The other day, a diplomat from an important country was addressing a small gathering at one of New Delhi'sintellectual nerve centres. It was his farewell address to his Indian friends and colleagues after a six-year posting in India. He described his ?wonderful experiences? in ?the great country of India?. But one thing, he said, surprised him the most. ?I had heard a lot about Hindus and Hinduism before I was posted in India. I thought during my stint in India I would learn and hear more about one of the great and ancient religions of the world. But what I found during my stay was that the leading Indians were more vocal about the interests of Islam and Christianity than about the protection of Hinduism. In fact, sharpest attacks on Hinduism come invariably from Indians themselves?.
The diplomat in him obviously did not give any impression that he was happy or sad about the treatment of Hinduism in a country that is inhabited mainly by the Hindus. But then he did make an important point, a point that was validated by a ?Hindu? journalist-friend of this writer the very next day. According to this friend, Hinduism is the most absurd, unscientific and cruel religion of the world that perpetuated casteism, inequality and exploitation. My friend was not convinced when I pointed out that every great religion or civilization has its pluses and minuses and as times pass by, the minuses get corrected. After all, it is under Hinduism that people worship women as goddesses whereas the women are not equal to men under Islam; even till recently the women did not have voting rights in many developed Christian countries. I told my friend that catsteism, as a concept, was highly scientific since it espoused the principle of division of labour, a principle that ensured that every section of society is ?wanted?. True, the concept got corrupted when one'splace in life depended not on one'sability but on ones? birth. There is thus need to de-corrupt the principle; but it does not mean that one should throw Hinduism in the Indian Ocean for good.
In fact, unlike any other religion the world, Hinduism promoted pluralism in the forms of pluralities of Gods and Goddesses. There is no compulsion on Hindus to worship a particular God or Goddess, nor does it compel one to worship his or her God on a particular way or method; in fact, Hinduism even respects those who do not want to worship at all. As a faith, Hinduism is inclusive, and inner-directed. It does not impose itself on its own adherents. So no question of its imposing itself on others arises.
This principle of life has been observed and unfailingly put into practice by the inhabitants of this land since time immemorial. That was why they could receive invading Sakas and Hunas and assimilate them and integrate them into their society. That was why they could receive the Jews, Parsis, Shia Muslims and the early Christians ? all of whom came as refugees, with their thoughts and beliefs orphaned in their own lands ? and treat them as equal members of this ancient society. There was no modern constitution that guaranteed rights to minorities then; there were no secularists to protect them from the majority. It was the majority inhabitants, seeped in their Hindu Dharma, who protected them. The non-conflicting nature of Hindu Dharma is not just a matter of theory, but an observed practice that has been followed and adhered to for ages. But my journalist friend was not convinced of all these great attributes of Hinduism.
Incidentally, this friend of mine is a great admirer of Jawaharlal Nehru, independent India'sfirst prime minister. And he stands for everything that goes with Nehruvianism. It is instructive here to note that in 1949, Nehru had said that ?to talk of Hindu culture would injure India'sinterests?. He had admitted more than once that by Education he was an Englishman, by views an internationalist, by culture a Muslim, and a Hindu only by accidental birth. In 1953, Nehru had written to Kailash Nath Katju in 1953: ?In practice the individual Hindu is more intolerant and more narrow-minded than almost any person in any other country. ? In fact, it is not wrong to say that Nehru had total contempt for Hindu religion, for Hindu culture, for Hindu society and for the average Hindu.
The point that I want to make is that if the above mentioned diplomat heard more concerns about the Muslims and Christians and if my journalist friend has such nasty opinion about Hinduism, the main reason is the dominance of Nehurivan thoughts in India's politics, bureaucracy, intelligentsia and media since 1947. Even during six years of NDA'srule, Nehruvianism prospered like never before. Most of the NDA ministers ? and these included some BJP stalwarts – had a tremendous sense of inferiority complex; they all wanted ?recognition? and ?legitimacy? from their opponents by pleasing them. So Nehurvians and the so-called secularists had a field day during the NDA regime. On the other hand, those opposed to Nehuruvianism continued to suffer, as they are suffering now, during the NDA rule.
