Friday, August 15, 2014

Hindu is a religion and all Indians are not Hindus.

In one of his recent speech RSS chief Mr. Mohan Bhagwat asked that why all inhabitants of Hindustan (another name for India or Bharat) are not known as Hindus?? This question is not asked for the first time specially from anyone associated with RSS or other organizations directly or indirectly associated with it. The logic he puts to support his argument is, if resident of America are called Americans, residents of Germany are called Germans, France-French so why not Hindustan's residents are called Hindus? So what is wrong asking this question? Why all Indians cannot be called as Hindus? After all they all share some common cultural heritage, Indian Muslims are culturally different than Arab Muslims, so are Christians and Jews. Sikhism and Buddhism originated in India, so why cant we call all of them as Hindus if Hinduism is not a religion but a lifestyle? Amazingly there are many who even today claim that Hinduism is not a religion but is a way of life. To substantiate this claim they even cite the judgement of Justice Verma bench in which the bench tried to define meanings of the terms Hinduism or Hindutwa ( delivered in 1995). For some reason this judgement is known as Hindutwa judgement and supreme court panel is going to review it again. Superficially nothing appears to be wrong or mal-intentioned in this statement, but ween to dig little deeper to understand the real intention behind this question and mindset.

The problem is not with the terms or the question itself but the intention behind it. Today Hinduism is considered as third largest (after Christianity and Islam) and oldest practiced religion in the world. Its followers are spread all over the world, majority of them live in India. Term "Hindu" refers to particular group of people who follow a particular faith, this is not just a lifestyle any more. A Hindu can be from anywhere in the world, there are American, German, French or even Pakistani and Bangladeshi Hindus. As far as argument of 'Hinduism not a religion but lifestyle is concerned', aren't all religions fit into this definition? In fact which religion is not a lifestyle? Just look at the people who practice any religion, it dominates heavily their lifestyle. It controls the way they think, they behave, they treat their family and other people, even some religions have really strong rules about what food to eat, what clothes to wear, etc. So technically every religion can be considered as lifestyle, rather it can be said that they were designed to be a lifestyle and that is why they are so popular. This argument of lifestyle and not a religion is conveniently used whenever it suites these people. When they want to label entire community or country using a single term (Hindu) then it's not a religion but it is a cultural term or a lifestyle but when a cow is slaughtered or temple is demolished then religious sentiments of Hindus get hurt. Now there must be a difference between these two Hindus, right? If not, then why communal riots are termed as Hindu-Muslim riots, why not Hindu-Hindu riots? So it is very easy to understand that some people are trying to play a game of words here. The truth is that there is very different and unique meaning of the term 'Hindu' in today's world. This term is not synonymous to the terms like 'Hindustani', 'Hindavi', Bharatiya' or 'Indian' anymore. These terms only indicate regional or cultural identity of a person but term 'Hindu' or 'Hinduism' is now associated with one particular religion which has millions of followers all over the world. It will be highly inappropriate for anyone to try to force this label on citizens of secular country like India. No matter how inclusive or tolerant Hinduism is as claimed by all of its followers there might be some people who may not like to be associated with this label. Like every other religion Hinduism also has many dark chapters in its long history. Once it was a dominant religion or faith in south east Asia but this is not the case any more. Today there are many religions and cultures which exist side by side in this region, one just cannot label all of them as 'Hindu cultures' any more. It will not be only wrong to do this but also quite insulting to all other cultures because they all deserve separate existence and identity.

If intention of Mr. Bhagwat was to propose some term which can unify or define all citizens of India then what is wrong with terms like "Bharatiya" or "Indian" or "Hindustani"? Why didn't he use any of these terms which may not have created any confusion among people from other faiths or even in minds of his detractors. This is why his intention behind this statement is questioned. I am sure he was very well aware of what he was saying and what impact it will have because he is too intelligent not to understand the impact of this statement. I am sure he also knew that being BJP in power his statement will create more impact and more controversy. Actually in a way this is unnecessary controversy, it is better that such statements go unnoticed without creating much controversy but unfortunately this never happens. There is a debate or discussion going on in Indian parliament about communal violence, it is a very sensitive subject in India. The situation is so volatile in some parts of country that even statement like this can be used to create communal tension. I am sure RSS and all other parties are aware of this situation but unfortunately still such statements don't stop coming. I hope that Mr. Bhagwat and RSS now accept the reality that term Hindu represents a particular religion in today's world and it can not be used to label cultural heritage of a diverse country like India. We have many other terms which represent cultural heritage of India in much better way, let's use them wherever required. I hope leaders of India won't try not to create unnecessary controversy and communal tension in a country which is already struggling to deal with this problem.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

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