Equal rights for Hindus – Koenraad Elst

Equal rights for Hindus

Koenraad ElstThe Constitution discriminates against Hinduism, and that this has large-scale consequences for the transmission of Hinduism to the next generation is one of India’s better-kept secrets. Most academics suppress this information and pretend loudly that India is a secular state, i.e. a state with equality of all citizens before the law. It is not, and it will be hard for secularists to object to a constitutional reform that would turn India into a true secular state, one in which no religion is discriminated against. – Dr. Koenraad Elst

One year ago, on Autumnal Equinox, 21 September 2019, Hindus organised a conference in Delhi devoted to the discrimination against Hindus in the Constitution, and, on this bedrock, also extant in India’s laws and effective policies. This was not a Sangh initiative (though VHP leader Alok Kumar was present and being honoured), rather it had been called to formulate demands addressed to the Bharatiya Janata Party. Formally, it was the work of an ad hoc group, the Equal Rights For Hindus Charter.

Some discriminations are rather academic and only consequential at several removes. Thus, the understanding of religious freedom as guaranteed in Article 25, especially the inclusion of the right to propagate one’s religion and thus to encourage others to convert, is tailor-made for the Christian mission. This interest group had successfully lobbied to ensure that the right to convert be included in the Constitution. It also fits the Islamic design to Islamise all of humanity, but the notion of conversion is foreign to Hindus and even more to Parsis. So, the constitutional right to convert seemingly creates a level playing field, counting for all religions, yet in practice it upholds a right central to Christianity and Islam but meaningless (except negatively) to Hinduism. It legalises the aggression by the foreign and conquering religions to the detriment of the indigenous religion.

At the initiative of the Scheduled Tribes, targets par excellence of the missionary efforts, several Indian states have enacted laws against forcible or fraudulent conversion (which according to the missionaries and their secularist allies are non-existent anyway). But these state laws can never acquire teeth as long as the Constitution guarantees the right to propagate religion. Thanks to this unshakeable guarantee, the missionary apparatus considers these anti-conversion laws as but an impotent scarecrow, useful only to underpin its own internationally propagated image of hapless victims being persecuted by an overbearing Hindu majority.

Education

The most consequential and effective discrimination is comprised in Article 30. It guarantees to the minorities (leaving the majority unmentioned) the right to found and manage educational institutions. This means that Hindu schools can be nationalised or subjected to other government controls from which minority schools are exempt. In the application of this discrimination, the Right to Education Act, enacted by the Congress-Communist combine in 2008, imposes a back-breaking burden on Hindu schools (putting hundreds out of business), and from which it exempts minority schools.

But before this too, the discrimination was already palpable. Thus, in the 1980s the Ramakrishna Mission’s schools in West Bengal were harassed by the Communist teachers’ unions and threatened with nationalisation. Instead of appealing to Hindu society to come to its rescue, and instead of challenging the discriminatory rules which made this hostile takeover possible, it dishonourably decided to abandon Hindu society and distance  itself from all other Hindu sects that invest in schooling. The Ramakrishna Mission approached the Court to get itself recognised as a non-Hindu minority, exemplifying the scramble for the exit from Hinduism.

The RK Mission failed in its attempt at de-Hinduisation, as had happened before already to the Sri Aurobindo Society: the Court had to admit that the respective founders, Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo, had explicitly stated that they were Hindu and had never intended to found a new religion. But the Arya Samaj at the Punjab state level, the Jains, and the Lingayats did succeed in getting recognition as non-Hindu minority religions.

The point is that Article 30 is a constant invitation to the Hindu sects to leave Hinduism. It tends to fragment Hindu society. Apart from the sheer injustice of this anti-Hindu discrimination, its power to trigger the fragmentation of Hindu society should be reason enough for pro-Hindu activists to do something about it. It also helps to confirm the state’s right to interfere in other fields of Hindu life, especially the places of worship, again unlike the minorities’ inviolable churches and mosques.

