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Citizenship Amendment Act, Dec. 2019 and attendant issues– The state of the Hindu in India

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T S Dhakshinamurthy
T S Dhakshinamurthyhttp://teeyesdee.blogspot.com
Retired central banker.  As a youngster published poems in Youth Times, Mirror, Indian Express, Poetry Chronicle, Poesis etc. Translated modern Tamil poems into English for Sahithya Akademy's special edition on Tamil Poetry. Translated Ionesco's Rhinoceros from French to Tamil, published by CreA, Chennai. Served as a Volunteer with Sneha, Chennai Chapter of Samaritans International (non religious organisation for prevention of suicide and helping the lonely, depressed etc. Interests include religion, politics, economics, rock music, cricket etc.

The only reason people want to be masters of the future is to change the past.
-Milan Kundera

As horses run true to form, the Citizenship Amendment Act passed by the Parliament has run into a predictable storm. As buzz words like bigoted, sectarian, fascist, unconstitutional etc. are bandied about, it will be in order to take a critical look at the singular underpinning of the strident criticism (accompanied of course by riots, arson, vandalism and incendiary): all said and done, shorn of all cacophony and breast-beating, it all boils down to one single point: India is not the natural home of Hindus (they ought to rank on par with other nationals) and to maintain so is to be non-secular and counter to the precepts of the constitution. And if you discern in the orgy of violence that has ensued shades of the Direct Action of Jinnah, you are not far off the mark. This is one of their trusted tactics down ages.

The attempt here is to study the state of the Hindu in India today.

Secularism

The country was metamorphosed into a ‘socialist secular’ Republic by the 42nd Amendment in 1976 at the behest of Indira Gandhi. The towering stalwarts who deliberated threadbare every tenet of the constitution did not feel it necessary to declare the Republic secular, leave alone socialist. Adequate protection for minorities, religious and linguistic, was ensured through well defined Articles. And as for the original and governing ethos of the country, suffice it to say that they had, inter alia, illustrations from Ramayana ornate the constitution.

Now, it will be no nobody’s case that Indira Gandhi was more secular or perspicacious than the original authors of the constitution. Those who tinkered with the Constitution later clearly did not match their sagacity, breadth of vision and elaborate consultative process and more often than not expediency rather than conviction informed their actions.

Now, if secularism has been turned into such an exalted touchstone in our narrative and become the yardstick of the moral fiber of the country, how can its inextricable twin sister. socialism, be ignored? Those who selectively set so much store by secularism cannot shut their eyes to the secularism’s conjoined sibling in the 42nd Amendment. Unless they strive with equal vigour to turn India into another bankrupt Venezuela or Greece or a totalitarian regime like (the erstwhile) USSR, they are doing a disservice to the very Amendment they swear by.

And terming India secular through a constitutional amendment was as absurd as painting the lily white. Hinduism is the only religion in today’s world that welcomes noble ideas from all directions, as opposed to the pagan, heathen, kafir (ineluctably us-vs-them) concepts of hard-currency predatory religions. It endorses any path, quest for God, as valid, the cardinal principle being like all rivers from different directions flow into the sea, all paths ultimately lead to one God, the Paramathma. There is no claim of monopoly over God. For millennia, secularism has been the bedrock of Bharath. Be it Ashoka or Shivaji, right through modern times, secularism has continued to be an integral part of Hinduism, despite the subjugation and torment of alien rulers. It bears repetition that those who fled religious persecution, Zoroastrians and Jews for instance, were welcomed and accommodated and allowed to practice their religion without let or hindrance.

The Nehruvian norm that self-abnegation is sine qua non on the part of the Hindu to be secular has held fast. Thus, a Hindu is by default communal and is perpetually on trial as to his secular credentials. The irony cannot be missed that the followers of religions of book, with their fundamentalist belief other religionists are non-believers condemned to perdition unless saved through conversion, pass easy muster as secular.

Pluralism, multi-culturalism etc.

