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.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Religions Demography - Remedies and Ramifications


India is passing through a very delicate, dangerous and tricky situation. It has to be handled with subtlety, skill and intelligent planning. Emotional outbursts and violent confrontations are not only unhelpful, but will be even counterproductive. It has to be realized that the forces which are ranged against us are adept in the art of manipulation and have international roots and resources.

I was present here for the most part of the deliberations and it is an amazing effort by the Center for Policy Studies to have presented to us all today what is, thoroughly, an intellectual document. It was not merely an intellectual exercise though; it was a courageous exercise. Because in India, you can be an intellectual without being courageous. And most intellectuals in India lack the courage to speak the truth. Had we acquired that all-important virtue of speaking the truth courageously, maybe the course of this country would have been different and we need not have been forced to handle the kind of situation we are handling today.

I am extremely thankful to the organizers of this seminar for having got up an audience of the kind that has assembled here. There are thinkers here, activists are here and there are also stake-holders present here today. I am very happy that Mufti sahib is here with his friends. It is therefore an audience which matters and I am happy to be able to place my thoughts before this audience which is so worthy. And I hope my presentation is worthy of you all. The four important and startling facts emerging from this study of the Center for Policy Studies are the following:

First, the Indian religions are contracting in India and in the Indian Union. The fall in their representative proportion to the other religions is 11% in about a hundred years. This is a fairly significant and an extraordinary number.

Second, it is contracting not just generally but in certain defined areas. This is a matter of concern.

Third, it is contracting more critically in border areas, giving rise to national security concerns. Considering our history -immediate and intermediate history, the altering demography of border areas does cause grave concern.

Four, and even more critical is their last finding that there is a corridor of districts and regions emerging, with serious demographic changes, a corridor connecting Pakistan to Bangladesh via Nepal and China.

This corridor connects what was considered un-connectable. A Muslim corridor. When we use the word ‘Muslim’ it does not construe a particular segment of the Indian population. We are using it in the sense that it makes for a soft spot in India which is easily exploitable. The Muslims of India are not the problem but they can be made into the problem. And this we know considering the history of this country in the last few centuries and its aftermath, which we are handling today. And so this is a difficult exercise, intellectually and also in terms of what the State of India, the polity of India and the people ought to be doing.

Fortunately in India we never had an idea of religious demography. Because religion as understood in India was never in the sense it is understood outside India. There was no religion outside India which could accept another religion as true as itself. So when the Parsee came to India we accepted him. His method of worship was as great, as sacred, as proper and as correct as our own. We accepted his way of worship even if we did not adopt or follow it. The Muslims too came to India – the Shias landed in Gujarat, persecuted, raped, and butchered. We welcomed them. The Jews landed everywhere along the western coast – another persecuted people. One of the oldest synagogues is in Kerala. They all came here, persecuted elsewhere but they felt safe in India because we never saw them as being different from us just because they worshipped different Gods or because their methods of worship were different from our own.

Treating the ‘atithi’ as God was ingrained in every Indian; even in him who may not even be able to chant ‘atithi devo bhava’. They did not know the Veda but they practiced it. So this country defined religion in such a way that no religion was different from the religion of the person perceiving it. So there was no religious demography in the Indian consciousness. And this greatness itself became India’s greatest weakness. When religions which would not accept other religions, religions which looked upon other religions with hate, which had ingredients of hatred woven into their theology and practise, when they came to India, they came with religious demographic consciousness constituting a large part of their theology. This is important. There is a theological element to religious demography, both with Christianity and Islam. We as a country have to handle this. The Muslims have to handle this, the Hindus have to handle this because we are living with them.

So a study of religious demography will be incomplete without a study of the theology of Islam and Christianity. The theology of these two religions deals basically with the expansion of the religious demography of these religions. Expanding the base of their religious demography is a part of their religion and it is explicit, absolutely without any ambiguity in Christianity. In Christianity in fact, unless the last man living on earth becomes a Christian, the Kingdom of God cannot be established on earth. The Encyclopedia of Britannica states that Columbus set sail from Portugal with a view to finding the shortest route to India. Why? Because in his mind, Satan has taken refuge in India in the form of Hinduism and this was delaying the Second Coming of Christ and Christ would come again on earth only when the entire globe had been converted to the Christian faith. Columbus wanted to find the shortest route to India so that all these pagan Satan worshippers may be converted at the earliest to the true faith, that is Christianity. And so that the country may be converted to a Christian State. This is attested to by the Encyclopedia Britannica.

