Is Hinduism in retreat?
By Prakash Singh
How would one define the character of a Hindu in the present context? I attempted the definition and came to a horrifying conclusion. A Hindu is basically non-aggressive, not deeply concerned about his places of worship being defiled or even demolished, is not particularly offended by others making fun of his gods and goddesses, does not object to other religions? preachers converting his flock, and is not greatly exercised over the abduction and molestation of his women and daughters.
It may appear a very sweeping indictment, but this is the bitter truth. How else do you explain the Kashmiri Pundits being ethnically cleansed from Jammu & Kashmir? How else would you rationalise the eastern states being swamped by Bangladeshis from across the borders and the Hindus moving out of the border belt? How else would you account for the highest spiritual pontiff of our religion being arrested and humiliated without much of a protest? One could go on citing any number of examples.
Were we always like that? On delivering into the old records, fortunately a different picture emerges. Megasthenes, the ambassador of Seleucus at Pataliputra, has recorded that the Hindus honoured truth and virtue and that thefts in the country were rare. The Chinese traveller, Hiuen-tsang has recorded that ?though the Indians are of a mild temperament, they are distinguished by the straightforwardness and honesty of their character?. Abu Fazl, Akbar'sminister, has stated that ?the Hindus are religious, affable, cheerful, lovers of justice, admirers of truth, gratefulness and of unbounded fidelity; and their soldiers know not what it is to fly from the field of battle.?
Long years of Mughal rule followed by the period of British imperialism witnessed a gradual erosion in the moral fibre of the Hindus. Religious discrimination during the Mughal rule particularly demoralised the Hindus. The British exploited the people economically and, on the political plane, played one community against the other.
The early British rulers also spoke highly of the Hindus, including Warren Hastings, who said, ?The Hindus are gentle and benevolent, more susceptible to gratitude for kindness shown to them, and less prompted to vengeance for wrongs inflicted than any other people on the face of the earth; they are faithful, affectionate, and submissive to legal authority.? Colonel Sleeman, who put down the thugs, recorded that he had seen hundreds of cases ?in which a man'sproperty, liberty and life depended upon his telling a lie, and he refused to tell it.?
It would appear that long years of Mughal rule followed by the period of British imperialism witnessed a gradual erosion in the moral fibre of the Hindus. Religious discrimination during the Mughal rule particularly demoralised the Hindus. The British exploited the people economically and, on the political plane, played one community against the other. The renaissance was a period of revival. Leaders like Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda inculcated a new sense of confidence in the Hindus. After independence, it was expected that the new generation would carry the message forward.
However, that was not to be. Politics became an end in itself instead of being an instrument of service to the people. The politicians used their clout to aggrandise themselves, accumulate wealth, and promote the interests of their caste and region. Civil servants gradually found it more convenient to swim with the current, and took to feathering their nests. Liberalisation of the economy unshackled it, leading to progress in most of the sectors. The middle class burgeoned and became quite affluent. On the flip side, corruption became rampant and pervasive. Scams and scandals became the order of the day. Acquisition of wealth became the prime motive of large sections of Indians; the finer values of life were relegated to the background. Media tycoons started dishing out soft porn to push up their sales. The character of the Indians in this milieu?Hindus, in particular?went for a nose-dive. What we are seeing today is essentially a reflection of that.
The average Hindu today has hardly any pride in his religion. Recently, on the eve of Mahashiva-ratri, a leading so-called national daily of India, carried a disparaging news-item on Lord Shiva. It referred to ?his rampant libido? and accused him of ?not thinking twice before seducing even the wives of the rishis?. There was hardly any protest from the Hindus. The normally aggressive Shiv Sena and Bajrang Dal also kept quiet. Perhaps, they get the urge to act only when a political point is to be scored. A similar remark about the Prophet would have led to riots all over the country The alleged desecration of Quran by American interrogators at Guantanamo Bay resulted in protests by Muslims hailing from Gaza to Pakistan to Indonesia.
Besides, under the garb of secularism, the Hindu is quite happy pandering to other communities. The proselytising faiths, under the circumstances, are having a field day, converting people from the Hindu flock, and have no reservations in making any preposterous demand. As section of Muslims have laid a claim over the Taj Mahal. Tomorrow they might even say that they are the natural inheritors of the Delhi Sultanate. The Christian missions have almost ?conquered? the north-east, thanks to the lethargy, inertia and smugness of the Hindu organisations.
The Hindu religious leaders are unfortunately divided and fragmented into numerous camps. There are any number of fake Shankaracharyas. The majority of saints are preoccupied with building up their small empires and adding to the wealth of their mutts. The rejuvenation of the society or its upliftment is not their prime concern.
The Hindu society must wake up before it gets too late. Certain things must be done. A united front of the numerous Hindu organisations should be constituted with a common minimum programme. Reconversion should be taken up on a massive scale. The celebration of festivals should have an aesthetic touch so that the present generation is attracted to it. The celebration of a premier festival like Dusshera in Delhi in which is witnessed by even foreign missions, is a cultural disgrace. Religious places should be cleaned up and freed from the shackles of rapacious pandas. Social reforms should be taken up so that the scheduled castes and tribes feel part of the mainstream. Assertiveness, if not aggression, must be made the key. Are there any takers from the lotus-eating tribe of so-called champions of Hinduism?
(The author is formerly Director General, Border Security Force, Address: 3C Super Deluxe Flats, Sector 15A, Noida 201301, Phone 95120-2512165, 9891471939)