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Talking about Hindu issues is not being communal

There are many important things that Hindus have to deal with, such as the elimination of the caste system.

KISHORE ASTHANA  9th Feb 2013

Sadhus arrive on the banks of the Ganga ahead of the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad. REUTERS

uslims have issues, Christians have issues, Dalits have issues and Sikhs have issues. So do non-Dalit Hindus. If we ignore the concerns of the majority of our population and hope that things for the minority will improve in isolation, we are living in a fool's paradise. The prosperity and wellbeing of all Indians are tied together in a manner that we cannot deal with just one part and ignore the other, larger, one.

The word "Hindu" appears to be taboo in Indian politics today, where the sword of being labelled "communal" is omnipresent. As a result, no political party has used the term "Hindu issues" in its manifesto. However, Hindus, too have serious concerns.

The first issue is the discrimination that Hindus face in their own country in various fields, from the management of Hindu temples to religion-based reservations.

The second issue is that "secularism" has come to mean "anti-Hindu". The Muslim League can be termed secular by our media and political parties but a Hindu League will be immediately dubbed "communal".

The third issue for Hindus is the neglect of their poor unless these belong to certain castes. This is not the modern India a Hindu would be proud to claim as his own.

Another issue is the foreign-funded proselytization and conversion activity, especially in the tribal regions. That the government appears to condone this is highly perplexing.

The fifth issue is basic to the faith. Hindus believe that if we respect all religions, all religions should respect us. Many religions insist that they must be respected, but that they will respect only those who believe in them, not merely respect them. This is bound to cause resentment.

There are many important issues that Hindus themselves have to deal with. One such is the elimination of the deeply rooted caste feeling. Another is the complicated malpractices and superstitions and their deleterious effect on our social life, such as dowry deaths and honour killings. Then there is a lack of effective religious leadership. This may sound odd, given the plenitude of religious leaders, but there is no unity in either their social conduct or their effect on society as a whole. Each appears to be leading a separate sect and hardly any of them addresses Hindu issues as a whole.

The mistreatment of Hindus worldwide is another concern. The report titled: "Hindus in South Asia and the Diaspora: A Survey of Human Rights 2011", prepared by the Hindu American Forum has been entirely ignored by our religious, political or social leaders. Our government, too, is silent on this mistreatment. This merits serious consideration by all Hindus.

The HAF report cited here does not deal with atrocities and discrimination on Hindus in India. These can be elicited in a Sachar Committee type investigation. However, no one will think of instituting this for Hindus, because, after all, Hindu concerns appear irrelevant in their eyes. This is a very short-sighted view and this cynical attitude is coming home to roost in our increasing intolerance.

Everything must be sacrificed to the God of Votes in today's India. Whether it will be good for the country appears to be irrelevant. Our political parties feel that minorities will vote en bloc and Hindu vote will be divided and our politicians wear the mask of faux secularism and try to fool the minorities. Hindus are increasingly becoming resentful of this posturing. We are already seeing a reaction against the faux-secularism of our leaders. When a leader who speaks forcefully for Hindus arises, there is a wide upsurge in his support. We are witnessing this in Gujarat at this time. This is likely to become an all India phenomenon soon. If this polarisation of Hindu support is bad for true secularism in India, our self-serving "secular" leaders of all hues will have only themselves to blame for not heeding the concerns of Hindus in their preoccupation with minority votes.

What can be done to address the concerns of Hindus?

Foremost is the importance of not labelling everyone speaking of Hindu concerns as "communal". Then there is the need to recognise that non Dalit Hindus also have issues that need to be looked into, and form an effective national committee to do so. The third is adopting effective means of affirmative action without caste or religious considerations. The fourth is to encourage the formation of a group of acharyas whose secretariat will manage Hindu religious sites. Many other such measures will become evident when this matter is openly and fearlessly discussed without compulsions of "political correctness".

This very discussion is the critical need of the hour. For this, we have to show due consideration to the religion of the majority of Indians and not treat it with contempt, which most "secularists" appear to be doing at present.

 
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