Who are the real Indians?
By Justice Markandeya Katju
I am a Kashmiri, so I would like to call Kashmiris as the real Indians.
My ancestors migrated from Kashmir to Madhya Pradesh about 200 years back, and were in the service of the Nawab of Jaora ( in Western Madhya Pradesh ) for several generations. So I would like to call Madhya Pradesh as the real India.
My grandfather Dr. K.N. Katju shifted to U.P. as a lawyer, first to the District Court, Kanpur in 1908, and then to the Allahabad High Court in 1914. I was born in Lucknow in 1946, and grew up in Allahabad, which I regard as my home town. So I would like to call the people of U.P. as the real Indians.
I have close connections with Bengal, Orissa (where my grandfather was Governor) and Tamil Nadu (where I was Chief Justice). So I would like to call the people there as the real Indians
But these are only my emotional opinions.
Thinking rationally, I believe that the real Indians are the Keralites, because they have in them the quintessential qualities of Indians.
As I have explained on my blog ‘ What is India ? ‘, (see justicekatju.blogspot.in), India is broadly a country of immigrants, like North America, and that explains the tremendous diversity here—so many religions, castes, languages, ethnic and regional groups, etc. The ancestors of perhaps 95 percent people living in India today came from abroad (the original inhabitants are the pre Dravidian tribals known as the Scheduled Tribes e.g. Bhils, Gonds, Santhals, Todas, etc ).
So to live united and in harmony we must respect every group of people. In my opinion the Keralites do this the best, and therefore they are symbolic and represent the whole of India. So they are the real Indians, and all of us must try to emulate them and imbibe their spirit.
I regard Kerala as the real India because it represents a microcosm of India. As I said, India is broadly a country of immigrants. the essential quality of Kerala is its openness to external influence–Dravidians, Aryans, Romans, Arabs, British, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Marxists, etc.
The Christians of Kerala belong to the oldest Christian group outside Palestine. It is said that one of the disciples of Jesus, St. Thomas, came to Kerala. Jews came here and settled down in Cochin when they were persecuted by the Romans after demolition of their temple in 72 A.D.
Islam came here through traders, and not through armies, as in the north. The Scheduled castes never suffered the discrimination that they suffered in the rest of India. One of their sages Sree Narayan Guru, who was an Ezhava, is venerated by all communities in Kerala. Adi Shankaracharya ( whose home town Kaladi in Kerala I have visited ) travelled throughout India and established the 4 well known centers of Hinduism, Sringeri in the South, whose first head was Mandan Mishra ( renamed Sureshwaracharya ) whom he defeated in a famous debate, Puri in the East, Dwarka in the West, and Jyotirmath in the North.
In the Badrinath temple in the Himalayas the head priest is always a Namboodri Brahmin from Kerala, who is called the Rawal, and his deputy, the Naib Rawal, is also from the same community. The Rawal has tenure of 5 years, after which the deputy Rawal becomes the Rawal.
The Keralites had trade relations over 2000 years ago with Carthage, Rome ( many Roman coins have been found in Kerala ), Arabs, etc Kerala has produced great artists, mathematicians ( the great mathematician Aryabhatta is said to be from Kerala ), martial arts, handicrafts, enlightened Kings, and sages, etc.
Keralites are great travellers, and everywhere in the globe one will find Keralites. There is a joke that when the American astronaut Neil Armstrong landed on the moon on 1969 he found a Keralite there offering to sell him tea. There was never any tradition in Kerala against travelling abroad, nor of ritual defilement for crossing the ‘kala pani ‘ as among many communities in North India.
Keralites abound in the Middle East. I was invited to Qatar last year by some Keralite Muslims, and found that in Qatar. There are more Keralites than local Arabs. In Dubai too I found numerous Keralites. In Bahrain there are more Keralites than Bahrainis.
When I was a University student and lawyer in Allahabad I would often go to the Coffee House. I found that most of the waiters there were Keralites, and I became friends with many of them. In many hospitals in India and abroad the nurses are Keralites. I believe there is no illiteracy in Kerala
Keralites are hardworking, modest, and intelligent. They are broad minded, liberal, cosmopolitan and secular in their views (though no doubt there are a few exceptions).
All Indians must learn from them.
Long live the Keralites!