Adults are aware that hate-words have consequences. They have to take responsibility for what they say or do. Consciously cultivated hate-attitudes have greater consequences. They create a culture of hate. Sardar Vallabhai Patel wrote to Shyama Prasad Mukherjee of the Hindu Maha Sabha that his organization had “created an atmosphere” (culture) which made the assassination of Gandhiji possible; he ordered a ban of the organization. It is well known that they had distributed sweets at the death of the Father of the Nation.
Their Hindutva descendants today should take full responsibility for the ‘culture of hatred’ that is being created by the re-reading and re-writing of history with an anti-minority thrust. This is exactly what happened in Pakistan that led to the radicalisation of that society. Patel’s admirers have long forgotten his message to the nation. He stood for communal harmony, rejected the idea of Hindu Rashtra.
‘Collective anger’ is being deliberately kept alive by one Hindutva leader after another, avidly competing to make provocative statements against minority communities. The exasperated groundswell against those shabby utterances against Taj Mahal clearly shows that Indian society as a whole is not partisan. There was a hasty withdrawal of such insensitive statements. But hardly had the Taj-drama ended, when the BJP’s official spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao sought to make himself a hero saying, 800 years of Islamic rule were periods of “extreme exploitation, insane barbarism and unprecedented intolerance to the other faith.”
History is a dangerous mine to play with. It can explode at any time on the reckless with no distinction of caste, creed, or ideological conviction. A criminalisation of the Islamic period of Indian history bounces back. The earlier periods were not more glorious. Neutral historians like John Keay seem to suggest that it was precisely the “anarchy” that prevailed on the subcontinent during the eleventh and twelfth centuries that invited ambitious rulers on the borders to take advantage of the situation.
There was too much of plundering and looting going on between neighbouring Hindu kingdoms that respected neither women nor children, neither holy men nor holy places. Raiding and pillaging another region, sacking and robbing what belonged to another ethnic group or people loyal to another dynasty (not excluding temples), was not considered anything unusual in the realpolitik of that era. Islamic adventurers merely followed the prototype.
On the eve of the Islamic invasions, Keay says “...economic collapse, social oppression and caste discrimination went hand in hand with political fragmentation” (India: A History 226). Since Buddhism had nearly been snuffed out of the subcontinent, caste rigidities had deepened, emotional distances had grown, anger was at its height.
A divided society is highly vulnerable. This is the culture that our Hindutva heroes are trying to re-create in our own days. And they seem to be well advanced on the road. “Nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression” says William Douglas, a member of the Supreme Court of US, speaking in another context. Gradually, but unfailingly, ‘ache din’ give way to ‘andhera.’
Psychologists tell us that victims of homogenizing and hegemonizing trends lose their sense of self-worth, as they are considered second-class citizens where they are, and since they keep receiving narcissistic injuries all the time. Erik Erickson says such people need energetic and redeeming help. If they do not receive it, the consequences can be disastrous. One possibility is what happened to the Rohingyas in Myanmar, about 600,000 of whom fled their beloved homeland where they were not wanted. Another is submission to an outside force as it repeatedly happened in Indian history, whether the force was Islamic, colonial, semi-colonial. The last possibility seems to be fast developing, with the tempting formula of ‘Indo-Pacific’ brotherhood.
Rahul Gandhi is alarmed that a “warped idea of Indianness” is being imposed on Indians, an identity that is discriminatory and one-sided. That is what makes Manmohan say that Modi government has failed “head and heart.” After all, leadership is not rabble-rousing. Those who make of politics mere theatrics will have to be ready to kiss the dust from time to time. The very Yogi who called Taj Mahal an insult to Indian culture went on to change hastily and admit that it was a gem and a proud part of the culture of India. He humbled himself playing the sweeping role.
Inconsistency is no problem for Yogiji. He is at his best when he keeps changing. During elections he was ‘for all;’ once he was in power, he was for the cow. Now that there is another round of election, he is preaching ‘development.’ If he wins the election, the cow takes over. Yogi says that there are 4 crore cows in India. He wants 25 crores; so, he asks every Hindu family to keep one. Some have dubbed this five-year plan ‘kamadhenu capitalism’ like China’s ‘bamboo capitalism.’
Maynard Keynes used the phrase ‘animal spirits’ to describe consumer behaviour which can be quantified. Evidently, ‘animal spirits’ are high in India, at least in the UP. A London survey showed more sympathy for a beaten dog than for a beaten man. Indian sympathy for the cow will be far superior, especially if it has been beaten by a person of a minority community or dalit community.
But reality points in another direction. According to the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organization, cows in India are most neglected, nearly starved. Young males are separated and abandoned; they destroy crops. Those in gaushalas die without veterinary assistance . The fear of contaminated milk products is growing, as well as of diseases spread through animal ailments.
Hindutva international diplomacy consists in making India the laughing stock of the world. India’s contribution to ‘climate change’ talks at Bonn was a display of ‘Yoga’ in its pavilion, not a study of the pollution in Delhi, or its heat. Thus we see that the craze for the bizarre is catching on. Recently it was decided in the Savitribai Phule Pune University that the best-student gold medal could be given only to a vegetarian and teetotaller. What counts would not be academic excellence but nearness to Indian culture, as defined by the saffron sovereigns. Newton and Einstein would be ruled out, vegetarian Hitler would qualify. The circular, of course, was withdrawn under severe ridicule.
To quote Shakespeare, some fear that there is “method in the madness.” They are anxious lest this vegetarian fixation affect the medical services, compelling consumption only of herbal medicines and vegetarian drugs. Thus political ideologues will dictate medical prescriptions.
Even lunacy has several levels. Recently Yogiji has declared the birthplaces of Radha and Krishna, Vrindavan and Barsana, vegetarian towns...not even eggs can be eaten there. Priests want more places to be declared strictly vegetarian. No wonder more children are born under-weight in India than in any other part of the world, and may die as infants. Indian Mothers are terribly under-nourished.
Meantime Bihar is lamenting the weakening of tourist industry with the imposition of Hindutva diet on visitors. Tourism in India had created 39.5 million jobs. Fa-Hien the Chinese traveller praised the safety on the Indian roads. India was a Buddhist country those days. Today cow vigilantes and conversion-foilers crouch at every corner. Tourists are being attacked while returning from Taj Mahal. It is evident that hate words have consequence.
Europe is trying to put behind them their fanaticisms of the last century...those that brought them into conflict with each other, that ‘created antipathies and failed to build amities.’ They fully realize the irrationalities that had gained ground among them in the past and led them to their ruin, like exaggerations based on race, nationalism, culture, ideology, sectarian interest, superstition, ethnic heritage. They are embarrassed to think that an earlier generation could have blindly subjected themselves to one-man leaders like Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Salazar, Stalin, Ulbricht, Jaruzelski, Ceausescu and to their erratic vision of the future. They are trying to put these painful chapters of their history behind, having experienced their negative consequences. Meanwhile we Indians are plunging ourselves into those very follies as though thereby we shall establish our greatness.
In 1951 Dr. Radhakrishnan inaugurated the Gauhati University. This was the powerful message he gave on that occasion: “We need, not only specialists, but people with a human outlook, social sense, and philosophic wisdom. We need to reflect on realities: food, drink, clean water, health, education, communal harmony and mutual understanding. Indeed, we need a human outlook.”
As for the frequency and the way the National anthem should be sung, Hiren Gohain of Assam affirmed patriotism is not about singing, but doing one’s duty. I may add one word more: patriotism is about creating a culture of co-belonging among citizens; not one of antipathy, but of amity.
(Published on 27th November 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 48)