“Abbajaan” in Hindustani, is used as an honorific, to address your father. It is indicative of love and respect for an elder, part of an Urdu tehzeebiyat that has something graceful and elegant about it. But, Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of UP, used it as a pejorative to tarnish a community. That speaks volumes about him, his character, his upbringing, and his civilisational credentials.
A singular hatred seems to be at the core of people like the UP CM. This is not about loyalty towards the Hindu dharma; it is about a deep aversion to anybody not belonging to his own religion. It is animated by the mistaken belief that you can only show fidelity to your faith if you hate other faiths. Such an approach militates directly against the letter and the spirit of the Constitution of India, which directly espouses respect for all faiths. It is also against the qualifications required by any leader to rule a country like India which has citizens of multiple faiths, and whose collective ethos makes up the rainbow colours of our vibrant Republic.
People like Adityanath also seem to be motivated by the focused goal of setting one religious community against another. Hindus must be set against Muslims, because that is the only way he knows of reinforcing his own electoral citadel. Hindus can be brought to his side only if he convinces them that the Muslims were stealing rations from Hindus. His tactic then goes beyond personal hate. It must encapsulate his community, on the pernicious doctrine that hate reinforces hate. It is a siege mentality, where the only brahmastra is to spread hatred between communities for short-term political gain.
Adityanath believes that electoral success lies through the consolidation of the Hindu vote. For him that consolidation can be achieved if he convinces Hindus that their well-being is under attack by “outsiders”. An enemy has to be conjured, created, nurtured. In this process, no stone is left unturned to demonise the “other”. Every assumed slight is highlighted; stereotypes are created and reinforced; anger is deliberately ignited and whipped up; insecurities are fanned; myths are propagated; threats are imagined and systematically projected. There has to be no subtlety, no restraint, no compunctions no dignity, in the exercise. The end goal of retention of political power is far more important.
The unfortunate thing is that Hindus are seen as puppets in this operation, cannon fodder, inert instruments for personal and party aggrandisement. The essential tenets of a great religion like Hinduism are deliberately distorted to serve this goal, in order to make it a caricature of itself: vengeful, bigoted, violent and exclusionist. Trying to “reinvent” Hinduism and make it akin to Wahabism is an act of sacrilege. Hinduism’s worldview is governed by the seminal Rig Vedic injunction — Ekam satya vipra bahudah vedanti: The truth is one, wise people call it by different names. One of the greatest voices of Hinduism in the modern era, Swami Vivekananda, emphasised precisely this in his famous speech on 11 September 1893 at the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago: “I am proud to belong to a religion that has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal tolerance, but we accept all religions as true…”
If hatred of the “other” was Hinduism’s dominant emotion, why would the Upanishads say: Anna bhadra kritavo yantu vishvataha: Let good thoughts flow to us from all directions? If religious exclusion was the defining belief of Hinduism, why would our ancient seers stress — Udar charitanam vasudhaiva kutumbakam: For the big-hearted, the entire world is a family? The Narada Bhakti Sutra, containing aphorisms of the great sage Narada, could not be clearer: “It is not proper to enter into a controversy about God, or spiritual truths, or about comparative merits of different devotees. For there is room for diversity of views; no one view based upon mere reasons is conclusive in itself.” King Ashoka, in his Rock Edict XII, makes the same plea: “Beloved of the Gods, King Piyadasi, desires that there should be growth in the essentials of all religions. Growth in essentials can be done in different ways, but all of them have as their root, restraint in speech…” (Emphasis mine). In Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas, Shri Rama, whom Hindutva zealots randomly invoke when indulging in lawlessness and violence, uttered the ultimate verity of Hinduism when he told Lakshman: Par hita saris dharam nahin bhai, par peeda sam nahin athmai: There is no greater dharma than the welfare of others, and no greater sin than injury to others.
Resentment against some of the injustices done to Hinduism in the past may have its reasons. But hatred and violence cannot become the defining features of a religion, which rejects them both. That is why, one of modern India’s great entrepreneurs, Narayana Murthy, categorically says: “The founding fathers of Independent India wanted a nation where every religion would flourish and every voice would be heard. Thus, India, very rightly adopted secularism as its credo.” That is also why the Shankaracharya of Sringeri, Jagadguru Bharathi Teertha Mahaswami, on a visit in 1994 to the Buddhist shrine at Sarnath, declared: “The principles of non-violence, compassion, truth, self-restraint and purity were meant for every individual; one might go to a temple, vihara or church, but the faith and belief were the same.”
Hindus are not a passive people. They can, when the need arises, defend themselves. Nor is Hinduism a walkover, not the least because of its conquering eclecticism. But coarse language is not the way Hinduism or Hindus would like to defend themselves. Hindu civilisation has seen remarkable peaks of refinement. It would be outraged by a man who dresses himself in the garb of a renunciate but goes around insulting members of another community on the basis of how they address their father.