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, November 05, 2008

This nation is not an idea

This nation is not an idea
By Radha Rajan

A round the world, with the sole exception of India, countries use state power to deal with threats to national security. Until around the last quarter of the twentieth century, notwithstanding Islam’s vivisection of the Hindu nation in 1947, the world understood national security generally to mean only external threats to the nation by another country through what is referred to as ‘conventional warfare’—army, air-force and navy.

Even as methods of warfare ‘evolved’ as one of the definitive indices to being a ‘developed’ nation, acquiring more and more destructive powers and capabilities, the weapons of conventional warfare had to include scientifically advanced methods of decimating an entire populace through chemical and biological substances and nuclear weapons. The post-colonial era expanded the understanding of national security to account for internal insurgencies and separatist movements which were overtly and covertly encouraged by hostile states as war-by-other-means to attain foreign policy strategic objectives.

Before globalisation of the economy which the Third World perceived as neo-colonialism by another name, a significant chunk of the economy of the so-called developed world was export of arms and military hardware to countries which they had until recently colonised and occupied. These countries derived their international clout from the money they earned from weapons of war which they used to invest in pan-national organisations like the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organisation and Human Rights organisations as weapons for world domination in war-by-other-means. The stranglehold of the developed nations over these organisations is germane to the rise of nationalism around the world in defense against the West because the dominant powers of the world use these organisations variously to threaten governments dealing with internal threats to their nationhood and territory.

In Arthasastra, or the Hindu science of statecraft, rashtra or the nation is both territory of the nation with well-defined borders and the people inhabiting the territory. The primary responsibility of the rajya or the state is dharma sansthapana, establishing and protecting dharma which was not only paritrana or protecting and defending the territory and people, but also vinasa which entailed dealing resolutely with powers and agents that threatened the territory and/or the people.

Since the nation is both territory and people, national security demands that the state should protect not only the territory but also the sense of nationhood that binds the people. Former colonial powers learnt the fruitful lesson from India in 1947 that strategic interest objectives of controlling and conquering territory could be attained not only through conventional warfare which came at a price to themselves, but also from encouraging, funding, fuelling and fanning elements within the nation which could be used to threaten the nationhood and consequently the territory of a country. Every insurgent group, be it jehadis, Christian terrorists in East Timor, India’s North-East, the Maoists of Nepal and India, the LTTE, all possess sophisticated military hardware which can be traced to the legitimate arms industry of the developed nations, traveling a circuitous route which includes recycling the petrodollar, into the hands of groups threatening the nationhood of the countries in which they operate. The first success of war-by-other-means was in India.

The British Empire, by decimating the Hindu nationalist leadership, Tilak, Aurobindo and Savarkar between 1909 and1911, strategically created the space for Gandhi in the Indian National Congress. The rise of Gandhi signaled the beginning of the end of Hindu nationalism during the critically important period between 1910 and 1947. Gandhi saw for himself the destruction of African culture, the African tribal religions and the African economy by Christianity and Christian colonialism during his sojourn in South Africa. He saw the consequences of the change in the religious demography of the natives of Africa effected by the untrammeled license given to Christian missionaries by all colonial powers. He saw naked jehad against the Hindus during the Khilafat Movement, the Moplah Massacre and after Direct Action day in August 1946. And yet, Gandhi did little to strengthen the nation against both religions and their ultimate political objective of control and conquest of all territory because while Gandhi was a notional Hindu he did not think this nation was Hindu; consequently he was not a Hindu nationalist and ensured that the Indian National Congress did not represent Hindu national interests vis a vis a rapidly and dangerously ascendant Islam through the Muslim League.

It was but natural that there should be more Hindus on the Congress register than Muslims, as the Hindu population preponderated in India. But the Congress could not by any stretch of imagination be called a Hindu organisation. Its President Maulana Azad had occupied the Presidential chair for a longer period than any other in the Congress history. He was held in equal respect by all those who claim to be of the Congress. The Congress had constituted itself into a trustee, not of any particular community, but of India as a whole. In an organisation like that it always became the duty of the majority to make sacrifices for the minorities and backward sections, not in a spirit of patronising favour, but in a dignified manner and as a duty. In the eyes of the Congress, Hindus and Mussalmans, Parsis, Christians and Sikhs are all Indians and therefore equally entitled to its care. ( Speech At Prayer Meeting, , NEW DELHI, June 19, 1946, The Hindustan Times, 20-6-1946, and Harijan, 30-6-1946 CWMG Vol. 91, pp 174-75)

