Redefining India

Francois Gautier

This is an article meant for my friends, the "fringe Hindus"; those who have
either espoused a Marxist outlook, or are, for their own good reasons,
strongly anti-Hindutva, or are neutral; as well as for the Muslim and
Christian minorities of India. 

When Jawaharlal Nehru came to power in 1947, he sincerely thought that some
of Marx's ideas could be put to use in India and help level the terrible
inequalities that existed within between the very rich and the poor, the
high castes and the low castes, the mighty and the helpless. The motive was
noble but, unfortunately, Indian socialism often made the rich richer and
the poor poorer and created a massive, inefficient and corrupt bureaucracy,
that any government today in power finds difficult to dismantle. Everywhere
in the world, communism and Marxism are defunct - even China has more or
less done away with it.	 

However, in India, not only does communism remain alive in West Bengal and
Kerala, it also remains firmly entrenched as a powerful idealism in the
minds of much of India's intelligentsia. Most of India's English language
mediapersons and journalists, many of the writers, historians and thinkers,
are sympathetic towards communist thought. Once again, there is nothing
wrong with that: Indians show, in a world racked with materialism and
cynicism, that they remain idealists, loyal and dedicated to selflessness
and seva, as the thousands of Indian NGO's still prove today.

Nevertheless, the world is changing, Asia is changing, and even India is
changing. We have to live with our times, especially after September 11,
2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, which radically altered the
outlook of most Western nations. What is going to happen in Gujarat on
December 12 is equally of paramount importance to the 850 million Hindus in
India, the nearly 1 billion Hindus worldwide, and the Christian and Muslim
Indian communities, as it might redefine their own outlook. Indeed, if the
BJP and Mr Narendra Modi win with a handsome margin, an intense intellectual
debate will be triggered in the country. We will hear cries of alarm,
disgust or worry on the part of the Western press, the Indian English
language Media and the intelligentsia, about "Hindu fanaticism taking over
India", or "the terrible direction that the results of this election seem to
portend for India".

But, once again my "fringe" Hindu brothers and sisters, as well as the
Christian and Muslim communities of India, should remind themselves than in
the entire Indian history, Hinduism has always shown that it is not
fundamentalist, that it accepts the others with their religions and customs
as long as they do not try to impose these beliefs on the majority
community. Indeed, in a recent report, UNESCO pointed out that out of 128
countries where Jews lived before Israel was created, only one, India, did
not persecute them and allowed them to prosper and practice Judaism in
peace.

Moreover, if under the intense and often bloody onslaught of Muslim
invasions and later of European colonialism, such as the Portuguese - which
committed untold atrocities in Goa - the Hindus did not lose their peace and
tolerance, why should they do so now? Also, Hinduism is probably the only
religion in the world which has never tried to convert others, or conquer
other countries to propagate itself as a new religion. The same is not true
of Islam and Christianity.

Thus, it would be good if the "fringe" Hindus and Indian Christian and
Muslims do some introspection and look into the real causes of the Gujarat
riots which followed the burning of the 58 kar-sevaks on the Sabarmati
Express. If Mr Modi wins, instead of accusing the BJP of fanaticism, or even
"Nazism", a people which gave to India and to the world Mahatma Gandhi,
unique textiles and a solid peaceful culture, it may indeed be time to call
a spade a spade and to stop burying one's head in the sand like an ostrich.

We see the Gujarat riots through the eyes of the Western press and the
Indian Media: "Hindu fundamentalists who went on the rampage", etc. But what
if Gujarat was the first sign that good, peaceful, non-violent, middle-class
and even lower-class Hindus have had it and that they are tired of being
made fun of, attacked, bombed, burnt, killed, their women raped, their
temples destroyed? What if, rightly or wrongly, it is the portent of things
to come, that the next time innocent Hindu women and children are targeted,
Hindus might be tempted to take an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, the
way Israel does at the official level? You may argue that it is a hateful,
mad and blind violence, but it is also true that Hindus have been at the
receiving end of Christians and Muslims attacks for centuries, that even
today 400,000 of them have been made to flee from their ancestral homes in
the valley of Kashmir.

Thus, our bother of sisters of Islam, most of whom are peaceful and
good-willing, have also to do a little bit of introspection. Every time
there is an attack on a Hindu temple, or a bombing, we accuse Pakistan or
the Al Qaeda. But none of these attacks could happen without the active
support of groups of Indian Muslims, as the Bombay blasts or Coimbatore
bombings have shown. In the same way, our Christian brothers and sisters
should think about this: The first community in the world, the Syrian
Christians, established themselves in Kerala in the first century and
prospered there in peace. At no time did the Hindus of Kerala try to impose
their own religious beliefs upon them, either by force or by allurements.

Is it right that the Indian Christian community today not only allows, but
often actively collaborates with, the foreign missionaries who are bent upon
making India a Christian kingdom, and are often using dubious economic
incentives to do so? Do not our brothers and sisters think that it is bound
to provoke sooner or later some kind of backlash and that the murder of
Graham Staines, however reprehensible, may have been a warning to
missionaries who convert by devious means, in the same way Gujarat riots
were a warning to the Muslims?

It may be true that the overwhelming majority of this country, which has
often been in minority morally, is waking up and trying to assert itself,
sometimes in an excessive and unforgivable manner. Yet, the fringe Hindus
and the Indian Muslims and Christians should not worry: India is a composite
society and it is a settled fact. Hindus, Christians, Muslims and other
minorities have to learn how to live together peacefully. There is no other
choice. And it will be done.

<http://www.dailypioneer.com/archives1/secon3.asp?cat=\opd1&d=OPED&fdnam=dec
1102>
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