The reason I mention this is because here, religious demography and the religion itself are not different from each other. The same would be very substantially true of Islam too except that Islam did not have an organization to carry out the agenda. In a sense Islam has been and continues to be, fortunately, a highly unorganized religion. Contrary to the popular opinion of Hindus about the Muslims, the Muslims are not an organized community. They are organized under one God. In fact there are more clashes among the Muslims within an Islamic country than between that country and other nations. So Islam presents itself falsely, I must say, to others. Nevertheless, there is still a definite relationship between Muslim demography and the Islamic religion. This is unknown to the Hindu religion. For example, if you take the Hindu tradition, let us assume one king conquers another king. He wages a war and conquers and captures another State, do you know what is the responsibility of the conquering king? He must first offer worship at the temple of the defeated king. Our Dharmashastras say that even if he does not worship the God of the defeated king, he must nevertheless respect the customs and traditions of the defeated king and his people, of the country that he has conquered, and he must therefore offer worship at the temple of the defeated king. Not that alone, he must offer to re-appoint the defeated king as king once again. If he refuses, the conquering king must accept the responsibility of anointing that man as king who will protect the Dharma, customs and traditions of that place. He cannot appoint his son-in Law or son or nephew as king.

This was the tradition. And to create a consciousness of religious demography in this society was and is an impossibility. If India has thrown open her borders to outsiders, and allowed religious demographic incursions of her interiors it was because she never knew the nature of religious demographic conquest or its implications. It is a traditional weakness, a traditional problem. It is not that the Hindus are afraid. It is that they were never called upon to handle such issues, such a concept, such a situation ever in their history. So when we study this issue we have to deal with two theologies which have religious demography woven into them. The issue is not Muslims or Christians of this country but their conduct towards Hindus which is directly influenced by their respective theologies. Whether Islamic theology can allow the Muslims to live with other religions, recognizing other religions to be equally true. Whether Christian theology can allow Christians of this country to live with Hindus and respect their religion as being as true as their own and therefore conversion to their ‘true faith’ is rendered unnecessary? There was a time when people of these faiths living in separate parts of their globe could hold their religions to be superior to the others and the best. Today when peoples of different religions are compelled to live together in close contact within societies, this attitude cannot hold. This living together and re-evaluating their presumptions is therefore a challenge to Islam, to Christianity.

In this situation, the Christians are better placed to deal with this challenge because they have the Church, an institution where this can be debated. This challenge can be met institutionally. In 1965, the Second Vatican Council, an international gathering of Catholics, came to this conclusion, that Christianity is a great religion, but there are also other religions which are also great. They may not be as great as the Catholic faith, but there are ‘elements of truth’ in even those religions. This was progress from labeling all other religions as ‘false’ or ‘Satan worship’. But unfortunately, Islam does not have this institutional mechanism to debate, to introspect. Therefore the challenge to Islam, is even greater and more difficult in a sense. And this problem is not merely theoretical, it is a practical problem for Islamic scholars, clerics and the ordinary Muslims who have to live with other religions in their everyday life. In India, Islam is living as a part of the body politic of this country. And its living has been made more difficult by the creation and existence of Pakistan and Bangladesh. So the Muslim thinkers of India have to apply their minds intensely, they have to start the process of acute introspection. But first they must refuse the false security provided to them by self-serving politicians and the intellectual class which survives on Hindu-Muslim animosity, in the name of secularism. They are merely converting you to so much ballot papers. It is a serious issue and whether the Muslim leadership and the Christian leadership will have the courage to confront this problem remains to be seen. This problem is so big that it cannot be just handed over to politicians and the pseudo-secularists.

Today we need intellectualism which will have the courage to defy popular disapproval. Unless thinkers defy the need for popular approval, they cannot speak the truth. And this is the challenge, as I see it. There is a fundamental difference between Hinduism and the Semitic faiths. Islam and Christianity grew basically in a climate of conflict and combat – theologically and historically. They are combative, conflicting religions. And history forced them into greater and greater conflicts. Why was ‘jihad’ conceived of by Prophet Muhammad, we do not know. But this much we do know. What we do know is that it was turned into an instrument, a weapon to fight other religions, people belonging to other religions. And world history proves this. History has shaped ‘jihad’ into a weapon against other religions. Whether the great Prophet intended it that way is not a question that can be resolved by dialogue. The fact remains ‘jihad’ remains a war of the Islamic faith against non-Islamic faiths. And please don’t think that this view is held by some extremists. In India, a very highly respected Muslim scholar, named Bedar, working in the Khuda Bhaksh library in Patna, said, that Hindus are not kafirs and that jihad is not a war against Hindus. A similar trend in the thinking of other Muslim leaders would have changed the course of the Hindu-Muslim discourse in India. But a fatwa was issued against him and he had to apologise for having made these statements. So please also don’t think Islamic extremism comes just from outside – from Saudi, Afghanistan or Pakistan. Extremism is here. It is very much a part of the body politic in India. It is approved of and legitimised by secularism. In fact, approving extremism in Islam is secularism.