There is a patent fallacy in Indian context about the western terms like majority, minority, pluralism, multi culturalism etc. being mindlessly tossed about today,

Pluralism happens to be the very character of Hinduism. To cite a representative example, in the Mumbai apartment where hundreds of us lived, most of us Hindus, we did not worship the same Deities, and even if we did, our manner of worship differed, we did not celebrate the same festivals, even in cases where we did, like Deepavali, our customs differed widely, our Acharyas were different, we did not speak the same language, but we lived in peace, taking a keen interest in others’ customs and beliefs and sharing the reverence they held for their practices. The temple architecture in the South differs from the North and the East. For thousands of years people from South have been travelling to Varanasi and people from North to Rameswaram. Aadi Sankaracharya who traversed the length and breadth of this country on foot sanctioned different streams of worship: Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Devi, Karthik and Sastha. Multi-culturalism is interwoven into Hinduism. The truly integrating aspect of the country is veritably the religion; as early as circa 509 BCE, he appointed priests from Kerala to officiate poojas at Badrinath, Maharashtrian priests at Rameswaram, Karnataka priests at Pasupathinath, a custom still being followed.

The pretence of the liberals to be standing guard to pluralism and multi culturalism is thus as grotesque as someone claiming credit for the sun rising in the east.

Another term in need of elucidation in Indian context is ‘minority.’ The word minority conjures up visions of, say, a black in USA or a Jamaican in Britain, of a different sock, distinguishable by appearance and colour of skin. In India, a Robert, Ram or Rahim cannot be told apart unless of course they display overtly their religious affiliation. The term religious minority is a misnomer in a secular nation. The Muslims are not mere minorities; they were the iconoclast rulers to whom the Hindus were slaves. Impact of seven centuries of Islamic reign on the enslaved is inevitable in terms of religious conversion, be it through force, to curry official favours, or as an escape from the pains of slavery.

The converts, being of the same stock, bear an unconscious unreconciled antipathy towards their mother religion. The burden of the converted necessitates that they deride their former faith, if only to justify to themselves their conversion, they flaunt holier than thou attitude to be one up on the originals; as a Hindi proverb has it – a new Musalman wears his beard longer. Thence the inexorable hostility of Pakistan towards India (as opposed to the accommodative stance of, say, Indonesia, UAE etc). The convert often exhibits a latent, irrational adversity to the community he deserted. And in the absence of the alien rulers whom they embraced, the raison d’etre is effaced, certain unease takes hold.

Distinct sets of Indians

The present Indian populace can be broadly divided into three distinct categories. Those who converted to the religion of the rulers, Hindus who tried to escape the humiliation of slavery by aping the very rulers, though not through conversion (WOGs as the Britishers derisively called them) and their descendents in free India, urbane, mouthing platitudes, copybook liberals who have distanced themselves from the history of conquest and enslavement of the nation. After all, who would like to identify themselves with the losers, the enslaved?

The victor has many takers, the vanquished none, even the kin deserts them. (In Edgar Reitz’s epic film Heimat, the bust of the unknown soldier in the town square quietly disappears giving way to ‘development’ after Germany is defeated in the second world war).This group of elites is the one which, for instance, discovered the virtues of India’s ancient meditation techniques after Maharishi Yogi marketed it successfully in the West and had Beatles (more popular than Christ as they claimed) in tow to the Himalayas. The third lot is the hoi polloi, common ingenuous Hindus, browbeaten, ridiculed, talked down to, derided, dubbed lumpen elements if they ever exercised the right of self-defence. Certain subtle snobbery, concealed contempt, condescendence, variously imbued the words and acts of the elites towards the Hindus.

And the Hindu internalized the inferior status. The Hindu has thus a lower amour-propre, still searching for a tangible mark of affranchisement. Seventy years of independence is too short a period for the ghosts of slavery of a millennium to be exorcised from the collective psyche of a race. Have you ever heard of anyone trying to prove as scientific the parting of the red sea or conversion of water into wine or the immaculate conception or the sky being held by God from collapsing on earth? It’s the Hindu who is at pains to prove that his religious beliefs are in fact compatible with science.

And the collective humiliation of the millennium of slavery of India has fallen squarely on the shoulders of Hindus.

