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RECIPROCITY & HINDU ANGER

RECIPROCITY & HINDU ANGER

This starts as a beautiful story. Once upon a time, there was a tiny village in South Arcot’s district of Tamil Nadu, called Kuilaplayam. Now Kuilapalayam is like hundreds of villages around Pondichery: it is peopled with Hindu Vanniars, a caste slightly higher than the untouchables, poor, living off agriculture, usually a few meagre fields of cashew nuts. But then Kuilapalayam just happened to be in the midst of Auroville, the international township, founded by the Mother of Pondichery, based upon the ideals of the great yogi and revolutionary, Sri Aurobindo.

Thus Kuilaplayam prospered: its inhabitants learned trades needed for the city: carpenters, masons, craftsmen, some of its children attended Auroville’s schools and were educated along with western kids and in time graduated and went into white collar jobs. From a few cycles 40 years ago, Kuilapalama has today motorcycles, tractors, cars, vans, cable TV, cell phones, etc. The main road of Kuilapalayam which used to boast only shady huts, became lined-up with fancy shops which sell everything, from vegetables to handicrafts.

And then the unavoidable happened: a Kashmiri Muslim from Chennai heard about Auroville and the prosperity of Kuilapalaym and understanding that he could make a packet with so many westerners passing though Auroville, he opened the usual shawls & carpets’ shop in the village. Now Kuilapalayam never counted a Muslim amongst its population in its 1200 years of recorded history; but in the true Hindu tradition, this one was welcomed and nobody raised an objection, although he was competition for some of the other shops. Our Kashmiri Muslim, seeing his success, called his cousin in Kolkata, who came and opened another shop; and that one phoned his friend in Mumbai, who also landed-up and opened a third shop. Still nobody found anything to say. Kashmiris are sociable fellows and they quickly made friends with Westerners, most of them blissfully unaware of the political situation in India, so business was booming, till they were seven or eight Kashmiri shops in Kuilapalayam. And again nobody complained, even when the fellows started doing their naamaz in their backyards. “Isn’t God everywhere and isn’t He Krishna, as well as Allah”, said one of the villagers?

Then Bhoumi, one of the young boys of Kuilapalayam, who had gone to study in Delhi, told his parents when he came back, about the fact that not only no Hindu were allowed to buy land or start a shop in the Valley of Kashmir, where the shopkeepers came from, but that four hundred thousand Hindus, were chased out of the Valley by terror, many of them having been murdered and that many were still living as refugees in camps in Jammu and Delhi. His parents started talking to their friends and there was the first hint of resentment against the newcomers.

Then some elders of Kuilapalayam hear that Mulsims of Kashmir rioted when the Government allotted some land in Amarnath, one of the most sacred and ancient Hindu pilgrimages, high in the Himalayas. Bhoumi’s father went to see a group of Kuilaplayam Kashmiris having tea and told them that Hindus never complained about their government giving billion of rupees in subsidies to Indian Muslims so that they can visit their most Holy place, the Mecca. “But when Hindus, he continued, need shelters, toilets and basic facilities at height of 15.000 feet to worship at one of the holiest places of Hinduism, why do you Kashmiri Muslims deny it to us” ? The Kashmiris looked a bit uneasy, then replied “that anyway the Amarnath ice lingam had been discovered by a Muslim shepherd and that Muslims have always welcomed their Hindu brothers to Armanath”. But this did not convince the Kuilapalayam man who had heard from his son that many grenade attacks had happened over the years against the Amarnath pilgrims. And anger started mounting in Kuilapalayam.

So it is all a question of reciprocity. Most Hindus are peace-loving people. The average Hindu that you meet in a million Indian villages, such as Kuilapalayam, is easy-going and accepts you and your diversity, whether you are Christian, Muslim, Parsi or Jain, Arab, French or Chinese. He goes about his business and usually does not interfere in yours.