Gandhi pronounced that the territory of the nation belonged to all, without however insisting that they accept responsibility for nurturing and protecting the nationhood deriving from the majority populace. In the wake of attacks against Christian places of congregation in Orissa and Karnataka, the intellectually and ideologically bereft political leadership of the country is seeking refuge in Gandhi. They are quoting known passages from Gandhi’s opposition to the methods adopted by Christian missionaries. But they have not asked and neither have Hindu nationalists, why, if Gandhi was against the methods of Christian missionaries, were their wings not clipped and religious conversions not banned constitutionally in post-Independence India? As communal fires raged in India in 1946-47, foreign Christian missionaries began to warm their hands in the gentle glow. One of them, the Bishop of Calcutta approached Gandhi to find out what the position of Independent India would be with regard to religious conversion.

Dear Friend,
I fear that I have neglected your question for a long time. You know the reason why. Many of my activities, including important correspondence, are held up and must remain so for the time being. Meanwhile I pick up what comes uppermost for the moment. Such before me is your letter to Pyarelalji. Of course conversions will, so far as I know, continue under swaraj but there would be no State favouritism as there has been during the British regime. (Letter to Foss Westcott, Bishop of Calcutta and Metropolitan of India, Burma and Ceylon, 1919-45, Srirampur, Noakhali, November 29, 1946, CWMG Vol. 93, pp 76-77)

That the Bishop of Calcutta approached Gandhi to make a policy pronouncement on the issue for Independent India, thinking that he and Gandhi could both bypass the Constituent Assembly, is significant. From those times till now, the ordinary people of India who saw and experienced religious conversion threatening their homes, villages and localities, and who also saw that the state or polity did not come to their rescue, have dispensed with constitutionalism and always dealt with the missionary church and missionaries effectively. Gandhi’s India was no exception.

A correspondent from Jubbulpore describes the rowdyism exhibited by a section of the Hindus at a benefit performance in aid of the local convent school for girls. A Hindu friend actually organised the show. The actors in the little drama were all girls from the convent. Towards the end there was a scene in which an orphaned girl, tired of the world, was praying to God. Angels appeared and advised her to have faith in her Christ and the play ended with a hymn in praise of Jesus. This was the signal for pandemonium. The Hindus who created the disturbances raised a hue and cry against Christianity, the organiser who tried to speak was unable to make himself heard and money for the tickets was demanded back. The writer asks whether this scene could have taken place if the hymn sung had been in praise of Shri Krishna instead of Jesus. If what the correspondent says is true, the behaviour described was wholly unworthy. It betrayed extreme intolerance. Those who do not like things that do not coincide with their notions need not patronise them but it is ungentlemanly to behave like less than men when things are not to their taste. (Rowdyism Run Riot, CWMG Vol. 92, page 283)

State patronage for religious conversions was not necessary considering that the Indian Constitution provided minorities with the guarantee that the Bishop of Calcutta was seeking! The stranglehold that Shri Gandhi and Pundit Nehru exerted over the INC ensured that the Constituent Assembly, dominated by the INC was largely handpicked by Shri Gandhi and Pundit Nehru; that is, all members of the Constituent Assembly representing the INC were Gandhi-Nehru loyalists. The Indian Constitution therefore leaned precariously towards religious minorities, a legacy of the Motilal Nehru Report which not only undermined the nationhood of this Hindu nation but also provided constitutional guarantees to religious minorities to undermine it. It is not difficult to see the direction in which we are heading – Christianising and Islamising the Hindu nation like Africa, East Timor, the Philippines and South Korea.

Hindu uprising in Jammu and Orissa, followed by great unrest in Karnataka and Assam and the ill-concealed hysterical outbursts from the now Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, and from Western and Church quarters prove, if proof were needed, that the one thing which the Abrahamic world fears more than anything else, is Hindu assertion on Hindu bhumi and Hindu reprisal. In short, they fear Hindu nationalism.

The bringing down of the Babri Masjid, the ferocity of the Gujarat riots in 2002 which followed the burning alive of Hindu pilgrims in Godhra, the organised and determined protests by Jammu Hindus against the Valley Muslims and the angry reaction of Orissa’s tribal communities to foreign-money powered religious conversions within their societies by missionaries of all denominations, are signs of India’s floundering sense of nationhood beginning to return to its Hindu roots. No matter how much the secularists protest that Hindu assertion is undermining the idea of India that is a figment of their imagination, this nation is not an idea, it is real. The truth of the nation rests on its majority populace for whom this nation is their janmabhumi, a concept unique to Hindu religion.

(The writer is director, VIGIL, Chennai and a wellknown thinker.)

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