Look at history and look at the distortions, the convoluted arguments and the cerebral paralysis which have been legitimised in the name of secularism in this country. Mufti Sahib is completely right when he regrets the fact that even after 50 years of independence we have to communicate with each other in English. But the problem is the English-educated intellectual class in India. They will refuse to interact with us if you talk to them in Hindi. Many of them may not even understand Hindi. It is this section of the intellectual class which is afflicted by cerebral paralysis. I therefore think English is a useful tool to handle this segment of intellectuals, and to handle this problem. The demographic agenda of these exclusive faiths poses the biggest challenge yet to inclusive faiths like Hinduism. My only fear is the inclusive Hinduism may be acquiring the exclusive traits of the Semitic faiths to fight this war. And if the intolerance of these Semitic faiths continues in India then there is every likelihood that Hinduism too may get semiticised in about 30 to 40 years from now. And this will pose a much greater danger. So the only living example of a religion which accepts all other religions as equally sacred will soon give way to something else and this inclusive faith will become history. It will be in the past tense. If Christianity and Islam need to be reformed in a manner to make them live with other religions, then you need a benchmark. You need an exemplar religion. And that benchmark will soon disappear. You cannot approximate yourself with an example from the archives or the library. You need a living example.

The only living model in the world of a religion which accepts other religions as equal to itself, if that attitude disappears, if that mind disappears, if that lifestyle and that approach disappears, then that benchmark disappears too. Then what Huntington said about the clash of civilizations based on religious consciousness will indeed become wholly true. So the issue is not something that pertains only to India. India has a global agenda in this regard. It has a global purpose. This society thought of the world when no one knew what the world was. No one knew ecology then, no one knew the environment, it thought of the universe. There is a great message that this religion, this country has for the world and therefore this benchmark should not be lost.

From the morning we have been listening to very informative talks on the havoc wreaked by religious demography and Dr.Bezbarua’s paper on the situation that has developed in Assam over the last decades is alarming. He was not speaking as an intellectual, he was speaking as a stake-holder, from experience. From the point of view of the experiences of a society, a people, a civilization who are being crowded out of their own land. There is really no difference between the Assamese and the Bengalis. The issue is the incursion that is taking place from across the borders, from Bangladesh into Assam, is a religious incursion. And this incursion is a demographic religious incursion, powered by a theological approach leading to separatism, secession, partition and bloodshed. If you look at recent history, whether East Timor as Radha Rajan explained in the morning, or the immediate history of Pakistan and Bangladesh or the 500 year-old history of what happened in America. Many do not know the terrible and tragic history of the natives of America. The number of native Americans killed by Christians is estimated to be around 200 million. In North America alone. Ten years ago the estimate was 140 million, today the numbers killed is placed at 200 million. You can see what religion, as a demographically expanding consciousness can do.

From the morning we have been hearing about the consequences of religions with a demographically expanding agenda. The consequences to societies, to States, to cultures, to peoples. When religions like Islam and Christianity are powered by religious demography it inevitable leads to religious cleansing. When I was told to speak this evening, I made a table of some figures, some statistics as preparation. I focused on the demographic profile of 47 Islamic nations. In ten nations, the Muslim population is 100%, in nine nations it is 99%, in 15 nations the Muslim population is between 90 and 98% and in another nine nations it is between 80 and 89%. In seven nations it is between 70 and 79%. This is how religious cleansing will take place if religious demographic expansion is powered by religious theology. It is a practical example and a challenge to Islamic scholars present here. Hence the apprehension that if what looks like a minority today becomes a majority, what happens to people of other faiths. Look at the historical evidence in this regard. If a nation does not think like this, it does not think of its future generations; if a man does not think like this, he does not think of his grandsons.

