Thursday, August 11th, 2022 05:33:12

Towards A Hindu Awakening

Updated: November 17, 2016 11:24 am

The long established practice of not allowing women under reproductive cycles entry into the famous Sabarmila temple where the ruling deity, Ayappan, is considered to be observing Brahmacharya has been challenged in the Supreme Court. The Kerala government on October 8 took back its earlier objections to the lifting of the ban before the Apex Court. It had argued that the tradition was connected to essential religious practice and that it would be unfair to hurt beliefs and customs of devotees through a judicial process.  But now the same government says that the ban must be lifted and that the temple does not have any right to decide who will come and who will not.

This incident should also be seen along with the case that a constitutional bench of the Supreme Court is hearing on “the use of religion” during elections to seek votes, in the process of which  and in the process questions being asked about the true meanings of “Hinduism” and “Secularism”. And that makes me recall an incident last year.  A diplomat from an important country was addressing a small gathering at the sprawling lawn of his home in a South Delhi locality. It was his farewell address to his Indian friends and colleagues after a three-year posting in India. He described his “wonderful experiences” in “the great country of India”. But one thing, he said, surprised him the most. “I had heard a lot about Hindus and Hinduism before I was posted in India. I thought during my stint in India I would learn and hear more about one of the great and ancient religions of the world. But what I found during my stay was that the leading Indians were more vocal about the interests of Islam and Christianity than about the protection of Hinduism.  In fact, sharpest attacks on Hinduism come invariably from Indians themselves”.

The diplomat in him obviously did not give any impression that he was happy or sad about the treatment of Hinduism in a country that is inhabited predominantly (80 per cent) by the Hindus. But a “Hindu” journalist-friend present in the meeting was very clear that Hinduism was the most absurd, unscientific and cruel religion of the world that perpetuated casteism, inequality and exploitation. My friend was not convinced when I pointed out that every great religion or civilisation has its pluses and minuses and as times pass by, the minuses get corrected. After all, it is under Hinduism that people worship women as goddesses whereas the women are not equal to men under Islam; even till recently the women did not have voting rights in many developed Christian countries. I told my friend that casteism, as a concept, was highly scientific – since it espoused the principle of division of labour, a principle that ensured that every section of society is “wanted”. True, the concept got corrupted when one’s place in life depended not on one’s ability but on ones’ birth. There is thus need to de-corrupt the principle; but it does not mean that one should throw Hinduism in the Indian Ocean for good.

In fact, unlike any other religion the world, Hinduism promoted pluralism in the forms of pluralities of Gods and Goddesses. There is   no compulsion on Hindus to worship a particular God or Goddess, nor does it compel one to worship his or her God in a particular way or method; in fact, Hinduism even respects those who do not want to worship at all. As a faith, Hinduism is inclusive, and inner-directed. It does not impose itself on its own adherents. So no question of its imposing itself on others arises.

This principle of life has been observed and unfailingly put into practice by the inhabitants of this land since time immemorial. That was why they could receive invading Sakas and Hunas and assimilate them and integrate them into their society. That was why they could receive the Jews, Parsis, Shia Muslims and the early Christians – all of whom came as refugees, with their thoughts and beliefs orphaned in their own lands – and treat them as equal members of this ancient society. There was no modern constitution that guaranteed rights to minorities then; there were no secularists to protect them from the majority. It was the majority inhabitants, seeped in their Hindu way of life or Dharma, who protected them. The non-conflicting nature of Hindu Dharma is not just a matter of theory, but an observed practice that has been followed and adhered to for ages.  But my journalist friend was not convinced of all these great attributes of Hinduism.

Incidentally, this friend of mine is a great admirer of Jawaharlal Nehru, independent India’s first prime minister. And he stands for everything that goes with Nehruvianism. It is instructive here to note that in 1949, Nehru had said that ‘to talk of Hindu culture would injure India’s interests’. He had admitted more than once that by Education he was an Englishman, by views an internationalist, by culture a Muslim, and a Hindu only by accidental birth. In 1953, Nehru had written to Kailash Nath Katju in 1953: “In practice the individual Hindu is more intolerant and more narrow-minded than almost any person in any other country.” In fact, it is not wrong to say that Nehru had total contempt for Hindu religion, for Hindu culture, for Hindu society and for the average Hindu.

