A post-modern world, 1.2 billion Hindu population worldwide, and the largest religion in the world after Christianity and Islam. A Hindu nationalist government with absolute majority in power, in the second most populous country on earth, for the second consecutive term. Can we ever be under threat?
Dec 2019. Anti-CAA protests were on in full swing and the country was being set on fire by miscreants. Around this time, a few of us were in a workshop on Ashtadhyayi, the seminal work on grammar by Maharshi Panini, one of ancient India’s foremost scholars. In the course of intense discussions on Panini’s grammar, interestingly, the topic veered towards Panini’s history.
Who was the man behind the genius, when and where did he live, what was the interesting backstory that led to and produced this masterpiece, we were all curious to know. Unfortunately, there weren’t too many clear answers. He was supposed to have lived around 500 BC, and possibly in some part of what is present day Pakistan-Afghanistan, our Guru explained.
And then after a pause he continued ruefully, “Of course if he had been born there in present times, far from being a celebrated genius, he would have been a persecuted minority fighting for his very life and dignity”. “And if he had tried to seek refuge in India on those grounds, many of his fellow Hindus would have been up in arms against granting him accelerated citizenship,” some of us chimed in.
With that, a melancholic mood descended on the classroom as the grim reality of present times set in. And then, we did what modern day Hindus have always trained themselves to do – moved the uncomfortable thoughts to the recesses of our minds and resumed with the task at hand.
An unending saga of struggles
From time immemorial, Sanatana Dharma (or the Eternal Principle as it means) had always experienced challenges and churns. Sometimes in the form of internal strife between various clans and sects, and sometimes in the form of external challenges, like the birth of Buddhism. But each of these ended up strengthening us for the long run.
It helped us purge our deficiencies and revived us anew. For the longest time, despite all challenges, the grandest and oldest civilization on earth shone on, as splendorous as ever. But towards the end of 1st millennium of the Common Era, something changed. And then some more. A statistician would probably show two inflection points on the golden Sanatana trail over centuries (below).
History is witness to the fact that the Hindus had never lacked in wisdom or valor, so what really happened? In two words: new adversaries. New players, the likes of which Bharata had never encountered before, emerged in the Common Era and the rules of the game changed forever. To say that the playing field was changed would be an understatement. The playing field was not just uprooted, it was made a whole lot treacherous for the righteous Hindus to handle.
The Medieval challenge
The rules of confrontation had always been clear in the Dharmic framework. Sandeep Balakrishna beautifully describes this in his essay titled ‘The Hindu Ethics of War’. So what were these? Firstly only trained warriors could participate in war, as per established rules as followed by both sides. Civilians, especially women and children, were totally off the mark. Anyone who targeted the vulnerable populations were not Kshatriyas but Asuras.
And a victory that resulted in destruction of the enemy King, his family and country was called Asura Vijaya, and was considered the lowest form of victory. It was rarely pursued, if at all. For the longest time, India’s hero was Sri Rama, the King who was the very embodiment of Dharma. The ones who wrongfully coveted another’s wife or country (like Ravana and Kauravas respectively) were rightly relegated as national villains.
And then India came in contact with medieval Asuras, the Turkic demons, who casually mainstreamed mindless cruelty and sought only one thing – Asura Vijaya at any cost. Smashing places of worship and culling unarmed citizens at the first opportunity they got, they left nothing to chance. With successive waves of destructive attacks since the 10th century AD, each crueler than the last, the Asuras mauling Bharat had become too many to count.
But one name stands out, in the context of this discussion: Timur. Timur or Tamerlane was a Turkic invader who defeated the ruling Tughlaq dynast in Delhi in 1398 and captured the city of Delhi. What he did next was indescribable. Once the throne was captured, the revolting Hindus of Delhi were brutally butchered over the next few days, their bodies left for birds to feed and their severed heads erected like pillars.
With this barbaric act, without a doubt, in ancient India, Timur would have occupied his unchallenged position as one of the greatest villains, dwarfing even Kamsa. Cut to present day India. Here’s a video clip below. Starting 0.50, listen to a conversation on the subject of a leading Bollywood star naming his son Taimur. At about 1.25, after a casual acknowledgment of “the little violence” that General Taimur had showed, the same violence is glorified as ‘bravery’.
And then it is followed by some feeble justification of the name. In other words, in today’s India, the heroes of our heroes are not Sri Rama or Sri Krishna who upheld Dharma, but the Tamiurs who trampled upon it. If this is not an utter loss of dignity for a great nation, what is?
The medieval story meanwhile continues in the later part of the 2nd millennium, with only change of actors. While the Turkics did their bit
violently, the European colonial powers did silently. In the name of pagan reform and administration this time.
