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.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

What is Indian identity?

By Shreeram Paranjpe

Recently I read a book titled, Who Are We? by Professor Samuel Huntington. He is famous for his internationally acclaimed book, Clash of Civilizations. I found the book quite absorbing and interesting. The book deals with the changes in American national identity.

American history is hardly four centuries old. It is the history of ‘settlers’ if not the ‘immigrants’. The ‘settlers’ defeated the original habitants, drove them out and completed what the author rightly called, ‘ethnic cleansing’! The ‘outsiders’ became ‘insiders’! Then they imported blacks, enslaved them, segregated them and treated them most shabbily. They practically banned the entry of Asians—because they were considered as belonging to the inferior races—till 1952. Yet the author claims that Anglo-Protestant religiosity to be the core culture of America!

Against this background India can be justly proud of its age-old culture, traditions, civilization and history dating back to at least a few thousand years! The pertinent question is, ‘What is the core culture or rather what is India’s true identity’? To me the core culture of India is its ‘Sanatana Dharma’! Let me hasten to add that here ‘Dharma’ is not to be confused with religion. It has much bigger, brighter and broader connotations. It does not reflect a particular faith nor does it imply a specific mode of worship. The Vedas, the Upanishadas, the two great epics-Ramayana and Mahabharata, the rich Sanskrit literature along with glorious literature in many Indian languages, its pristine classical dance, music and art are the wonderful heritage of India! India should take pride in its ‘Sanatana Dharma’ that is nothing if not highly philosophical and spiritual in nature. Its philosophy is an ever evolving, all-absorbing and all-inclusive one.

India can be justly proud of its age-old culture, traditions, civilization and history dating back to at least a few thousand years!

There were invaders before the arrival of Islamic hordes. But they were so thoroughly absorbed in the then Indian society that it is not possible to differentiate them from the India’s original stock! Islamic invaders were entirely different. They, plundered, looted and destroyed many Hindu temples. They forcibly converted many Hindus to their religion. This was against the indigenous Indian culture. Islamic ideology was truly ‘foreign’ and a devastating one. It left a destructive impact on the Indian psyche. The original ‘Varna’ system got converted to caste culture and the pernicious principle of ‘untouchability’ crept in and spread like wild fire. The Islamic invasion was followed by the European aggression. The imperial British people ruled over India for well over a century and a half and caused the greatest damage to Indian pride through the medium of education! Indians lost their self-confidence, developed contempt for their own culture and became mental slaves of their white masters! In the end, the masters were thrown out but not before they Partitioned India into theocratic Pakistan and ‘secular’ India!

The Congress leaders not only accepted the division on the basis that Islam constitutes a separate nation but also happily and selfishly acquired sham secularism. Their brand of ‘secularism’ was never just and fair for Hindus. It was heavily tilted in favour of minorities and more specifically Muslims. Anybody proud of Hindu (read Indian) heritage was dubbed as ‘communalist! Appeasement of minorities became the order of the day. India is ‘secular’ in the sense it is not theocratic like Pakistan. But then India was never a theocratic state! Hindu religious leaders never interfered in the worldly matters the way church did! Parsees came to India driven from their homeland Iran. They were offered shelter by the broad-minded Indians and were given full religious freedom! The Jews were never persecuted in India! If India has to progress rapidly then it has to get rid of spurious secularism and usher in its place the ancient Sanatana Dharma! If we all accept the Sanatana Dharma as India’s core culture and loyalty to India as our first and last duty, then India can look forward to peace and prosperity. But for that to happen, we have to bury the evil practice of untouchability. We have to overcome the caste barriers and unite under the wide and unique umbrella of Sanatana Dharma! The women should have equal rights and responsibilities. No one should be oppressed and all should behave as members of one big family!

Sanatana Dharma is not a static concept but on the contrary a dynamic one. It is an ever evolving, all embracing philosophy that brooks no discrimination on the basis of region, religion, gender, caste, colour, creed, etc. It upholds high moral values and assigns duties to all its citizens. It firmly believes in the principle: Ekam sat vipra bahuda vadanti, i.e. truth is one, the sages call it by many names. It reposes faith in the principle, Vasudaiv kutumbakam—the whole world is my family.

Finally, we have to make earnest efforts so that Sanatana Dharma regains its past glory. India is at the crossroads and the survival of its identity would depend on whether we retrace our steps or fall prey to spurious secularism!


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