Last year, on this very fateful day, the Supreme Court pronounced a verdict on the issue of women’s entry into Sabarimala, the abode of Lord Ayyappa, which violently woke up the Hindus from their nonchalant slumber. While the verdict enraged many of the devotees of Lord Ayyappa, most others belonging to the intellectual clout of the majority justices themselves were thrilled with the decision, as they felt that it reflected the departure, from what they called, the baggage of the savage past.
Exactly a year later, on the very same day, the Tripura High Court has banned the practice of Animal Sacrifice by all the temples in the state, noting that even animals had the fundamental right to life under Article 21. Interestingly, rejecting the contention from the state that the Muslim practice of sacrificing animals on Bakr-Eid was being ignored, the court said that the matter of Muslim sacrifice had already been settled by the Supreme Court in a previous case.
It is in this backdrop, that certain fundamental questions and queries need to be answered earnestly both by the state and its people. But before venturing into that very business, we need a quick recap on what had transpired in this land before we became conscious.
Down Memory Lane
From times immemorial, the Indian subcontinent was inhabited by people following and practicing the Sanatana Dharma. It was only after the Turkish invasions in the 12th century, that Islam was introduced to India. This introduction essentially involved barbaric snatching of authority and the seats of governance and control from the inhabitants and forceful conversions of the Indic people into Islam. It accompanied the deliberate and constant destruction of their indigenous heritage, architecture, temples, rituals, customs, festivals, arts and cultures for centuries.
This was followed by the onslaught of the Europeans in the 17th century, especially the British, who in their bid to snatch the authority and subjugate us (people of all faiths) with ease, introduced Christian missionaries and biased education to make us insecure and embarrassed about our past, its heritage and knowledge. This process was accelerated by promoting and exploiting the existing divisions in society.
Then, in the fateful year of 1947, there ultimately was a “transfer of power” from the British to the then politically active Indians whose “idea of India” was essentially borrowed from the colonialists themselves. These politically active Indians sat together to design a rule book that essentially dictates the way how Indians should conduct their public life.
Right from the day when India’s first Prime Minister JL Nehru rejected the idea of performing a Yajna in the Parliament and denied the idea of restoring the great temple of Somnath to its past glory in the name of Secularism; to today’s indifference of the state, the judiciary and the people towards the Supreme Court’s verdicts on Sabarimala and Tripurasundari in the name of constitutional morality and losing the baggage of the savage past, the victims have only been the members of the Indic faiths.
Today, years after the so called independence, when there is a popular democratic mandate to a dispensation that is perhaps believed to pay heed to the rights of the Indic people, there are exaggerated news reports of lynchings of people from the minority across all over India, there are op-eds on the tyranny of majoritarianism, there is a huge national outcry on atrocities on members of minority and a resilient mum on those on the majority. After all, as funny as it seems, the adopted idea of India and democracy is perhaps dictated by the constitutional experts on the basis of which dispensation is in power.
Now, it is proven beyond doubt that even after independence, the number of temples far outweigh the number of mosques or churches that are destroyed without consent in the name of development. The number of Vedic Schools and colleges, Buddhist and Jain schools of learning are not even numerically perceptible in comparison to the number of Madrassas in operation. A number of temples, and the revenue they generate, are completely under the control of the government which puts them to secular purposes and the people who worship in these temples do not have any right to elect the members to the temple administrative boards. In fact, the executive director of TTD board of Andhra Pradesh is a Christian. While no such anomaly exists for either Mosques or Churches. It is proven beyond doubt that the Indian state has been promoting religious conversions by sectarian public funding. And ironically, as is the case with many of its aspects, it is the “Cultural and Educational Rights” of the “minorities” that Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution promote and protect and not of those who are the actual victims.
