“Houston we have a problem” is a very popular albeit slightly inaccurate quote that is attributed to the astronaut John “Jack” Swigert when he had contacted the NASA Mission Control Center in Houston during the Apollo 13 spaceflight.
I want to use this quote to start a conversation with a certain section among the online Non-Left Hindu movement today. My fellow Non-Left Hindus, our society has some problems, they exist around us but for some odd reason, we are not talking about them with the zeal that is needed. A cursory glance across the social media profiles of many of the well established Non-Left internet Hindus that represent individuals, organisations and conclaves one tends to find a trend of a certain kind.
If I was living in that particular social media echo chamber and I follow and read the content produced by these particular social media handles representing these individuals and organisations I will come out with the conclusion that Hindu society has hardly got any problems. Jaativaad is a thing of the past, women are getting treated very well and there are no flaws in the claims made by any of the Hindu Scriptures. Cutting a long story short as they said in the famous song from the movie Three Idiots “All Izz Well”.
But is that the truth? Is all really well? Have we really gotten rid of jaativaad from our society to such a large extent that we can completely stop talking about it? Is every single article that gets published in newspapers across India almost daily that talks about atrocities committed under the garb of jaativaad all basically “Fake News”? Is all of this a grand conspiracy by the Left Wing Modi hating Mainstream Media that wants to paint India as a land of caste, cows and curry? Are they all basically twisting the truth to serve a particular agenda? Do you think a conspiracy of such a grand scale is humanly possible?
My fellow Non-Left Hindus, there is a strategic flaw in this online Hindu movement. The Non-Left Internet Hindus tend to practise a sort of soft denialism or have developed a convenient selective amnesia. Many amongst us have spun a web in their minds where it is assumed that the majority of news items that come out which talk about jaativaad have to be denied by default. They cannot be true. But I’ve got news for all of you, many, if not most of them are true. Jaativaad in India is a reality. It exists, it is part of our social reality that we need to talk about. Because if we don’t talk about it the left wing will. And guess what? They do talk about it. In fact, it seems by the google search results that they are the only ones that are talking about it on a regular basis. The search analysis shows that all the serious reports, papers, articles on the subject of jaativaad available online are either mainstream left-wing media outlets or left-wing think tanks.
One has to do some seriously time-consuming searches to even come across a critique of jaativaad by a Non-Left newspaper or think tank. Now I am willing to concede that there is an inherent bias in the Google search algorithms, but how bad is that inherent bias? Is this search algorithm bias so extreme that one can’t find any serious critique of Jaativaad from Non-Left organisations or media outlets?
Ignoring a problem does not make it go away. This soft denialism has basically ceded the space of all the activism for the downtrodden and the underprivileged of our society to the left wing. We may not like to admit this but the global perception is that when it comes to fighting for the underdog it is always the Left Wing that comes forward. Now I am willing to concede that in a country like India when it comes to fighting for the underprivileged at the ground level Hindu organisations have done a fantastic job.
But the story is not the same among the intelligentsia and the average educated Non-Left Hindu. There is a serious reluctance within us to take these issues head on, accept our fault lines and discuss them openly so that the “Left Wing Breaking India forces” do not hijack these issues and create further divides among Indians.
Is every problem in India fake? Why can’t our lit fests have panel discussions on jaativaad? Why can’t our portals and conclaves have serious discussions about how women are being ill-treated in many parts of India? I see a new trend rising on social media where some people have started rejecting feminism lock stock and barrel because it is a “western” concept. There are different types of feminism, what is wrong with equity feminism, for example? I get the aversion to 3rd wave feminism and all the nonsense stemming from that. But if someone wants to work towards equity feminism why is it so bad? Also, in a country like India, where I still feel we have a long way to go in terms of giving women their due don’t we sometimes do a disservice to the genuine well-intentioned feminists by tarring feminism in its entirety?
We have to take corrective measures and that too on an urgent basis. Perception matters a lot, and today the perception in the mind of the average English speaking urban citizen is that the left fights for the underprivileged and the others are just the privileged upper caste. Perceptions change when we showcase a body of work where the Hindu intelligentsia openly speaks about the ills in our society and accepts its fault lines.
So my appeal to you via this article is that if you happen to bump into these thought leaders online make sure you ask them some questions:
- When will they start talking about jaativaad as a social ill? When will there be a Non-Left conference where this issue will be discussed along with the future roadmap to deal with the issue theologically as well as economically? And who are the people amongst us who are experts in this subject?
- When will we discuss women’s issues in a Non-Left conclave? What solutions do they have to offer about the abysmally low rates of participation of Indian women in the workforce?
- When will a Non-Left conclave have a panel discussion on rising Abrahamic Atheism in India? What steps are being taken by the Hindu Samaaj to make sure that their next generation does not become Ex Hindus and stays within the Hindu fold?
I am not asking people to use idioms/terminologies of the West exclusively to tackle these problems. I am talking about admitting that we have a problem and doing something about it. Because if we won’t do something about them, the left-wing will. And when the left-wing tries to solve problems they do it through the lens of victimhood and oppression. Also, every fault line that is exposed using western idioms does not become null and void because it is being looked at from a “western” perspective.
It is time to admit that we have a problem in our society and we better start having open discussions about them. Whether it is jaativaad, whether it is ill-treatment of women, whether it is LGBT rights or whether it is scriptural issues within Hinduism. Because if we don’t, others will and the results of that will not be good for the nation. I want to end this appeal by stating that it is high time we the Non-Left Hindus of India do what is “right”. It is time to uphold our Dharma. As Sant Kabir had once said ” बुराजोदेखनमैंचला, बुरानमिलियाकोई।जोमनखोजाअपना, तोमुझसेबुरानकोई।।(I started searching for the devil but could not find anyone. When I searched inside me, realized, no one is more devilish then me.)