decides that if they look like that, they abuse their dog, or if they have this name, they are snobbish - likely because you formed that perception elsewhere with someone else who looked like that or had that name. That's how the unconscious operates. Logic has nothing to do with it, and it is devastatingly real. It has a name. Its called projection. Google it up. Its fascinating insight into just how primitive we all are.

A participant in a lab where we explored unconscious processes once said that the scariest thing in the entire world was what she could discover hiding in her own mind.

The only fix is making it conscious. Questioning those perceptions and re-evaluating reality.

All parties should also look into their own projections and come to a more reality oriented understanding of the picture. The answers will always be uncomfortable, because they were suppressed for a reason - discomfort. However, those buried realities skew everything they look at.

And we have an instinctive understanding of this, because there have always been demands of going back into history to investigate and "fact find".

This will help resolve Kashmir, because it will allow people to work with reality. It will help the Army regain its honor. It will help the Kashmiris regain their dignity. It will even help Kashmiri Pandits find acknowledgment - they are currently buried next to all the suppressed issues around their story. It may not solve any political problem, but being able to address the human conflicts will allow breathing space and healing for better answers to emerge.

India has many excellent people who have devoted their lives in the study of the unconscious and its impact on people. It might be worthwhile to invest in entirely apolitical large scale interventions for all stake holders as a humanitarian contribution towards resolution. If Kashmir is suspicious of India, it could even be possible to ask foreign social scientists.

Think of it. We have trauma counselling for a reason. The entire valley AND the soldiers qualify.

Note: All the intense Kashmir debaters on both the three sides of the two sided coin, please excuse. I am not about judgments. I throw in everything that seems significant. If it makes sense, great. If it doesn't, that's okay too.