Hinduism and Indianess

Moramba Moirangthem *

Who is a Hindu? The obvious answer to this has been given by Vinayak Damodar Sarvarkar in his essentials of Hindutva, dating back to 1923. He coined the term 'Hindutva' to describe the quality of being a Hindu in ethnic, cultural and political terms. He wrote, "A Hindu is one who considers India to be his motherland (matrbhumi), the land of his ancestor (pitrbhumi), and his holy land(punyabhumi)".

Other faiths that were born in India; Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism qualified the same three criteria, they were variants of Hinduism. But other faiths who were born outside India were not considered. Also Sarvarkar's criteria qualifies to be one of the reasons for creating a congenital indifference amongst the religions, which apparently leads with giving a churlish look to one another. There is an immense difference between 'Hinduism' and 'Hindutva'.

And the failure to distinguish between these two has given rise to much misunderstanding and mutual suspicion between some of those sister communities. The term Hinduism, is an "ism", it generally meant a theory or religious dogma or system. Hinduism has nothing to do with Hindutva, it is actually a political ideology that advocates a particular notion of Hindu Rashtra. And Hindutva does not adhere itself to Hindu faith, so is to the quintessential notions of Hinduism.

So any religious shambolic development instigated in the political sphere is because of Hindutva and to some extent, it hinders our democratic system. It is the Hindutva that was responsible for the destruction of Babri Masjid, it is the Hindutva that instils more hatred among communal politicians. Hindu chauvinism has emerged from the competition for resources in contentious democracy.

A Chauvinist's rampage is more lethal and swift than the radiation of a nuclear explosion! For Hindutva ideologues, the principles of tolerance and acceptance are emasculating. For Hindu ideologues, these two words are their concomitant. Swami Vivekananda, perhaps the greatest modern Hindu preacher, have stated "Hinduism teaches not just tolerance but acceptance".

A great elucidation of its meaning would be "tolerance is a slightly patronising position, it says; I have the truth I believe you are an error but I would indulge you in the right to be wrong, and acceptance says; I believe I have the truth you believe you have the truth I will respect your truth please respect my truth and we get along just fine".

The Hindu chauvinism continues to both amaze and appal. The latest example of this uniquely Indian phenomenon, COW VIGILANTISM. Many orthodox Hindus, particularly in the northern Indian states dubbed as 'the cow belt', don't consume beef, but worship the cow as Gaumata(the mother of all, a provider of nourishment and sustenance).

Seventy cases of cowrelated violence have been reported in the last eight years, 28 have been killed, 136 people have been injured in these attacks and 86 per cent of the victim were, of course, Muslims. There were agitations, decry during the Constituent assembly sessions from so-called GauRakshakto ban cow slaughter. Later it was enshrined in our constitution as a directive principle.

Article 48 which says "the state shall endeavour to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves". Here from this proscription, nothing about worshipping is implied!

Taking an instance at statistics of the beef consumers; in the cow belt, it is not only eaten by Muslims, but also by sections of poorer Hindu who couldn't afford to buy any other kinds of meat. We should not judge those who, for cultural or other personal reasons consume corpse.

What generally appealed, is that animals should be treated decently and without cruelty, and even their slaughters, for purposes of consumption, be conducted humanely and with minimal pain and suffering for the poor creature. There is no need of venerating the cow as a sacred god, above and all the definition of a god must include that there has to be general consensus for its divinity, which in case of cow, it is only worshipped by a certain section of Hindu (chauvinists).

There are 333 million names of god in different forms, you want to imagine a god as potbellied gentleman with an elephant's head, Ganesha, there's also god of an eight armed woman riding a tiger, Durga. These 333 million gods are none alive now, we haven't seen them at all. Then with a strong assertion how they can worship a living god, it defies the notion of religiously worshiping a particular god of any faith.

Yes, in the Vedic period we had the rivers, trees, mountains as a god, but no instances for a living creature. If they truly venerate the cow then worship as others are doing so; keep a sculpture for a cow and they can practice as according to their sacred beliefs unquestionably. But they can't just remonstrate a ban on beef for their chauvinist credence, such whims will have no place in the plural India.

India is the world's largest democracy and also the largest hypocrisy. If there is even a small slight mention of religion in making any abridgement of law, then many critiques would be indulged in clamouring against the decision. Even an atheist may speak up against it for political brownie points. The problem here is that, India's biggest asset its democracy has led the people to politicise every normal circumstances in the name of persuasion of their political rights.

Yes there should be criticism, agitations, protests, these are all deliberative elements which sanctions in country's asset. Religious Critiques are unrestrained to express their perceptions as long as it doesn't become a heresy for other's religion. So care must be taken while clamouring against other's religion and shielding its own religion.

So citizenry maybe demanding for a religiously egalitarian society which would keep them away from possibilities of majoritarian communalism. There are many ways to attain it, one is the infamous Uniform Civil Code. All the differential laws based on religion- essentially the personal law governing marriage, inheritance and divorce (which violates the article 44 of the Indian constitution) should be made uniform.

Leaders have been arguing that such differential laws have sowed seeds of divisiveness between different communities. So the uniform civil code must be legalised. As Nehruvian consensus argues that, this could not be obtained by pressure or by legal coercion but only by persuasion. Another option is having Hindu-modified constitution inspired by Hindu ethos.

Though Hinduism does not have any notion of heresy, communal politics, shambolic dogmas, a faith that is eclectic, non-doctrinaire and a yet a liberal concomitant religion but revising the constitution on the principles of a particular religion would be a fundamental threat to the nation's ever flourishing pluralism. J Nehru had already warned that the communalism of majority was especially dangerous because it could present itself as nationalist.

As a matter of fact, Hindu nationalism cannot be equated with Indian nationalism and it has nothing to do with genuine Hinduism either. To discriminate against one another, to attack another, to destroy another's place of worship on the basis of his faith is not part of Hindu dharma.

The Muslim population in India, unlike in other countries, is unique. The Muslim population in India is neither contradistinctive nor insular. Though the horrendous 1947 partition had bifurcated the two faith, the two communities now have embarked upon a path of reconciliation. Former US President Barack Obama declared that; "for country like India where there is a Muslim population that is successful, integrated and considers itself as an Indian which is not in the case of any other country, this should be cultured and nourished".

The British left India due to its failure in governing but also because they had an earnest feeling that the Indians could govern themselves now and visioned that India will just be a Hindu majority country running political and governmental institutions that will promote the survival, success and perpetuation of religious minorities which actually came true and is now being a nation with a towering distinction in its governance and a thriving secularism.

India will succeed as long as it is not split along the lines of religious faith. We should respect our diversity, to be the India that Mahatma Gandhi had fought to free.

Jai hind!

* Moramba Moirangthem wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on February 12, 2019.

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