Individual freedom is central to Hindu ethos
Hinduness is dialectical, but imperial desire does not come naturally to the Hindu.
Going by his recent statements to the media, it appears that Shashi Tharoor has not taken the trouble to understand Hindutva or Hinduism. He calls the latter “an inclusive faith”. Inclusive, according to the Oxford Dictionary means “not excluding any section of society or any party”. Hindutva, which means Hinduness, as an expression, began to be used first by Raj Narain Bose, the maternal grandfather of Sri Aurobindo, reportedly in 1863. But this should not lead anyone to believe that it is so recent a concept. Its seed was sown 3,400 years ago by Sri Krishna, who dreamt of a united India and who sent his message as far as the present day Waziristan in the north, Manipur in the east and Tamil Nadu in the south. The basic inspiration behind it was that the whole of India, despite its diversity, was es- sentially one. Hindutva is often referred to as cultural nationalism to distinguish it from any religious implications. The central thrust of this concept is national unity.
There is, as yet, no accepted method of converting a Muslim, Christian or a Jew to Hinduism. It was only in the 19th century that Swami Dayanand Saraswati revived the “shuddhi movement” whereby anyone, who or whose forefather was a Hindu but had got converted, could be brought back to his original faith—which is lately referred to as ghar wapsi. Many an obstacle was placed in the path of shuddhi so that it would not succeed. For example, Swami Dayanand’s distinguished successor Swami Shraddhanand was stabbed to death in his sickbed by one Abdul Rashid in 1927. Gandhiji described Rashid, after his crime, as “my brother”. Dr Asaf Ali, a dedicated Congressman and a friend of Jawaharlal Nehru, was deputed to defend Rashid in court. Nevertheless, Rashid was condemned to death by hanging. Tharoor’s claim of Hindu faith being inclusive could be taken into consideration if he were to mean that Hindutva is dialectical, because even state policies can be drawn from its core, rather like yarn and cloth from a sliver of cotton. That is how very recently this writer and his colleague were able to produce a book on “Krishna Rajya”.
The Hindu ethos considers the individual as supremely important. Society and the state exist for the individual. Two of the three well known Hindu paths for the pursuit of mukti or salvation, namely the bhakti and the jnana yogas, bypass society. For, one can be pursued through devotion or worship, with or without a temple; whereas the other can be practised by thought and meditation within or without an ashram. Karma yoga is the only path which must transit through society. Hinduism does not need a comprehensive code or message, or, for that matter, an authoritative scripture, neither book nor manifesto.
Self actualisation (self improvement or fulfilment), rather than social performance, is the central theme of Hinduism. The individual is free not only to pursue his own goal, but also to cultivate any of his own aptitudes and in order to fulfil himself he may compete with his fellow beings or he may not. Neither comparison nor competition is induced by his faith. In other words, he does not have to run the rat race of success. He can easily make happiness his goal through self-fulfilment, as distinct from success.
Conceptually then, the average Hindu has little or limited interest in superintending or controlling his community or, for that matter, anyone else’s. This explains why Hinduism has never had, unlike Christianity, a network or hierarchy of priests. Priests, or pujaris are usually confined to the individual temple. Nor is there any mode or method of inducing others to become Hindus. The question of Hinduism controlling the state or government can never, therefore, arise. The question of conquering and colonising the territory of others is irrelevant. Imperial ambitions do not come naturally to the Hindu.
The Hindu inclination is to leave people alone. This preference for non-interference discourages any tendency in the Hindu towards autocracy or dictatorship. To that extent, the average Hindu is amenable to democracy. He is ready to concede the freedom of others to have a say in their affairs. It follows that he disapproves of intervention in his style of life. Nor does centralisation fit in with the Hindu psyche.
The Hindu’s preference for non-violence, however, is rooted in the belief that every living being carries a part, however minute, of the parmatma. The theory of samsara or transmigration only reinforces the Hindu reluctance to hurt or to kill. Carried to its logical conclusion, the jeevatma of one’s departed parents or grand- parents could be residing in the body of any animal, bird or human being. This makes violence generally repugnant. The preference for a vegetarian diet is a corollary of this repugnance. True, the opposite of violence is more than just non-violence. It is tolerance or a ready acceptance of the rights of others to do their things in their own way. Violence results from intolerance of the ways of others. This explains why, in many ways, Hinduness and tolerance are synonymous.
Can state policies flow from this philosophy? The answer is yes, because Hinduness is dialectical. It has the potential to become a mainspring from which can flow policies appropriate with changing times. It has already been said that imperial desire does not come naturally to the Hindu. A country that does not have any desire to dominate another, can only have a foreign policy that is confined to the maintenance of cordial relations with other countries so that no country is easily provoked to attack. Its citizens across the world can then enjoy respect and protection and its international commerce would flow safely. Such a foreign policy needs a military backing designed essentially for defence, as distinct from offensive wars. The borders, the coastline and the skies over the country only have to be secured against aggression.
