• ~ Mark Twain

    ~ Mark Twain

    "Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it."
  • Who is a Hindu

    Why am I apologetic about being a Hindu – Part III

    Continued from Part II

    The only difference between you and me is that I’m looking at the vast panorama of history spread over four thousand years or more, and you have your eyes focused exclusively on the contemporary reality. In the recent times, you have found one too many reasons to put me on the dock; starting with, of course, the emergence of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and Hindu Mahasabha in the early 1930s and its dubious role in the freedom struggle, to the assassination of the Mahatma in which again, you claim, RSS had some shady role to play; from the machinations of Vajpayee and Advani in the 1980s, who created an entirely new political outfit called the Bharatiya Janata Party out of its erstwhile avatar Jan Sangh, to the militantly aggressive postures of rabid Ashok Singhal and Vinay Katyar of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, you have found enough reasons to pick holes in my defences, and now you constantly keep nagging me about my Hindutva affiliations. If you were to stop at this, I wouldn’t really mind, but you don’t, and actually go much further than that. You accuse me of being anti-Muslim, and of harbouring hatred against all Muslims, sometimes going so far as to claim that I’d like to see all the Muslims transported to their sacred land of Pakistan. I don’t deny that it troubles me when Pakistan refuses to respect our territorial integrity and strikes aggressive postures, or surreptitiously pushes ISI-trained terrorists or militants into our soil for senseless murder and mayhem. It troubles me when the centuries-old communal ties snap all of a sudden, and communal hatred begins to stalk the land. In my moments of moral weakness, sometimes, I do begin to doubt the nationalist spirit of my Muslim neighbours or start blaming them for their extra-territorial loyalties, but even in my weakest moments, not even once do I wish them away.

    My occasional sense of insecurity or moral lapse is only a passing fancy; certainly not the defining moment of our centuries-old mutual co-existence, in which we continue to share our myths and fables, our folklores and festivals, our languages and cultures, all differences notwithstanding. Besides, who told you that I’m a die-hard Hindutva fan, just because I happen to be a Hindu? My sense of politics, if seen historically, has been extremely weak. Had it not been so, I would not have been pushed around so much by the invaders or the aggressors. It’s because of my poor sense of political judgement that I sometimes ended up colluding with my own enemies, thus working against my own best political interests. Whatever my failures or lapses, the fact is that I have paid much too heavy a price for it, as well. Having said so, let me go on to explain the basic differences between Hindutva and Hinduism, as you often use them interchangeably, thus not only confusing the issues, but also damning me for no fault of mine. Hinduism teaches me openness of heart and magnanimity of spirit, which also goes hand in hand with my total or partial lack of political wisdom. My problem is that I’m too easily swayed by the political slogans and quickly succumb to the hate-mongering of our special breed of fire-spewing politicians. Hindutva, with which I have never had any affiliation, and which I have always suspected as much as you have, if not more, is only a subversive way of twisting, distorting and manipulating the actual teachings of Hinduism for political ends. In other words, Hinduism is a way of life that teaches catholicity, whereas Hindutva is a way of controlling or manipulating Hindu votes, by whipping up narrow, parochial jingoism or fanaticism among them.

    You would perhaps complain that in such moments of existential crisis, why don’t I invoke the teachings of Patanjali, who had once warned me against losing my viveka ever, and always keeping my body, mind and soul togetherMy problem is that in this long march over so many centuries, I have moved so far away from his teachings and many more things besides, that I don’t hear Patanjali’s words any longer. Though I have heard Krishna tell me repeatedly that I must do all I can to become a sthithapragyana, I’m too much into the world to achieve that and continue to wallow in the dance of the three gunas — sattvarajas and tamas — thus nullifying all possibility of attaining inner poise and equilibrium. But that only makes me human, doesn’t it?

    Do you think, it is right on your part to make me feel less about myself, just because I’m only too human, like you and everyone else? Don’t forget that I always showed immense tolerance for the difference, great patience for dissent and always supreme respect for an alternative viewpoint. Had it not been so, do you think, Buddhism, Jainism or Sikhism could have possibly emerged out of our soil? Each time, as a Hindu, I saw the prospect of my own decadence and decay; I re-incarnated myself as a Buddha, a Mahavira or a Guru Nanak. I never had any problems with re-inventing myself, or any issues with initiating a dialogue with myself or my neighbours. I never tried to create monoliths out of my beliefs, as I always gave myself, even others, the freedom to follow any one of the “thirty three crore Gods” I had created for possibly as many followers.

    I always had immense faith in the philosophy of cultural pluralism, never deviated from it and shall perhaps never do. And yet, you call me a staunch Hindu, a violent oppressor or aggressor, a power-hungry Hegemon, perpetually trying to swallow the minorities, their right to life and survival, a perpetual threat to their social and cultural space. For God’s sake, don’t extend the logic of US imperialism to understand my position (in their case, the Big Brother is not only watching but also breathing down everyone’s neck all the time, and in our case, he’s happily living with the younger ones), or judge me in the light of the theories you may have borrowed from the West, or impose them on me, unthinkingly.

    Please don’t treat me as a colonizer, just because the British told you that I was one. And finally, don’t let them divide us now that we think we are free, for we have, are and will continue to live with each other, peacefully, joyously and harmoniously. And the next time, you are tempted to blame me just because I’m a Hindu, or catch me by the collars because I let you share my home, do think again!

    I only hope, you do or else, I’ll continue to be apologetic for no other reason, but for being what I’m, yes, just another Hindu.

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    Rana Nayar

    A theater enthusiast, Prof Nayar teaches at the Department of English and Cultural Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh.
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