In the study room at my childhood home was a statue of three-monkeys. This kind of statue was ubiquitous in India during seventies and eighties. This, of course was when socialism and secularism were surreptitiously inserted into Indian constitution during a declared emergency. The ruling Congress Party that usurped the credit for India’s independence; in alliance with the Communists sought to fashion the Indian society in the image of Soviet Union: a godless, classless, socialist utopia divorced from her own history and civilization. The statue of three-monkeys was a secular version of a virtuous deity.
At the time, it seemed to have had replaced the myriad other divine symbols of ancient Hindu deities with various attributes. It was popularly called Gandhi’s three-monkeys. I later came to know that it was a revered symbol in the Far East as well. It was an apt metaphor for a statist socialist government that negated India’s brutal colonization by Jihadi invaders, then by mercantilist missionaries over several centuries. The whitewashing of history textbooks to not offend ‘anyone’ was a matter of state policy ostensibly to maintain social harmony; however, intended to really appease belligerent jihadis and Marxists. So, what do these supposedly wise monkeys represented. One monkey had closed its eyes – see no evil. Second one had closed its ears – hear no evil. Third one had closed its mouth – speak no evil.
It is widely believed that the leaders who fought for Indian independence against British were idealists to the point of being naïve, punctilious to the extent of being harmful, pacifists to the point of being suicidal. All that changed drastically under the authoritarian and communist oriented government of the seventies when state control of economy was made pervasive and intrusive, various successful industries were ‘nationalized’ in what came to be called the License raj in contrast to the earlier British raj. The three-monkeys were a constant reminder to the citizens to speak no evil against authoritarianism and tyranny of the state, see no evil in the corruption of the bureaucracy and political elites in the country, and hear no evil about the brutality of leftist and jihadi terror that were raging in the vast parts of the world. Anyone not following the dictums of the three-monkeys were routinely attacked with the viciousness that all these jihadist and leftist establishments are known for.
Thankfully, times have changed and not in the least because of social media and the internet. The gatekeepers of morality, the nanny state bureaucracy and the complicit media, are screaming at the loss of their privilege. As more and more Indians get access to independent and authentic sources of information, the burka of negation that covered the brutal massacres, rapes and plunder of India by jihadis is being lifted. The regime and its enablers that imposed the ‘sharia’ and propagated falsehoods are now discredited and out of power. This is not to suggest that maintaining peace and harmony is not a worthwhile objective. But a house of cards built on falsehoods by singing kumbaya is unlikely to succeed in bringing either peace or harmony in the long term. It is preferable to build the edifice of harmony on the foundations of truth that would lead to long term reconciliation. Native Hindus were terrorized and brutalized but continued to fight the invaders over the centuries. It is not easy to erase the memory of their long-sustained struggle to reclaim their civilization and culture. However, over the course of these sustained campaigns of survival and defense, Hindus have become the caricatures three-monkeys represent.
We see no evil when the prophetic religions call us pagans or kafirs to be eliminated. We hear no evil when they call their God or Allah the only true divine worthy of worship and our murthis to be destroyed. We do not speak up when they call their book the only true book. These exclusivist and supremacist political ideologies were and are at the core of their hatred towards us and our millennia old quest for survival. There is a popular saying in Hindi, “Majboori ka naam Mahatma Gandhi” which roughly translates to mean that Gandhi’s nonviolence was the result of his compulsions.
When you are fighting the military might of a colonial superpower, violent means are unlikely to succeed hence the tactics of nonviolence. Alas, the imperative of alliances to fight the bigger enemy, that the British were, led Gandhi to paper over the aggressive and thuggish blackmail by Jihadis during the independence struggle. I am by no means justifying Gandhi’s appeasement of Jihadis, only providing a plausible explanation. I think the time has come for us to come out of the shell and discard this vestige of Gandhian dogma represented by three-monkeys. We should call a spade a spade. We should hear, see, and speak against evil at every opportunity we get.
Some apologetic Hindus, when attacked by ‘one true God’ polemicists, try to simplify our infinite forms of divinity by saying that we too have one God but myriad forms. When attacked by religionists, we point to the Vedas or Gita as the essence of all our scriptures to prove that we too have only one book. This reductionist approach diminishes our own rich pluralist and diverse cultural heritage. One of our greatest Hindu sage, Adi Shankara showed us how to engage with the world. He was not only one of the greatest exponents of our dharma who could defend our philosophy, but he was also a skilled debater who questioned the opponents in open discussions and defeated them.
In our tradition, we have the concept of Uttar Paksha and Purva Paksha. In the English language and Christian theology, it roughly translates to apologetics and polemics respectively. We have too many of us doing uttar paksha. Let us also do the purva paksha of these middle eastern theologies. Why is ‘one God’ superior to ‘infinite God’? Why is ‘one Book’ dogma better than vast knowledge contained in the countless books that have advanced the spiritual experience of humanity on this earth? Why is that a certain prophet or a son of God stopped coming to this world at certain point in history? Why does the God have chosen people if the humanity itself is His creation? Why does the transcendent God residing on seventh heaven better than the all-pervasive God that is present in all the creation?
It is good to have sound defense but it’s equally important to have intellectual offence to disarm the other. This caginess to question others and withdrawal from purva paksha is extremely harmful to us. There is a distinct difference in our worldview and of others. Let us employ all the tools necessary. Questioning is not a one-way street. We’ll also learn from the defense of others. Our dharma values “Satyamev Jayate”, the insistence on truth with courage, not peace or submission. While looking inwards is encouraged, confronting the evil outside (“Karmanye Vadhikaraste”) is as much a part of our dharma.
Some wise man once said, “A person with experience is never at a mercy of a person with an opinion.” Many of us now have first hand experience of the jihadi terror and proselytizer’s hatred against Hindus that no amount of media whitewashing or negationism of people ‘with an opinion’ sways us. Just as there are crackpots who continue to believe in flat earth or seventy-two virgins in heaven, our epic struggle to retain our culture, civilization, and its narrative despite seemingly insurmountable odds over a millennium is not at the mercy of deniers. Let us bury this imposed false god of three-monkeys and tell the world that we are not going to be monkeyed around anymore.