By Kapil Sibal in Times of India, May 2, 2017
(Note: Who is a true Hindu? One described and exemplified by a Vivekananda and Mahatma or one preached and practised by the RSS? Evidently the latter seems to be the one promoted and propagated by the present BJP government, if we have to infer from this hard-hitting article with any number of facts and figures adduced by the writer, Kapil Sibal who is a former Union minister and senior Congress leader.
This is something to be given serious thought by all, irrespective of one’s party affiliation and correction, where needed, must be made urgently. Hindutva is not Hinduism. Hindutva was first propagated by Advani during his Rathyathra giving wide publicity to BJP’s political ideology. Actually Hinduism is the most universal (Catholic) religion which embraces all believers and unbelievers. Catholics tom-tom a lot about their Catholicism, but theirs is a “ghetto Catholicism” meant only for the baptized. Hinduism accepts every religion as ‘true’, none of the churches do that.
The great wonder of the world is that no two individuals are alike and therefore no man-made religion can suit all persons. Religion is one’s relationship with his God, if there is a god. So each one is to be left with light of reason that guides him/her. Hence the saying ‘all religions are different ways to reach God’ as all rivers make for the sea.
What is sickening, frightening and indigestible is the silence of PM Modi when Hidutva brigades run riot, indulge in violence and murder for not following their diktats. How can a PM who always says: “sab ka vikas and sab ka sath” keep his mouth shut when his poltical activists don’t hesitate to attack those who don’t do their bidding, not only in religious practice, but even in eating and drinking. The voting public is not that foolish not to see this double talk and sharp conflict between their words and deeds. james kottoor, editor.)
I am in search, in this surcharged environment, of the ‘asli’ (true) Hindu.There is a wide chasm between Hindutva and Hinduism. Hindutva is a political ideology with intent to capture power. It is in no way related to Hinduism, which is a way of life. Hindutva today is nothing but Hindu fundamentalism. It has no relationship with core Hindu philosophical tenets.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a follower of Swami Vivekananda. The latter’s enunciation of the core values of Hinduism might help in resisting the denigration of Hindu values through the ideology of Hindutva. In 1893 – at the World Parliament of Religions – Swami Vivekananda, when commenting on various religions, stated “each must assimilate the spirit of the other, and yet preserve his individuality and grow according to his own law of growth.”
Hindutva is an ideology practised by RSS pracharaks who hold the reins of power and the self-proclaimed vigilantes who seek to represent its moral force. Both are attempting to destroy the individuality and the spirit behind those who embrace other religions.
For Swami Vivekananda, “Help and not fight”, “Assimilation and not Destruction”, “Harmony and Peace and not Dissension” should be the banner of every religion. Events of the recent past suggest that Hindutva’s essential characteristics are fuelling disharmony and discord.
Swami Vivekananda’s dream was to harmonise Vedanta, the Bible and Quran, because he believed that all religions are but expressions of Oneness and that each individual has the right to embrace his religion and choose the path that suits him best. Those who espouse the cause of Hindutva have not understood this meaning of Hinduism. If we continue along this path, the ‘asli’ Hindu might develop traits that have no resemblance to the tenets of his religion.
Swamiji’s prophetic words about food and eating habits have a definite bearing on protagonists of Hindutva entering into the kitchens of our households. Swamiji said “There is a danger of our religion getting into the kitchen…. Our God is the cooking-pot, and our religion is, ‘Don’t touch me, I am Holy’ … If this goes on for another century, every one of us will be in a lunatic asylum.”
These thoughts enunciated at the end of the 19th century should have guided mankind when embracing the 21st century. What we are witnessing today is ideologues of the 21st century harking back to 18th century mindsets. Our governments are now going to decide on our food habits.
Over the years, the Indian mind symbolised the spirit of tolerance. Many religions and cultures have flourished here. Christianity and Islam have found ample space to walk the path they wish to take. Diverse ideas and thoughts have been freely exchanged. Hindu intellectuals flourished within the courtyard of emperor Akbar. Sufi mystics have influenced lives of people over centuries. Yet, Hindutva seeks to efface the past and to build a divisive future.
The eclectic nature of Hinduism is lost on muscular Hindutva preachers. Even its diverse cultural dimensions are not fully appreciated by those who carry the badge of a pan-Indian cultural identity. Hindutva has a fascist, nationalistic and hegemonic dimension. Its diktats are patriarchal and casteist. The idea of a monolithic Hindu religion is unsuited to the inherent diversity of the people of India.
Hindutva as a movement “bristles with rage” at the “slightest criticism”. The ‘asli’ Hindu is merely a community without a sacred scripture or a founder. What needs protection are the values inherent in the diversity within Hinduism; not the values that Hindutva seeks to impose. Hindutva must not encourage the wanton loss of human lives in an attempt to protect the ‘holy cow’.
Hinduism, a loosely knit faith in which all can flourish is antithetical to the concept of a narrow set of beliefs, doctrines and practices. Both pantheism and agnosticism are part of the Hindu religion. Millions of Gods and Goddesses are part of the Hindu faith. The Hindutva narrative has no appetite for multiple strands of faith, schools of philosophy and diversity of tradition.
Violence and untruth have no place in the practice of Hinduism. Mahatma Gandhi’s fundamental beliefs rested on two pillars: ‘non-violence’ and ‘Truth’. RSS and the Hindutva they espouse believe in rumour mongering.
The spate of violence recently unleashed has made us insecure. Our prime minister’s silence on statements offering ransom to behead a chief minister is disturbing. Those unwilling to embrace Hindutva are asked to leave the country. The violence at Una, Dadri and the most recent incident at Alwar are all examples of levels of intolerance not witnessed in this country for years.
Dissent is treated as sedition. Those responsible for law and order silently watch Hindutva brigades create disorder. Events in JNU and University of Hyderabad vitiate the environment of learning by stirring passions. Networks in the social media have become platforms of abuse hurled by those paid to do so. Security forces are sent to academic campuses and protagonists of Hindutva are given a free run for attacking protesting students.
Yoga symbolises discipline. Hindutva elements espouse the cause of yoga and have demonstrated levels of indiscipline not seen before in recent times. Cultural superiority through Hindutva is confused with what represents true culture.The ‘asli’ Hindu is silent. It is time for him to stand up and make his presence felt.
(Views expressed above are the author's own. The author is a former Union minister, a noted lawyer and a Congress leader).