These two areas—education and places of worship—are extremely important in today’s world. In centuries past, children became Hindu by spontaneously absorbing the religion and culture because these were all around them. That is much less the case today. By contrast, formal schooling is far more important than ever before. Keep the teaching of Hinduism out of the schools (a requirement of enforcing “secularism”, but only on the Hindus), and it will enter the children’s minds less and less. Unknown makes unloved, and it makes Hindus unable to defend the choice for Hinduism to others and even to themselves. This way, they become easy prey for whomever wants to seduce them into abandoning their ancestral religion and entering other worlds and embracing other worldviews and ways of life. For Hinduism, removing these discriminations is a matter of life and death.

Abolition

The conference a year ago resolved to try and influence the government into finally taking up the problem of this Constitutional inequality. But it can be doubted whether anyone except the participants has even heard of it. For the Government, it has not made any difference. In 2018 there was a Private Bill by BJP MP Satyapal Singh, but both the party and the Government refused to take it up.

If the BJP and Narendra Modi had cared about Hinduism, they would have prepared the correct parliamentary procedures before acceding to power and set to work in 2014 itself. Failing that, they could have come to their senses in the next phase, and belatedly set to work anyway. Instead, while they may have done their job on the development front, they remained emphatically passive on the “communal” front. Many in there are just timeservers satisfied with enjoying the perks of being in government.

The slightly more principled types, of RSS provenance, had absorbed so much of secularist thought that the idea of recognising and abolishing anti-Hindu discriminations that were strangling Hindu life, just did not even occur to them. Instead, they take pride in outdoing Congress in minority appeasement, having replaced Hindutva with “BJP secularism” as their ideological backbone. Even independent activist Hindus tend to get carried away by minor issues and muster no more than fleeting attention to the main issue.

The problem here is that Hindus are suckers for tokenism. With superficial gestures, wearing Hindu clothes, and getting filmed visiting a temple here and there, BJP ministers can assure themselves of Hindu votes. A child’s hand is easy to fill, and Hindus will gladly believe that only economic issues are “the real issues”, while the reforms that would make a difference to the life and future of Hinduism are but “boutique issues” (to borrow the term that a Hindu actually used).

When put on the spot, BJP supporters defend the BJP’s actual performance against the ideals to which they were once committed, like “justice for all, appeasement of none”. They insist that the leaders “need time”: even after more than six years in power, without discerning any BJP intention to stray from the Nehruvian path of minority appeasement (for that is what maintaining the anti-Hindu discrimination amounts to), many are still not ashamed to say this, all while consistently remaining passive on the issues for which they supposedly needed that time.

What to do?

If you want to achieve any goal, you must be coldly realistic. Let us face the fact that there is very little commitment among even activist Hindus to abolish these discriminations. This is an instance of a situation with which leaders ought to be familiar. Some policies have popular appeal, but other policies, though the best-informed and most prescient leaders see how necessary they are, just don’t ring a bell among the people. Yet, if a leader explains the need for abolishing these discriminations, every parliamentarian of the BJP (and many others too) will fall in line. Many don’t think it is a priority, some had never thought about it, but no one will object to it.

This is all the more true because abolishing the Constitutional inequality between Hindus and non-Hindus is not hard to do. First of all, it may not even be necessary to amend the Constitution; possibly it is enough to approach the Supreme Court for an authoritative opinion. The judges may point out that the Constituent Assembly could not have meant to deny Hindus the rights they were giving to the minorities. At that time, Muslims and Christians were on the defensive, acutely feeling how that they were deemed guilty of the Partition massacres, and the just-concluded colonial exploitation. The Hindu members had no reason at all to enact discriminations against themselves.

Secondly, if amending the Constitution still proves necessary, this need not be insurmountable. Many opposition MPs may support reforms amounting to more equality. Congress and other parties still have their eyes on the Hindu vote-bank: maybe they never would have taken the initiative for this reform, but they will hesitate to oppose it once it is there. And with the thumping majority that it has, the BJP needs very few votes from outside. What a luxury, which they and you will miss it when it’s gone.

