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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Liberating India

26 January 2012

Tarun Vijay

Come Republic Day and we begin trumpeting the oft-repeated phrases of freedom and the greatness of our age-old civilization, patriotic values and the glory to the motherland. We speak about the lofty ideals of pluralism and freedom of expression and repeat ad nauseam how we had had a Charvak, an atheist, who spoke against the Vedic principles and yet received honours as a great seer, finding an exalted position in the highest echelons of great philosophers. The Hindus did not "ban" him or his philosophy or his followers. The ancient Hindus received the Barhaspatya Sutras of Charvaka, quoting the sutras respectfully as the Purva Paksha, and then went on to logically refute his arguments. Sincerely learning from the opponent too, debating, and then refuting what was considered false was the way of the Hindus. Learn even from the enemy, respectfully, was the message Ram gave to Lakshman when he sent him to Ravana to gather the gems of his wisdom.

Yet, at the end of the day, we have become followers of a new religion, the Pratibandh-Sampraday, the religion of banning. Going against the basic tenets of Hindu dharma, we love to use extreme language, ugly and abusive words are littered on the social networks against those whom we disapprove of and exhortations to become intolerant are finding new audiences and applause.

If at all anyone was supposed to speak against such a trend and firmly assert the position of the Indian values, values of freedom, of appreciating the most gruelling and seemingly unacceptable, with aplomb, that voice, and those people would have been us, the claimants to the Hindu heritage.

We could have presented the Hindu assertion that expressed the spirit of understanding the various facets of the truth and agreeing that the truth can never be presented as an absolute, but can only be understood in parts, and everyone of us lives with our own understanding of our part of the truth. The other person, standing in opposition to us, can also have a part of the truth, and the dialogue should never be shunned. The basic condition for a dialogue is to be ready to receive the person from the other side, with respect and the patience to hear him. These are the values and the attitude that makes the planet more livable and validates a society’s claim to be civil and humane. These are, to me, nothing but the continuation of the great Hindu thread that made us free and liberated, to withstand the vicissitudes of history and the barbarism of the invaders. This spirit of knowing the limitations of our periphery of knowledge powered the sages to declare with amazing humility, "Neti, neti (I know only this much, not beyond this)", in the tradition of the highest civilisational enrichment humanity has ever witnessed or experienced.

We truly did this, practised most honestly such traits all these centuries and lived the values we had internalized through our scriptures and the smriti tradition. And all these years, while we continued practicing the dharma and struggling to reform the ill-practices and the blinding ritualism, we got attacked by those who considered our dharmic traditions as a sign of cowardice and backwardness and assaulted to convert us to their faith through sword and deceit. We were declared heathens and pagans. And the perpetrators of massacres wore the titles of Ghazi and Sir. The art of ‘banning’, ‘secluding’, ‘delisting’ and ‘blacklisting’, the enthusiasm of using abusive labels against the non-conformist, against those who refused to be converted is a gift to us by the crusaders, jihadis and the red revolutionaries. They have taught us that those who do not yield to your ‘one book, one prophet one ideology’ path are to be treated as untouchable, exterminated, to be sent to labour camps and get ‘corrected’ in Siberias. These are the people who man our exclusivist regions of candle marches for peace, harmony and freedom of expression, controlling centres of public opinion and mass expression. And freedom of expression means freedom to hurl abuses and stones at those who are unyielding on their point of view. It means freedom of camouflaging your real intentions and forming cartels to suffocate, ban, marginalize and colour the other voices, the other people, the different and unacceptable.

Why ban anyone? Listen and reply. Is that not a better Indian way? But at the same time, should there be no need to ask why the only newsmakers and the uplifters of the festival spirit are supposed to be those who are either firang or represent their western territory of values and worldview? True, goodness is universal and we are the first to give the message -- let noble thoughts come to us from all sides. Still the hangover of a slave, colonial mentality running down our own national ethos can’t be accepted as fair and just approach.

It certainly hurts to see desi Anglo-Saxons going gaga over those for whom India remains a slum where babies eat from the garbage and feel a heavenly bliss when gifted a car and compared with the African experience.

Hence forget the humiliation that turns into a state instrument against those who are cursed to be different, forget the Kashmiri Pandit, forget the women who get targeted for displaying a dot on their forehead in the land of their ancestors. The pain and the anguish and the frustration of a mother or a wife of a security person killed by red revolutionaries in Dantewada, get submerged in the ‘sane, acceptable’ voices of Mr Democrat Doctor. Suppose 11 "Muslims" are assaulted by a lunatic with a declaration of liberating society from the scum of Islamist terrorism. How rapidly would it become part of a passionate discussion among the ‘concerned and peace-loving pluralistic secular literati’, sending the mad men pink chaddhis. But if 11 "Indians" are targeted and brutally killed in Bastar by red revolutionaries, that must be taken differently.

Again mark the difference. We never banned the publishing and sale of books that were offending to us — this banning business began near Rome. Vatican officially had the institution for preemptive censorship of books, called "Index Librorum Prohibitorum", banning and censoring of books that were in any way critical of, or divergent from, their dogma. And this hallmark of institutionalized curtailing of intellectual liberty was only abolished officially as recently as June 14 1966 by the pope. Hindus never had any Index Librorum Prohibitorum banning even scientists like Kepler and Galileo, but Hindus are being given the lessons of tolerance!

