Ag­gres­sion­ism and vic­ti­mol­ogy: New threats to Hindu unity

DNA (Daily News & Analysis) Mumbai Edition - - FRONT PAGE - SOFT POWER MAKARAND R PARANJAPE Vol 14 Is­sue No. 74

hereby un-hindu you!” When an erst­while fel­low­trav­eller said that to me re­cently, I was slightly taken aback. I knew I could be un­friended on Face­book or un­fol­lowed on Twit­ter, but I did not know I could be “unhin­dued.” Un­for­tu­nately, that is ex­actly what a new species of fierce, bel­liger­ent, and ag­gres­sive me­dia trolls is do­ing — left, right and cen­tre!

What gives them the right to unhindu some­one? This is a puz­zle which will re­main un­solved. Un­less be­ing Hindu means to fol­low their dik­tat, fall in line when given march­ing or­ders, and at­tack when one of them raises a prim­i­tive club (which I won’t dig­nify by call­ing mace or gada) and screams “aakra­man!” And out comes a scream­ing, or should I say stream­ing, army of in­ter­net monsters, midgets, elves, gnomes, gob­lins, wid­gets, and other such quaint and an­noy­ing crea­tures, most of whom are not even real peo­ple, but paid mer­ce­nar­ies or bots.

Of course, I am be­ing satir­i­cal. To be vir­tu­ally com­pelled to spell this out is to fore­stall, if pos­si­ble, the afore­men­tioned so­cial me­dia war­riors, es­pe­cially those who barely know how to read, let alone write or ar­gue, sen­si­bly. With lit­tle else to rec­om­mend them other than their fierce in­ter­net masks, these cru­saders and self-ap­pointed vig­i­lantes strut about cy­ber-space bar­ing their fangs and claws to any­one who dares to ques­tion or com­ment on, let alone dis­agree with, their con­fused and ill-con­sid­ered po­si­tions.

Therein lies the prob­lem. How can they serve the “Hindu cause” when their own method­ol­ogy is so unhindu? They speak of dharma but want to im­pose their ideas on oth­ers, which is in it­self ad­harmic. They want only one in­ter­pre­ta­tion of a text, tra­di­tion, or po­lit­i­cal is­sue — their own. To this they want oth­ers to kow­tow or ad­here. They use some of the fol­low­ing means and mea­sures to en­force con­form­ity: de­lib­er­ate dis­tor­tion, false ac­cu­sa­tion, in­cor­rect in­fer­ence, miquo­ta­tion, mis­at­tri­bu­tion, per­sonal slan­der, ad hominem at­tacks, false com­par­isons and analo­gies, threats, whataboutry.

These ten are just some of the tricks, strategies, and fal­la­cies that they rou­tinely de­ploy against in­con­ve­nient in­ter­locuters. I am afraid those who unhindu oth­ers prob­a­bly don’t re­alise that they unhin­du­ing them­selves first. There is a prior ar­gu­ment of how Hin­dus by im­i­tat­ing Abra­hamic ex­clu­siv­ity lose their essence. Plu­ral­ism, in­ter­ro­ga­tion, in­tro­spec­tion, self-en­quiry, di­a­logue, de­bate, and diver­sity of opin­ion — the day Hin­dus turn their back to these defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics they set them­selves up to turn unhindu. Af­ter that no mat­ter how loudly they in­sist that they are right and oth­ers wrong, will they cease to “unhindu?” In fact, they them­selves would need re-en­try into Sanatanism, like Shud­dhi and Ghar­wapsi, by giv­ing up their ex­clu­sive claim to truth. This is slightly dif­fer­ent from be­ing the mir­ror im­age of whom you op­pose as by turn­ing your­self into a Semiti­cised Hindu. Ac­tu­ally, it is worse, be­cause you have not only be­come like your op­po­nent, but you have be­come unlike your true self.

Apart from these log­i­cal and the­o­log­i­cal is­sues, the big­ger prob­lem with mid­dle-class rad­i­cal Hin­dus is that they have be­come ex­actly what their op­po­nents had warned. Their in­tol­er­ance, au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism, and self-right­eous ag­gres­sion make them ex­tremely an­noy­ing and un­pleas­ant. You wouldn’t want to in­vite the likes of these to your home or your din­ner ta­ble. The lumpen el­e­ments on any side of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum are dan­ger­ous and vi­o­lent, but you don’t come across them in your daily life. These “in­ter­net rad­i­cals,” on the other hand, could be your own neigh­bours, friends, and col­leagues who as­sume an ugly and ter­ri­fy­ing on­line avatar, un­leash­ing some dark and dan­ger­ous re­cesses of their soul through venomous at­tacks on their per­ceived op­po­nents.

No doubt, there is a sphere and scope of ag­gres­sion in our lives, but it best be­longs in real bat­tle­fields, whether mil­i­tary or civil­ian. Or in sport where reg­u­lated ag­gres­sion finds a use­ful, at times en­ter­tain­ing, out­let. Refined and sub­li­mated ag­gres­sion can be por­trayed in works of art as roudra rasa, which also el­e­vates and cleanses the spec­ta­tors’ spir­its. But mak­ing so­cial ag­gres­sion, es­pe­cially its dig­i­tal and cy­ber va­ri­eties, not only ac­cept­able but at­trac­tive is a grave er­ror. This does not make for a good so­ci­ety. In­deed, ag­gres­sion should never be made fash­ion­able. It must re­main unattrac­tive, re­pul­sive, and dis­taste­ful in any de­cent cul­ture.

Those who wish to work for Hindu unity should es­chew need­less ag­gres­sion as ut­terly coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. Un­less, ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary to counter an even greater threat, such crude and ca­sual ag­gres­sion is against Sanatana Dharma it­self. Thank­fully, Sanatana Dharma has never been safer in the land of its birth in the last 1,000 years than it is now. That is why nar­ra­tives of vic­ti­mol­ogy do not suit con­tem­po­rary Hin­dus ei­ther. The sooner our “unhindu” zealots recog­nise it, the bet­ter for all of us — and for Hindu unity.

The au­thor is Di­rec­tor, In­dian In­sti­tute of Ad­vanced Study, Shimla. Views ex­pressed are

per­sonal.

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