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RAM JETHMALANI
ETHICS & POWER

Ram Jethmalani is a senior politician and eminent lawyer.

To be Hindu is not communal

Hindutva is the spirit of the people of India and the reason why our country survived through the ages.

indu disunity has always been the delight of its enemies, and often, it would appear of itself. Our history has been cruel to us, but by and large, our failures and our defeats are directly attributable to the disunity and treachery within ourselves. Start from Alexander's victory and King Ambhi, to Jaichand and Ghori, Jagat Seth and Clive, Rani Laxmi Bai and the Scindias. The list can go on. And judging from the discourse and debates that abound at ever so many think festivals and think tanks about where our country is heading, we do not seem to be even reflecting upon our historical failures, leave alone learning from them.

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It is a fallacy and an error of law to proceed on the assumption... that the use of words Hindutva or Hinduism per se depicts an attitude hostile to all persons practising any religion other than the Hindu religion.

And when we speak about "us" in our country, we refer to Hindus 80.5%, Muslims 13.4%, Christians 2.3%, Sikhs 1.9%, Buddhists, Jains and other religions at 0.8%, 0.4% and 0.6% (Census 2011). So whether the contemporary, cultivated brand of neo secularists (mostly those who get fellowships in foreign universities, and believe they iconise themselves by lambasting anything "Hindu"), like it or not, when we speak of "us" in India, the statistics are clear. But the moment this fact that the land of India is inhabited by 80% Hindus is articulated in any national discourse as to how the future of our country should proceed, the Goebellesian metaphor branding them as "communal forces" is whipped out. No effective counter is made, and the metaphor becomes stronger. One of the most successful achievements of the decade long UPA government is keeping the Hindu majority of our country on a complete back foot, putting them on a silent guilt trip of being Hindus, and stripping them of public self esteem, dare they announce to anyone in public that they are Hindus, and that their interest should also be protected. Being a Hindu is something that should remain unstated, because stating it aloud is equivalent of being "communal", is the unwritten script that the UPA government has been insidiously implanting in our population. And they seem to have succeeded. I am pained to say that a very eminent television personality, winced uncomfortably on a programme when asked what his religion was. He did not answer, more for lack of courage, I believe, rather than any conviction, even though his name not only stated his religion, but also his region. Obviously, this was a result of the fear psychosis that a tag of communalism would get stuck the minute there was a public admission of being a Hindu.

This has been a well orchestrated, concerted strategy of the UPA. Hindus as a group or race, or whatever you might want to call them, that inhabited the land beyond the Sindhu, still carry deep trauma and stigma of their defeat and failure of not being able to defend their homeland from the Muslim invaders who started descending in waves from the Hindukush, and from the sea in Sindh. They were defeated, lost their kingdoms, faced death, destruction and pillage, and finally became subjects of the foreign victors for about 500 years. And it must be remembered that it was not only political, but also religious domination that formed the foundation of Muslim rule in Hindustan. This burden of history is deeply rooted in our collective psyche, reminding us that Hindustan, as the foreign victors called us, was a country of losers. It remains buried and unspoken, even today, in any discourse on the subject. But it is at the back of everyone's mind, tormenting us, and preventing us from developing really constructive, not just cosmetic relations, with the Muslims who chose to remain in independent India. This is something that Hindus must come to terms with, if they want to decide upon the future direction of our country in a harmonious, inclusive manner. And this can best be done through a frank, mature and responsible discussion of history that cannot be wished away or buried.

Yet, the greatest unsolved puzzle remains: Why did India, unlike other lands where Muslim conquest completely Islamised the conquered peoples, defy Islamisation? There was the intent and brute force of the conquerors, religious cleansing and genocide, conversions, jazya, but everything failed, and the bulk of the population remained unconverted. The 1901 census of undivided India records 194 million Hindus and 29.86 Muslims. There are many theories put forth regarding the jihad fatigue, but none really answers the core question. Obviously something about the medieval jihad strategy failed to click in our country, despite political domination.

While the conquerors ruled, cultural evolution which in any society progresses from historical memory, tradition and legend, stagnated. Spontaneous development of faith and religion of the native people, that periodically discards socially unacceptable practices, came to a halt. Muslim rule went to a point of decay, and in one of the greatest ironies of history, that has never happened in any other land, there came another lot of invaders by sea, did business in India, and established political rulership, delivering Hindustan from the first invader. Another cultural churning and cross fertilization of ideas of west and east took place, completely mismatched in terms of space and time, but it led to the independence movement, and the idea of democracy was imported into our land.

But democracy meant numbers. The erstwhile Muslim aristocracy, who considered themselves legitimate successors to the throne of India realised the dilemma of democracy and numbers, which meant subordination to their previous subjects. The Congress party failed in negotiating with the Muslim League, failed to engage in a give and take, and the demand for Pakistan matured. The Muslim League opted out of independent India, encouraged by the colonial power, as we are now informed, and created their own nation carved out of areas that had never really voted for Pakistan. The real votaries of Pakistan, from UP and Bihar remained in India. Perhaps this is something, again unspoken and unsaid, that the erstwhile Muslim aristocracy in India and Pakistan have yet to come to terms with. We gained and we lost, and that without a gunshot being fired, though the wounds of partition still rankle.

No one is accustomed to seeing a strong Hindu, or a strong Hinduism. (The meaning of these words may be taken ad libitum.) The greatest theologians, sociologists and scholars have not been able to define Hinduism, and as a humble lawyer, there is little I can add to their resources. But I do know the meaning of Hindutva, the definition of which has been given a finality by a Supreme Court judgement. Even before Muslim and British rule, India entertained Christian missionaries, and gave safe haven to the Jews and the Parsees, and never persecuted any religious denomination. Hindutva is the spirit of the people of India, through the ages, and perhaps the reason why it has survived conquest, genocide and subjugation. A strong Hinduism would imply the strength of 80% of our population, that would wreck the personal power agendas of the present ruling class of India. Hence the concerted strategy of the UPA government to create a fear psychosis that even the mere mention of the word Hindu conveys communalism, and keep the majority permanently weak. How else would anyone explain the noxious Communal Violence Bill of the National Advisory Council, that the government wants to inflict upon the nation and destroy the critical mass of religious harmony that exists in our country? The media has been captured, and a new class of intellectual neo-secularists have been bred, with adequate space and due recognition for regular Hindu bashing.

The minorities of our country should emphatically be explained that they have nothing to fear from the spirit of Hindutva which has pervaded our society from times immemorial, and there is no threat in it to them. Their religious rights are protected by the Constitution. However, it is sad that political commentators and the media continue to project Hindutva as a communal word, just because the word is rooted in "Hindu", even though the Supreme Court ruling of 1990s has given the final interpretation of it. That, "Ordinarily, Hindutva is understood as a way of life or a state of mind and is not to be equated with or understood as religious Hindu fundamentalism... it is a fallacy and an error of law to proceed on the assumption... that the use of words Hindutva or Hinduism per se depicts an attitude hostile to all persons practising any religion other than the Hindu religion..." In other words, Hindutva is nothing but a secular way of life, and a shield to protect the minorities.

The world is also happy to see India weak and torn by internal disunity. A strong India, where the majority of the people can move forward, united in harmony, disturbs the balance of power. Despite our poverty, malnutrition and lack of proper governance to encourage human resource development, the average IQ of our people is far higher than that of many developed nations. If this is garnered constructively towards building the nation, without divisive forces and corruption wrecking them from within, India can become an economic and political giant.

 
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