By Satish Chandra
?I do no want to answer all kinds of questions,? said my wife, while refusing to give a copy my recent article on some salient aspects of Hindu religion to an acquaintance, Pete. It stopped me for a moment and I wondered at our ?closet? religion. My wife has lived in USA for 35 years. She is educated, well read, and informed about beliefs and lifestyles. Pete is an 82-year old writer who shares his stories with us as I do with mine.
In my recent writings on Hindu religion, I have been focusing on the public identity of Hindu individuals and Hindu religion. Publicly Hindus, young or old, do not want to have a discussion on their religious beliefs, as they think it is too personal. They often hide behind the national origin, Indian. My nephew-in-law has told me several times how he feels defenceless at work when his co-workers ask questions on Hindu religion. Various gods in different inhuman forms make him feel uneasy. Then where and what is one Hindu scripture, and so on?
In an effort to ease this tension and bring some information and education, my sister and brother-in-law recently formed a study group which seeks out Hinduism. It meets every third Thursday from 7:30 to 9 p.m. The idea is that first let us come to some consensus on some aspects of Hinduism amongst ourselves before confidently telling about it to the non-Hindus. The group is open to all who want to understand Hindu Dharma/religion. What is your image of Hinduism that you are publicly proud of? Tell it all.
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More than a massacre of Nepalese
The gruesome worldwide TV beheading of one Nepalese Hindu and clinical executions of the remaining eleven in Iraq shook me for a moment this morning. If they weren'tHindus, then this orchestrated bloodbath would not have taken place. Why was a recently abducted American reporter released, and negotiations for a French still going on? In this case, neither the Nepalese government has any clout, nor collectively the Hindus have any voice.
My thought went back to June 1993 when I spent a week in Nepal, the only Hindu nation in the world. My brother-in-law gave me company as his sisters are married in Nepal. We crossed the border walking on a bridge over a river that separates India from Nepal. But the differences were noticeable right away in terms of business and road signage, and Hindu temples at every kilometre.
During the stay, I vividly remember reading a news report on Muslim influx in Nepal. They were not moving from the neighbouring states of India, but from the farthest state of Maharashtra that had just witnessed widespread Hindu-Muslim communal riots. In a press interview, a leader of the Muslim community was asked: How come Muslims are migrating to a Hindu nation after fleeing from India? The answer he gave stands out in my memory, ?Muslims are safer in the Hindu kingdom of Nepal than in secular India.? Did he not speak a historical fact? For centuries, the Hindu kingdoms of southern India generously welcomed Jews, Muslims, Christians and Parsis. In that interview, the question of Muslims going to a closer Pakistan was not even raised!
But look at the historical return of such a hospitality. Nepal has become a hotbed of international terrorists. Air India planes were hijacked from Nepal to the Taliban-run Afghanistan. The passengers and planes were released only after the Islamic terrorists in Kashmir were freed from prisons. A peaceful Nepal has been destabilised forever.
This news disappeared from the Internet after a few hours while the killing of 16 Israeli Jews in a bomb blast remains there. After a couple of days, this tragedy will be forgotten even in Nepal. Human beings are not equal in life and death. It reminds me of a Muslim law on crimes in Saudi Arabia that apportions different punishments for the same crime. It essentially works like this: If a crime is committed against a Muslim man, then it carries a fine of say, a million dollars; against Muslim woman, 500,000; against a European man, 100,000; against a European woman, 50,000; against a Hindu man, 1000, and against Hindu woman, 100. Such a law has existed for centuries, and continues to do so. It is time for the Hindus to examine and act, as it is a question of survival with dignity.
(The author is professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and a founding member of Friends of India Club, a cultural organisation, Nevada Chapter of Indian American Forum for Political Education and World Association of Vedic Studies. He maintains close ties with India with annual visits and frequent communications.)