I bet that in some parts of the world, Hinduphobia must have been classified as an essential service. Because it appears that the global elite cannot go without their regular supply of it. In spite of all the lockdowns in the world.
With even more time on their hands than usual, the elite has to invent new examples of “thoughtcrime” to keep their minds and their audiences engaged. Blaming the government of China is a strict no-no. So where does the global liberal go right now with their righteous, moral outrage?
To India of course. There’s one billion Hindus out there, the biggest of all soft targets in the world. And now this, in the Atlantic, from the poison pen of Aatish Taseer.
Facing the brunt this time is the word “Bharat,” which is sought to be declared “exclusionary.” The reasons given include Bharat being a Sanskrit term and Bharat being the word used for India in Indian languages.
Ooh! Indians have been using a secret term to refer to their own country, away from the eyes of the world. How very sinister.
The surprising part is how it took so long for the liberal world to discover this crime of thought / speech committed by Indians in their daily lives. After all, this genre of Hinduphobia has produced several gems already, from diatribes against everything from sarees to rasam to sambhar to diyas and Hanuman stickers. In other words, every single thing about India that may not be widely known in the West is a ripe target for being framed as a sinister conspiracy against humanity. An attack on the word “Bharat” was only a matter of time.
Of course, we hardly need to explain how ridiculous Taseer’s attack on the word “Bharat” is. The national anthem refers to India as “Bharat.” Even the Indian Constitution begins with the phrase “India, that is Bharat…” But the point is that not many in the West have heard the word Bharat. This makes it a prime target for Hinduphobia.
It is not difficult to see what comes next. Incidentally, Aatish Taseer actually responded to my tweet. This time, he seems to suggest that the idea of Bharat could be similar to the self-image of Nazi Germany.
(Side note : Germans never refer to their country as “Germany”. Instead, they always say “Deutschland”. Or as Aatish would probably put it, a word used away from the eyes of the world. But then, it’s not easy to stigmatize a Western European country, is it?)
But the ball has been set in motion, nevertheless. The stage has been set for the word Bharat to be stigmatized, effectively ‘criminalized.’ Just like the word ‘Hindutva,’ which has been defamed to the point that liberals openly raise slogans of “Hindutva ki kabar khudegi” (Dig a burial pit for Hindutva). Nobody thinks any more that a largely Muslim mob raising slogans of digging burial pit for Hindutva is offensive. Nobody sees the echoes of Nazism in that.
The same is about to happen to the word Bharat. The ‘woke’ classes among us will be the first ones to catch on to the new trend. They will start shunning the word. Gradually, they will wear us down, let it filter down, seep in and settle. Ultimately, it will become a tag that most common Hindus will run away from.
As a matter of fact, the word Bharat has been on the chopping block before. Who remembers the slogan ‘Bharat ke tukde’? That was roughly four years ago. Out of that great media event, the names of three young leaders, all reportedly Communist and atheist, entered the public consciousness : Umar Khalid, Shehla Rashid and Kanhaiya Kumar. Two of them went on to become outspoken defenders of the One True Faith. The third one went on to become a warrior against ‘Hindutva.’
Therein, you can understand the real trajectory of where Indian secularism wants to take us.
There are two important lessons here, one for the Hindu right and the other for the left.
For the Hindu right, it is a chance to understand how the left is always on the offensive in this game of labels. Notice that they always fight battles on our turf, putting us on the defensive. They take terms like ‘Hindutva’ or ‘Bharat’ and start defaming them relentlessly.
Yes, we push back, but they have already factored that into their model. Their aim is to first take these perfectly innocent labels and make them appear controversial. The controversy drives away the bulk of common people who are not looking for conflict over words. This is how they win.
In 2016, the nation was furious with slogans of “Bharat ke tukde”. But the left will work relentlessly to make Bharat an ugly word, synonymous with Nazism. By 2026, people may not be outraged by that slogan any more. Just like in 2020, people are no longer outraged by “Hindutva ki kabar khudegi.”
The only option is to strike back at labels that are dear to the left. Such as ‘liberal’ or ‘secular.’ Rather than accuse them of betraying liberalism or secularism, the right must focus its attack on the labels themselves. So much so that common people would be put off from calling themselves liberal or secular.
The other lesson is for Indian leftists themselves. I performed a simple experiment and googled the words “Chinese virus” along with “Atlantic”, the name of the publication where Taseer’s article appeared.
Five articles in the last one month complaining in whole or in part about the term “Chinese virus”. The same publication which is now out to stigmatize the term “Bharat.” Turns out that liberals are forever worried about inciting prejudice against entire nations, as long as the victims are not Indians!
I want to remind the Indian left that in 2014, Sonia Gandhi herself went on television, asking people to show their “Bharatiyata” by voting against Modi! At that time, Bharat was considered a good, noble word.
By 2016, the left wing view on Bharat had shifted. There were leftists who were calling for Bharat ke tukde.
It’s 2020 and the word Bharat is already being pushed into the same column as Nazi. Do you see where this is going?
Indian leftists with Hindu names need to understand. Sooner or later, the global left is coming for you as well. They hate you just as much as they hate me. How much longer before they pick up a label that is dear to you and demonize it? Perhaps your mother tongue, or your name and whatever it means. They will demonize it sooner or later. They intend to strip away every marker of Hindu culture and leave the land of Bharat barren, devastated and without a history. As Faiz would have put it, bas naam rahega …. ka.