Blinded by the shiny veneer of modernity, today’s youth has adopted an escape route from the problem of this forced coexistence by brushing off and distancing themselves from their heritage, culture and identity. They perhaps seem to perceive this to be the ultimate solution. But this would prove to be fruitful only when the people of all faiths are on the same boat i.e., when everyone is ready to leave their own cultural heritage, faith and religion behind and move on to form a different society devoid of divisions on such parameters. But any disturbance in such an equilibrium would be disastrous especially to the weak (people of the Indic faith).
While such an attempt has already started among the Hindus (an example of which is the recent debacle of a Bollywood star whose ignorance of a well known incident in the Ramayana went viral), there is no such visible attempt from the others. In fact, while the modern Indian society on the social media collectively praised and patronised Zaira Wasim for quitting her profession to improve her relationship with her religion, the ignorance of faith, culture and heritage of the Hindus and the attached disgrace and dishonour towards it is held tantamount to a badge of pride and modernity.
Moreover, the coexistence of people of many faiths in a nation-state cannot continue with the conspicuous absence of a shared sense of history. For instance, when one community treats a tyrannical, blood thirsty, bigoted and criminal ruler like Alamgir Aurangzeb or Sikander Butshikher who destroyed the temples, idols and heritage of the other community, force-converted their ancestors as a ‘Zinda Pir’ (a living saint) or as a hero or as someone to look up to, the co-existence of the two communities does not form a nation.
Feeding The Farce Of Constitutional Morality?
Add to these, the emergence of the notion of judiciary hijacking the executive and the legislature to set up a tyrannical rule of its own. An entity whose role is just to implement and enforce laws has started to interpret laws in such a way that all power and authority flows from it. Unelected power, unaccountable power and certainly not transparent power. The Constitution is violated in the name of the Constitution in order to protect the Constitution. Because, ‘Constitutional morality’. Period.
The age limit for us to take part in the ‘Dahi Handi’ celebrations is decided by the judiciary, our Jallikattu is gone, the amount of milk and curd one can offer to Mahakaleshwar of Ujjain is subject to judicial scrutiny, Lord Ayyappa’s vows of celibacy are interpreted by the justices who have never visited Sabarimala nor did they repose any faith in that particular sampradaya, who can enter the sanctum sanctorum of the temple of Shani Singanapur is decided by the courts, the properties, management and the revenues of our institutions are sieged, our way of life is challenged.
Now, given that, in every aspect, it is the people of Indic faith who were the ultimate victims of “religious persecution” irrespective of who or which dynasty or dispensation held the seat of authority of the Indian society, how do we and the state justify the plight of Hindus especially from the realm of Secularism? How do we and state look at the demands of Hindus from the realm of Human Rights? How does the present condition of Hindus reflect on the ideals of Liberty, Equality and Justice that the constitutional experts so romantically portray? These are some fundamental questions we all need to ask ourselves.
It has been trending on social media that a Hindu Charter has organised a National Conference to stress on Equal rights for Hindus and highlight these inherent institutional bias. While such a conference and its live streaming on YouTube to generate awareness on the plight of our fundamental religious rights is a welcome move, the aspect of just demanding ‘equal’ rights is not satisfying. It is time we moved beyond just ‘equal’ rights. We ought to assert our rightful authority and take back our institutions of heritage and culture. It is illogical and wrong to blame the present day Muslim community for the ill doings of their ancestors. Nevertheless, unless and until there is a widespread acknowledgement among both the communities that the Islamic rulers of India were bigots, perpetrated inhuman crimes against the ancestors and destroyed the architectural heritage of their fellow country men, it is absolutely absurd to ask the two communities to erase the past and live in peace and display sympathy and tolerance towards each other.
It is indeed very sad to hear the news of undue judicial intervention in the customs and practices concerning Mata Tripurasundari on the day of Mahalaya. It is time we wake up to the stupidity and the gradual erosion of our heritage and culture in the name of secularism and stand upright and fight for our rightful authority. Let today act as the necessary nudge to birth an ‘Indic Renaissance 2.0’ that Sri Aurobindo had envisaged long ago, to resist the imposition of an alien morality on us.