The normalisation of the Kashmir situation was harder, needing lots of security precautions and triggering many negative reactions from the usual suspects. But the BJP was ready to take these challenges on, partly because it was a safely secular issue. Everybody knows the separate status of Kashmir was due to its character as a Muslim-majority state, yet the relevant laws did not mention religion. It could be framed in terms of national unity, a discourse in which the RSS and the BJP are more at home than in anything pertaining to Hindu aspirations.

Once religion comes into the picture, the going gets tougher. This was clear from the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) controversy earlier this year, about the welcome to be given to non-Muslims oppressed in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Here, the enemy had it easy to deduce BJP “fanaticism” from the obvious “inequality” between religions in the CAA. This inequality between oppressed communities and the oppressor community had its justification, but the mere mention of inequality counted as criminal to most outside observers. The episode ended as a publicity failure, a loss of face for the BJP government.

Well, here you don’t have to accept the burden of a word that triggers negative knee-jerk reactions. Here you don’t have to justify inequality, only to advertise equality. Who could be against equality?

That the Constitution discriminates against Hinduism, and that this has large-scale consequences for the transmission of Hinduism to the next generation is one of India’s better-kept secrets. Most academics suppress this information and pretend loudly that India is a secular state, i.e. a state with equality of all citizens before the law. It is not, and the good implication is that for secularists it will be hard to object to a reform that would turn India into a secular state, one in which no religion is discriminated against.

But

Of course, the secularists are going to resist this normalisation of India’s inter-religious relations. They will for the first time be put in a position of openly having to defend inequality, but some will find a way of stooping that low without getting a bad conscience. Thus, some will say that in order to achieve equality, a little bit of inequality is necessary. That is the principle behind America’s “affirmative action”.

So, they will claim (and we already have heard some professors, when pressed to pronounce on this, affirm it) that as a majority, the Hindus owe the minorities something. But in a secular state, there is no such thing as a minority: there are only equal citizens. To insist nonetheless on this point, they will allege that the American white majority has kept the black minority as slaves, ergo majorities commit injustice against minorities (an unjustified generalisation); ergo in India too the majority has oppressed the minorities.

Well, we have news for them: no, the Hindus have never oppressed Christians nor the Muslims. The reverse, yes. So, if inequality can be justified as a compensation for past injustice, then it is the Christians and Muslims who must pay compensation.

But we should not go that far. For the present and future, simple equality will do.

Conclusion

The achievement of equality is not the end. Once the state has created a level playing field, civil society has the task of using the opportunities that arise. Hindus will have to take initiatives. A religion that relies on state patronage will become weak.

Hindus should not want (and fortunately, by and large don’t want) to replace a system discriminating against them by a system where they can discriminate against others. Just equality will do, and then let the best principles and way of life win. But that very limited goal of equality is really necessary and is now becoming urgent.

After 2019 even more than before, BJP supporters smugly assume that they are natural election-winners, so that they can safely postpone any jobs till next term. Right now, the opposition is in relative disarray and not in a position to win against the BJP. But this can change. One of my farthest memories about Indian politics concerns the accession to power of the Janata Party, prepared by Jayaprakash Narayan’s mass campaign that galvanised the opposition against the seemingly invincible Indira Gandhi. In the coming years too, we might see the rise of a leader who manages to unite and motivate the opposition.

If the BJP loses power, many Hindus will rue the missed opportunities. What are the chances that an avowedly secularist government will care about justice for Hinduism and take the initiative to revise Articles 25-30? Crying and gnashing of teeth, that is what many Hindus will feel when they realise that the seemingly timeless window of opportunity has passed, and that an ever-shrinking Hindu society has little chance of ever bringing it back.

