Tamil mega-star Kamal Haasan, revving up for a political career, created uproar recently by saying that terrorism has infected right-wing groups, provoking a likely confrontation with the BJP. “In the past, Hindu, right-wing groups would not indulge in violence. They would hold a dialogue with opponents. But now they resort to violence,” Haasan said. In his regular column in a popular Tamil weekly news magazine, he writes, “The right wing cannot challenge talk of Hindu terrorists because terror has spread into their camp as well.”
“Hindus are losing faith in ‘satyameva jayate’ and instead subscribing to ‘might is right’,” he says. His comments were made in response to a question by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who asked the superstar about what he described as recent communalisation which seeks to destroy the Tamil Dravidian tradition of peaceful co-existence. Expectedly, this set off an uproar from people across country as well as from BJP leaders, who have damned him for such an accusation. While senior BJP leader, Vinay Katiyar described the actor’s mental state as “unstable”, the party’s national general secretary, H Raja dubbed Kamal Haasan as a “supporter of terrorists”. A case has now been booked in Varanasi against the actor for hurting religious sentiments.
Actor Prakash Raj known for his villainous roles in south films,also brought himself in spotlight again by airing his opinions on Twitter by supporting fellow actor Kamal Haasan, whose remarks on “Hindu terror” has stirred a hornet’s nest.
He has taken to his official Twitter handle and started the campaign #JustAsking, posing questions on various issues, often political.Responding to the controversy over Mr. Haasan’s column in a Tamil magazine, he tweeted: “If instilling fear in the name of religion, culture, morality is not terrorising… then what is it?”
The actor has been posing several questions under #Justasking. He recently tweeted asking right-wing activists when they intend to bring down the Taj Mahal, adding that they would at least show it to their children one last time. In another tweet, he questioned the politicians for “wasting our time digging history #TipuSultan #Tajmahal and creating hatred for which we the living are not responsible.”
These two actors have brought to the fore once again the debate of Hindu majoritarianism in the country. For creating a political space for himself, Kamal Haasan has stirred the hornet’s nest and is trying to create paranoia among the minorities of the country. In fact kamal haasan is not the first one and will not be the last one, who is trying to disturb the social fabric of the country.
Ever since the Narendra Modi government took office in May, 2014, dire warnings were issued. There will be communal riots, predicted one newspaper. The Samajwadi Party (SP), the Left and the Congress joined the chorus. While analysing the first year of ascendency of Narendra Modi to the throne The Economist had written: “This newspaper chose not to back Mr. Modi in last year’s elections because of his record on handling religious strife … We are happy that our fears of grave communal violence have so far not been realised.”
In the same vein Keki Daruwala, a former member of the National Commission for Minorities, ridiculed the government in 2015. In an article in The Economic Times he wrote: “There has been no sectarian riot worth the name since the NDA government came to power in May 2014. But is this the measure of the well-being of minorities? No houses burnt, no Muslims or Christians stabbed, so all is hunky-dory? Rajeshwar Singh of the Dharam Jagran Samiti, the man reportedly behind the RSS’ ghar wapsi programmes, states in Etah, UP, that ‘India, will be made free of Muslims and Christians by 2021. India is the country of Hindus alone.'”
In the same year two articles by Julio Ribeiro, the former director-general of Punjab Police, argued in the same vein as Daruwala: no riots, true – but Muslims and Christians are unsafe in India, circa 2015.
It is time, therefore, to bury this myth and exhume the facts.
India is secular not because Indira Gandhi inserted the word into the Constitution in 1976 but because Hindus are innately secular. Of the world’s major religions, Hinduism is the only one without a prophet. No one “founded” Hinduism – unlike Christ, Mohammad, Zoroaster, Abraham, Confucius, Mahavira, Buddha and Guru Nanak.
Hinduism, or Sanatana Dharma, evolved organically. The Vedas (circa 1800 BC) predate the second oldest religious text, Judaism’s Torah (circa 1300 BC), by several hundred years. Sanatana Dharma is the world’s oldest organised religious philosophy. It was followed by Judaism, Zoroastrianism and then in quick order by Jainism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Christianity. Islam is a relatively young religion as is Sikhism. Of these nine major faiths, four were born in South Asia (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism), four in West Asia (Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam), and one in North Asia (Confucianism).
Thus every major religion is of Asian origin. Europe appropriated Christianity through Rome. Jesus Christ was a brown-skinned, dark-haired Semitic Jew born in Bethlehem. His ancestry was Middle Eastern. Later depictions of him in popular culture (movies, plays, photographs, media) showed him as Caucasian with European features and fair hair. The myth still persists.