Hindus did not burn the books and libraries -- that is also a legacy of the Jihadis and crusaders. Was it not the Christian fanatic emperor Jovian in the fourth century, who burnt the entire library of Antioch, which was carefully curated and populated by his learned and scholarly, if non-Christian, predecessor Emperor Julian? Was it not the Christian Saint Athanasius who in the same century ordered the burning of all "heretical" literature in Egypt? Was it not the Christians again in the same century that burned elsewhere the books of a famous theologian-philosopher Priscillian? Was it not the Bishop Fray Diego de Landa who ordered the mass burning of the sacred books of the Mayans after the conquest of Yukatan by the Spanish? And this book burning business is a Christian legacy all the way to this very decade when various Churches have, funnily, ordered the burning of Harry Potter series! Not to mention the notorious case of attempted Quran burning of last year by a recognized, if notorious, church leader in America.

And what to say of the marching Islamic hordes? Bakhtiar Khalji, when conquered Nalanda, had only one question to its chief librarian, whether there was a copy of the Quran on the shelves, before ordering the mass burning of the library -- a library of such a massive collection, that the fire continued for several months, that the “smoke from the burning books of Kafirs hung for days like a dark pall over the hills”, says Persian historian Minhaj in his chronicle Tabaqat-i-Nasiri. (see the details- And the third Khalifa of Islam himself ordered burning of extraneous copies of the Quran that did not conform to the official version, not to mention the guttering of the great library of Ctesiphon by Saad ibn Abi Waqas, commander of another Khalifa, Umar. And in Maldives it was the newly converted zealots to Islam who burned down all the Buddhist books of their ancestors, of great historical worth, to ashes in the 12th century.

No, this business of book burning is not a Hindu thing. The Hindus believed in sincere debate, the parties learned the viewpoint of the opponent, and then tried to refute each other. The honest loser of the debate, we have records, went to the extent of letting go of his own books by throwing those in a river as a mark of his defeat, and accepting the winner as one's preceptor! If the extremist, ‘ban cries' from among the Hindus are an aberration and unacceptable so should be the secular extreme which thrives on state support and a blind hatred for anything Indic.

It's the secular Stalinism that helps breed Shri Ram Senes and an intolerant attitude we find negating the Indianness. We were never like that. The mainstream Hindu still remains the last bastion of tolerance and pluralism on this planet. And not all of them vote for those who take up their cause in politics or in any other segment of social activity. I don't know about the fate of Katherine Mayo's Mother India, but Ambedkar's book, Riddles of Ram and Krishna, was never banned.

The mischief began with the Anglicized elite that was ignorant of Indian realities and hit the characters of Savarkar, Vivekananda, Laxmibai and Shivaji on the basis of half-baked hearsay. People are neither blind nor deaf and dumb. They see the daily doses of political spaghettis doled out to the various sections of ‘minorities (read Muslims). Not just the oft-repeated case of grants to Haj and the negligible amount spent on Kailas Manasarovar yatra, or the Shahbano case, the scholarships, extension of the campuses of universities considered as Muslim in character, bank loans, special provisions for Muslim dominated areas and for minority institutions, like no compulsion to apply reservation policy of the government, and now the demand to exempt them from RTI Act too add up to the already accumulated load of being deprived inspite of being at the receiving end for the last several centuries for just being a Hindu.

That springs up comparisons with Aurangzeb's jijiya and the Gazhnavi loot and discrimination resulting in the extreme postures and extreme reactions. Suppose five Muslims are ousted just for being Muslims by a hateful section of the society and their women insulted in a village of any state of the country. Try to imagine the wild reaction it would attract not just within India but abroad too, with UN being roped in and a strong comment from the Capitol Hills. Now, don't imagine but see the harsh reality. Five lakh, sorry for being indigenous, half a million Hindus have been in a forced exile from Kashmir for the last two decades. Not even the anniversary of the day when they were ousted through the loudspeakers blaring from the pulpits of the mosques in the Valley is observed. Everyone has accepted it as a fait accompli. ‘Gujarat' has become a national anthem of hate among the secular Staliists. With an oath that Godhra will never be mentioned. This has put a large section of the Hindus in a quandary. They want to remain as Hindus as a Hindu should be, as a Hindu had always been. But they are being pushed to become Islamists in their responses in order to be heard.

The banning business is an un-Hindu act. But we have developed a love for it. Hopelessly, we are Talibanising or minority-sing voices that would have otherwise spoken of sanity and reason. A friend researched for years, and found neither Husain was anti-Hindu or Akbar a bad king for the Hindus. Even though I have deep respect for his impeccable scholarship and unquestionable integrity, and over and above everything else, he is one of us, a strong Hindutva votary, I found it very uncomfortable to support his findings publicly. But should I remain so? Should I hide my support for the new facts just out of fear of the unknown and losing a stand I had been nursing for so long? I feel, if my pride for being a Hindu is genuine, I must come out openly in support of the truth, even at a high cost of losing some friends. And it is this point of departure that I feel strongly to stand for India and for our Indianness. Savarkar did it on his stand on temple entry and cow slaughter, Vivekananda hit hard at the ill-conceived practices of the so-called high-caste Hindus, Hedgewar conceived and implemented the most revolutionary movement India has ever witnessed by introducing a new idiom and order to consolidate and reform Hindus. If Indianness means respect for dialogue and belief in winning the opponent through a civil exchange of views, it must be visible in our behaviour too.

This virtue, that defines India, that interprets our essence of being Indians, whether Muslims or Christians or Hindus, can't be mortgaged to the vote bank traders of UP and Rajasthan or of any other state. We must be ready to hear voices that are not music to us and rebut with confidence if untruth is blared by the opponent. Liberating India means reasserting our Indianness, without being apologetic for the quintessential Hindu character of the nation and unshackling from the gora log complexes and burdens of superiority. It's more important than making a temple or winning an election.

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