Since the Gujarat riots, it looks as if a battle between two radically different Indias is happening right now, under our own eyes; and the outcome of this battle will decide what kind of India we will have in the 21st century. India’s human rights groups, many of India’s finest intellectuals, the communists, the Congress, many politicians – in fact a major chunk of India’s elite population – assert in the strongest terms that on one side you find an India which is communal, mistreats, or even kills minorities;tries to impose its majority feelings and way of life on the others and is generally attempting to create a Hindu state; on the other, they continue, you have the secular and democratic forces of this country, the journalists, activists, catholic priests, Muslim liberals, who truly believe that circumstances have come to such a boil after the Ayodhya episode and the Gujarat massacre, that India has to be saved from Hindu fundamentalists for its own good.
This is on the surface, because history shows us that what appears as truthful, is often false and misleading and what popular opinion holds as false is time and again the truth, which is attacked by dark forces by decrying it, denying it, or belittling it. Thus, if you examine closely the theory of the good secular Muslim/ Christian/Marxist, versus the bad/dangerous/ fundamentalist Hindu, you are bound to come-up against several deep contradictions. First, historically, Hindus have been the least fundamentalist people in the world: Never trying to impose their creed upon others by the power of the sword, like Christianity or Islam, or even by the non-violent means of preaching, like Buddhism. Hinduism has also proved over the ages its infinite tolerance towards other religions, giving refuge to all persecuted minorities in the world, whether Parsis, Syrian Christians, Jews, or Tibetans today.
Second, Hindus have been particularly targeted in the last 15 centuries: Louis Frederick, one of France’s most respected, balanced and respected historian, called the Muslim invasions of India “cataclysmic”. Indeed, these invasions have left a deep scar of fear in the Hindu psyche and most of India’s modern problems – Ayodhya, Kashmir, or the dangerous enmity with Pakistan – are a left-over from these murderous assaults on Hinduism.
Moreover, Hindus in India are not only an object of mistrust and contempt from many, but they are also chased from their own ancestral lands. There were one million of them in Kashmir in 1900, and 300,000 in 1947 – but only a few hundred today. Hindus have become refugees in their own land. In Assam, Tripura, or Nagaland, Hindus are being outnumbered by Bangladeshi illegal immigrants and terrorised by pro-Christian separatist groups, such as the Bodos or the Mizos, while local governments often turn a blind eye. Hindus are killed and raped in Bangladesh, were persecuted under the Taliban and are treated as second class in Pakistan.
It is true that the secular voices in India are often sincere, talented people who really want to preserve their country against the forces of communalism. One cannot fault a Shabana Azmi, an Arundhati Roy, a Medha Patkar, or eminent journalists like Dilip Padgaonkar with frivolity. These are people who are already famous or rich enough not to have to hog the limelight. They believe that they are putting their fame, or their pen, at the service of true secularism. But then, they have to ask themselves the question how it is that they have the freedom to criticize and to write whatever they please. In China, a country which many of them admire, they would already be in jail or thrown out of the country; in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, they might even get killed. It is time that India’s intellectual elite realised how much they owe to Hinduism, both in terms of the ethos of tolerance in this country, its immense culture, and its spirituality.
It is also true that one has witnessed in the past few months a sudden hardening of the secular forces against Hinduism. Not only in India, but abroad; not only with Indian journalists, but also amongst the Western correspondents. In France, for example, all the major newspapers have carried again and again particularly nasty stories against Hindus. Recently, one of the leading French newspapers asked General Musharraf this pointed question: “Why does the world protest against the killings of the Palestinians by the Israelis, but stays silent when thousands of Muslims are killed in India?” And this gave Musharraf his golden cue: “It is not only Muslims who are targeted in India he answered, but also Sikhs and Christians…India pretends to be the biggest democracy in the world, but it is only a bluff…”
Why this sudden hardening against what the secular forces like to call “Hindu fundamentalism”? Throughout their history, Hindus have had numerous enemies: Arabs, British, Portuguese, and today Marxists, Muslims and Christians seem to have united against the common enemy. All of them, today and yesterday, felt that Hinduism was the only stumbling block to a wholly Islamised India, or a wholly Christianised India, or a wholly Marxist India.
And indeed they were right: It is because of Hinduism that for seven centuries India endured bloody after bloody invasions and still remained Hindu in its majority; it is because of Hinduism that India was never fully Christianised, as so many countries colonised by the British, the Portuguese or the French were; it is because of Hindus that Marx could never get a real foothold throughout India: It is because of Hindus that westernisation, the civilisation of Coca Cola, MTV and MacDonald, is having a tougher time in India than it has had elsewhere in Asia or the developing world.
And, ultimately, India has to decide: Does it want to lose its soul at the hands of the secularists and become a country like dozens of others in the developing world: Westernised, globalised, christianised, standardised? Or does it want to remain unique, special, different, with a remarkable culture which has survived centuries of invasions and colonisation? It is thanks to this uniqueness that a Hindu is different from anybody in the world, or even that an Indian Muslim is different from a Saudi Muslim, or an Indian Christian different from a European Christian. Yes, there is truly a battle between two Indias at the moment; but it is not the secular versus the communal, or the good Muslim versus the fanatical Hindu. It is a battle between a spiritualised India and de-spiritualised, devitalised, dehumanised India.
The truth is: If India loses its dharma at the hands of India’s enemies, there will disappear the only real spirituality left in the world. Once upon a time, true spirituality, which is the antithesis of religion, roamed the wide world: From Egypt to Mesopotamia, from China, to Greece. But today, the world is peopled by intolerant religions that still decree that their God is the only true one. Christianity is willing to put up millions of dollars of “charity ” money to convert thousands of innocent tribals in the North-East of India, thereby cutting them from their roots and culture; Islam has men and women, who in good faith (look at the beautiful and innocent faces of some of the Palestinian women suicide bombers) are willing to kill and get killed to impose Allah’s ways on an erring world. If we continue in this manner, we are going towards self-destruction, pralaya. I can only finish by quoting what the Mother of Pondicherry once said: “India must be saved for the good of the world, since India alone can lead the world to peace and a new world order.”