India, the birthplace of nearly half the world’s nine major religions, has long been a haven for the other half. The first Jews arrived in India on the Malabar coast in 542 BC and form one of the world’s oldest and most peaceful Jewish communities. (India, unlike Europe, has never seen anti-Semitic persecution.). The first Christians came to India, again in Kerala, in 52 AD, before Christianity had even encountered Europe. Zoroastrians fled Islamic persecution in Persia (today’s Iran) and found refuge in Gujarat in 720 AD, becoming one of India’s most successful communities (Parsis).
Sword-wielding Islam, meanwhile, was conquering large swathes across Europe, its armies reaching the gates of Vienna before being defeated in battle in 1529. It turned its attention to India. The Mughals were Chaghtai Turkish warlords from Central Asia. Unlike Christians, Jews and Parsis before them, they came to India to conquer, not seek refuge.
The final foreign invasion of the subcontinent was by the British, following the Battle of Plassey in 1757. The British were shrewder than earlier invaders. They sensed that religious conversions would complicate their main objective in conquering India: to make money, usurp Indian raw materials to fuel the industrial revolution back home, and expand the British Empire through trade backed by guns and warships.
Britain, a Protestant country, rarely converted Indians during its 190-year occupation of the subcontinent. That is why there are relatively few Protestant Christians in India: the bulk of Indian Christians are Catholics, converted by Portugese, Irish and Spanish Jesuits who both preceded and followed the British into India (Goa, Puducherry, the Deccan and elsewhere). Their focus, unlike the Protestant British, was not trade. It was religious conversion.
They failed on an epic scale. While the cannier British did not aggressively proselytise, the Portugese, Irish and Spanish (all Catholic nations) ceaselessly did. But the conversions of Dalits and other disenfranchised Hindus to Christianity over several centuries led to just 1.5 per cent of India’s population being converted to Catholicism. The number converting to Protestantism was even lower: 0.7 percent.
Islam followed a different route. The Mughals converted Hindus in three ways: one, by inducement – the allure of finding a place in the hierarchy of the Mughal court; two, to avoid paying the jizya tax imposed on Hindus; and three, to escape from the dehumanising caste system into a more egalitarian if harsh, didactic Islam.(All the above data sourced from https://www.dailyo.in/politics/secularism-islam-hindus-religion-persecution-tolerance-muslims-christians-safe-india/story/1/4090.html)
This historical background is necessary to put in perspective the debate over Hindu terror and the safety of minorities in the country. Much of this debate is skewed and some of it is fraudulent. Where the fraud lies is the deliberate attempt to create an atmosphere of a communal crisis where none exists. Nearly 20 per cent of India’s population comes under the minority tag of which majority part is not discriminated against. It is a fact that Parsis are the wealthiest lot of the country and are living a peaceful and prosperous life in the country for centuries. But these days foreign funded NGOs, Kamal Haasan kind of self- styled protector of minorities, some websites are busy in creating false paranoia among the minorities.
Hinduphobia is the new fashion
Despite the chilling brutality of the Islamic State (ISIS), the harsh laws of Sunni Saudi Arabia and the hate speeches of mullahs from Tehran to Islamabad, the more extremist strains of radical Islam receive less criticism than they deserve.
Few want to meet the fate of the journalists and cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, murdered by Islamist terrorists, or Kamlesh Tiwari, who languished in jail after his allegedly derogatory comments on the Prophet.
Islamophobia has been a concern in the country for a long time but in recent times Hinduphobia is gaining traction in living rooms across upper middle-class urban India where secular poseurs are thick on the ground. It is now widely seen that it has become a fashion among the new elites of the country to be anti-Hindu.
As Minhaz Merchant writes in his book The New Clash of Civilizations: How The Contest Between America, China, India and Islam Will Shape Our Century, “Influential sections of especially the electronic media, suffused with hearts bleeding from the wrong ventricle, are part of this great fraud played on India’s poverty-stricken Muslims – communalism with an engaging secular mask.
So are these so called media giants to blame for fanning communal flames in the country? Are foreign governments which want India to fall in line over World Trade Organisation (WTO) and climate change protocols using the bogey of communalism to put pressure through a section of the media on a government they sense is vulnerable to such criticism? Do the clutch of websites that have sprung up in the last year echo such anti-government views as part of the same strategy: to make communalism a self-fulfilling prophecy and weaken the government?
Also politicians are the worst offenders in this case. One can see how West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee turns a blind eye to atrocities by Muslims against Hindus.
In a brazen exhibition of communal politics, she does so in order to secure Bengal’s 27 per cent Muslim electorate that, along with a small slice of the Hindu majority, can guarantee her over 40 per cent of the vote share and a near-landslide in a four-cornered contest with the Left, BJP and the Congress.
The worst sufferers in this game are minorities themselves. The media overkill damages the country’s secular fabric, breeds anti-minority paranoia and widens religious chasms. All in all India is hardly a “Hindu Raj” given the fact that Muslims, Christians, Parsis and others have their own personal laws and bar isolated incidents are safer in India than virtually anywhere else in the world.
By Nilabh Krishna