• ~ Mark Twain

    ~ Mark Twain

    "Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it."
  • Why am I apologetic about being a Hindu – Part I

    Mapping the Past and Present: Defensive Psychology of an Indian Hindu 

    I do not know whether I’m an insider or an outsider in India. Much will depend on what historians may have to say about my origins or my beginnings, which in any case, shall remain shrouded in endlessly inconclusive controversies. Some people will insist on treating me as a descendant of the Hindus, tracing my links with Indus Valley Civilization (emphasizing the homology between ‘Indus’ and ‘Hindus’), while others may look upon me as a leftover of the Aryan race that came from the West and overran the Nagas and/or Dravidians (read the original inhabitants of this land), seeking to establish my hegemony over this land, its peoples, its languages and its native cultures, too. I do not know whether I’m a naturalized citizen of this land or an aggressor, an invader and/or a colonizer. Historians would probably never let me have the satisfaction of knowing this, one way or the other. What I do know is that I have lived on this land for close to three, four thousand years; that I’m among one of its oldest, if not the oldest, inhabitants; and that I have participated in its social, political, religious and cultural life for as long as I can remember.

    Of course, I know that despite having lived in this land for close to four thousand years, and despite having made all the contribution towards shaping, and not controlling, its cultural forces; and despite all my protestations about being truly, genuinely non-violent, secular and democratic in my convictions, today, I’m extremely apologetic about being a Hindu or made to feel so. Do I have a right to ask, why, for God’s sake, am I being pushed into such defensive postures, today? You perhaps don’t know that I was very much part of the crowd of non-decrepit soldiers who were led into the First War of Independence by Mangal Pandey, and the moment I witnessed the birth of the Congress Party out of the womb of history, I had simply stood by and cheered loudly. I was there when the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre happened, or when the non-cooperation movement was started by Gandhi. I was there when Lala Lajpat Rai was mercilessly beaten to death or Bhagat Singh was hanged with his companions following a farcical trial. I was among the crowds in 1942 when they booed and jeered at Englishmen, saying, “Quit India”, before plunging headlong into the unprecedented communal conflagration of 1947. Yes, I was killed among those who died during the Partition and was born, yet again, with the birth of a new nation.

    And let me assure you, since 1947 I have never participated in any of those loony linguistic movements that you witnessed in the late 1950s for the reorganization of Indian states on the basis of language or regional aspirations. To be honest, I wasn’t the one who raised the bogey of ‘official language,’ or the one who shed the blood of those who didn’t want ‘Hindi’ to be installed as an the sovereign, national, and/or official language. Now as I look back, I feel, it’d have been much better had Tamil been made the official language, as it‘d have probably brought the never ending colonial march of English to a sudden, necessary halt. It worries me to think now that we have missed out on a real opportunity to decolonize ourselves by making one of our own languages as the national/official language. Do you really think that I was the one who torched the government buildings or damaged the public property when the communal fires engulfed our sanity? Certainly not! Why to hide from you, friends, at that point of time, I was only too busy managing the petty affairs of my inconsequential life, running from pillar to post, clutching on to a bottle of milk or a can of kerosene, or waiting endlessly in the long queues either outside an employment bureau, a post-office, a bank, or a polling booth or just about too busy keeping the wolves at bay.

    Believe me, when I say that I never participated even once in all those crazy, misdirected Rath Yatras (on Toyota convertibles) that some power hungry, political opportunists organized from time to time in the name of Hindutva. Do you know that I was not at all opposed to the political churning or mobilization that Mandalization caused in this country, nor did I ever support those who pulled down the Babri Masjid or engineered the Godhra Riots or burnt the train carrying Muslims across to Pakistan? Instead, I have been a strong votary of the affirmative action, as I sincerely believe that weak must always be protected by the strong, whatever the cost; and also whatever is pushed down by history must ultimately come up the hard way, and that it is not at all possible without social engineering of some kind. You do not know me enough to know that when this bandwagon of Hindutva was rolling out in the Indian streets, I was among those who were silently crying over the death of a shared dream, and grieving over the possibility of communalization of Indian politics. Much before that, I had already shed enough tears, or even spent many sleepless nights worrying over the criminalization of politics in our country, when it hit in the late 1970s.

    Each time, a Kashmiri Muslim is killed either by the militants or the State, each time an innocent Sikh is burnt alive in a politically sponsored carnage, each time a Christian missionary is slain by some lunatic Hindu, and each time a Parsi is forced to migrate owing to the bullying tactics of Shiv Sainiks, I go through, no, not just the spasms, but genuine convulsions of conscience, and agonize endlessly over how the dream of secularism is fast turning into a nightmare, how the specter of communalism is forever hanging over our heads, threatening to unleash forces we can’t contain; how the ever growing decline of governance and moral imperatives of our politicians is pushing us deeper into a chaos and anarchy from which we may never be able to recover. And yet, you continue to doubt my secular credentials, suspect my political convictions or affiliations, interrogate my religious beliefs, and much before I realize what you are doing, you quietly dump all this guilt and pain of those whom I do not even know or recognize at my rickety door, leaving me with no choice but to cower in shame or run for a cover. And yet, you condemn me each time a fringe group of lunatics, who know no religion except the religion of violence or hatred and who know no language except the language of terror and crime, inflict all kinds of horrible wounds on your skin. You perhaps do not even know how the wounds in your skin have cut permanent holes in my body, and how your pain keeps searing my conscience, even my soul, in the silent hours of night.

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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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