Is the Face of Hinduism Changing?

Ram Puniyani

Fali S Nariman recently made a very significant observation on the current political situation in India.

The distinguished Constitutional jurist noted:

“Hinduism has traditionally been the most tolerant of all Indian faiths. But, recurrent instances of religious tension, fanned by fanaticism and hate speech, have shown that the Hindu tradition of tolerance is showing signs of strain...my apprehension is that Hinduism is somehow changing its benign face...”

There is no doubt that Mr Nariman’s observation came in reaction to recent outpourings from some organizations or establishments that subscribe to the ideology of RSS. He is concerned about the aggressive Hindutva ideology of those who seek to turn India into a Hindu nation or asserting that it is indeed a Hindu nation. 

Hinduism is a religion, while Hindutva is a political ideology.

Recently from some self-styled champions of Hindutva we have witnessed innumerable outbursts of hate speeches on issues ranging from the propaganda of what they call “love jihad” to the ideological assertions that in India ‘we are all Hindus’.

They have also unleashed an attack on the liberal Hinduism. They are telling those Hindus, who accept Shirdi Sai Baba- a Sufi born in Muslim family, as their God, that they are doing it wrong.

In a broad pattern of their attack they target the religious minorities in one way or the other. The basic question we need to address is whether the voices coming from the RSS combine represent actual Hinduism or they are related to the new practice of politics in the name of Hinduism? The question becomes more pertinent when we see group like Al Qaeda or ISIS acting against humanity, in the name of Islam.

During the freedom movement, we saw men like Gandhi and Maulana Azad, who, despite being deeply steeped in their religions, came forward and led a political movement, which was secular to the core. During the time we also saw people like Jinnah and Savarkar, who were not religious in the real sense, but they led the politics in the name of Islam and Hinduism, respectively.

RSS combine identifies Hinduism mainly with the narrow stream of Hinduism, or rather, Brahmanism. Hinduism is not based on a single book, prophet or a clergy. Polytheism being at its root, the religion has many theologies, practices and a plethora of holy scriptures.

Gandhi followed a liberal tradition of Hinduism and while laying the foundation of Indian nationalism during the freedom movement, he did not let religion intrude the politics. In contrast, the Hindu nationalism, which is being propounded by those claiming to be representing Hindus- Hindu Mahasabha, RSS and their offshoots is narrow and intolerant.

Since large sections of Hindus, were following Gandhi, the illiberal Hindu Mahasabha-RSS brand of Hinduism, remained on the margins during those days. But, during the last three decades, starting with the Ram Temple agitation, the Hindu nationalist-driven political campaign has thrown up the intolerant propaganda about the ‘others’ in a blatant way. With the current dispensation where BJP is leading the coalition, the leaders of the ruling Hindu nationalist party and its affiliate organizations are being patronized by the state which has helped them intensify the hate propaganda against the country’s religious minorities.

Their pronouncements are aimed to intimidate those who do not agree to their version of state and politics. The politics of RSS is not just intimidating the ‘others’ but also threatening those liberal Hindus .

As religion is being pushed deeper into politics the intolerance level in the society is going up. The challenge of our times is to distinguish between the politics in the name of religion and religion per se.

Mr Nariman’s statement reflects how the veteran jurist is disappointed with the democratic liberal ethos being challenged by the rising assertion of the Hindutva politics led by the RSS combine.

On a personal note I have long been receiving good number of hate mails routinely, as these articles of critical of politics in the name of Hinduism, or politics in the name of any religion for that matter. I know that another article on RSS and Hindu nationalism is going to uptick the quota of the hate mails for me.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

Love Jihad propaganda spurs hate, not dialogue

After the last general elections where Narendra Modi and his party won a majority overwhelmingly, the BJP has not been doing so well in subsequent by-elections. The Lalu-Nitish experiment is one model, but whether it will be replicated in different parts of the country is a million-vote question. The BJP appears to resort to the basic tools of divisive politics. On one hand Yogi Adityanath, with his venomous ‘hate speeches’ has come up as BJP’s major player; on the other the word of mouth propaganda of ‘love jihad’ is being spread like wildfire.

This year, Adityanath began his hate attack on Muslim minorities blaming all communal riots on Muslims when he campaigned for the BJP ahead of the general elections. In subsequent speeches he went on to make similar baseless allegations such as wherever Muslims are in the majority there is more trouble, or that when they trigger the violence then they also have to face the consequences.

None of this is grounded in the analysis of the communal violence in India. Referring to ‘Love Jihad,’ Adityanath said that if ‘they’ convert one Hindu girl, we will convert 100 Muslim girls. His unrelenting ‘hate speeches’ are going on at the time when the Prime Minister himself has asked for a ten-year moratorium on violence. Mr. Modi seems to be deliberately looking the other way when all this Hate propaganda is on.

The ‘Love Jihad’ propaganda is a double-edged weapon: By stating that Muslim youth are being trained to lure Hindu girls, on one hand they demonize Muslims and on the other they tighten their control of the lives of girls and women. In this propaganda, Hindu women are projected as gullible, easy to be lured and incapable of deciding for themselves. In a way the communal agenda’s twin goals are achieved here. Communal politics wants to marginalize the religious minorities at the surface level and at the deeper societal level it aims to restrict the rights and freedom of women.

BJP affiliates are not only indulging in word-of-mouth propaganda on this issue. They have also started forming fronts to oppose ‘love jihad,’ some of them have come up in western UP, and more seem to be in the offing.  VHP has come to the forefront on this issue by stating that “Patriots will support our crusade against ‘love jihad’ that is leading the country towards another partition.” One more Sangh Parivar-related organization, the Dharma Jagran Manch, has started a similar campaign which is appealing to Hindus to oppose the ‘threat’ of ‘love jihad.’

As far as Hindu girls being converted to Islam through Love Jihad is concerned, it is a hoax- there is no doubt about that. A friend wrote from UP that he was to talk in a girls college there. He met a young faculty member all charged up to save Hindu girls, claiming that over 6,000 girls have been converted in his area. When confronted to give the names of some of the alleged converts, he retracted, saying he has heard rumours of it and so it must be true.

A booklet priced Rs 15 about the Love Jihad conspiracy has been published by some Hindu zalots: 'How to Save Our Women from the Terrorism of Love Jihad'. It contains some alleged case studies. Most of these stories feature a typical pattern: a young Hindu woman lured into a relationship or into marriage by a Muslim man who had allegedly posed as a Hindu. It is claimed that those who get married often convert to Islam and need to be 'rescued' and this is where the RSS affiliates want to pitch in according to their plans.

While lot of historical material has come out on the issue of Love Jihad, two items in particular need to be mentioned. Many analysts have compared the Modi politics with the politics indulged in by Hitler, who used a similar tactic to polarize German opinion against the Jews, who were called the ‘internal enemy’. The Nazi propaganda held that Jewish young men had been luring German girls and polluting the purity of Aryan blood with a view to subjugating the German nation.

Similar tactics were adopted by Arya Samaj and Hindu Mahasbaha in India in the 1920s, when organizations to save the honor of Hindu women were formed and pamphlets like ‘Hindu Auratonki Loot’ (Loot of Hindu Women) were brought out. This propaganda was a potent weapon to polarize the communities along religious lines.

Can this be combated in some way? There is news that some Muslim youth have planned peace marches in the areas to create an atmosphere of amity. I hope more such marches take place and can restore the sanity of our society and surely members from the majority religious community will join these marches spontaneously to boost the amity amongst communities.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED