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Hindus need to shift the Overton window to make their voices heard

The flower blooms only after the hard work of tilling the soil, planting the crops and nurturing the plants is done. It’s time for Hindu society to roll up its sleeves and get to work.

Throughout human history, beliefs and values have evolved based on changing circumstances but also due to courageous stands taken by a few. Drastic societal changes that seem to take place overnight, are often built on sustained movements that continue to wear down opposition and gather support until the status quo ecstasies down.

In political terms, the shifting of acceptable ideas in public is called the Overton window. The theory is that on each side of the left-right political spectrum, ideas fall all the way from popular to unthinkable (with policy or existing laws as the center). The aim of each side is to move the window of acceptability further to their side.

As an example, the issue of gay marriage in the US was traditionally considered extreme left and radical or perhaps even unthinkable. However due to a sustained campaign, at least since the 1960s, activists have shifted public opinion to such a degree that support for gay marriage is now not only acceptable, but also legal.

This shifting of the Overton window is important not just for the opposition but even for the ruling party in order to sustain and build upon political energy. Obama himself publicly came out against gay marriage during his 2008 campaign but reversed his stance in 2012 while up for re-election, no doubt realizing the ground underneath him had shifted on the issue.

Coming closer to home, the Hindutva movement has not successfully lobbied for these kinds of Overton shifts, especially in the last few years. Hindu society is always reacting, with the Ram Janambhoomi Movement standing out as a key exception. The build up to the Ram Mandir verdict shows what’s possible when setting the narrative versus accepting the worsening status quo.

With a right of center government in power, the time is ripe for the Hindu right to sway public opinion on key subjects. Additionally, there are many global trends such as anti-colonialism, victimhood narrative, displacement of traditional media, revisiting history and natives’ rights, that can be leveraged to amplify Hindu causes and defeat opposing voices. The below is only a sample list of potential focus areas.

Most of these positions may seem radical but that’s only because the colonial state that India runs on has shamed Hindus into accepting second class status in India. I will also including modern or recent examples from other countries to establish precedence and parallels.

As a precursor, the first step should be the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission to document the reality of Mughal and Colonial rule. This should include an exhaustive accounting of temples destroyed, Hindus massacred and general crimes against Hindu society, crimes not done solely for political reasons but due to religious bigotry. Many societies have done a similar accounting, for example to unearth the reality of slavery in the Americas, and the destruction of natives in places such as Africa and Australia.

Shining a light on historical truths naturally leads to the following demands:

  • Rebuilding of all mandirs that were destroyed or converted into churches or masjids
  • Revisiting decrees that gave native land to Waqf and Church authorities. Such land should be reclaimed where possible by the state and used for public good or to setup industries.
  • Removal of the minority ministry, minority commissions etc.

Secondly, while the CAA has been an important step in implicitly recognizing India as the spiritual home of dharmics, we need to go beyond. The ‘secular’ word inserted in the Constitution during the Emergency needs to be removed and instead verbiage needs to be added that clearly outlines India as a dharmic land. Across the globe, there are Christian, Islamic, Jewish and even Buddhist countries but none that are Hindu. This needs to be corrected.

Thirdly, this writer is in the minority opinion that state control of temples may not necessarily be a negative if the funds can be used for the good of society. Instead of releasing control to a whole spider web of Hindu organizations, we should instead make the following demands of the government:

  • State support for ghar wapsi, including monetary rewards for conversion or reconversion in genuine cases
  • Vedic school and gurukuls to be setup to ensure continuity of key traditions
  • National salary and pension for pujaris, purohits etc

Next, there should be mandatory teaching of the Gita, the Vedas, Ramayana and the Mahabharata in all public schools. If Western schools can teach courses on the Gita, there’s no reason why it’s teachings can’t be disseminated in Indian schools.

A national ban on cow slaughter. Most countries have bans on killing certain animals, we just need to add the cow to our list.

Lastly, there needs to be a law on hate speech that targets Hindus. The concept of hellfire and condemning someone to hell just because of their beliefs is an alien concept in dharmic thought, as well as one that defies common sense. The use of the word kafir and the public airing of beliefs that propagate the concept of ‘non-believers’ going to hell will be made punishable by law. The use of the ‘N’ word by a non-Black is a crime in the US and so is the denial of the holocaust in many countries.

We as a people cannot look to Modi as a messiah. The flower blooms only after the hard work of tilling the soil, planting the crops and nurturing the plants is done. It’s time for Hindu society to roll up its sleeves and get to work.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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