When an exclusive religion becomes the majority population, religious cleansing is a matter of routine, a matter of direct consequence. Why should we undertake a study of religious demography? Undiagnosed religious demographic changes is a tectonic change taking place deep under the surface. We are not conscious of it until the changes result in a cataclysmic explosion. Because we are not conscious of it, because we are unaware. And the Hindus are more unaware of these demographic changes than any other religious group because they have no conception of what such changes in religious demography can do to their society, to their nation. They are not aware because their concept of religion is civilizationally different from the understanding of religion by those that practice Islam and Christianity. And these changes in religious demography is like termites eating away at the wood or white ants slowly eating away the building. Therefore there is a need to sensitize the thinking sections of our country to this issue. The work that has begun now ought to have begun immediately after independence. Then Bezbarua ji would not have been forced to stand before us to tell us that he fears that one day, unchecked religious demographic changes in Assam will make it a part of a country we liberated barely thirty years ago.

Look at the North-East. When I was still in college, Gulzarilal Nanda was the Home Minister. There was statement made in Parliament then that there has been a sudden revolution in Nagaland and that the state has been taken over by militants. Until that day, it was religious freedom in democratic India. On that day this freedom led to religious demographic conquest. This is the consequence. So, if you look at the developments of the 1990s, it is unfortunate that the West has been given a handle to demonise Islam. It is very unfortunate because the demon really is the west, the Americans today because they have laid waste an ancient civilization in Iraq. And all the reasons that they presented before the world as reasons to destroy that country have been proved to be false. The entire Islamic world is keeping quiet. But the Islamic world is attacking India! This is a peculiar situation for Islamic societies, nations and theology. But after 1990, in the last ten or twelve years there has been an enormous change in that there is a growing awareness of the phenomenon called religious demography and the consequences of these changes. And this is taking the shape of policy-making. In America today there is a clear and deliberate cleansing of America of Muslims. This is being done through immigration and visa policies, employment opportunities, indirect directives to firms to dispense with Muslim personnel. How long can a man live in America without a job? And so there is a gradual exodus from the US even of those Muslims who are already there. A very real cleansing is taking place. It is their method.

But Hindus will have to do something very different. We have to engage the Islamic scholars in a dialogue. We have to tell them, let us not set aside history, let us look at history honestly, let us talk about it, let us learn from history. The entire secular brigade want us to forget history, they do not want us to rake up past history. No, let us take history, let us discuss it, let us learn from it. And this would be the best way, the most honest way to handle the religious demography issue together. In conclusion, I will make two or three points. Religious demography, religious demographic balance is like ecological balance. Whenever there is ecological imbalance, whatever consequences visit upon a society, similar consequences, only more devastating, will follow religious demographic imbalance. So what shall be done? No matter what I say, the first three points will be merely theoretical.

The emerging religious demographic imbalance must be treated as a national issue. It must not be treated as a sectarian issue. It should not be handed over completely to politicians and secularists to handle although politicians have a very important role to play.

The Indian Muslims, and Muslim friends are here, must give up pan-Islamism. Pan-Islamism distorts. it is pan-Islamism which drives religious demographic expansion. Pan-Islamism must be given up totally because Indian Islam is different from all other Islam. This goal may be reached only in the next 20 or 25 years. The solution may have to wait until then.

There is a need for Islam and Christianity. At least in this country, to review their precepts and practices, in a manner to enable them to live with Hindus and other Indian religions. It calls for an introspection and you cannot ask for a more congenial society than the Hindu society to facilitate this introspection. This introspection is much needed and we will all have to pray that this happens.

And finally, governments and politicians will not allow any of this to happen. The initiative will have to be taken by a critical mass of people. And this group has to comprise all communities. And this effort can be undertaken not merely as a cosmetic exercise. It has to be a frank exchange of views. I must be able to ask Mufti sahib, “please tell me, do you consider me a kafir”? He must not only declare that not just me but no Hindu is a kafir and this he must be able to say from the Jumma Masjid, and be prepared to face the consequences.

This is the effect of introspection that we must hope to attain and the conviction arising out of this introspection. And this critical mass of people is required everywhere. Every Hindu and every Muslim must know and assert that we all came from the same stock as Mahesh Chandra ji pointed out just now. It will be easier to make the Hindus realise this because most Hindus know this anyway. But more effort will be needed to give the Muslims of this country this consciousness. This is the long-term solution. I am very happy that I was able to make this presentation before this eminent audience.

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