A few days ago, my yoga teacher surprised me. He is a very pious Hindu, and exhibits his loyalty to the Sanatana Dharma proudly. A strict vegetarian, he celebrates Hindu festivals with enthusiasm, and spends a great deal of time in prayer and meditation. To gauge his reaction to recent developments, I commented that he must be very happy at the attempts to ban the eating of meat in New Delhi during the Ram Navami Navratras. My yoga guru thought for a moment before he replied. “I am Bengali sir,” he said. “In Bengal, we eat fish even during Navratras. So, what is the question of banning non-vegetarian food?
The truth is that the powers that be are lighting a fire (chingari laga rahe hain). They think that in this fire Muslims will be singed. But so will Hindus. Soon enough, if this kind of madness is not stopped, the entire country will burn. This is not good for Hindus or anybody else.”
This reaction reinforced my belief that most Hindus do not support the suicidal extremism that is now spreading across the country. True, there are verifiable angsts, even a sense of injustice, in large sections of the Hindu community. There is a backlash against the previous misuse of secularism, in which the rampant perception was that Muslim appeasement was being practiced for vote bank politics. There are legitimate questions that need to be taken on board: Why was only the Hindu personal law changed, while other religious communities remained untouched? Why are Hindu temples under government supervision when those of other religions are not? Why was the Supreme Court’s judgement in the Shah Bano case overruled by an ordinance? Why was their relative silence among reflex secularists when the Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave their homes?
The list is long, and valid. A course correction is required. But while most Hindus would like this to happen, none of them, except the die-hard bhakts, want a situation where the entire nation is thrown into anarchy, lawlessness, and a dangerous and endemic instability which jeopardises governance, economic progress, and the safety and security of ordinary citizens. Hindus want a government that does not discriminate between religious communities, does not pursue minority appeasement, and recognises some of the remarkable and verifiable achievements of Hindu civilisation. But they do not want a government that is willing to push the country into chaos in order to derive short-term electoral benefits. Hindus want to receive the same protection as all citizens of this country, but do not want a government that in the name of protecting Hindus uses them as cannon fodder to win elections.
Hindus also realise that much of Hindu extremism implicitly sanctioned by the ruling party is transparently a means to deflect attention from other burning issues that require attention, such as the rampant crisis of unemployment, rising prices, crony capitalism, stagnating agriculture, corruption, and a languishing manufacturing sector. They are also pragmatic enough to understand that whatever the hotheads in the BJP may think, it is just not possible to “eliminate” the minorities of India. They realise that Muslims, for instance, are not geographically segregated, but some 200 million of them are spread out across the country and that, therefore, the only policy that can work is tolerance and coexistence, in the interests of the harmony and stability so essential for economic growth and prosperity. They know that a country at war with itself cannot progress. They worry about the future of their children in a nation where communities are perpetually at war with each other and the security of the common person is held hostage by a political party that is bent on fanning the flames of discord rather than getting down to governance.
That is why, contrary to what some in the BJP may think, Hindus were not at all pleased when the Haridwar Dharma Sansad had so called Hindu saints making a passionate appeal for the genocide of Muslims and the initiation of civil war in this country. They are shocked that in spite of the sloganeering on “sab ka saath, sab ka vishvas”, not a single major BJP leader condemned such statements.
They are not amused when the government takes over a month to make a single arrest among those who gave these incendiary speeches at Haridwar. They are not approving when one of the accused in this hate fest, Yati Narsinghanand, is given bail so easily, while others opposed — or seen to be opposed — to the regime have the draconian UAPA law slapped against them. Their indignation rises when this very Narsinghanand makes another hate speech violating the conditions of his bail, and is not immediately rearrested. They are appalled that this Narsinghanandhas also said that all female politicians are mistresses of their male counterparts. They are outraged when another so-called Hindu saint, Bajrang Muni Das, proclaims in a public speech that Hindus should rape Muslim women. They condemn hate speeches made by Muslim extremists, and want them to be punished too, but do not think the answer is the kind of statements made by Bajrang Muni Das. They are pained at the level to which discourse in the country has degenerated, and want sanity to be restored.
The bulk of Hindus are getting fed up of this constant hate-filled turbulence on issues such as hijab, halal, jhatka, vegetarianism, the use of Urdu, love jihad, ban on Muslim traders and how Hindu women should “appropriately” dress. The attempt to convert this great Sanatana Dharma into some kind of Wahabi faith is doomed to failure. Hindus know how to protect their faith — or else how else has Hinduism survived and flourished since the dawn of time. But they do not want perennial communal riots, uncontrollable instability, the blatantly illegal use of bulldozers, the destruction of the principles of the Constitution, proliferating hate speeches, unending violence and the negation of the rule of law, simply because a political party thinks that this is the only way it can win elections....