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25 Apr 2024, Edition - 3208, Thursday

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Columns

Can Hinduism survive the BJP’s Hindutva?

Covai Post Network

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Nandini Krishnan

For centuries, perhaps millennia, Hindus have taken pride in the tolerance and resilience of their religion, recognising that those two characteristics complement each other.

It is the only ancient religion to have survived the zeal of newer ones. The Egyptian, Greco-Roman, and Nordic religions have now been consigned to mythology, but Hinduism is alive.

However, the violence and zealousness of Hindutva, which claims to be protecting Hinduism against the onslaught of the Abrahamic religions, has distorted Hinduism beyond recognition and could do more damage to it than any other religion has.

The only reason I call myself Hindu is that I like belonging to a religion which has no rules. Nothing is banned in the doctrines of Hinduism, which are clearly unknown to the sanghis who bay for the blood of anyone who goes against their stringent interpretations of ‘culture’ and ‘religion’.

Do they even know that this ‘culture’, enshrined by the Indian Penal Code, is a legacy of their former colonial masters, bequeathed to them along with Victorian prudery?

This is not my Hinduism.

My Hinduism does not impose restrictions on intoxicants.

My Hinduism does not impose restrictions on food.

My Hinduism does not impose restrictions on sex, with all its adjectives.

My Hinduism does not impose restrictions on the worship of any god.

People are classified according to their inclinations, perhaps, but there is place for everyone.

That is why Hinduism was able to survive conquests and hostile religions. It adapted itself to become acceptable to large numbers of people. It allowed people to be themselves, without being judged or condemned for it. It allowed people a chance at redeeming themselves. It taught people to accept punishment for their wrongs

This is not the Hinduism I recognise in today’s Hindutva.

This Hinduism believes that there are types of sex which are against the laws of the gods. It does not accommodate sex between people of the same gender. It refuses to see gender as non-binary. It claims these are “against Indian culture”. Before there was an India, there was a world that is evoked in the texts that these very proponents of Hindutva call sacred. Do they not know the story of Iyyappa’s birth? Do they not know the story of Aravan? Do they not know the story of Brihannala?

This Hinduism believes that a scholar of literature and epics should not be allowed to examine the Ramayana on the grounds that he was Muslim. M M Basheer was harassed and abused by goons from an outfit called the Hanuman Sena for writing this column in Mathrubhumi. And this daily, with fifteen editions and a circulation of 1.5 million, decided to “postpone” his next column in the series, though the writer himself has told the media that he has finished the series and will not be cowed down by the pressure.

An attempt to silence a writer, by objecting to his treatment of ‘gods’ as characters, and objecting that he does so because he is not a Hindu, comes from an asinine understanding of the foundation of Hinduism.

The Hindu gods are fallible, and that is perhaps the most beautiful aspect of Hinduism. Shiva’s rage and pride have caused him grief on several occasions. Brahma is not worshipped except in a few temples because, depending on which myth you believe, he angered either Saraswati or Shiva. Vishnu, in several of his avatars, commits mistakes that humanise him. As for the demigods, there are numerous stories of crime and punishment, of which Indra’s tryst with Ahalya is arguably the most famous.

Basheer is not the only victim of this idiocy. A similar controversy broke out over A K Ramanujan’s essay on the Ramayana.

Valmiki’s Ramayana and Vyasa’s Mahabharata are layered texts, which are open to interpretation. To say that these can be read only by certain people and only in a certain way is to go against the basic tenets of Hinduism.

This Hinduism, claimed by the Hindutva outfits that have been emboldened by the new central government, believes in a selective ban of meat. Fish, apparently, can be sold because they are not ‘slaughtered’ and ‘die when they are out of water. Whereas the life of a cow is somehow more precious than that of a chicken or buffalo or goat or pig.

I am vegetarian because I believe it is cruel to kill animals for food, pleasure, or accessories. I would throw myself behind any ban on their flesh or skin. But to selectively ban meat, and to do so under the banner of Hinduism, does more harm than good.

This Hinduism believes that consenting adults should not have sex unless they are married, and that consent does not matter once people are married.

This Hinduism believes that people should not drink alcohol.

This Hinduism believes there is no space for debate.

This Hinduism is the most dangerous enemy the religion has faced so far.

The only reason Hinduism, in its truest form, which derives not from a single text or a single infallible god but multiple sources and stories and trends, remains relevant is that it adapts.

If it is appropriated by bigots who will force it into the rigid rules of their tiny minds, it will cease to be relevant to most of its current followers.

The biggest test Hinduism has faced in India will be Hindutva. Can it survive the sanghis?

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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