The overhang of a millennium of servitude, first to the Mughals and later to the British, still lingers in the attitude of the majority Hindu population towards themselves. While the Muslims and the Christians each have, through identification of themselves with one or the other conqueror, adopted the correct attitude of insisting on their rights and even trying to expand the space they occupy vis-a-vis the majority, the Hindu population has remained content on the sidelines of the ?Great Indian Policy Bazaar?, meekly accepting of second-class status. This implicit or overt discrimination against Hindus is seen in practically all spheres of policy. For example, in the core sector of Education, institutions run by the Hindus are placed in the straightjacket of the numerous restrictive and often contradictory policies that the Nehruvian state?a hybrid of the Mughal and the British despotism, with the addition of a superficial adherence to democratic norms?mandates in order to drive away innovation and enterprise. On the other hand, those run by minorities are freed from such a burden, and consequently have more than a head start in competing with the Hindu-run bodies. They can recruit whom they please, admit whom they please, and run their institutions secure in the knowledge that the Muslim-Christian tradition of refusing state intervention except in a beneficial context will act to stop any administration from intruding upon their autonomy in a way that is routine with Hindu-run institutions. HRD Minister, Arjun Singh is only implementing the policy of UPA Chairperson, Sonia Gandhi, who seeks to camouflage her faith by visiting temples in and out of season.
However, none of these visits has succeeded in turning her away from seeking to create within India a system of governance that would have been followed, had M.A. Jinnah been the Prime Minister and the Muslim League the only party in governance. Like Arjun Singh, ?Prime Minister? Manmohan Singh (who can more accurately be termed the Cabinet Secretary to Sonia Gandhi'sPrime Minister) openly seeks to implement a policy that relegates Hindus to second-class status.
Another core part of everyday life is religion, and here too it is the majority that is discriminated against. While mosques, gurdwaras and churches are free of state control, temples remain under the yoke of administrations that are openly contemptuous of Hindu traditions and interests. It is only income from devotees that keeps these government controlled bodies viable, but not a penny from the huge hoards of cash that flows into their coffers is allowed to be used to improve the socio-economic condition of the Hindus, the way institutions within other communities work. Guruvayur Temple, for example, has a gold hoard of more than 2,500 kilograms and balances of Rs 3,000 crore, but none of this vast asset base is used for the education and upliftment of the Hindu community, although that was certainly among the intentions of the donors. Hundreds of schools, hospitals and vocational centres can be set up by using the funds of those temples under state control, creating a network that would help to pull Hindu society out of the current morass. However, the governments that control these bodies have no interest in Hindu upliftment.
Like Manmohan Singh, in their view as well, the Hindus do not deserve special treatment. Indeed, he or she should be put under the lash and bled, even while other faiths are free to run their holy places the way they want. It is surprising that even during the six years of NDA rule, laws were not passed freeing temples from control by government. Those running the NDA acted as though they would remain continously in power for at least 50 years, and consequently need not take even the primary steps towards justice for the majority. Indeed, the NDA period was in most particulars indistinguishable from that of the Nehrus, although both were better than the present spell of Maino family rule. For there is nothing of the Nehrus in Sonia Gandhi, either culturally or intellectually. Her accent and other characteristics declare to the world her true chemistry. Small wonder that discrimination against the Hindus has multiplied several fold during the period of UPA rule. Of course, because of the continuing overhang of the legacy of slavery, by and large the Hindu community has been meek and cowed, giving away even the pitiful rights that they had enjoyed during the period of rule by ?Brown Sahibs?.
There is, however, one corner of the country where such a mental landscape has altered, and this is Gujarat. In that state, Hindus do not feel ashamed to be Hindus. They do not feel the need to squeeze themselves into as cramped a political space as they can fit in, cringing at the repeated blows to their rights. During the past five years, the state has witnessed a revolution, with industries humming, power plentiful and even agriculture booming. While farmers kill themselves in Sonia-ruled states such as Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, in Gujarat there has not been a single farmer suicide. Neither is there the 16-hour power cut that has now become an accepted fact of life in neighbouring Maharashtra. Most important, during the past couple of years,there has been total security for minorities.
It is a part of the Hindu ethos that minorities should get the same rights as the majority. This is in contrast to the Nehru-Maino dictum that the majority community needs to be seen as cattle and treated as such. Even a casual visitor to Gujarat will see the difference that pride and confidence within the majority community can do. If Gujarat can change so dramatically and become a beacon for progress, why not the entire country? If Hindus think as Hindus, it means genuine secularism, a system whereby each community gets treated the same way. It means working to remove the fetters placed on Hindus by Mughals and the British, and giving them the same rights as the minority communities enjoy. It means the creation of a strong, vibrant India. Sonia Gandhi, given her obsession with following a Jinnah policy towards the Hindus, may succeed in making a Gujarat out of the rest of India by 2009.
(The writer, a former editor and renowned columnist, can be contacted at [email protected])