A Noble but Alien Narrative Unravels
This was one election which was fought not on any positive agendas, but on viciously negative propaganda.
We recently finished the most bitter elections of all times. This was one election which was fought not on any positive agendas, but on viciously negative propaganda. While one side talked about hatred towards other communities, the other was focused on hating one man. The incumbent has come to power, thrashing the opponents thoroughly. As expected, the so-called intellectual class is busy with doomsday predictions.
Whatever the future may hold, one thing is certain: the days of Indian intelligentsia as we know now are numbered. The so-called Indian liberals were neither Indian in their thoughts nor in their approach. However, they held a vice-like grip on media for the past 70 years due to historical reasons and are now staring at irrelevance.
Every nation needs a narrative. Modern India was built on a narrative set by Jawaharlal Nehru, our first Prime Minister. India, as a political entity, is a relatively young one. India, as a cultural entity, is an ancient one. No nation would have been born with so much hatred and violence at its birth. The post-Partition riots and the subsequent assassination of Mahatma Gandhi paved the way for a narrative set by Nehru.
Despite his famed book, Discovery of India, Nehru saw India through the eyes of an English gentleman. His idea of inclusiveness was based on the secularism of Europe. The European idea was relevant in a culture where there was a church with a vice-like grip on every aspect of the layman’s life. Hinduism has no such equivalent. Hinduism’s idea of inclusiveness ironically is based on a respectful indifference. Many confuse this with tolerance.
A traditional Hindu is respectfully indifferent to various forms of worship, atheism, agnosticism etc. It doesn’t bother him if some sects walk stark naked or some others clothe their women head to toe. It doesn’t bother him when its revered saint includes Allah in a hymn dedicated to Lord Ram or if a sect among them decides to worship Ravana or Shakuni or Duryodhana. The language that anyone speaks, the dress that anyone wears, the gods that anyone worships, the food anyone eats, all have his respectful indifference.
His expectations are small—you show the same respect I show to your beliefs. He doesn’t expect the state to either help him with his faith or hinder him in his spiritual pursuit. Indian Islam and Christianity also imbibed the same qualities. The religious festivals thus became closely interwoven and the cultural assimilation became a natural process without any forceful intervention.
It is to such a society that Nehru applied a western solution. The western secularism was aimed at destruction of the church. In the absence of a church in India, this became an attack on India’s majority religion. As long as Nehru was there and the glow of freedom movement was yet to wane, the criticisms against Hinduism had a reformative quality. Without the Hindu code bills that Nehru initiated, Hinduism would have had the dubious distinction of the most regressive religion.
Nehru was only advancing the reform movements started by his mentor Gandhi, but he used his popularity and made the Hindu Right irrelevant in all the elections he fought. His popularity had much to do with the blessing of his mentor. Nehru’s intentions were noble and unintentionally he did much good to the Hindu society by the reforms. However, since Partition wounds were raw, he went slow with the reforms in minority communities. This was a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.
After his demise, his successors neither had his intellectual capacity nor his sincerity. Since the reforms had spared the minorities, the regressive clergy and conservatives still hold a huge sway in the minority communities. The fatwas and church letters to the followers asking to vote for a particular party are living examples of the hold of clergy in these communities.
The political class found it easier to pamper to these regressive elements. The intellectual caucus that grew around Nehru’s successors relied indirectly attacking the beliefs and customs of the majority community while sparing those of the minority communities. The reformative voices among minorities were made irrelevant. Instead of continuing and extending Nehru’s reforms in Hinduism to other communities, the appeasement policy ensured that these communities remain in the grip of their conservative clergy.
Since Nehru and BR Ambedkar had tackled most of the major issues of Hinduism through various laws and bills, and many social reformers had tackled other issues in the previous century itself, the puny intellectuals had no major issues to attack the majority religion with. They went after everything related to Indian beliefs.
Anything Indian was a matter of ridicule. Holi, Diwali, Onam, Pongal—nothing was spared. A Muslim politician could wear a skull cap but a Hindu politician with any religious mark was derided a fanatic. This in a country, which was led to freedom by a man who was deeply religious and used prayers as a political tool. What they didn’t understand is that they were fuelling a monster. It was only a matter of time for someone to tap the insecurity of Hindus who were feeling besieged.
What we are seeing is the unravelling of a noble but alien narrative. The Hindutva that is fast replacing the gentle Hinduism is swinging the pendulum to the other extreme, making an age-old belief a clone of any Semitic religion. The respectful indifference is being replaced by violent and forceful intervention. The Hindutva church is taking shape for the first time in the history and ironically it may achieve what the mindless critics of Hinduism or the iconoclastic medieval fanatic invaders had always attempted—to destroy an age-old way of life. email@example.com