But it need not come that far. You still have more than three years to get the job taken up and finished. What have you done to persuade the BJP leadership to use the unique window of opportunity that still presents itself? – IndiaFacts, 22 September 2020

Dr Koenraad Elst is an author, linguist and orientalist who visits India often from his home in Belgium.

Charter of Hindu Demands


 

Ram Swarup: The greatest Hindu thinker since Sri Aurobindo – Aravindan Neelakandan

Ram Swarup

Aravindan NeelakandanWhether it is Dharmic darshanas, global Pagan revival, study of Western philosophies and theologies from Hindu perspective, study of language from Hindu framework or, resistance to monopolistic ideologies—Ram Swarup has gifted every aspiring Hindu with vision, values and tools for his or her search . – Aravindan Neelakandan

The globalised environment today has created both challenges and opportunities for local, natural cultures. Among such natural cultures and spiritual traditions, Hindu Dharma represents the largest and the longest-continuing traditions. In fact, Hindus are the last standing nation of such a natural culture and spirituality.

With predatory and monopolistic forces threatening such a theo-diversity-laden ecosystem as Hindu Dharma and society, how should Hindus respond?

How do Hindus interact with other cultures and be a blessing to humanity while being rooted in their traditions, and without insulating themselves?

The answer may well lie with the works of Ram Swarup, who should be considered and can be considered as the greatest Hindu thinker and seer after Sri Aurobindo.

In many ways, he carried forward the thinking and vision of both Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda into the future, meeting head-on the challenges of the present and showing the thinking Hindu the opportunities embedded in every challenge.

For many millennial Hindutvaites, Ram Swarup would be known as the mentor of Sita Ram Goel.

The duo was like Sri Krishna and Arjuna in the dharma kshetra of life and rashtra.

Just as Sri Krishna is far more than the charioteer of Arjuna and Gitacharya, though that is a core dimension of the avatar, Ram Swarup was the mentor and guide of Sita Ram Goel and the sattvic energy behind Voice of India, but he was also much more than that.

And it will benefit the Hindu society to go through these other dimensions of Sri Ram Swarup as his centennial celebrations commence this year. And with the Ram Swarup foundation, we will also understand and utilise the work of Sita Ram Goel better.

In 1981, through Voice of India, he published The Word as Revelation: Names of Gods.

By any reckoning, this work should be considered a milestone in both study of religions and the study of languages.

Here, Ram Swarup takes linguistics to a different plane entirely. The magnificent view that Ram Swarup shows here is not partisan to any sectarian group of humanity.

Though he has limited his study to what he calls the “Indo-European” languages, he points out that “if speech and meaning are deeply human phenomena and if they follow deeply-laid patterns of the mind and heart, then they must share certain common characteristics, however differently clothed, and certain truths must hold good for them all”.

Going through this book, one is immersed into the beauty of words and their meaning—where the perspective is deeply Hindu, and the phenomenon studied is universal.

The book has two parts. In Part I, he explores how words are formed and what creates the relation between a word and its meaning.

He states:

“The process of naming is complicated and deeply psychological. It operates at subconscious level. Different elements that go into making of a name—the referent, the sound, the meaning—all tend to coalesce in the mind so much so that it is difficult to separate them from one another. … The process of naming may also be too much forced or fanciful; it may not be keeping with the deeper wisdom of the mind.”

What Ram Swarup talks about is an important aspect which educationists who are working to provide science and technical education in mother languages should pay attention to.

For example, in Tamil Nadu, the Dravidianists have only one purpose in their attempt to create Tamil terms for science and technology; it is not taking the concepts to the child but to remove Sanskrit from the words they coin. But still, they must use the term “kanakku” for mathematics which in turn is derived from Sanskrit gana and ganitham.

Similarly, “botany” is “thavaraviyal”, which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit sthavara.

Our tradition, from poet Kalidasa to sage Kumaragurupara, has handed over the relation between the word and the meaning as Shakti and Shiva and pure consciousness as the substratum from which the word and the meaning arise.

