Hindu Pakistan is a joke and a cynical ploy by Shashi Tharoor and his ilk

The very diversity of Hinduism is being turned into its weakness by those trying to divide the community.

 |  6-minute read |   26-07-2018
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More than 80 per cent of India's population is Hindu. Hinduism as a religion is plural across dimensions, including a plurality of scriptures, lifestyle, ideology, practices and culture. This further percolates into a diversity of thoughts and expressions. This religion allows you to be an atheist even and still call yourself a Hindu. Moreover, it ensures that followers of Hinduism are not just tolerant, but willingly share space, both cultural and spiritual, with those who are not their societal twins.

Tharoor is one of the few leaders in the Congress who publicise their temple visits even when there are no elections. Photo: PTI/fileTharoor is one of the few leaders in the Congress who publicise their temple visits — even when there are no elections. (Photo: PTI/file)

This multiplicity in thought is also reflected in the voting patterns and political affiliations of Hindus. Unfortunately, the multi-stranded fabric of Hinduism makes it more vulnerable to exploitation by politicians. Similar to the divide and rule policy of the British, liberals in independent India have sustained their politics by repeatedly dividing Hindus.

Hinduism is being abused by various stakeholders in India, to gain political currency, to establish a parallel ideology that juxtaposes 'Hindu' with terms like 'terror' seemingly to propagate hatred for the entire community, or as an uncontrolled tool for creativity. The process is so subtle that one is not even aware of the misappropriation.

Recently, celebrity politician Shashi Tharoor decided to behave like an irresponsible student in an English language laboratory. By using the phrase “Hindu Pakistan”, he believed he could gain the attention of minorities, all of whom he inaccurately assumes are fodder for lynch mobs. Tharoor is one of the few leaders in the Congress who publicise their temple visits even when there are no elections. Thus, most of us believed the remark was a conscious attempt to challenge the pro-Muslim image of Rahul Gandhi, and give fodder to the “Tharoor for PM” brigade.

It was in this line that the political Hindu authored “Why I am a Hindu”, a book whose title may well be inspired by Why I Am Not a Hindu, by Kancha Ilaiah, and Why I Am an Atheist, a path-breaking essay by Bhagat Singh. Tharoor goes on to mention in the book, “I am more comfortable with the tenets of Hinduism than I would be with those of the other faiths of which I know.” However, as his party chose to optically support Muslims by hosting an Iftar after a gap of two years, the Hindu in Tharoor decided to flip and give sermons on 'Hindu Pakistan'.

No practising Hindu, who also claims to comprehend the religion enough to write a book on it, can ever envisage 'Hindu' and 'Pakistan' coming together. If this was not bad enough, the number of Hindus who — under the garb of freedom of expression — hopped on the bogie bandwagon was beyond belief. But Hindus across the nation were distraught that their religion was being reduced to a prefix to a failed terrorist state. If statements like “saffron terror” angered Hindus, the “Hindu Pakistan” prophecy tore them apart.

Tharoor’s experiments with vocabulary did not stop there.

He went on to compare the current age in India with "Hindu Taliban", once again displaying his absolute lack of knowledge of both Hinduism and Taliban. I would really urge the Hindu author to expand on the methodology that leads him to conclude that a plural religion like Hinduism, which has stood the test of time and invasion for more than 10,000 years, will disintegrate within a decade and decompose into a terror outfit.

In this context, Tharoor is far from being a Hindu — he is just a fear-mongering politician.

In April, an American expert on Hindu mythology, Audrey Truschke, decided to interpret the character of the Hindu god Ram as that of a “misogynist pig”.

The lady faced severe backlash on social media, though certain Hindus who claim to wear their Hinduism on their sleeve remained conspicuous by their silence. Custodians of freedom of speech hailed her interpretation as novel and reproached the naysayers as assassins of freedom of expression. There have been over 300 variants of the Ramayana. Each version is representative of the freedom of expression that Hinduism encourages. However, the lady in question has even refused to take responsibility for the repugnant phrase, instead claiming it is Valmiki’s interpretation.

In one of her pieces, she writes: “Hindu traditions have long been tolerant enough to encompass a range of critical perspectives against Rama. Modern-day Hindutva seeks to narrow the parameters of discourse, however”. 

It is exactly this tolerant nature of Hinduism that has been repeatedly used to transgress boundaries of civility and breach sentiments. Although some experts on the subject highlighted the gaping deformity, the number of Hindus who came out in her support was disturbing. Instead of asking the lady to moderate her tone and resort to alternative vocabulary, they furthered her cause by agreeing and expanding on her warped theory. She has not only established herself as a regular commentator on Hindu mythology, she will soon be giving lectures on Indian history in India.

It is the peddlers of creative history like Truschke, and the endorsement of such incidents, that bring to the forefront the burden of absolute freedom of expression — which inevitably subsumes freedom to abuse and hurt.

In 2007, the UPA government decided to go ahead with the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project. This stirred up a controversy, as the project entailed widening of the Ram Setu, a bridge that is believed to have been constructed by Ram himself.

In an affidavit it filed in the SC over the Ram Setu issue, the UPA government questioned the very existence of Ram. In an affidavit it filed in the SC over the Ram Setu issue, the UPA government questioned the existence of Ram. (Photo: Wikimedia/PlaneMad/Creative Commons)

In response to a petition filed by Subramanian Swamy and others, the UPA government rejected the religious claims in an affidavit it filed in the Supreme Court. “Valmiki Ramayana and Ramcharitmanas admittedly form an important part of ancient Indian literature, but these cannot be said to be historical records to incontrovertibly prove the existence of the characters and occurrences of events depicted therein,” it said, thereby questioning the very accuracy of the existence of Ram.

It was a direct encroachment on the faith of Hindus and the followers of Ram across so many nations.

Ram is the cultural icon of multiple nations in Asia. By questioning his very existence, the sentiments of millions of Hindus were adversely addressed.

Unfortunately, since Hinduism permits you to not believe in Ram and yet go on with life like a proud Hindu, resistance to this petition was resisted by Hindus themselves, further endorsing the petitioner. It was a struggle between Hindus who believed in Ram against Hindus who believed he was a figment of just another poet’s imagination. No citizen in another country would dare to challenge the faith of the majority in a court of law, which is no authority on the matter anyway.

The rebuttal to this is not that India is not Pakistan — the answer is. the Indian majority is liberal and self-assured.

Thanks to several incidents similar to the ones expounded above, Hindus have been reduced to just a numerical majority. Their diversity has become their weakness, and their assorted culture is a tool for vested Hindu voices to fracture the community. Hindus are pitted against each other by Hindus themselves, who believe they can use wordplay and smart analogy to bring in a new order in Hinduism.

Those trying to reset the age-old religion by remodelling Ram as a misogynist, Krishna as a Casanova and Devi as a "prostitute" should beware of the tight rope they tread on. If freedom of expression for perverted Hindus includes the freedom to abuse, bend and mangle, for purists, it includes the freedom to oppose, disagree and vociferously voice why.

Also read: 'Hindu Pakistan', Forsooth — Why Shashi Tharoor, despite his perfect accent, is perfectly wrong

Writer

Gunja Kapoor Gunja Kapoor @gunjakapoor

Analyst, amateur writer, love to play the God's advocate, Lucknowi, Geek in denial, Martinian, potential misanthrope

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