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.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Hinduism resurgent

By M.V. Kamath

This author does not claim to know the Kannadiga mind or the politics of Karnataka in the last four decades, especially after the demise of his friend Shri Ramakrishna Hegde. It would therefore be presumptuous on my part to analyse the mindset of Kannadigas via-a-vis the Bharatiya Janata Party. Roughly speaking there are three identifiable mindsets: One, based entirely on caste; the second, the traditional mindset that is loyal to a particular party, whether it is the Indian National Congress or the Communist Party of India; the third, which was largely Congress-based in the past, but which, over the years, has been disillusioned with the pretentious ‘secularism’ of the party, and has changed its loyalties.

One presumes that the Kannadiga is a sophisticated coterie, and one suspects that it is this sophistication that has brought down the Congress in public eyes and pushed the BJP into power. By and large, the average Hindu is an accommodating individual, which is why the Congress had remained a force in the first three to four decades of Independence. But over the decades, Congress began to lose its sheen, in part because it had been in power for far too long and in part, one suspects, leadership had begun to slip. An alternate source of leadership had to be sought after. One obvious and recognisable source was caste.

Caste leadership was available under whatever party designation and many voters took shelter under it, as they did under JD(S), a strictly communal party which made a mockery of secularism. There was, under the circumstances, a genuine need for a third option. This is where the Bharatiya Janata Party came in the picture. In the first place, Congress “secularism” had seen its day. Increasingly it was seen as hypocritical, aiming to transform its supposed dedication to secularism primarily to capture the Muslim vote. Worse still, Congress was seen purposely to tilt too much towards Muslims at the cost of Hindu concerns. Let this be admitted: deep down in the Hindu psyche has been a certain resentment against Islam as being self-indulgent and non-caring of the sentiments of Hindus.

The BJP, under the circumstances was seen as one force capable of standing up to Muslim self-centredness, even as disillusionment with the Congress started growing apace. Rightly or wrongly secularism was judged as a dirty trick played at the cost of Hindus, with Muslims being the immediate beneficiaries and receivers of Congress government largesse. The reaction was predictable. The constant running down to Hinduism, as if it is a reactionary, ritualistic and unaccommodating religion must also have stirred anger against the Congress. Hindu Kannadigas—like Hindus almost anywhere—are generally a long-suffering lot, accustomed to be derided whether by Islamic rulers or Christian missionaries. But constant and irritating stress on secularism at the cost of Hindu sensitivity must have won the day. This was reflected in the desperate Shiv Sena cry: garve se kaho hum Hindu hai (say with pride that we are Hindus) which must have struck a chord in many Hindu hearts, no matter how much they hated the Shiv Sena. An awakening of Hindus has apparently come about; if there was no BJP, one suspects, the nation would have had to invent one.

An awakened Hindu society, sick of being constantly derided, must have finally decided that enough is enough. That could be one explanation. As a matter of fact there is a growing feeling among Hindus of their place in the world and the need to have pride in their religion. The Bharatiya Janata Party, in the circumstances, has proved to be an outlet for long-felt years of emotional frustration. Hindu pride in Hinduism had long been suppressed as pride was equated with the much despised word communalism. The suppression of any deeply felt feeling created a revulsion and resentment; resentment in turn leads to frustration and in the end frustration results in rebellion. One has just noticed this in Jammu. That is another reason, one believes, for the success of the BJP in the elections held recently in Karnataka. The very word ‘secularism’ invites wrath and disgust. Deve Gowda probably would have received more support from the public—this is just a guess—if he had named the party he led plainly as Janata Dal (Gowda). His party, of course, lost not because it claimed to be secular but because Kannadigas must have felt that he must be the most unprincipled leader in the history of the state. He deserved to be thrown out. There is nothing wrong in being honest.

After all there was a time when we had the Indira Congress INC(I). Indira Gandhi did not call her party India National Congress (Secular). Presently the word ‘secular’ stinks to high heavens as an expression of hypocrisy and double standards. What is also happening, without many being aware of it, is a national Hindu renaissance, the like of which had never happened since the nation won Independence. In the first place, Jawaharlala Nehru, an agnostic if there was one, had beguiled Hindus into believing that secularism is the right approach in the immediate post-Partition years.

Nobody had any quarrel with that. If we insisted that we were Hindus, it would only have strengthened MA Jinnah’s two-nation theory. But those days are over. We have accepted Pakistan; besides, nobody—not even the BJP—wants India to be anything but ‘secular’ in the truest sense of the word. It only does not accept denigration of Hinduism as had become common among Hindu ‘intellectuals’ who were prone to decry Hinduism as superstition-bound, reactionary and a relic of the past. Among our ‘pseudo’ intellectuals it was fashionable to be anti-Hindu. Perceptions are slowly changing. One notices greater pride among young Hindus who are no longer ashamed to admit that they visit temples, say their morning prayers and observe rituals. In all, the BJP must have become the beneficiary. This assessment needs to be checked out; this columnist does not make claims to sarvajna-ship. May be there are other sound reasons for the growing success of the BJP. Any reader is welcome to challenge the postulates herein expressed. What is clear is that there has been a noticeable change in the mindset of the average Kannadiga which calls for analysis. This is one such effort.

(The writer is a highly respected columnist, author and former editor of Illustrated Weekly and chairman, Prasar Bharati Board.)

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