Sri Ramana Maharishi takes this further and hints at a roadmap for preserving linguistic diversity through this common spiritual matrix. In his famous Aksharamanamalaihe speaks of the non-dual union as the union of azhaku and sundaram—both being Tamil and Sanskrit terms for the same aspect: beauty.

In Part II of the book, Ram Swarup studies the names of gods. Here, he shows how humanity reaches its greatest linguistic possibilities in arriving at the names of the divine. Language, through the names of the divine, becomes a tool to elevate human consciousness to reach more “profound heights”.

The way Ram Swarup harmonises the spiritual elements in various traditions of the world is very important for every Hindu. He has provided a solid foundation for engaging in a proper dialogue with mutual respect for non-Hindu religions.

In discussing the names of the Vedic gods, he points out that all gods have multiple names and the knowledge of these multiple names is an important and holy knowledge.

Then he says:

“In all spiritual traditions, there is something analogous to it. The God of the Jews has many names. … But according to Jewish mysticism, God has also a secret name which should not even be uttered. Therefore, the Jews simply called it ‘the Great Name’ or ‘the Great Precious Name’ or just ‘the Name’. … Islam too admits of God’s Names though it denies His Forms. But the admission receives a certain narrowing at the hands of the more orthodox and faithful. … Socrates presents this idea in the language of understanding. He proclaims the awe, mystery and unknowability of Gods and their names but also tells us how these are ultimately names of man’s own intentions and meanings. … According to Hindu thought too, the names of Gods are not names of external beings. These are names of the truths of man’s highest Self.”

One can see how softly but sharply Ram Swarup creates a Hindu framework for the study of monopolistic religions—preserving whatever spiritual components they have and pointing out where the sublime truth is lost to rigidity inevitable to monopolistic theology.

His critique of the emergence of monopolistic rigidity traces to Paul who represented “a passionate attachment to a fixed idea which is closed to wider viewpoints and larger truths of life”.

To him, this was more an ideology than a spiritual idea. From the very early days to the present, this had worked in aid of imperialism. If rigidity and closing minds to larger truths of existence plague monotheism “polytheism too is subject to the despiritualizing influence of externalizing mind”.

As against these two, he points out that the Vedic approach “gives unity without sacrificing diversity … a deeper unity and deeper diversity beyond the power of ordinary monotheism and polytheism”.

Ram Swarup writes:

“God transcends every one of His Names; He also lives fully and indivisibly in each one of them. In one Name we should be able to see all the Names; in one God, we must be able to see all the Gods; otherwise, our knowledge of a God and His Names is not sufficient. We must also be able to see that a God exceeds all his Forms and Names, individually and collectively. The heart of a God is an enigma.”

Here is an interesting self-experiment for the inquisitive reader.

After reading the chapters on the names of gods in The Word as Revelation, one should read the science fiction short story The Nine Billion Names of God (1953) by Arthur C Clarke.

It will be rewarding to see how Ram Swarup’s framework transforms the way the short story gets internalised.

Another must read is On Hinduism: Reviews and Reflections (2000). Published posthumously, the book has eight long essays and contains his very early writing on Hinduism.

Here is an example of the alertness and conceptual clarity of Ram Swarup. One of the essays is “Buddhism vis-a-vis Hinduism“, originally published in July 1958.

Impressed by this essay, Rajaji wrote the following in Swarajya (21 May 1966):

“I read with great interest Sri Ram Swarup’s scholarly paper on the intimate connection, amounting almost to identity, between the Buddhistic philosophy and the Vedanta of the Upanishads. Hindu conformism sensed the danger lurking in a close identity with a school of thought which may well be misunderstood to be denial of God and soul. … Sri Ram Swarup’s paper explains how Hinduism saved itself from the dangers of its own philosophical dialectics through the cult of Bhakti and surrender. …”

Ram Swarup responded to this much later in a detailed footnote when he was updating the essay for a new reprint.