In fact Hindus take it a little further: they hate trouble and go out of their way to avoid it. Have you noticed how every time there is a possibility of a strike or trouble, Hindus stay home? Or how – forget about rioting – Hindus never speak-up, complain or protest in a united manner. Not only that, but everywhere in the world, Hindus are hounded, humiliated, routed, be it in Fiji where an elected democratic government was twice deposed in an armed coup, or in Pakistan and Bangladesh, where Muslims indulge in pogroms against Hindus every time they want to vent their hunger against India (read Taslima Nasreen’s book “Lalja”). In Assam, Tripura, or Nagaland, Hindus are being outnumbered by Bangladeshi illegal immigrants and terrorized by pro-Christian separatist groups, such as the Bodos or the Mizos, while local governments often turn a blind eye. Their temples are being taken over in many states like in Kerala or Karnataka, and the donations appropriated by the state governments.

Yet, in 3500 years of known existence, Hindus have never military invaded another country, never tried to impose their religion upon others, by force or even by induced conversions. No, it has rather been through peaceful invasions that Hinduism has stormed the world, whether in the East, witness Angkor Vat, or in the West today, where the by-products of Hinduism, yoga, meditation, ayurveda, pranayama, spread by great gurus such as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, have been adopted by millions.

Thus Hindus, who accept everybody, welcome all religions, allow Indians from other parts to trade next to them, as it happened in Kuilapalayam, do not receive in return any gratitude and the same respect. On the contrary, they get mocked at, bombs are planted in their markets, their trains; their temples, their five star hotels get attacked, they are chased out of their homelands; television and newspapers make fun of them, their own politicians ostracize them… Hindus recognize the fact that God may manifest at different times under different names, the concept of the avatar – Krishna, Buddha, Mohamed or Jesus Christ. Indeed, Hindus gave refuge to all persecuted minorities of the world from the Parsis, to the Jews (India is the only country in the world where Jews were not persecuted, or killed bar the recent attack on the Nariman house in Mumbai) to the Armenians and the Tibetans today.

The first Christian community of the world, that of the Syrian Christians was established in Kerala in the 1st century and Christians in this country always had freedom of worship and respect from Hindus. But how did Christians repay their Hindu brothers and sisters? When the Portuguese landed in India in the 16th century, their Jesuits started a reign of terror in Kerala and particularly in Goa, forcibly marrying young Hindu girls to their soldiers, razing hundreds of temples to build churches, crucifying Brahmins. Today, Indian missionaries are converting with unethical means innocent tribals and Dalits in states like Orissa with the million of dollars donated by Westerners thinking it is to alleviate poverty. I am a Westerner and born Christian, but I cannot condone conversion from one religion to another by using cash and other financial baits. Furthermore, the new converts are encouraged to look down on their own culture and it creates tensions and havoc in their society as seen recently in Kandhamal.

So, sometimes, Enough is Enough. At some point, after years or even centuries of submitting like sheep to slaughter, Hindus, the most peace-loving people in the world, those the Mahatma Gandhi once called gently ‘cowards’, those who cringe in their houses at the least sign of riot, erupt in fury – uncontrolled fury. And it hurts. It hurts badly. It happened in Gujarat. It happened in Jammu. It is happening in Orissa now. It may happen again elsewhere, as Hindus are reaching a boiling point.

Yes, one should condemn the pogroms that happened in Gujarat or in Orissa, but one should look also in the causes. It is not only the 36 innocent Hindu women and children who were burnt savagely in a train by a mob of criminals, worse than animals, or the fact that an 84 year old harmless swami and his Mataji were brutally murdered. It is also how much silent frustration and anger must have built over the years, decades, or centuries even, amongst Gujarati or Orya Hindus, that in one moment, normal Hindus, peaceful people, many of them Dalits, tribals, or even upper middle class, came out on the streets of Ahmedabad or the jungles of Khandamal with such fury.

François Gautier