Fascist, divisive, autocratic - there are a thousand accusations I can lay on the current government of India with ample evidence to support them all. I won’t be alone either. But there is a far more important accusation that needs to be laid and I will lay it down here. The current government is anti-Hindu.
Growing up as a Hindu
I was 10 years old. I was on a vacation at my grandparents’ house. Bored to bits. There was this big book in the Puja room. It was Rajaji’s Vyasar Virunthu, unabridged Mahabaratha, told in Tamil.
Now, I couldn’t just take the book and read it. I had to take bath and come near the Puja room in a dripping wet anga-vastaram, place the book on a special book stand and read. And I read. Not just once. This became a regular thing for me to do for the next 3 - 4 years. I read it over 10 times before I turned 13. A few more times in my adult life.
The story of Mahabaratha fascinated me. It was not about good vs evil. Not clearly. There was a whole lot of gray. Every evil person had immense goodness in them and every good person was capable of acts of immeasurable evil.
The Gita, spoken as the book of Hindus, to measure with the other religions that have “a book”, is a mere chapter in Mahabaratha. I always thought the desire to have a Hindu “book” was unnecessary mimicry. An un-needed urge to establish self-esteem and seek acknowledgement from the captors by an enslaved generation.
Cradle of religions
The Indian subcontinent is the cradle of many of the world’s oldest religions that spread far and wide and completely converted many a land. On top of that, she was enslaved by captors practicing two Abrahamic religions.
Not just that, from Vaishnavism/Shaivism to Dwaita/Adwaita, Hinduism is also the home for contrarian philosophies coexisting miraculously. For a religion to not just survive, but thrive in this onslaught of ideas, thoughts and ruthless, barbaric captors is no small feat.
Hinduism did not need evangelicals, did not need fundamentalists, did not need laws or incentives to keep the numbers high. It did not have to resort to name-calling to differentiate us and them. There was no single power center for it to thrive.
It was the religion of the masses. It was simply a way to be. At the core of it all, it was built on a single pillar stronger than most foundations - the pillar of acceptance. People thronged to India (and still do) to learn yoga, surrender to the one of the many gurus, find themselves through spiritual awakening - what Hinduism provided to the hippies of the 60s to the yogis of today, is a sense of belonging and unquestioning acceptance.
The viral nature of Hinduism
Hinduism pioneered acceptance of not only people, but also ideas. By accepting contradictions, by accepting conflicts, by accepting good ideas regardless of the source, Hinduism spread and survived through its connections.
Many of the deities of Hinduism were local gods worshipped as the religion spread through the land. They got inducted, became avatars or were granted a story line in one of the puranas. Mahabaratha has thousands of branches and tributaries, each dutifully and interestingly exploring the stories of characters with very little judgement and enormous dose of empathy.
Hinduism is viral in its true sense. Spreading the religion through force or differentiating it with a us-them divide breaks this central pillar that has made Hinduism survive and thrive as unique, colorful and welcoming religion - the pillar of universal acceptance. When that pillar breaks, can what remains still be chastely called as Hinduism?
The end of Hinduism
By casting the divide, by forcing people’s hands to identify themselves as one or the other, the BJP government’s policies are not only undemocratic, but they are also stupidly self-defeating.
By desiring and acting on a Hindu-rashtra, they are converting themselves to some other religion. A religion that requires policing, a religion that requires a divide, a religion that needs safe-guarding, a religion that needs evangelicals, a religion that needs fundamentalists.
I will go a step further than Kushwant Singh in claiming that the desire and vision of the current BJP government is not just the end of India, but it is also the end of Hinduism - the all consuming religion that thrived through love and acceptance.