Saving Hinduism from Hindutva — Aijaz Zaka Syed

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Hindutva fascism has emerged as a clear and present danger to Hinduism and Indian democracy. It is time for the silent majority to speak up before it is too late

AIJAZ ZAKA SYED | Caravan Daily

A Pakistani friend of mine, who has always had a soft corner for India and has extended family on both sides of the border, is most bewildered these days at the way things have been unfolding in the country under the current order.

“I do not have words to express my distress about what India has become,” she messaged in the wake of the Kathua horror in Kashmir, involving the macabre rape and murder of an 8-year old Muslim girl. “I cannot believe that people are divided about a case that is at once a disgrace for all of humanity as it is for India. All this reminds me of those horrible Partition stories that I’ve heard or read!”

As if the brutal gang rape and murder of the angel called Asifa — apparently to punish her community — wasn’t shameful enough, Jammu-based lawyers and BJP supporters, including two state ministers, take to streets to cheer for the rapists and killers! The defenders of law didn’t even allow the filing of charge sheet in the case.

So it wasn’t merely eight animals in a temple who assaulted the shepherd girl. The whole society led by those championing ‘beti padhao, beti bachao’! (Educate and save your daughters!) was her tormentor.

This regime seems to bring out the worst in us, as I wrote to my friend.  We never knew we were capable of so much hate and intolerable cruelty to our own kind.

The appalling crimes against humanity that India has witnessed over the past few years against the most vulnerable sections of society – women, children and minorities – have no parallels in our history. Yet they evoke little reaction from the larger society and from powers that be.

These rapes, riots and lynchings in the name of all that is holy have become the new normal of new India.  That is the single biggest achievement of this regime, which came promising ‘ache din’ (good times) and never tires of invoking the ‘sab ka sath, sab ka vikas’ mantra with a straight face.

What is most remarkable about this state of affairs is the extent to which Indian society has been infected by the virus of communal hatred and bigotry. As many pundits rightly argue, if India has remained a secular and inclusive democracy in a volatile neighborhood, the credit largely goes to its sane majority. That the majority of ordinary Hindus are peace loving and moderate is a fact.

Even the current lot of rulers for all their brute numerical strength in Parliament have been elected by less than 31% of India’s population. That is, in our first-past-the-post system of Westminster democracy, 69% of the people did not vote for the glorious rule of the Bharatiya Janata Party. This is not just the most ruinous regime in the country’s history, it also happens to be the least representative of all elected governments so far.

Yet the sane, sensible majority of the country has either overlooked or chosen to maintain its silence in the face of all that has been unleashed on the nation in the name of the Hindus.

Indeed, instead of confronting the BJP on its claims to represent and speak for a noble faith and its followers, who are known for their tolerance and equanimity, more and more people seem to be throwing their weight behind the Parivar, condoning its crimes against humanity and Indian democracy.

Over the past few years, one has increasingly heard friends and intellectuals complain of an alarming and never-before-witnessed polarization of our society along religious lines.

More and more people, otherwise known for their fair and peaceful nature, are either openly backing the extremists or tacitly supporting them out of their misplaced sectarian sense of loyalty.

Ignoring the appalling crimes against minorities and the rule of lynch mobs that the Parivar has unleashed on a great faith and ancient civilization, the good people have been rooting for the Right. They have ostensibly fallen for Hindutva’s claim to champion Hinduism and the Hindus.

How else do you explain the BJP’s winning streak in various states across the country, in the face of numerous economic disasters that it has gifted the country, not to mention its incredible bumbling on other fronts.

If any other party had visited the twin disasters of demonetization and incredibly inept GST (Goods and Services Tax), it would have been subjected to the severest of chastisement and punishment at the hands of people.

While the rich friends of the BJP and Modi get richer, the country still reels from the catastrophic effects of the bizarre note ban. There is no money in banks and ATMs with leading politicians and economists openly talking of a run on the banks.

In a country where agriculture remains the biggest source of livelihood, farmers have been killing themselves in their thousands. Indigenous industries with millions of jobs in both organized and unorganized sector have disappeared. As for the law and order situation, the less said the better.

Yet the saffron party somehow keeps winning. There is only one explanation for this — unless you believe in all those conspiracy theories about electronic voting machines and stage-managed polls! That too many good, gullible people still take Hindutva’s claim to represent Hinduism seriously. Which is an epic tragedy.

There cannot be a greater irony that an extremist fringe now claims and is perceived as speaking for a peace-loving, all-embracing religion.

I can imagine how emasculating this must be for the silent and sane majority of Hindus. For this is a catastrophe that has befallen my own faith with all kinds of nuts and extremists appointing themselves as spokespersons and ‘defenders’ of Islam and inflicting unspeakable crimes on fellow Muslims and other innocents.

As I have repeatedly argued with reference to extremism in the name of Islam, Hindutva extremism has emerged as an existential threat to Hinduism and Hindus. In fact, this threat is even more acute and serious than what faces Islam. For unlike in India, extremists do not enjoy power anywhere in the Islamic world.

Nor do you see government ministers come out in the streets to defend rapists and killers as witnessed in Kashmir, outraging people and media around the world.

Thanks to the years and decades of efforts by the RSS and its various front organizations including the BJP, no section of Indian society and state – from politics to media and police and security forces to judiciary — today remains unaffected by the saffron scourge.

Again, as argued in the vase of Islam, this ideological onslaught on Hinduism and Indian democracy can be tackled by no one but the Hindus themselves who constitute more than 80% of India’s population.

It is time for the silent majority to speak up and confront the extremists in their midst before it is too late. Hindutva fascism has emerged as the clear and present danger to both Hinduism and Indian democracy.

(Aijaz Zaka Syed is an award winning journalist and editor. He can be emailed ataijaz.syed@hotmail.com or on Twitter @AijazZakaSyed) 

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