For the Muslims still identify themselves with the Moghul rulers and their leadership has for a long time been unable to come to terms with no longer being the rulers. They consider themselves subjugated by the British and resent it deeply as the sword slicing through swathes of land celebrated by poet Iqbal had obviously been blunted. The Indian Muslim leadership still grappling with coming to terms with no longer being rulers and their continued identification with the Moghul rulers is one single factor inhibiting a complete, genuine rapprochement. Babri Masjid, which was like a monument for Hitler in the heart of Tel Aviv, was the subject of such protracted bitter contention. Abolition of triple Talak, already effected in Islamic countries including Bangladesh and Pakistan, was held as anti-minority in secular India. What we should have had is a Truth and Recondition Commission as in South Africa to iron out the bitter memories of the humiliation the majority suffered at the hands of Moghuls and the Muslim population should have been weaned away from the invader-conquerors..

The Indian liberals pride themselves to be counterpart of western liberals – but an imitator can never be the original. They affect the same mannerisms, same diction, embrace the same causes. Muslims who receive their love in embarrassingly abundant measure were once the pitiless masters and the Hindus their slaves and any liberal sympathy should lie with the former slaves. It is of course beyond the liberals’ ken that their overkill of effusive concern in fact militates against the interests of Muslims (honourable, patriotic citizens barring a few exceptions like in any other community) and pushes them deeper into ghettos. Their undue alacrity to defend Muslims from imaginary majoritarianism is in actuality a disservice to the community. Adorned with unmitigated hypocrisy, they shed copious tears for ouster of Palestinians from a non-existent country called Palestine, they advocate lebensraum for illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, but the forced exile of Pundits from their home land merits no kindred sympathy in their conscience.

Incidentally, should there be any resistance to unbridled conversion to Christianity, American Senate hectors to us immediately, Vatican thinks it fit to advise us, about religious freedom; if something is perceived to be affecting the Muslims, Pakistan, OIC and now the Malaysian PM line up to voice concern and lecture to us. The Kashmiri Pundits’ issue did not evoke any significant reaction even within India.

Marxists with transnational loyalty, who ruled the intellectual space in India unchallenged, of course never considered themselves Indians except to the extent India represented an ideal land for revolution that they just could not bring about because of this Goddamned Hinduism. How they hate it, the stumbling block between them and the apotheosis of revolution! They thought nothing of entering into a pact with the British to sabotage the Quit India movement. Gasping for relevance at present, they still pull their levers from academic institutions and media. They didn’t lag behind the invaders in any way in persecuting the Hindus. Remember for instance how they ruthlessly hounded the Ramakrishna Mutt in West Bengal that the Mutt was forced to declare itself a denomination different from Hinduism so that they can invoke the constitutional protection available to minorities. Remember how they cornered, thrashed and foisted false cases on Aiyappa bhakthas in Kerala for no sin of theirs except being Hindu pilgrims, who simply wanted traditions of thousands of years not to be trampled.

The irony however is that the self-effacing Hindus have handed over the authority to define what secularism is to these very people who defected from their fold.

Religious affiliation of nations unstated and understood

The religious affiliation has never been in any doubt for other democracies, not reckoning the Islamic countries. After the 9/11, a healing service was conducted in a Church, to which evangelist Billy Graham, not known exactly for his ‘secular’ views, was an invitee, counting among the attendees the President and all the past Presidents and US Senators. A similar healing service after 26/11 would have brought the ceiling down over screams of communalizing terrorism. Archbishop of Canterbury is an organ of the Royalty and England. It is customary for Governments in Europe to set up Christmas trees and wooden houses for celebrations without entailing the label of being communal.

American President and First Lady usually open a giant Christmas tree and pose standing on either side in the White House. The Congress session on impeachment of President Trump opened with an address by a Chaplain. When the eglise Notre Dame de Paris was devastated by fire, much to the chagrin of everyone across the globe regardless of religious affiliation, the French Government initiated expeditious steps to restore it to its former glory. Contrast it with the outcry against rebuilding of Somnath temple, repeatedly plundered and desecrated. The eventual Moghul reign began with the raids on Somnath and rebuilding Somnath could have only symbolized the affranchisement of the nation. In India it had to be dubbed communal.

