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How does ex-Union Minister prefer Hindus: Asli, Naqli — or Gayab?

Author: Makarand R Paranjpe
Publication:  DNA India
Date: May 13, 2017
URL:   http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/column-how-does-ex-union-minister-prefer-hindus-asli-naqli-or-gayab-2436568

I wouldn’t blame Sibal’s detractors on this issue. After all, nowhere does he clarify whether he poses this question as a Hindu or as a “secularist”? Both, arguably, would be valid grounds

“Where is the asli Hindu?” About a week back, Congress leader and former union minister, Kapil Sibal wrote in a leading newspaper: “I am in search, in this surcharged environment, of the asli (true) Hindu.” I waited in vain for an adequate response, but am yet to find it. Could it be because Indians respect him as lawyer, politician, and former Cabinet Minister, that they extend such courtesy even to his poetry, which some might say isn’t quite up to scratch. When it comes to matters of Dharma, few would regard Sibal as an expert, let alone an authority.

I wouldn’t blame Sibal’s detractors on this issue. After all, nowhere does he clarify whether he poses this question as a Hindu or as a “secularist”? Both, arguably, would be valid grounds.

By avoiding to call himself as a Hindu or define his own stance vis-a-vis this issue, he invites the charge that his intervention is merely political: “Hindutva is a political ideology with intent to capture power. It is in no way related to Hinduism, which is a way of life.”

Perhaps, Sibal objects to Hindus “capturing” power. But the BJP was elected to rule the country with a resounding majority in 2014, recently reiterated in UP. Perhaps, Sibal would have preferred a powerless Hindu, quietly practicing the “tenets of his religion.” Such a Hindu would supposedly leave politics and power to other identity-asserting religious, caste, language, or region-based groups. Asli Hindus would remain powerless, mortgaging their electoral strength to “secularists,” who would rule on their behalf, but not in their name. The majority, thus, would be turned into a minority, divided, weakened, and subject to bullying by both the state and civil society. This, it would, appear is the former minister’s cherished desire, his version of the asli Hindu. In today’s context, most would call it wishful thinking, if not self-delusion.

Sibal is a partition, if not midnight’s child, born less than a year after India’s independence. Was not the country divided for the sake of religion, with the Muslim League spearheading a bloody campaign for a “land of the pure”? What did this actually mean if not the “ethnic cleansing” of Hindus, whether asli or naqli, in Pakistan? Wasn’t his own family displaced by violence in the name of religion? What was the percentage of Hindus at Partition and what is it now? What about atrocities against Hindus in Bangladesh? For that matter, right here in India, aren’t we subject to “Hindu-bashing,” whether in the name of Left or secular politics, plus other forms of misrepresentation, abuse, and violence, as in Kerala?

The ultimate conclusion of Sibal’s argument would be neither asli or naqli, but gayab Hindus —vanished, finished, disappeared. Only Muslims, Christians, Sikhs —and of course secularists —would be left in India! The only “good” Hindu would be publically and politically non-Hindu or non-assertive that is non-existent or “dead,” at least metaphorically. The political mobilisation of Hindus, under the banner of Hindutva, is the consequence of such historical factors and forces; it is not some evil conspiracy.

Sibal might benefit from reading Veer Savarkar, who said that Hinduism was only a fraction of Hindutva because of the latter, being an abstraction of “Hindu-ness,” was capable of infinite re-imagination. Even if we disagree with Savarkar and hold that Hindutva is one version or element of the broader stream of Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma, the two cannot be turned into oppositional and incommensurate polarities. Hindus have, are, and will always have a political dimension to their identity, even when defeated by invaders and colonialists. Like all others who love liberty and hate to be oppressed, Hindus too have always insisted on svaraj, autonomy, self-rule, and freedom. Why deny them that?

Citing Swami Vivekananda selectively doesn’t help. For Swamiji also said, “Every man going out of the Hindu pale is not only a man less but an enemy the more. Again, the vast majority of Hindu perverts to Islam and Christianity are perverts by the sword, or the descendants of these.” Certainly, we do not look to Sibal to teach us what Swami Vivekananda really meant, let alone what real Hinduism is or what it is not. For that he would have to do much more sadhana, demonstrate spiritual attainments, and serve the Hindu community, over and above being a political and public figure.

One such person was MK Gandhi, one of the greatest Hindus of recent times. Gandhiji, whom many consider a “Mahatma,” as also the father of the nation, called himself a “Sanatani Hindu.” I don’t think you or any important Congress politician follows the Mahatma in this respect. One might justifiably ask if you do not call yourself one, what gives you the right to pontificate on who a real Hindu is? The party that Sibal belongs to claims the Mahatma as its own, although it disowns his “last will and testament.” In it, the day previous to his assassination, Gandhiji famously declared, “the Congress in its present shape and form, i.e., as a propaganda vehicle and parliamentary machine, has outlived its use.” Perhaps the Mahatma was prescient; today’s Congress bears little resemblance to the massive and mighty movement which led India’s struggle for independence. Is decrying Hindutva only a desperate bid to hide its own failings?

- The author is a poet and professor at JNU, Delhi. Views expressed are the author’s own.
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