Gopinath Mohanty: The Asian ‘Achebe’
The entire nineteenth-century, especially the second half of it, was a period of cultural and religious ferment in India under the influence of western culture and missions. Believing that the civilization of India is barbaric and superstitious, the Colonisers think Western epistemological structure — culture, political ideology and philosophy, forms of government, educational and social infrastructure — are needed to be implied to civilize their colonies which according to them were inhabited by humanist subclasses. But the Missionaries had different missions. They bring along with them a new world of Christendom who intervene into the interests – livelihood, work, cultural practices, life style, food habit, social behaviour, social infrastructure ─ of the bulk of the rural population ─ landless labour, small and marginal farmers, artisans, nomads and various aboriginal without caring to understand the social peculiarities of the place; ignoring the religio-cultural sensitivity of people. Their moral superiority and doctrine of monopoly miserably fails to understand the social solidarity, social cohesion and social integration of the wretched of earth. Moreover, with their aggressive imperialism, the Christian missionaries are perpetrating in nature who cannot recognise the dalits, marginalized, downtrodden and subaltern. And the indigenous people who is not a part or choose not to be a part of the course of Christianisation, fall victims to the seductive ideology of the missionaries. It is because their foundational principles and doctrines are alien, unreasonable and uncalled for and have been called into questions. They have been challenging and harmful to their sustainable living. In brief, the worst sufferers are the primitive people who live in isolation and are forgotten. Their liberty and equality and rights and justice are at stake. Those facilities are denied and gasping for breath. Needles to say, there has been a radical change in their ideas, value systems, beliefs, cultural practices and so on and so forth. And its abuses have been examined by the writers from varied backgrounds. One of the first authors to address such issues in literary works is Gopinath Mohanty.
This is what Frantz Fanon says in his In Beginning Theory about the British Coloniser’ s “European practices” and cultural domination. To quote Fanon:
The European colonising power will have devalued the nation’s past, seeing its pre-colonial era as pre-civilised limbo, or even as a historical void; the process of civilising the tribal or native people was also a part of their policy of imposing their own perceptions and trained them to think from their point of view and look their own culture, tradition as the colonisers have defined (193).
Echoing Fanon, Edward Said in Orientalism comments that the British colonisers’ agenda to educate the tribals in the name of civilizing them was a part of their cultural colonization, to which Said termed “Orientalism”. Through this “Oriental” policy, the Westerns (the British Colonizers) establish their superiority over Easterns, identified as the “Other”. They depicted to the Easterns as uncivilized, lazy and stupid (11).
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