People of India: Join the freedom movement! So went the battle cry. And we Hindus trooped in numbers to the expanding fold of the Congress Party, some to die, others for gains.
That was a long time ago. Since then, we have already gone through the whole gamut of the political process?from the silence of the apathetic to the tumult of the turbulent. But are we any wiser? We are not. Because we are like the sleep-walkers. We do not know what we have gone through. Nor do we know what dangers are ahead of us.
Rake'sprogress? Yes. Ours has been a rake'sprogress. Bizarre in the extreme. Look at these facts:
We are 800 million Hindus and yet we do not have a country of our own. What about ?Hindu rashtra?? Hindu country? Oh, not that. Our minorities object to that name. They say: India belongs to them just as much as it belongs to the Hindus. Hindus have no special right on India, they say.
A nation must have a common history. But we Hindus have none, for we can never agree on whose story is valid?that of the Hindus or of the minorities. Deep antipathies divide us.
And we are not sovereign in our own country. We cannot even sing our national anthem! We must take permission from the minorities for almost everything we do. Even to break a coconut! Or to light a lamp!
We Hindus have the richest heritage. Can we carry it forward? Can we carry the message of our civilisation to the peoples of the world? We are not sure. Our minorities are hostile to our culture. They do not accept it. What, then, can we say of our message?
Can we have a common destiny? We cannot. Ask our minorities whether they are willing to sink their separate identities for a common destiny. This they are not willing to do. Their separateness is not negotiable, they say.
A people must be proud of their ancestors and their achievements. But our minorities have rejected their ancestors and their achievements. They have opted for other people'sancestors. They say they are ashamed of India'spast. Why? Because, they say, of upper caste oppression. But is this true? Well, true or not, this is how they want the world to know it.
And a nation must have unity. But the minorities long for separation. Muslims got Pakistan. Did that solve the Hindu-Muslim problem? No. It has become worse. The question is: Can there ever be unity in this country as long as the minorities are for their separate existence? For the conversion of the Hindus?
But can the Hindus unite? I have my doubts. How can there be unity among us when we are individualists, when we pray alone (never in congregation), when our castes keep us at a distance from one another? There is a price for Hindu unity. Are we ready to pay it?
We Hindus are prone to division. Why? Because our civilisation has given us freedom to differ. But did we learn anything from this experience? Not at all, for we are back again today on a divisive spree. We are breaking up our society all along the cracks. And every ambitious political upstart is ready to drive a wedge through every crack and crevice to create a vote-bank for himself. This is the Dead Sea fruit of our parliamentary system. We should have found ways to close these cracks. But for that we needed men with a vision, men who knew their society. We had none. The logic of fragmentation inherent in Hindu society was lost on our ?founding fathers.? They could not see the danger.
Today the world hails India as a model. But can this ?wounded civilisation?, to use Naipaul'sphrase, be a model? Should we not heal the wounds before we present ourselves as a model?
We are a unique people?unique in geography, unique in history, unique in our culture. We should be proud of these facts. But we are not. Why? Because we have lost the vitality of our race. We have ceased to think.