Nehru codified the Hindu personnel laws (concerning Hindus’ diverse customs, rituals and practices) in 1956, but he backtracked on doing so towards Muslim personal law. No wonder why J B Kriplani, a veteran socialist, opposed the Hindu Code Bill on the ground that the Nehru government was “communal”. Kriplani had told Nehru, “If you want to have a divorce for Hindu community, have it; but have it for Catholic community also. I tell you this is the democratic way; the other is the communal way. It is not the Mahasabhites who alone are communal, it is the government also that is communal, whatever it may say. I charge you with communalism because you are bringing forward a law about monogamy only for the Hindu community. You must bring it to the Muslim community. Take it from me that the Muslim community is prepared to have it but you are not brave enough to do it.”

It is under Nehruvian secularism that the Government appoints trustees to manage Hindu temples (and maths) of Viswanath, Tirupati, Puri, Nathdwara and Guruvayur. In Kerala, we now have a “Temple Affairs” Minister (Kadakampally Surendran), who is busy finding out the wealth of Sabarimala temple. But the same Government considers it “communal” to do likewise in the case of masjids, churches and Gurudwaras. Secularism of the Nehruvian variety says that it is “progressive” to denounce a Hindu Swami for trying to influence his or her followers, but it is “communal” to raise finger at those who issue fatwas and hukamnamas.

As Arun Shourie has pointed out in his book, Religion in Politics, “during the freedom struggle, if you looked upon a Muslim as being someone apart, as being someone other than just a human being like yourself, the ‘progressive’ was bound to brand you ‘communal’. Today, unless you look upon the Muslim as separate, that is, unless you see him as a Muslim rather than as just a human being like yourself, the ‘progressive’ brands you ‘communal’. Fifty years ago when a Hindu scholar by his deep study perceived and wrote about ‘The Essential Unity of All Religions’ – the title of Bhagwan Das’ famous work – that was looked upon as humanist scholarship at its best. Today when a scholar points to the identity of what is taught in Granth Sahib and what is taught in say, the Hindu Bhakti tradition, it is taken as proof positive of a deep conspiracy to swallow Sikhism”.

This anti-Hindu trait of Nehruvianism has been dependent on the following strategy – Make the Hindu community as weak as you can, by creating internal divisions in it, by denigrating its culture, by inflicting insults upon it, and by whatever other means you can afford. The results have been that Hindus, at present, are passing through a serious crisis. They are facing the religious, social and political problems and challenges both internally and externally of unprecedented magnitude. To put the things differently, as long as Nehruvianism continues to be the guiding principle of India’s governing class, it will do everything possible to divide Hindus and derive their strength from the vote bank politics.

What then is the solution? It lies in creating a “Hindu awakening” based on an “inclusive approach”, an approach that is not anti-minorities. As I have pointed out, a true Hindu can never harm the interests of non-Hindus.  Therefore, in promoting a “Hindu awakening”, our Muslim and Christian brethren can also be partners. I may point out some starting measures:

  • There is a need for a comprehensive organisation to cater to the needs of Hindu Religious Education, Research and Training encompassing the disciplines of religion, philosophy culture and history in Indian languages in an integrated manner.
  • It is extremely important to propagate and condemn effectively in an organised manner the social evils such as dowry, practice of sati and untouchability. These practices are unauthentic in the Hindu Dharma Shastras.
  • It is absolutely imperative to establish sufficient mass media organisations capable of conveying Hindu point of view on historical, cultural, religious, political and social aspects of Indian people. What one has to do is to unite – i.e., the middle class, the ‘intellectuals’, the media, the business community, film & sports personalities, the NRI and anyone with a voice – and kick up a momentum strong  enough to change vote bank politics from being religion & caste based to performance and good governance based.

Prakash Nanda

prakashnanda@udayindia.in

By Prakash Nanda

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