He wrote:

“[Rajaji] was a sage and a great spokesman of Hinduism. His views command our greatest respect. But I beg to make one clarification. Sri Rajagopalacharya agrees that there was a great affinity between the Vedanta and the Buddhist philosophy, but according to him Hinduism saw in it a danger at being misunderstood and identified with a school which denied God and soul; and it met the danger by developing the school of Bhakti and surrender. I believe Hinduism sensed no such danger and it did not panic into Bhakti and surrender because of any such danger. The fact is Bhakti and surrender even as a ‘school’ are older than Buddhism. … At no point there was any intention of keeping Buddhism ‘out of pale’. … [Hindus] protected Buddhism and defended it when it was threatened; they gave refugee to Buddhists when they were persecuted in Persia, Khurasan, Iraq, Mosul by king Gushtap and his descendants—in the same manner they are doing it at present to Buddhist Chakmas fleeing from persecution in Bangladesh.”

The importance of this response cannot be overstated. The idea that Bhakti movement was a reactionary movement against Buddhism and Jainism is one of the cornerstones of colonial and Marxist indology. It had been internalised by almost all scholars of Hinduism of that time. This continues to this day.

Well-meaning Hindu scholars too fell into this trap and spoke of Bhakti as a response to either Buddhist-Jain movements or Islamist invasion and persecution.

While Bhakti did allow a strong resistance movement against Islamist invasion, that was not its origin or motive. Nor did Bhakti movement in Tamil Nadu or elsewhere emerge as a strategy or response to counter Buddhism.

Ram Swarup stands for eternity as the pioneering Hindu scholar, whose deeply penetrating Hindu insight identified this fallacy and cautioned students of Hindu Dharma against this.

Every aspiring young Hindu intellectual should also read his essay “Development in Huxley’s Thought: Hindu-Buddhist influences“, which is also in this collection.

This essay, running to almost 40 pages, is an excellent guide for anyone who wants to study Hindu influence on the Western philosophical traditions, particularly in modern times.

Here is Ram Swarup’s analysis of Aldous Huxley’s critique of Christian art.

“Despite non-representative Christian mystics like Eckhart, Tauler and Ruysbroeck, the profound inner mystic landscape and its elements could not find their expression in Christian art. Huxley observes that there is nowhere ‘equivalents of those Far Eastern Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who incarnate, in stone and print, the experience of ultimate reality.’”

Ram Swarup, pointing out that Huxley stops here and does not get into the deeper cause, analyses further:

“Christian artists were talented and innovative; they performed all the tasks set for them by their religion and fulfilled all its needs for what they were worth. … Similarly, they discovered important techniques like perspective and foreshortening by which they could portray the third dimension and render horizons and depth in space. … The fact is that Christian art failed at a deeper level. It failed not in execution but in conception and vision and this failure was at bottom failure of Christian theology in which mysticism is rudimentary and peripheral. … A deeper iconography needed the support of a deeper theology and vision. This explains why Christian art has no equivalents of Far Eastern Buddhas and Bodhisattvas as Huxley notices.”

Another important work of his which too was published posthumously is Meditations Yogas, Gods, Religions.

In the essay, “Gods, God, Unity, Unit” which deals with the origin of Hindutva, some striking parallels between what Ram Swarup puts forth and the way some pioneering neuro-psychological studies look at the evolution of religions, have been shown.

Ram Swarup proves to possess a perspective which, in hindsight, was more scientific and holistic than that of the Western psychologists.

Whether it is Dharmic darshanas, global Pagan revival, study of Western philosophies and theologies from Hindu perspective, study of language from Hindu framework, literary criticism, resistance to monopolistic ideologies, Dharmic ecology—Ram Swarup has gifted every aspiring Hindu with vision, values and tools for his or her search.

It is amazing that a person could do all these in one life.

