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Monday, December 22, 2014

My close encounter with Hindutva

As I was reading the article, several thoughts crossed my mind and this is going to be critical of all of us, particularly Hindus and Muslims of India.

Both Hindu and Islamic ideas (and other faiths) about societies need to be studied thoroughly, they are beautiful and something we all can aspire for through free will.  A society where no one is considered stranger, but an effort is made to learn about each other, knowledge leads to understanding and understanding to acceptance of the otherness of the other. 

The idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbukum expressed in Hinduism, and the Islamic idea that all humanity was created from the same couple, but made into different nations, tribes and communities are key to building a cohesive India, where no Indian has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of the other. Both faiths believe in free will and individual’s choice to do the wrong or right. 

A majority of people in both groups get that message correctly, but a tiny 1/10th of 1% of Muslims and Hindus don’t get that. This tiny group of people is intolerant, insecure and wants to push their way on to others. They are hell bent on making other’s life difficult. It is time the good majority speaks up.

Mike Ghouse
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My close encounter with Hindutva
Manimugdha S Sharma is a Delhi-based editor with The Times of India. He is an ardent history buff with a fascination for military history. He loves infantry and artillery weapons, horses and swords, and fighter aircraft. When he is not working, he spends time with his first love—quizzing.

Over a decade ago, I had been part of a ‘Bharat darshan’ tour organized by a Hindu spiritual organization. It was a prize for doing well at a national-level quiz show. That month-long trip was my first acquaintance with hardline Hindutva. While I’m always grateful to the opportunity they provided—I saw many places, had many adventures, and met and made friends with some awesome people—I loathed the organizers’ myopic view of India and Indianness.
We crisscrossed six states in a fleet of cars (there were over a hundred of us), but instead of ‘Bharat darshan’—rather ‘Uttar Bharat darshan’—it was mostly ‘mandir darshan’. We stopped by every insignificant temple with a vague history and listened to pravachans of numerous saffron-clad men. For instance at Kurukshetra, there’s a tree which is advertised as the one under which Krishna narrated the Gita to Arjun. The entire group sat down under the tree and started chanting hymns. That group had IT professionals, management trainees, fashion designers and other educated men and women. And I couldn’t figure out how educated minds could confuse mythology with history, fiction with fact. To be honest, I found it disgusting, more so because they didn’t take us to see the battlefield of Panipat that was nearby. Their reason for not taking us was that Indians had lost to foreigners there so it wasn’t worth seeing.
Other places like Babur’s mosque or Ibrahim Lodhi’s tomb were not important for them, as were the Taj Mahal and other palaces in Agra and Delhi, which according to them weren’t Indian monuments. One revered swami ji was horrified by my “completely western knowledge base”. Then he analysed that it was the fault of my Christian education, Nehruvian world view, and Left-influenced history reading. Of course, some of us protested, with the end result being our banishment from group visits and expulsion altogether on the last day of the trip.
So when VHP president Ashok Singhal said at a book launch in Mumbai on Sunday that it was due to their struggle in the last 50 years that Hindus have regained the lost empire of Delhi after 800 years, it sounded familiar to me. During that trip 10 years ago, UPA-I had come to power, and most people in that group were upset that a Hindu government (read NDA) had again lost Delhi.
The people of that spiritual organization had very fixed ideas about who was a Hindu and how he should wear his religion on his sleeve. I found it rather strange because most of us Hindus are not trained to observe our faiths. Since there are no dogmas to adhere to, we just watch our elders and learn to bow our heads before idols and during rituals. Most of us are god-fearing, but we also question his existence sometimes. We question the way we worship and why we worship. Hinduism’s amazing plurality and openness gives us this freedom.
It was this freedom that made ancient Hindus progressive. Our astronomers, mathematicians and other scientists could come up with theories that were contrary to popular beliefs of the time and yet cause no sensation or scandal. When similar things were said by scientists in medieval Europe, the Church persecuted them until they recanted. Had there been the RSS, VHP, Hindu Mahasabha and such other Hindu religious groups back then, there wouldn’t have been an Aryabhata, a Brahmagupta or a Varahmihira we know today. There would have been no goody-goody past for the saffron brigade to tom tom about.
Therefore, the saffron brigade should read and understand history well before pushing for Bhagwad Gita to be declared as national book, or organizing ‘ghar wapasi’ programmes, or declaring cow as ‘rashtramata’ (national mother). These ridiculous ideas and concepts are the complete antithesis of what makes Hinduism unique among world religions.
The Sangh Parivar is also being ridiculous in seeing a democratically elected government as a medieval empire, or one that will correct medieval wrongs. They must be really out of their minds if they think that this “Hindu government” will last beyond five years if the people of this country are constantly reminded that they elected a Hindu party to power, not a national party committed to all-round development of this country. If that happens, agli baar will be kisi aur ki sarkaar.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

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