At home, the policy would lend itself to decentralised governance. Just as the indi- vidual is free to self actualise himself/herself, every little region of the country too should be allowed to fulfil itself. We have seen that one of the foundations of Hinduness is liberty. It follows naturally that it would favour decentralisation. Hindu worship has set the example by, more or less, each temple or muth being self-managed. It is seldom part of an ecclesiastical network or hierarchy of priests. Nor is there a prescribed or a common formula of prayer. The message of Hindutva is in favour of a federal structure as well as small states and small districts.
As all living beings are considered members of the Sanatani universe, it follows that the environment should be so protected as to enable all of them to flourish. The peepul tree as an object of worship is symbolic of this concern for the ecology. And in its turn is the basis of a policy for environment. The dialectics of Hinduness can lead one to a preference for a free market, as distinct from controls associated with either welfarism, socialism or communism. Control would militate against the faith in liberty. There is an implicit promise of liberty of each citizen to participate in the market freely. In other words, the duty of society, or its representative in the state, is to ensure that no citizen takes the law into his hands and disturbs the liberty of anyone else. To this extent, the state must take interest in the running of the economy. Ahead of the 2019 Parliamentary polls, the growing clamour for the construction of a temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya, clearly indicates that the RSS reposes more faith in Lord Ram than it has in the Bharatiya Janata Party. It is not without a reason that commencing from the Sarsanghchalak, Mohan Bhagwat, to the ordinary volunteer of the Sangh, the pitch is becoming shriller by the day. The sentiment is being echoed even by some BJP leaders, who have been making paradoxical declarations, by stating that the Mandir would be built within the framework of the Constitution, while demanding the settlement of the issue through an ordinance or an enactment of a law by Parliament.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath has taken it upon himself to spearhead the campaign and has with ready alacrity renamed Faizabad; it is now Ayodhya. On Deepavali he was in the city reiterating that the Ram temple always existed, notwithstanding its desecration by Muslim invaders, led by Babur, the first Mughal Emperor. He called upon all Indians to light a diya in the name of Lord Ram, quite overlooking the fact that the sacred festival of Diwali is celebrated to mark the Lord’s return to Ayodhya after vanquishing evil, represented by Ravan.
It is evident that the Sangh Parivar is under tremendous pressure from sadhus and sants, who were given the assurance before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and later again prior to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, that if elected to power, the BJP would fulfil its long-standing vow of constructing the Mandir. With four and a half years gone by and with the Parliamentary confrontation round the corner, the Sangh has once again decided to highlight the issue, which was mentioned as a footnote in the BJP’s 2014 poll manifesto, that spoke about good governance and development as its salient features.
There is no denying that since the BJP assumed power, a number of productive programmes have been put into action, yet in the Sangh’s estimation, the only plank that would furnish them a fighting chance in the forthcoming elections would be a Ram temple. In order to assist the BJP, it would work in whipping up emotional fervour amongst the Hindus and lead to the total polarisation of communities. The well-calculated demand coincides with the Maha Kumbh in Allahabad in early 2019 and thus the expectation is that the highly emotive quotient would clinch the polls for the Sangh Parivar.
The overall tenor and tone of Sangh representatives demanding the Ram temple is both intimidating and portrays political insecurity. In the assessment of the Sangh, it is obvious that “Brand Ram” would be far more alluring than any other marketing label and would possibly draw a wedge amongst opposition parties and their proposed unity to combat the BJP. This calculation, in a manner, is an open admission regarding the inability of the BJP, as a party, to influence the voters on account of their projected achievements and performance.
Adityanath certainly is in a dilemma when he talks about the construction of a mammoth statue of Lord Ram in Ayodhya in addition to the proposed Ram Mandir. Needless to say, most Indians would want that the Ram temple should be built in the city near river Saryu. Once the temple is in its place, it would decisively become a venerated destination for pilgrims from around the globe. However, the temple alone would not be sufficient to cater to the other practical needs of the citizens. For that to happen, the governments at the Centre and in the states would need to have viably workable schemes for the general masses.
The politics of statues would require the BJP state government to have an idol of Lord Ram which would have to be the tallest in the world, and definitely many scales higher than that of Sardar Patel, which was unveiled on 31 October, in memory of Independent India’s first Home Minister and an iconic freedom fighter. How this would be actualised, and how it would be funded, is a matter that lies in the domain of those who have been conceptualising the project.
Undoubtedly, the Ram temple in Ayodhya would appeal to the spiritual side of most Hindus. The vital bread and butter issues, besides other functional needs that concern us all, have to be simultaneously addressed to make the construction of Ram temple relevant and consequential. Recognising that Hindus revered Lord Ram as one of their most hallowed Gods, the Muslims in a goodwill gesture should concede to this belief. The only problem is that at this stage, the Supreme Court is seized of the case, and unless it delivers its verdict, there is nothing that can be done about it.
The threat of recreating a 1992 type frenzy by drumming up the Ram temple issue shortly before 6 December, when the disputed structure was razed to the ground by kar sevaks, is solely going to generate already heightened tensions. The Sangh Parivar is acting on the presumption that it alone represents the interests of all Hindus and everyone else is insignificant. At the same time, the Sangh visualises an akhand, robust and united India. In fact, the only method of strengthening the cohesiveness of the country is to shun the dangerous politics of communalism and casteism by respecting and upholding diversity. If this were to happen, it would be true Ram Rajya. Between us.