Aggressionism and victimology: New threats to Hindu unity
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