Are Hindu reformers anti-Hindu?
LIKE other religions, Hinduism has faced challenges from ancient times from within and without. The Hindutva is a modern invention, and the idea of a right-wing militaristic nation-state to which it adheres would not be possible until the advent of the Treaty of Westphalia nation-states in 1648. Some Muslim ideologists have also taken up their minds. opposed to the movement for Pakistan. similar lines, saying there was no sanction for a nation state in Islam.
The three-day international conference on “Dismantling the Global Hindutva” ended earlier this week with important information about Hinduism itself, but the discussions also rekindled memories of the pitfalls of similar projects and criticisms made in the recent and distant past.
One of the lessons of the conference was that criticism of the Hindutva, the militant philosophy that set out to model Hindus on European fascism of the 1930s (replacing European Jews with Muslims and Indian Christians as targets of hatred), would remain incomplete if BR Ambedkar’s call for the destruction of the Hindu caste system remained unanswered. Ambedkar campaigned for equal and secular rights for all, starting with the liberation of Dalits from the Brahmanic grip of Hinduism and women from its patriarchal fold.
Conference organizers warned. “To assimilate Hinduism and Hindutva is to fall into the narrow, fanatic and reductionist fiction which instrumentalizes Hinduism by erasing the various practices of religion, the debates within the fold, as well as its conversations with others. other faiths. If the poet AK Ramanujan reminds us of the importance of recognizing “three hundred Ramayanas”, then Hindutva seeks to erase this complexity in a monolithic fascism.
An academic intervention presented a less argued argument that pointed out many common views between Hindutva practitioners and Zionist Jews of the settler class in occupied Palestine. Akanksha Mehta particularly focused on the affinities between female Hindutva activists and the wives of Jewish settlers. She presented a different perspective to the currently exaggerated comparisons between the practices of the Taliban and the Hindutva. Their colonial project and the economic basis of Hindutva and Zionism, as well as the perpetuated social and gender inequities perpetuated within the two groups present a remarkable similarity.
Ambedkar had noted the absence of a defining characteristic of Hinduism other than caste. There were anti-idolatry Hindu sects and there were worshipers of deities, images and nature. In Bengal, they revere Durga as the slayer of evil and the protector of her followers. In parts of Uttar Pradesh, the role is given to Hanuman – “sankatmochan”, which paves the way for personal and social obstacles. In Maharashtra, Ganapati is the “vighna-haran” or obstacle eliminator pursuing adepts.
Ambedkar listed Hindus who followed Muslim customs, observed circumcision and buried their dead. He pointed the finger at Muslims who brought together Brahmins and Muslim priests to preside over their weddings. It is a relic of the medieval Bhakti movement that Muslims and Hindus are entwined in the worship of common saints, especially in the Punjab. Atheists and monotheists also emerged from the Vedic fold in the early days of Hinduism and the Brahmanic practices that accompany it. The Nastikas had a materialistic view of the world and opposed Brahmin rituals. They were rejected as a class, as were the disciples of Buddha and Mahavira.
I got a call from a close friend in Mumbai last Friday, a Jain with a modern lens. “I’m calling you to forgive me for the harm I may have done you,” he said to my surprise. It was part of a period of Jain rituals, said Sumedh Shah. It was observed for several days and ended with the quest for forgiveness from friends and family. The discussion revolved around a Jain belief that they were the original Indian atheists. And since Mahavira was the 24th “teerthankar”, a contemporary of Buddha around 600 BC.
Either way, the point is that Hinduism as we know it today has been in turmoil since its inception, much like other religions that branched out from their original goals of peace and harmony. , as Swami Vivekanand observed, towards puritanism, mysticism and even bloodshed by acquiring militarized and sectarian forms.
For nearly two centuries in India, Hindu reformers tried to refine Hinduism. Of these, the most persistent but not entirely successful batch belonged to the Bengal Renaissance – from Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833) to Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941). The question is: were the reformers anti-Hindu or Hindu-phobic, to use the term thrown by many right-wing Hindus at their detractors. Supporters of militant Hindu groups in the United States and India have used such terms to describe and even threaten rival Hindus to criticize India’s current appointment with what is otherwise considered a major world religion. .
The Bengal Renaissance sought support to ban child marriage, encourage remarriage of widows and science education, discourage superstition and sati – the practice of forcing Hindu widows to sit on the funeral pyre of their husband.
The Bengal effort was, however, a social movement largely removed from politics. The synthesis of politics and social reforms would flourish with Gandhi. When he arrived from South Africa, the political movement against colonialism had already spread from Bengal to Maharashtra and the Punjab, but it had acquired strongly Hindu motives. The use of religion for anti-colonial mobilization has also tempted Muslim leaders like Maulana Azad. He applied the Bengal model to the unfolding of events in Turkey to woo Muslims in Congress.
Gandhi strove to use religion to bring Hindus and Muslims together, but his attempt to reform Hinduism was called futile by Ambedkar and too emasculated for a fascist project by rulers like Savarkar and Golwalkar. So it may not be wrong to ask: if Ambedkar has failed to annihilate the Hindu caste system, what is the chance that the virulent Hindutva project can be dismantled with well-meaning intellectual reflection?
Dawn.com, September 14. Jawed Naqvi is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.