By Srinivasa Ramanujan
There were four news headlines in a couple of days which, though not connected with each other, signify something, that can be loosely interpreted as the definition for what is Hindutva forgetting what the Sangh Parivar tries to project or their ?secular? critics try to reject. 1. Nayanar'sashes get Hindu rites, 2. A nine-year old Jain Sadhvi'sfate, 3. Muslim Personal Law Board to ban triple talaq as un-Islamic; and 4. A Dalit collector an untouchable in his village.
Let us take Nayanar first. The veteran communist leader'sashes were immersed in Kanyakumari to the accompaniment of traditional Hindu rites. Nayanar'swife, sons and their families took part in the religious ceremony that was held in a sanctified spot. According to the news report, the family that stayed in the Kerala House in Kanyakumari, also conducted puja of the urn which contained the late communist leader'sashes. A priest oversaw all the rites. Not surprisingly, the fact that the family had carried out all the traditional Hindu rites in the first few days after Nayanar'sdeath had embarrassed the CPI-M.
Here was a leader who sincerely believed in communist ideology, denounced religion, professed rank atheism as a practicing communist and preached political ideology, how alien it could have been to Indian culture and ethos, to his cadre with all the commitment he could command. None can doubt his integrity as a communist. But could he make his close family circles share his thoughts and ideology? It is not correct to say either that his family defied him nor disrespected his belief or rather disbelief when they followed certain Hindu rituals. They could not have even thought for a moment that they were betraying his beliefs. They must have certainly cooperated with him in his political struggle. When it came to personal faith and sentiments, they adopted Hindu tradition despite the fact that the family has been breathing communism, eating communism, and sleeping communism.
None can doubt the integrity of Nayanar as a communist. But could he make his close family circles share his thoughts and ideology? It is not correct to say either that his family defied him nor disrespected his belief or rather disbelief when they followed certain Hindu rituals.
This reminds me of a colleague of mine who is no more. He was also a communist, but a great authority on Indian culture, epics and shastras. Professing to be a social reformer, he might have performed hundreds of inter-caste marriages, not following any rituals, but lengthy discourses quoting from Marx and Lenin. It was quite a scene to see him when he performed his own daughter'smarriage. Being a Brahmin, he wore sacred thread over his half-naked body, wore panchi (traditional way of wearing dhoti), recited all the mantras required for the occasion and did the kanyadaan. I confronted him immediately after the muhurat and his reply was, ?What can I do, this is what the family wants and I have to go by their sentiments.? I asked him ?What about the sentiments of those parents for whose children you conducted marriages in a reformist fashion?? Pat came the reply ?That is what my party wanted me to do.?
Here are two incidents. One is full of sorrow and the other brimming with joy. On both the occasions, it is your cultural roots that overtake all your other sentiments?personal, political or social. Is this not cultural nationalism? You may quarrel with Sangh Parivar if they call it Hindutva, but the underlying national ethos cannot be obliterated by any number of secular pundits or Left intellectuals.
The second story pertains to a nine-year old Jain girl who became a sadhvi in Pune. An NGO, Balprafulla, took her case to the Child Welfare Committee that takes care of children needing protection. Naturally, the Jain monks resisted this move and the girl also refused to go back to her parents. What prompted her to take to diksha (initiation)? Two years ago, Priyal's(child sadhvi) mother took her to a discourse by a senior Jain monk, who spoke of the need to abandon the life of sin and violence. According to the monks, these words made her want to become a sadhvi. The NGO wants to fight out this case as an issue of child'srights versus religion. Forgetting the ?rights? aspect for a moment, let us contrast this case with the earlier two incidents involving communist brethren who spent their lifetime in spreading values against Indian tradition and ethos, but ultimately failed when it came to their close family circles. But here is a child who did not need any series of discourses or brainwashing to take to the path of renunciation. She is not a Hindu, though Jainism may be an offshoot of Hinduism. What is the link between the sentiments of Nayanar'sfamily and the spirit of Priyal cutting across religious barriers? Cultural nationalism and Indian ethos!
The third headline relates to triple talaq, the most sensitive subject, the very mention of which will raise the hackles of minority leaders?political or religious. Though some women'sorganisations were taking up this issue that was causing untold misery to innumerable Muslim women for centuries, they could not succeed against the Muslim orthodoxy. Now, the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board has decided to ban this practice and ratify a new model talaqnama. The Islamic clerics obviously relied on Shariat to impose this practice on lakhs of hapless minority women all these centuries. Well, this is not to say that Hindu women were not subjected to such cruelties. Hindu widows were disfigured; they could not remarry, sati, an obnoxious practice, was in vogue and the list is endless. But the reforms came from within. The Indian tradition has imbibed a process that is self-evolving and reforming. Now, it has caught up with the most rigid religion when it comes to reforms. This is the influence of Indian ethos on other religions. You may call it Indianness or Hinduness or by whatever phrase.
The fourth one is in sharp contrast to the earlier three instances. It only shows the dark side of the Hinduness that has to be fought by the very same forces that swear by Indian ethos and cultural nationalism. Rajan Priyadarshi is a l980-batch IPS officer and a Dalit. He rose to the rank of Inspector General. All his colleagues and those who seek his support and help stand before him with folded hands. But when he goes to his native village in Gujarat (don'tworry, nothing to do with Narendra Modi), he can'tbuy a house in the upper caste area of the village. He continues to have a house in the Dalitwada. Another Dalit IAS officer, who retired as Commissioner of Fisheries, organised a social gathering in his native village in the same Gujarat state. The person to whom he gave the cooking contract refused to wash the vessels. The point is, even senior bureaucrats face social ostracisation in their native villages. Is this also part of cultural nationalism? Secularists isolate such issues and indulge in wholesale condemnation of whatever stands for Hinduness. Admittedly, this is an ugly side of Hinduness. Not that such an aberration was not in existence in other civilisations and culture. But, do we accept this as part of cultural nationalism and thus give a big handle to the critics of Hindutva to condemn the whole concept of Indian ethos and nationalism as obscurantism and communalism?
(The writer is the former executive editor of Newstime, Eenadu and director, Eenadu Television.)