Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Is UPA Government anti-Hindu?

Anuradha Dutt

At a time, when the term secular in India seems largely to be equated with Hindu-baiting, much disquiet is being generated by some events that appear in the nature of an assault on the Sanatan Dharma. Whether by design or coincidence, after the ascent to power of the Congress-led UPA Government at the Centre, and the party in states like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, there has been an increase in Christian missionary activities in the south. Synchronous with this development is the offensive against the Kanchi peeth and its custodians, the senior and junior Shankaracharyas and their aides. These events, along with the revival of the Ayodhya demolition case against BJP President LK Advani and the UC Banerjee report on the Godhra disaster, fosters the impression that the present regime is anti-Hindu.

If its predecessor was seen by many to be selectively pursuing a communal agenda for political ends, the UPA Government has recoursed to the old game of majority bashing. Much to the dismay of their detractors, Hindus still comprise 80.5 per cent of the population, as per the 2001 census. Their numbers then totaled 827.5 million. Muslims, at 138.2 million, comprised 13.4 per cent, the second largest group but minuscule when compared to the majority community. The 24 million Christians were placed third, at 2.3 per cent. Sikhs, at 1.9 per cent, numbered 19 million. In view of this data, the civilisational ethos of the country remains overwhelmingly Hindu, despite most of the northeast and many tribals becoming Christian.

Yet, there is good reason to believe that there is no one at the helm to take care of the interests of Hindus, or feel their pain when their beliefs or gurus are assailed. The two top positions in the Indian state - those of President and Prime Minister - are currently occupied by non-Hindus. The UPA chairperson's religious affiliation remains ambiguous, since Ms Sonia Gandhi was born a Roman Catholic and presumably nurtures sentiments for her natal faith. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy being Christian, he could not have been expected to rush to the Shankaracharya, Sri Jayendra Saraswati's aid when the Tamil Nadu police arrested him in his state.

The Centre's communist allies have made a career out of zealously guarding minority interests, however recondite, while its Bihari socialist component, the RJD, survives on Muslim-OBC support. They both thrive on populism, that challenges the status quo. The disturbing conclusion is that the ruling coalition's policies are subversive in the context of the dominant ethos.

Two events, in particular, fuel suspicion of a hidden design to alter India's religious and cultural identity. The first is the rapid descent of Christian missionaries in tsunami-hit areas in the south, and their shameful attempts to trade charity for conversions among the victims of the natural disaster. A January 24 report of Rediff on the Net is edifying. The writer, at the site of temporary shelters, built for tsunami victims in Pattancherry village in Nagapattinam, witnessed "a minor scuffle in a corner" between some inmates and a Christian priest and two nuns. The former were resisting the missionaries' attempts to convert them. Eventually, the three were forced to leave the place.

Elsewhere, said the reporter, the locals complained to the police that a missionary group had taken away their belongings and the relief they had got from NGOs and the Government, which they had kept inside the temple. There was immense anger over the effort to capitalise on their misfortune. At Karakkalmedu village in Karaikkal, for instance, the fact that they had survived the disaster had led to a resurgence of faith in local Hindus. Their faith in their goddess was stronger than before.

The second such episode concerns the American evangelist Benny Hinn's healing mission in Bangalore, that saw Chief Minister Dharam Singh gracing the event with his presence. Either the Chief Minister was in need of the preacher's intercession himself, or had been instructed to attend the jamboree. There could be no other reason for Karnataka's political supremo to take time out of his busy schedule to give his seal of approval to an exercise, aimed against Hindu idolatry. Why the evangelist was allowed the freedom to launch such an attack begs an answer. It was left to the media to highlight his excesses and force his hasty exit from the country.

As its indifference, if not hostility, to the majority community's feelings becomes evident, the Congress and its allies may soon have to brave Hindu anger.

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