Let us appreciate that India is a Hindu majority nation and has never asserted this aspect of its identity on Indian or foreign soil. Like every religion, culture, social group, there are certain references that enjoy high sensitivity not just for fundamentalists, but also for conservative Hindus across the globe. Hinduism is a liberal religion for it does not impose any practice or ideology. It encourages multiple sects, cultures and practices, for this is exactly how the universe is meant to be – diverse and plural. Hinduism derives its roots from the genesis of human nature i.e. no two humans are mental twins. The religion does not expect all its followers to be products on an assembly line. However, just the way, all human beings are sensitive about issues like colour and race, most non-liberal Hindus are responsive on issues including Ram, Krishna, Devi, Gai, Ganga, Bhagwa and Ayodhya. Unfortunately, instead of respecting the sentiments of the majority by abstaining from passing remarks on these issues, politicians and ideological hackers have begun to use these as a tool to trigger unwanted fervour in the majority, which then cascades into high decibel disagreements, toxicity and an angrier society.
A couple of months back, Shashi Tharoor, author of the book “Why I am Hindu”, decided to abandon his diplomatic habits and resort to reckless vocabulary. He said, “BJP would make India a Hindu Pakistan if it came to power in 2019”. This was unacceptable for almost all Indians, save the liberals, whose secularism is far from plurality. Well aware, that if there is one word that activates an Indian in slumber is Pakistan, it is extremely naïve to believe that this statement was made in the passing. Whether it is an India Pakistan cricket match, a diplomatic engagement, an innocuous commercial trade or a Pakistani actor on the silver screen – the very mention of the nation which emerged from India in 1947 mobilises emotions that are often beyond comprehension. Often addressed as the “global centre for political Islam”, Pakistan has not just been a breeding ground for terrorist outfits, it has been named and shamed globally for its role in the same. Admittedly, for a nation like India, which has worked its way up to emerge as a potential global power in more ways than one, it is infuriating when one of its supposed global citizens prophesises the repugnant idea of Hindu Pakistan.
If the Pakistan analogy was not enough, the “Hindu” suffix gave the comment the intended communal undertone and required publicity. A few days back, the eloquent politician decided to give certificates to Hindus. While he fearlessly preached that no “good Hindu” would “want to see a Ram temple built by demolishing somebody else’s place of worship”, he has not gathered the courage or vocabulary to describe the character of Mir Baqi, who also demolished a ‘place of worship’ and built a mosque on the remains of a holy site.
A career diplomat, Tharoor knows his doing and every word he speaks is to further his political cause. His comment was as deliberate as sloganeering in support of Afzal Guru or hoisting Pakistan’s flag on Indian soil. He had succeeded in inflaming Hindu sentiments, by making the distasteful reference.
Mamata Banerjee’s government in West Bengal attempted to ban idol immersion during Durga Puja in 2017 under the pretext of maintaining law and order, since the day coincided with Muharram. While the High Court cancelled the order citing overreach of power and no real basis to the imposed ban, the incident reflects unrestrained prerogative politicians have at hand, when dealing with issues of majority religion. Had the ban continued, it could have manifested in condemnable violence in certain areas – which would once again put the blame back on majority, and tantamount to being touted as militants. Just like Tharoor, her actions are politically motivated, for minority appeasement will ensure she gets around 30 percent votes and her position as a lawmaker is secured. Surely, it must be very difficult for politicians to empathise with the majority; why else would they pass orders that punish the majority for just being that, and when they react, punish them even further.
The recent petulance displayed by certain women activists at Sabrimala is another glaring example of how Hindu traditions are constantly at the receiving end of liberals and politicians, at the behest of gender equality and establishing a progressive ecosystem. A Twitter Handle called @AmbedkarCaravan openly calls for burning effigies of Ram, advocates public whipping of Ram and continues to operate despite multiple users reporting the handle for baiting Hindu sentiments.
Disgracing Hindu customs and festivals is slowly becoming the new normal. Those who call karvachautha regressive compulsion are under no obligation to celebrate the day; the least they can do, is respect the disposition of those who are emotionally invested in the custom. There is outrage against cow slaughter, artists abuse their freedom of expression and make sexual references to Devi, Krishna, Shiva, and terms like “Saffron Terror” are steadily becoming mainstream.
So, what if there is little truth to these interpretations, it is a very attractive political currency. This is appeasement 2.0, which has expanded its realms from doling selective benefits to minorities to also abusing majorities.
It fails my wisdom, as to why is it so difficult for opinion makers and politicians to indulge in dialog without touching Hindu topics. Either these erudite souls are ignorant or they studiously venture into the territory. One cannot feign ignorance here, because it is impossible for any Indian adult to be ignorant of issues that matter to the majority. This leaves us with the second option i.e. they purposefully bruise the majority, extract undesirable conduct and then blame them for being intolerant. This subtle modus operandi has been in action for long and clearly paid dividends for those who brazenly resorted to it. Political parties losing ground see only two routes to reclaim their lost glory. One, appease minorities. Two, abuse the majority. In both cases, it is the majority that is at the receiving end. No violence is warranted, including mental violence impinged on majorities in India. Every time we see a citizen from the majority community asserting her identity in India, remember, there is a history to it – of the numerous incidents when the majority was pushed to the wall, to pave way for minorities.
*Author- Goonja Kapur
(Gunja Kapoor is a policy analyst based in New Delhi. She tweets at @gunjakapoor)