This anti-Hindu trait of Nehruvianism has been dependent on the following strategy – Make the Hindu community as weak as you can, by creating internal divisions in it, by denigrating its culture, by inflicting insults upon it, and by whatever other means you can afford. The results have been that Hindus, at present, are passing through a serious crisis. They are facing the religious, social and political problems and challenges both internally and externally of unprecedented magnitude. On the other hand, the minorities, both Muslims and Christians, are enjoying all possible economic and political patronage and religious advantages much more than the Hindus.
To put the things differently, as long as Nehuriviansim continues to be the guiding principle of India'sgoverning class, the plights of Hindus will worsen in India in days to come. After all, in a democratic set up like ours, the legal and administrative decisions of the government entirely depend upon the nature and composition of the governing group, and if it is ?pseudo-secular?, it will act for the minorities, and against the Hindu cause. Therefore, the Nehurivian governing class will do everything possible to divide Hindus and derive their strength from the vote bank politics. And this notwithstanding the fact that this sort of vote-bank politics is the greatest threat to national development, national unity, national integrity and internal security because majority of the people feel excluded and lacking in opportunity to help themselves to a better life.
What then is the solution? The adage that a thorn can remove another thorn from the body is relevant here. The best way to combat the vote-bank politics centering round the minorities is to create Hindu vote-banks so that the nature, and what is more important, the mindset of the country'sgoverning class changes. But again, is it feasible?
In my opinion, creating Hindu vote banks is feasible or doable. It is not that ordinary Hindus are not aware of what is happening to their culture and religion. At times, they have reacted and changed the governments ? they did so in the just concluded assembly elections in Punjab. The most important reason why the Congress lost power in arguably India'smost prosperous state was the adverse reactions to the UPA'smindless appeasement and divisive policies on caste and religion basis by the overwhelming majority of the Hindus in the urban areas. Congress lost in Punjab by this angry reaction of the urban Punjab.
Even earlier, Hindus had politically reacted against V P Singh's?Mandal politics?. They had also shown solidarity in the last assembly elections in Gujarat. But the problem with these stories of Hindu solidarity has been that they have been mainly based on emotions, which, by nature, are temporary. As has been argued above, the minority-centered vote bank politics will not end as long the governing class of India does not shed Nehuvianism. And this governing class includes not only the politicians but also the other wings of the society ? bureaucrats, educationists, journalists and artists etc.
In order to create sustainable, Hindu vote- banks, thinking Hindus must adopt an all-inclusive approach. I may point out only some of them:
There is a need for a comprehensive organisation to cater to the needs of Hindu Religious Education, Research and Training encompassing the disciplines of religion, philosophy culture and history in Indian languages in integrated manner.
It is extremely important to propagate and condemn effectively in an organised manner the social evils such as dowry, practice of sati and untouchablity. These practices are unauthentic in the Hindu Dharma Shastras.
It is absolutely imperative to establish sufficient mass media organisations capable of conveying Hindu point of view on historical, cultural, religious, political and social aspects of Indian people. At present, there is serious lack of effective means of propagating the Hindu point of view on national issues, in different regional languages, as print and electronic media, both, particularly the English one, is deadly opposed to Hindu cause and Hindu organisations. What one has to do is to unite ? i.e., the middle class, the ?intellectuals?, the media, the business community, film & sports personalities, the NRI and any one with a voice should think together and get together and kick up a storm sufficient enough to change vote bank politics from being religion & caste based to being based on performance and good governance.
The Hindus must realise that they can now ill afford the absence of strong political will to vote and support, en mass, only a pro-Hindu (which does not mean anti-minority) candidate and the political party, during the local, state and central Government elections. Besides, slackness in exercising the right to vote in elections among the well placed, and middle class Hindus is a disease and that must be cured.
(The writer is a senior researcher and commentator.)