There was no Internet then. He neither sought nor had any cult following as many have and seek now. He worked in solitude, his writing was his sadhana, his tapas, his yajna—the fruits of which shall always be there for generations of seekers.

Thus, among us lived a rishi. And he was born a hundred years ago. – Swarajya, 14 October 2020

Aravindan Neelakandan is an author, psychology and economics major, and contributing editor at Swarajya.

Ram Swarup's Books


Founding a Hindu Rashtra, not just a temple – Virendra Parekh

The bhoomi poojan is an occasion for all of us to invoke Ram to be our unifier and liberator. Let Ram, who united the royalty and laity of his kingdom with tribals in forests and mountains in distant lands, bring together estranged brothers in his homeland. Let Ram, who liberated Sita from the bondage of Ravan, liberate us from the bondage of the past and lead us to Ramarajya. – Virendra Parekh

The bhoomi poojan of Ram temple in Ayodhya is a major landmark on India’s journey towards the Hindu Rashtra. We are indeed blessed to witness this historic moment. To grasp its true significance, one has to view it in a perspective of centuries. The last millennium, which opened with wanton destruction of Hindu temples by Islamic invaders, ended with a powerful popular movement to restore the Ram Janmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya. The current one opens with the foundation laying ceremony of that grand temple. No wonder the country is celebrating it as a grand festival of civilisational reaffirmation and resurgence.

To be sure, the challenges before the Hindu civilisation, which remain multiple and serious, would not disappear with the reconstruction of the Ram temple. The reconstruction, however, signifies Hindu society’s determination to overcome these challenges and also holds out an assurance of its success in this noble endeavour.

For centuries India has been struggling to retain its civilizational identity. It has been a battleground of two civilisations (Hindu and Islamic) for the last one thousand years and three civilisations (Hindu, Islamic and Western) for nearly three centuries. Muslim invaders were interested not just in enjoying India’s fabled wealth and power, but also in driving out Hinduism (“kufr”) and establishing the “only true religion”. Chronicles of their court historians testify to that. The Britishers, too, were not as neutral or indifferent in civilisational issues as it may appear at first sight. Macaulay’s famous minutes leave no doubt on that score.

India did manage to retain her identity through these turbulent centuries, but it could not defeat the invading civilisations. It could neither absorb them fully through assimilation nor throw out what could not be assimilated. This inability to reject what it could not digest was the essence of foreign conquest. Even today, it has not gained that freedom in full measure.

The unresolved tussle resulted in a civilisational stalemate. This stalemate, as Girilal Jain pointed out three decades ago, lies at the root of crisis of identity faced by our intelligentsia over the last hundred years. Are we an ancient civilization under assault from predatory forces or a hotchpotch of innumerable identities struggling to become a nation? Should we cherish our culture as a unique and invaluable asset or cut it asunder as burdensome deadwood from the past?

The foreign rule over the centuries, meanwhile, divided our intelligentsia into broadly two groups. A large part of it, which wanted to enjoy wealth, power, prestige, status and position decided to collaborate with the ruling class by offering to serve it. A small part of the intelligentsia stuck to its roots and refused to join the rulers. It was driven out from the corridors of power, but its voice could never be completely silenced.

Members of the former group learnt Persian and Arabic, took up jobs under Muslim rulers and adopted their mores and manners. The British Raj was much wider, stronger and more uniform. Most members of the groups which had earlier collaborated with Muslim rulers now donned the new attire with alacrity. Thousands of Hindus took to English language, dress, manners and even ideas, ideals and thought processes. They came to view themselves as partners of the rulers rather than the ruled. Nehrus are a good example of this class. This rule—collaborate with rulers if you want to come up socially—remained in operation even after independence.

It was this class of Anglicised brown sahibs, with a history of serving successive foreign dispensations that formed the dominant elite at the time of independence. With Jawaharlal Nehru as its guiding star and spirit, it sought to remake India into a Western image. Indian state under Nehru became a powerful agency for propagation of Western ideals and institutions.

