IF Hindu rashtra becomes inevitable, how should India’s Muslims and Christians go about taking evasive action, and will they be the only ones that need to? We are not talking about the reasons why such an eventuality could descend on us sooner or later.
It’s not about Sitaram Yechury losing the crucial vote on the communist party’s anti-BJP strategy in the decision-making central committee the other day. It’s not even about Rahul Gandhi being made to believe (falsely) that his temple-hopping got him the votes in Gujarat, when it was actually three unrelated youngsters who shored up the campaign. It’s not about Kejriwal’s party being slaughtered daily with cleavers dispatched to democratically masked abattoirs from the prime minister’s office, or Lalu Yadav being locked up arbitrarily, or Mamata Banerjee being threatened with a similar fate. It is about all that and more.
When the hurly-burly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won, what then? What should the Muslims and Christians do? Or, for that matter, what can the Dabholkars, the Kalburgis, the rationalist followers of Gauri Lankesh and Govind Pansare do to take evasive action? What should the Marxists do? What can the LGBT community do, and what does the future hold for Indian feminists?
Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the ideological guru of the idea of Hindu rashtra, said adopt the Hindu way of life and be saved. That was an offer Hitler didn’t make to the Jews: adopt a Protestant or a German way of life and be saved. The question is, what constitutes Golwalkar’s Hindu way? The search is as desperate as the answer is elusive.
Aesthetically, too, there’s a slippery slope to negotiate in our search of the Hindu way.
One can become a Muslim by reciting the kalima, and a Christian by a similar process. One can go to Buddhism or adopt the Sikh way, more or less with a degree of clarity about the house rules. There is no such clarity with Hinduism. Our history teachers told us that Hindus could not be fundamentalists as there are no fundamentals to follow. There’s no single book, no overarching ritual either. You can be an atheist and be a Hindu if I am right. So what is the Hindu way? What are its do’s and don’ts?
Poor Ahsan Jafri wrote paeans to Meera, Buddha, Nanak all his life as a Nehruvian dreamer. He was chopped to pieces and his remains burnt by the mob that attacked his house in Ahmedabad. Before him Rasoolan Bai’s home was burnt down in the same city under Congress rule. She hardly sang a song without reference to Ram or Krishna. That evidently didn’t help her. What is the trick they missed out on, something to comply with Golwalkar’s breathtaking generosity that could have saved them from mob violence?
If I remember right, Khushwant Singh once put the question to Guruji, as Golwalkar is known. He replied that Christians should stop converting Hindus. When asked about Muslims, he said: “What about Muslims?” The answer left the usually unstoppable writer neither here nor there. So, again, what is the Hindu life insurance policy for those under threat in a future Hindu nation? How to get their life and limb spared, their children secured from harm, their rights as a citizens promised.
We know from unimpeachable historical accounts — via professors D.N. Jha, R.S. Sharma, Romila Thapar, D.D. Kosambi, replete with reasonably solid evidence — that Brahmins in ancient India ate beef. We know from newspaper accounts that Nepali Hindus today slaughter bullocks routinely for religious ritual and to eat the meat. Are these people living in ignorance or in defiance of Hindu tenets? What about the Hindus who own big slaughterhouses? Should they worry about Golwalkar’s warning directed at Muslims and Christians?
Hindu rashtra, we are told, is about nationhood. If religion could be the basis of nationhood, India and Nepal would be one country; Sri Lanka and Myanmar would have one constitution. Pakistan exemplifies the problem of religion-based nationhood as few other countries do. The so-called Muslim glue is not working. People seem to need real or imagined fear of India to stick together.
Aesthetically, too, there’s a slippery slope to negotiate in our search of the Hindu way. Paluskar and Subbalakshmi, for example, bring out the best in the musical invocation of the Hindu religion, assuming it’s a religion. Their admirers — who often include Muslims and Christians along with Hindus who patronise their bhajans — may not be able to appreciate Narendra Chanchal or Anup Jalota kind of jaagrans with equal enthusiasm. Are they committing unpardonable heresy by rejecting the popular but grating tone of bhajans that Hindutva patronises?
A feature of Hinduism is its Vedic heritage. But Vedic culture was not a proselytising one. If anything, Vedic texts were guarded jealously by the priests. And there was at least one occasion when people (known as demons) tried to steal the Vedas from Brahma. And Vishnu had to hunt them down. Imagine someone stealing the Bible or the Guru Granth Sahib. Should Muslims and Christians be allowed to learn the Vedas? I ask since Wendy Doniger learnt the Vedas, and she learnt them as good as the best in the Hindu fold. But her book was forcibly pulped by a latter-day Hayagriva.
Hindus use the Geeta as a book that law courts admit to take their oath on. The trouble is Gandhiji loved the Geeta and so do Prime Minister Modi and Justice Dipak Misra. Whose Hindu way should the worried Indians follow to live and prosper in their own country?
The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.
Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2018