kuchh baat hai ki hasti miTti nahi humaari – there is definitely something special about us that our existence hasn’t been erased (when compared to ancient civilizations and religions like those of Rome, Iran, Egypt, etc.) – this line penned by Allama Iqbal that is part of the popular song ‘saare jahaan se achchha’ is often thrown around as reassurance that India, the only nation where Hindus exist in meaningful proportion, has survived for thousands of years and they will continue to survive so, and thus by corollary, Hindus and Hinduism will continue to survive.
The tragic irony is that Iqbal himself went on to virtually disown this song within years of writing it. He penned another one where he wrote ‘Muslim hain hum vatan hai saara jahaan humaara’ that went entirely in conflict with the line ‘Hindi hain hum vatan hai Hindustan humaara’ from the aforementioned song. And obviously, Iqbal later became a proponent of two-nation theory that resulted in the partition of India and the creation of an Islamic nation exclusively for Muslims. The land and Hindus of current-day Pakistan didn’t survive the philosophy of the guy whose lines are supposed to reassure the survival of Hindus and Hindustan.
The debate about the survival and future of Hindus and Hinduism is not new and the partition of India is shown as an example of how Hindus lost a substantial part of their land and heritage virtually overnight. In what was left as secular India after partition, the population growth rates are shown as proof of declining Hindu strength that could lead to another partition – something which the ‘liberals’ keep on rejecting as a conspiracy theory even though Hindus’ share in population indeed has been progressively going down in every census.
However, it’s not simple arithmetic projection of a declining graph showing share in population that can predict a time on the x-axis when Hindus become a minority in current India. Columnist and defence analyst Abhijit Iyer Mitra thinks that this process can soon reach an inflexion point from where there will be an irreversible decline leading to the ‘end of Hinduism’. And he believes that this can happen within a century, unless Hindus and Hindu leadership understand the forces at play.
Abhijit explains his doomsday prediction in a video talk that spans over an hour, hosted by podcaster Kushal Mehra, which can be watched here. Abhijit doesn’t put forward any grand conspiracy by some powerful lobbies at play to make Hindus minority in India, but draws from history to show parallels between what is happening in modern post-independence India and what happened to the religions of pre-Christian Europe and pre-Islamic Iran and Egypt, which are now relegated to museums.
He explains why the Islamic and later the Christian (colonial) invasions of India couldn’t wipe out the native religion of the land i.e. Hinduism, even though the native religions of Europe, Egypt, Iran, etc. were wiped out in the medieval ages by the same set of invaders and settlers. He also points out how the factors that led to wiping out of native religions in those lands in medieval times are at play, ironically, in modern India, and thus the risks of Hinduism vanishing are far more today than it was when India was under ‘foreign rule’ centuries ago.
Abhijeet argues that while Rome, Egypt, Iran, et al. had pre-Abrahamic religions that can be argued to be similar to Hinduism, Hinduism was better in the way that it had philosophical aspects about death and afterlife being part of the theology itself, as against those religions that kept it part of their ‘secular’ philosophy and not part of religion per se. This made Hinduism stronger, theoretically and theologically, to take on the challenges from the Abrahamic religions.
However, both Hinduism and those pagan religions erred, and the latter erred fatally, by not realizing the threat that monotheistic Abrahamic faiths and philosophy pose. Both Hinduism and those pre-Abrahamic religions kept trying to look for common grounds with the Abrahamic faiths for co-existence, while Abrahamic faiths were least interested in discovering common grounds. Instead, they looked for exclusive ground, literally, i.e. control of land. While theoretically, this is why Abrahamic religions can wipe out pagans – due to their exclusivist and fanatic streaks – the real wiping out happened due to economic, geographic and political reasons, Abhijit argues.
Much of the population in Europe were rapidly converted to Christianity due to excess poverty (Christianity projected suffering and poverty as one of the ways to get near to Christ or God) and excess population in more fertile parts of these countries (where invaders came not just as elite rulers but along with their population and livestock, as settlers), Abhijit points out by throwing various examples from pre-Christian Europe. The desire to have control on fertile land, and assets built around it, proved to be triggers for mass conversions, he says.
Further, in less fertile lands, while there was not a pressing incentive to control assets via mass conversions, the trigger proved to be the fact that conversions to Abrahamic faiths provided for soldiers who were primarily willing to die for the faith rather than for money. Hence for the rulers, raising and keeping an army of converted people was cheaper than earlier, Abhijit argues.
When it comes to India, Abhijit argues that both of these factors were not overwhelming. Firstly, only the elite military classes came with invasions, they did not bring their people or livestock in mass migrations, and thus there was no pressing need to control the local assets, which were around temples. Extracting taxes from local population – both by Islamic rulers, in shape of jaziya, as well as later by British rulers, as lagaan, etc. – was deemed a better option for the rulers than converting the masses and thus being forced to spend on their welfare. Furthermore, both the rulers – Islamic as well as British – didn’t feel the need to maintain a huge and ever-growing army as well, which would have been the reason to convert the entire population into their faith. Essentially, in India, there was no huge incentive either for the subjects or for the rulers to mass convert the local population.
However, this has changed post-1947, Abhijit says, where there is huge incentive for conversions to Christianity – because the secular constitution of India allowed only minorities to run schools and colleges freely as per their will – while Muslims feel the need to keep and raise an army (figuratively) for themselves as they are always ‘dara hua’ and secular politics has kept them in that mode for decades now. Thus the triggers for mass conversions today are far more active and relevant than earlier.
Abhijit says that the government nationalizing the temples, around which assets and an economic ecosystem of Hindus flourished earlier, removed the Hindu ability to provide or find a systemic response to these challenges. Thus what didn’t happen pre-independence and even during the medieval times is actually happening post-independence. Not only the threats are more pronounced, but the ability to push back has also been weakened, and that is why Abhijit doesn’t believe that Hinduism will survive for long.
“You will have nowhere to go,” Abhijit tells a person who asked him which country can provide safe refuge to Hindus when Hindus become a minority and start getting mass persecuted in India if his doomsday prediction comes true.
(this article paraphrases and summarizes Abhijit’s arguments, it’s not written by him. He can be found on Twitter @Iyervval)