The Portuguese inquisition in India’s western coast is not spoken of enough in mainstream discourse. Many brilliant books have already expounded the extent of cruelty Hindus faced at the hands of these missionaries and their ringleader St. Francis Xavier, but what did we as Hindus do about collectively? Yes, venerated him, of course and continue to do so till today in the grand church built for him in 1661.
This is the representative from “Hindu Nationalist BJP” CM Pramod Sawant personally attending the feast last year. But once again, we are getting ahead of ourselves. So, let us dial the clock back to the 2nd inflection point 1947.
1947 and State Might
“A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a
nation, long suppressed, finds utterance…“
Memorable words spoken by our first Prime Minister from the Parliament as India emerged from colonial shackles. But did the miseries of
a wounded civilization end on that day? Did we truly set on a path of healing and resurgence as we had promised ourselves? Did we even
The new dispensation’s heartless attitude to the wounded Hindu was rightly summed up in the new PM’s words, “communalism of the
majority is far more dangerous than the communalism of the minority”.
With that motto, the secular state took upon itself to “reform” the “regressive” Hindu community over the next seven decades. Hindu Code Bills were introduced to reform Hindu personal laws while minorities were untouched, Hindi temples and their wealth were brought under government control while minority institutions remained autonomous, Right to Education put strict clauses on majority-managed educational institutions while giving full freedom to minority institutions.
Furthermore, a full-blown minority commission was constituted to fund and subsidize minority religious and development activities from tax payer money, all this ironically by a ‘secular’ state. Phrases like ‘Hindu rate of growth’ were coined for poor economic growth and Hindu hatred was mainstreamed. These atrocities continue to this day.
‘Muscular Hindu nationalists’ are the words media, both national and international, loves to use for the BJP. The coming to power of self declared Hindu nationalists on absolute majority, without the checks offered by ‘secular’ partnerships and coalitions would herald the unchecked descent of India into a Hindu Rashtra, they chorused.
But for the average Hindu, BJP’s coming to power was something far simpler and closer to heart. It simply meant that for the first time in many, many centuries, a majority Hindu praja had finally an unapologetic, practicing Hindu raja! For a starving majority, robbed off even basic dignity for having chosen to practice a certain way of life for close to a millennium, even the associated optics were a huge step forward. It was finally possible for a people to publicly show Hinduness in a Hindu majority country!
While there is no denying that electoral gains and historic decisions like CAA and Ramjanmabhoomi might be indications that the tide is reversing slowly, the actual strategic war remains far from being won. So much so that I wouldn’t even bother to change the slope of the downward curve even a wee bit.
For one, shrinking demography is a reality Hindus face. With a falling birth rate and refugee influx from neighboring countries via porous borders, it is a matter of time before the inevitable outnumbering happens, first in pockets and then as a whole. Lack of international clout – it is still very easy for white supremacists, quacks and touts claiming to be ‘experts in Indic studies’ to participate in Lit festivals and exercise influence in setting narratives in India and globally.
The deep roots and pockets that Islamists and missionaries have managed to grow and flaunt is a stark reminder of an important exercise, that we as Hindus are even yet to start thinking about – developing globally influential institutions, think tanks and scholars. Relentless attacks from Judiciary, Media and Academia – not withstanding a one-off favorable verdict in the form of Ram Mandir, this a key bastion populated with Hindu haters.
Be it the self righteous judge who ordered a woman to distribute the Quran as ‘repentance’ for expressing her freedom of expression, openly Hindu hating portals like HuffPost and associated media personalities who cannot stand anything Hindu (link 1, link 2), Bollywood biggies who openly woo anti-india Islamist despots and selectively hold placards of shame against Hindus as a whole for any crime, academics who don’t hesitate to twist textbooks and feed canards to our children… the list is endless!
In daily discourse, terms like bhakta and saffron, far from being the pinnacle of sainthood and Hindu civilizational ethos, have been reduced to adjectives inviting derision, ridicule and even death. And last but not the least, our own civilizational apathy and amnesia. If not for own inertia, none of the above since 1947 could have happened this easily. Lulled by the constant whirring of the engines of our daily mechanical lives, many of us have no stomach left for a fight. And the worst part? The majority of us are not even aware that we are in a war.
Today Hindus lack two distinct advantages our ancestors in 1000 CE had – we are now no longer up against a tangible entity facing us directly – whom we can size up and strategize against. And the communal spirit that fired up our ancestors has shrunk considerably. We are encircled and enmeshed by invisible, antagonistic elements from within, many of whom resemble us, indulging in glib talks and all the while being safely ensconced in lofty ideals like liberalism and secularism that can fend off direct attacks.
From Panini to Palghar it has been a long, brutal and a steeply deteriorating journey for Bharatavarsha and Sanatana Dharma. Have we still got in us what it takes to survive this onslaught? Will this civilization stand one more, and possibly the most vicious attack yet? Only time will tell!