BREAKING NEWS INTO PIECES
Hindutva is beautiful like Islamism
Hindutva 2.0 is much beyond Babri and myriad local inter-faith disputes.
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The beauty of Islam is that it decides everything for the devout: what to eat, what to wear, how to sleep and with whom and so on. Hindutva is bringing that beauty into Hinduism, making it a religion worth the word religion, giving it a regime and regimentation: Islam has Islamism, Hinduism has Hindutva. Not a headache for the world like Islamism is, but more of a localised pain limited to India.
But if you live in India, this should worry you more than what happens in the middle east. Unless the flame of this new-found beauty has already touched you and you are loving it.
The beauty of Hinduism was, repeat was, that a Hindu would worship anything because he grew up with gods in almost everything. Animals, trees, stones, rivers, birds and what not. So, he would be as at ease saying prayers to Jesus as he was at offering chadar at a dargah. That is why Hindus get the credit for what's popularly known as Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb because the majority was fine with the influx and spread of monotheism. He was hardwired to believe there are many gods, so Islam's Allah and Christianity's God fit his idea of divinity. This in turn influenced the Muslims and Christians, arrived or converted.
A syncretic culture papered over the differences. It is equally true that trouble had always been lurking just beneath the surface. But then, where religions exist, strife does too. Yet, overall, Indians boasted of this diversity and the world wondered at the unity in it all.
As history is rewritten in WhatsApp posts, that mutual admiration of yore has become "fake" folklore as the rise of hardcore Islamism meets rise of rabid right-wing movements across the world.
It is Hindutva 2.0. It's beyond Babri and myriad local inter-faith disputes.
In India, it is Hindutva 2.0. And it's beyond Babri and myriad local inter-faith disputes. Now, ISIS's atrocities in Levant are cited as reasons why Hindus need to become militants in Latur. And Baghdadi's time-travel back into the seventh century is making many here long for the old days, "shuddh and sanatan".
The puritanism that became the hallmark of Islamist movements westwards from Pakistan is becoming the benchmark for the reactionaries in Hindustan. Unlike Islam's five, Hinduism has had no pillars to base itself on. So, there's a concerted effort to build some in the desperation to become a religion, if not monotheistic then monolithic. And the desire to govern one's life grows. Here are the new pillars under construction.
Eat this: It has started with beef going off menu. Make no mistakes about it, this wouldn't stop at beef. There are already images of women protesting against meat shops because meat is impure. I wouldn't go into the bottomless debate about whether Hinduism allows consumption of beef. But beware of the beef brigade. It wants to impose vegetarianism on Hindus.
Wear this: The same groups that believe vegetarianism is the Hindu way of life are seen advocating a dress code for women, especially young women. They rarely succeed in big cities, but in smaller towns their writ has a chilling effect. Jeans, the ubiquitous denim, is often jeered at and girls go out well-covered because, well, society demands modesty from them. The fanatic waxing eloquent against the Muslim hijab is seen encouraging the Hindu chunni/dupatta, because oppressing women is why man invented religion, right?
Make this: Fecundity hasn't spread Islam. Islam has spread by both coercion and persuasion. But tell this to the population statistics wallahs. They believe Muslims marry four times to make as many babies as they can. There are large Muslim families like there are large Hindu families, but this conspiracy theory has been debunked enough times to repeat here. Yet, "hum paanch, humaare pachees" remains a popular jibe. As popular as the exhortation by various sadhus and sadhvis (who themselves don't share any burden of this) to Hindu men and women to reproduce like rabbits.
Offence offence: Hinduism, by virtue of its polytheism, had the flexibility of choosing to believe in your favourite deity or deities or none. You could joke about a revered deity like you joked about revered personalities. That all deities had personalities helped. Islam has a certain rigidity built into it. Like there's just one god and that Islam is the final word. Hinduism would incorporate new gods. Buddha, Guru Nanak, Mahavira and Saibaba joined the fold. So did many Muslim saints. But gradually, in modern times, a rigidity crept in. Now, there is a movement to declare Saibaba a non-god. There's also a new cultivated sensitivity towards how gods are depicted. So, a Husain has to spend his last days in Doha. Books taking a dig at the gods are banned like it were Iran.
No empty threats: Neither Hindus nor Muslims in India were infamous in this department. In fact, in the much-maligned Mughal period, the two communities managed to pull off appreciation for each other’s faiths. It was not until the publisher, Mahashe Rajpal, was murdered by Ilmuddin for a book that talked colourfully of the prophet of Islam that modern-day murder for blasphemy arrived on the stage. Ilmuddin was hailed as a hero by many Muslims. But Rajpal was not a hero for anyone. Though Pakistanis care to remember Ilmuddin as a Ghazi, Indian Muslims moved on as both Hindus and Muslims cared to not tread on the other’s toes. There were threats of dire consequences, but almost all empty. Decades passed after Independence before we grew intolerant of stuff we didn’t like.
Just a decade ago, Hindus would gloat about how liberal they were in comparison. Because, those fanatic Muslims in other countries were killing and dying for their religion. Now, Hindus don't gloat because they are ready to kill for religion if not die. A lot of Hindus believe the cow is holy. But to each his own has been the long-held ideal. No longer. Now people who can't figure out a cow from a bull have grown fond of the bovine. And so much so that he is ready to kill a human to express his love for an animal. Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer and a cow protector, was killed because he, a Muslim, was found with a cow.
Alas, they can't go out and claim they have one book or one god, but then they regularly attempt, and often fail, at making Hindu animism look more monolithic than it is. They know Hindus would never agree on a book or a god. So, they are erecting other pillars. They are finding beauty in blood. They want unity. Not diversity. As much as possible. Tawhid, anyone?