What is to be acknowledged is India is de facto a Hindu nation – just as Israel is to Jews, United States is to Anglo Saxons, Britain and Germany are to Protestants, Ireland is to Catholics, Russia is to Christians of the Russian Orthodox Church denomination. Any refugee, any prospective immigrant, who traces his ancestry to undivided India has a natural right to settle in India if he happens to be a Hindu, as Mahatma Gandhi himself said when he realized partition was unavoidable; and in Pakistan if he happens to be a Muslim since the nation was amputated precisely to create a separate country for Muslims of the sub-continent and the natural home for Muslim refugees can but be Pakistan. Nehru admitted that much, partition of the sub-continent into Pakistan and Hindustan. The public sector monoliths, his grand idea of industrialization, were prefixed with Hindustan – Hindustan Petroleum, Hindustan Aeronautics, Hindustan Teleprinters etc. etc. Hindustan has always been used alternatively for India.

When the occupying forces are ultimately driven out, it is par for the course for the local populace to turn against the fellow citizens who supported the invader conqueror. For instance, after Iraq was driven out from Kuwait, the Kuwaitis who had collaborated with the Iraqui forces were hunted and thrashed publicly. When Paris was liberated from German occupation, French women who were at the German army quarters were shaven and paraded nude. Examples can be multiplied. In India, no such reprisal ever took place. The Hindu never got the credit for this magnanimity.

No other country would be home to (at a modest estimate) 30 million illegal immigrants as India is. As Arun Shourie observed pertinently (before the advent of Google map) while we, bred in a city, find it difficult to locate an address elsewhere in the same city, Bangladesh refugees knew exactly where to land in a foreign country, where to pitch their tents, whom to approach for assistance. Illegal immigration of such stupendous scale was obviously aided and abetted by human traffickers with the blessings of sympathetic politicians in power. No other country would accept with such stoic indifference the radical demographic changes to the disadvantage of its own citizens.

The orgy of violence orchestrated in the wake of the passing of Citizenship Amendment Act bears no connect whatever to the import of the Act. No Indian Muslim is deprived of any of his rights. The Act opens the door to the religiously persecuted minorities of neighboring Islamic nations where it is routine for families to have their daughters abducted and converted and married to much older men; to desperate escapees from societies where a Christian like Aasia Bibi could be sentenced to death for blasphemy (prompting Presidential intervention from America) heedless of her denials.

The Government is face to face with a flagrantly scabrous problem. It is interesting that no one has till now spelt out clearly how exactly the CAA affects the Indian Muslims, pinpointing the provisos perceived inimical, in order that the doubts could be clarified, fears allayed, issues discussed, corrective measures, if needed, implemented. This is how a civilized society conducts itself, not by hurling stones, molotov cocktails, resorting to vandalism, destruction of public property and conflagration. Disinformation, lack of knowledge, visceral hatred of Modi drive the current turmoil. Given the engineered disquiet among Muslims, unrest in the wake of passing of the Act is seen only as an opportunity to latch onto to put the Government on the mat, no matter at what cost to the nation.

Tailpiece: What should be disquieting are the reports from Hyderabad a few months back that a group of Rohingyas managed to obtain Indian passports. Evidently, our borders continue to be porous and the illegal refugees have powerful well-wishers.

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T S Dhakshinamurthy
T S Dhakshinamurthyhttp://teeyesdee.blogspot.com
Retired central banker.  As a youngster published poems in Youth Times, Mirror, Indian Express, Poetry Chronicle, Poesis etc. Translated modern Tamil poems into English for Sahithya Akademy's special edition on Tamil Poetry. Translated Ionesco's Rhinoceros from French to Tamil, published by CreA, Chennai. Served as a Volunteer with Sneha, Chennai Chapter of Samaritans International (non religious organisation for prevention of suicide and helping the lonely, depressed etc. Interests include religion, politics, economics, rock music, cricket etc.
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