Meticulous examination of history would bounteously justify the aforesaid quote. The history of the Hindus is a conspicuous chronicle of fortitude- a much-desired trait that remained notwithstanding the presence of enemies without and within.
Quite akin to the opposite poles of Earth, however, the story of the Hindus is replete with misfortunes despite all its wondrous history. Should it be narrated to a man of conscience, he would not but shed tears at this moving tale of the pride and valour of a much maligned, mistreated and persecuted community. From the egalitarian wisdom of the Sarasvati Civilization to the defeatism in British India, their history yields lessons too valuable to mankind.
Momentarily, pray reflect upon the Second World War. The mind inevitably imagines Nazi Germany and the petrifying mistreatment of the Jews. Now, pray reflect upon what has happened thereafter. The Jews spread far and wide, but stayed fundamentally united. They ensured that their story appealed to the conscience of the world. The civilized world today knows of the Jews as a much persecuted religious group that has with its forbearance built the state of Israel — a nation no less than an epitome of success.
Yet, the story of the Hindus — a national group persecuted in perhaps greater measure, remains untold. The Hindus are misrepresented as a religious group — courtesy the paramountcy of the societal interpretation by colonial authorities. To their misfortune, they were not persecuted in a physical way alone. They continues to remain under persecution intellectually. They have faced centuries of enslavement, but none so daunting as the last two of them. They attained administrative independence but not independence of thought. Under the Turkic colonial rule, as thousands of their temples were desecrated, their women subjected to indescribable depravity and their universities set afire, they put up a valiant fight, and even succeeded in expanding again and re-establishing the Maratha Empire.
The later British invaders, however, were much more cold and calculating. They exploited internal differences, succeeded in positioning one ruler against the other, secured loyalty from numerous natives and succeeded in establishing their colonial rule over the nation. That alone did not suffice. The Hindus were systematically stripped of their strengths. Their scriptures derisively dismissed as myth, their cultural institutions shocked almost beyond recondition by the gradual effacement of their mother language Sanskrit, their people gradually made to accept that they were an inferior race meant to serve its colonial masters, their own education system dismantled and replaced and the divisions of their people amplified manifold. Compendiously, their sense of pride and memories of their past valour were scrupulously suppressed and a sense of defeatism engendered within them. As a consequence, there remains a significant section in the Hindus driven by pathological contempt for its own identity despite decades of administrative independence. Nothing but imbecilic self-disgust explains their wonder at the historical monuments of lands beyond, but contempt at temples of the land that is their own.
The Hindu stands powerless. He is tormented at the fact that the expanse of the word “Hindu” has been narrowed to the theological aspect of his culture. The jaundiced notions of secularism forbids the government and the elite to acknowledge the Hindu heritage of India. To them, it is merely another religion and must ipso facto be treated just like Islam or Christianity. Aforementioned judicial interpretations appear to mean little to them. The Hindu is further tormented at seeing his community riddled with caste divisions and the abominable caste-politics that has a firm grasp over Indian politics. He is tormented at seeing his community dormant and not lawfully demanding that government renounce control over temples. He is tormented at seeing caste-based reservations compound ad infinitum.
Truly, there remains a trace of caste discrimination, but it is nowhere as prevalent as it was decades ago. He has developed prescience enough to discern that these reservations would only exacerbate caste differences. He grimly realizes that no government could muster the grit to cease asking for castes in official documents. He is tormented by the ebullient propagation of absurd theories of the origins of his culture, such as the Aryan Invasion Theory, employed by vested interests to fuel separatist sentiment among the South Indians.
Perhaps, the much-touted Hindu Renaissance would be able to consolidate the Hindus. The most significant question of them all, however, remains. How would the Hindus and the Muslims ever resolve their differences?
So far as inter-religious existence is concerned, a Hindu would like nothing better than harmonious co-existence with the Muslims. On 20 June 2020, eminent author Amish Tripathi launched a book titled “Suheldev: The King who Saved India”. In the interviews he has been able to appear for, he explains how king Suheldev of Shravasti managed to unite Indians of all religions and castes and inflict a crushing defeat on Turkic invaders in 1033 CE. Thereafter, while the invaders went about conquering numerous other lands, they dared not set a foot in India for the next 160 years until the 1190s. That is a greater amount of time than the rule of the British Crown over India (1857–1947). This means there were also Muslims in India who stood resolute with Suheldev against the invading forces, notwithstanding that the invaders identified with Islam. Most importantly, Amish notes that the common Indian Muslims were never part of the ruling elite either under the Delhi Sultanate or the subsequent Mughal rule.
Yet, under the British Raj, the Muslims were perpetually made to believe that they were once the rulers of India. This was part of an elaborate divide-and-rule strategy. The pernicious Khilafat movement ensured that the Muslim community remained fanatical. By the onset of 1920 itself, the Congress should have seen the inevitability of Partition.
Notwithstanding the clear responsibility of Islamism for the sanguinary Partition, the Hindus were expected to merely have faith in the patriotism of Muslims who had stayed back in India now that it was independent. In all fairness to the Muslims, the patriotic among them must also have had feared the prospect of living in India in those days of rampant communalism where they could have been construed as responsible for the Partition and thus subjected to attacks. The government, as opposed to facilitating a comprehensive dialogue between the two communities, sought suppression of traumatic memories of the past and march on the path of economic progress as if nothing had happened. As historian Dr. Vikram Sampath aptly notes, such suppression is bound to transmogrify into a temporarily controlled wound that eventually festers, develops pus and proves further detrimental. An individual may forget the memories and move on, but it is impolitic to expect communities to do the same.
An ideal comprehensive dialogue between the Hindus and the Muslims would have included, inter alia, the following:
- free and honest admission of wrongful action by both sides;
- negotiation for the resolution of conflicting religious beliefs;
- firm commitment to national interest and identity over religion;
- firm commitment to secularism in public life; and
- an agreement to work together for the future of India.
None of this was ever planned. As a result, having been forced to forget past memories and live together, latent mistrust was bound to have developed. While on the exterior it may have seemed as if both communities lived in harmony, especially by means of government propaganda through radio and television as well as contortion of history, the truth was that both communities harboured deep suspicions about the other. Sooner or later, the latent sentiment was bound to have erupted. Precisely the same is happening today. Neither community had experienced a catharsis of emotions and memories by means of productive dialogue. The anger and feeling of betrayal among the Hindus and the ostensible affinity of the Muslims towards Wahhabism at present bear testament to that effect.
Such catharsis would have enabled the Hindus to express their centuries-long trauma, and the Muslims to admit the ills that afflicted their society. Justice to the Hindus could have been served.
At present, the situation appears bereft of hope. Yet, efforts at reconciliation must be undertaken. Perhaps, the innocence and forthrightness of childhood, when we fraternized with fellow children not so much as knowing the concept of religion, may continue well into later in life despite awareness of such distinct identities. Perhaps, as opposed to suspicion and insecurity, an adherent of one religion may behold an adherent of another with a genuine sentiment of humanity. For who is to say that the endeavour of reconciliation never bears fruit?