I will take a stab at a careful reply to this.
1) Regarding Sonia, I took exception to the author’s statement that the congressmen debased themselves “because” of her white skin. They would have debased themselves whether she was white, black, yellow, green, or any other color. I am not concerned with why people voted for congress. That is purely election math as you have pointed out.
In essence, I think Gautier’s “white worship” criticism is wrong.
2)Regarding your other points, they go much deeper than a superficial “slave mentality” attribution.
Your take is that slave mentality is manifested in two forms. “First is unjustified respect and excessive tolerance for all that is non-Indian. Be it arts, literature, history, medicine, religion etc. The second is outright debasement of all that is Indian -spirituality, religion, customs, traditions, medicine, arts etc.”
I think one has to distinguish between the “educational system” and the “post liberalization economic and social environment”. The outcome of the first is the non religious Hindu – the person with scepticism of many rituals, – the person who says I don’t mind, sometimes I even like the rituals, sometimes I don’t, but I am not particularly concerned either.”
I have never been too far down that non believer path, but to an extent, I symbolise one of the manifestations you speak of. i.e. “the debasement of all that is Indian – spirituality, religion, customs, traditions, medicine, arts etc”. Debasement is a hard word. No doubt there are some who debase, but my personal opinion is most people don’t. It is just a natural consequence of the educational setup that we have chosen that most people have ended up with a very laidback attitude about religion. Now if that is a bad thing, I am not so sure. But I will come to that later.
In your mind, religion and culture are inter-connected. My own belief is that while that is so, the two can still be treated as “independent entities”. I believe one can revive the Indian cultural context without resorting to religious awakening at the same time. One can still revive in the “non believer Hindu” an appreciation for Indian culture – its literature, its music, its dance forms, its medicine, its art. It is too large a leap (and consequently will spark opposition) for a non believer to turn a believer and start learning the vedas and scriptures, but it is not so large a leap to build in him an appreciation for cultural traditions. The attempt I feel should be to distinguish the two. The religious/Ram Temple orientation of Hindutva defeats that purpose.
Now the outcome of “the post liberalization economic and social environment” is the first manifestation you speak of – i.e. unjustified respect and excessive tolerance for all that is non-Indian. I agree with you, but let me say this – This is a far more troublesome problem than the second, for this is a consequence of the capitalistic social order and organization. There are two ways to attack this – the easier option is to withdraw, or to engage in direct confrontation – i.e. either the leftist, or the fundamentalist option. But you will (I hope :-)) agree that there are too many pluses in favour of capitalism that neither of these two can be a lasting solution. The more effective way to deal with this is to counter the second manifestation, as I have mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Neither of these manifestations you speak of is a reflection of a slave mentality. It is simply a consequence of the systems we have chosen – educational, economic, social. Educational most of all. Of these, we cannot, or rather, should not, change the economic environment. Capitalism works.
Educational, yes, you are right. We need reform there – an appreciation of Indian culture should be built irrespective of one’s religious affiliations. But the religious elements of education must be at home, not in the schools. In a sense, our opinions at 30 are shaped by what we learnt till we are 13. The home is as much the place to impart those beliefs as the school is. I personlly think the challenge in a sense is to try to convince The Pink Floydians to make their children learn Kathak, and study Sanskrit. But my own impression is that there are many more today, who are touching base with Indian traditions, than say 15 years ago. That challenge also implies putting the Ram Temple (I use the Ram Temple as an euphemism for the BJP’s style of Hindu reformation) to the backburner.
Now, getting back to the most troublesome point – Most people have ended up with a very laidback attitude about religion. I said I am not so sure if that is necessarily a bad thing. I will correct myself. I think it has been in many ways a good thing. It has helped disown caste based discrimination, a substantial victory in itself. But like you, I believe that religion is important. And a laidback approach has to be tempered with true understanding. While I don’t know how to rebuild that, I have a feeling it will repair itself if we can rebuild an appreciation for our cultural context.
I hope I am making some sense.