A word here about Communists is in order. In India, the Western civilization is represented not so much by Christianity as by Communism. Some Christians may appreciate the religiosity (not the religion) of the Hindus. But the Communists’ contempt for Indian philosophy, religion and civilization is deep, absolute, and uncompromising. They could think of no greater calamity than India returning to its Hindu ethos.

To continue with the story, the dominant left-leaning elite sought to mould India into a non-Hindu entity. It used secularism to repudiate the Hindu ethos of India and socialism to humiliate the weal-creating business class and subordinate it to the benefit of an ever expanding rapacious neta-babu combine. Under its aegis, Hinduism came to be viewed as synonymous with superstition, inequality and exploitation. Nationalism became suspect and invoking India’s ancient civilization was branded as communalism.

Ram Janmabhoomi movement was Hindus’ reaction to this soulless, rootless un-Indian state that had scant regard for their concerns and sentiments. The overnight conversion to Islam of Meenakshipuram village in Tamil Nadu in 1981, Khalistani terrorism in Punjab, the overturning by the Parliament of the Supreme court judgment in Shah Bano case and fanning of separatism in J&K left Hindus deeply worried about their future in their homeland. That is why the opening of padlocks at the shrine at Ayodhya in 1986 and shilanyas at the sight in 1989, meant to be minor diversions, became historic turning points. Ram came to occupy centre stage of the public discourse.

Like a subterranean river bursting out in a desert, Hindu awakening broke out into the open and carried away everything before it. All attempts to smother it failed. This was the sentiment that saw BJP under Narendra Modi win absolute majority in Lok Sabha elections twice in succession. The civilizational stalemate that Girilalji spoke about is beginning to resolve in favour of the Hinduism. The left-leaning intelligentsia which dominated the public discourse has lost its political clout. Narendra Modi is the most visible and powerful symbol of this transformation. No wonder the dispossessed intellectual elite regard him as a mortal enemy.

The nature of the Indian state is changing. Nehru as prime minister sought to prevent President Rajendra Prasad from attending the Somnath temple renovation ceremony. Modi as prime minister is going to lay the foundation stone himself. We have indeed come a long way.

The reconstruction of Ram temple is not directed against the Muslims. The dispute is not between Hindus and Muslims but between those who respect India’s civilizational ethos and those who wish to destroy it. A Shia organization was among the first to announce donation for the temple. Pakistani author Tarek Fatah has consistently supported the cause of the Ram Janmabhoomi. On the other hand, Sharad Pawar was determined not to attend the ceremony even if invited. Left to himself, Mani Shankar Aiyar may perhaps erect the Babri mosque again at the spot.

An overwhelming majority of Muslims in the Indian subcontinent are descendants of Hindu ancestors. In their veins also flows the blood of Vedic sages and saints of yore. Vicissitudes of history tore them away from their parent society. The temple reconstruction is an occasion for all of us to remember this blood relation between India’s two major communities. With silent endorsement of the temple reconstruction, Indian Muslims can bond again with their parent society. Millions are doing it already.

We may wish that all this should have happened twenty, thirty, fifty years ago. But history or Mahakal moves at his own pace. He cannot be pushed from behind; nor can his march be thwarted by trying to block his path.

The bhoomi poojan is an occasion for all of us to invoke Ram to be our unifier and liberator. Let Ram, who united the royalty and laity of his kingdom with tribals in forests and mountains in distant lands, bring together estranged brothers in his homeland. Let Ram, who liberated Sita from the bondage of Ravan, liberate us from the bondage of the past and lead us to Ramarajya.

› Virendra Parekh is an editor and senior journalist in Mumbai.

PM Modi at Bhumi Puja (5 August 2020).

Ram Mandir silver foundation brick (5 August 2020)

PM Modi completes Ram Mandir bhumi puja (5 August 2020).


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Sita Ram Goel

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