By K I John
Many are, undeniably, of the opinion that India should possess a saffron hue as opposed to a balanced tricolour. Keeping in mind the upcoming elections, one cannot neglect the numerous political ideologies showered upon us. However, political drama is inevitable. What piques interest is the notion upheld by certain political leaders that an ideology born out of a sense of belonging and oneness supersedes the necessity of democratic development. The same began to surface amid the jibes exchanged between Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
What triggered the argument?
With elections looming around the corner, the unwritten law of civility, maintained by chief ministers to not publicly comment on the development of states other than their own, is often bent to will. The criticism, both online and offline, was sparked by comments made by Yogi Adityanath about Siddaramaiah at pre-election rallies of the BJP in Karnataka. It began when Yogi Adityanath launched an attack against Siddaramaiah for calling himself a Hindu. Siddaramaiah replied by teaching Yogi about the model of governance in Karnataka along with a reference to a reported starvation death in Uttar Pradesh. Yogi Adityanath retaliated by reminding Siddaramaiah of the failures in his own state by pointing out farmer suicides. This continued with Siddaramaiah bringing up the starvation deaths and Yogi alleging the corruption in the Karnataka government, as well as emphasizing that farmer suicides were highest during the tenure of Siddaramaiah.
The definition of a Hindu
Yogi Adityanath, during his Parivarthana rally, brought up the issue of beef consumption, and vehemently questioned Siddaramaiah for his recent assertion that he was a Hindu. Amidst applause from BJP supporters, Yogi Adityanath said, “He cannot be a Hindu and promote consumption of beef. When the BJP was in power here, we enacted a law prohibiting cow slaughter. The Congress government repealed that law.” He stated that Siddaramaiah remembers his roots only because of the upcoming elections. He further commented that Siddaramaiah’s claim of being a Hindu was akin to the Congress president Rahul Gandhi going from one temple to another during the Gujarat elections.
The notion that strict adherence to an ideology determines one’s religious identity is first found here. Yogi Adityanath asserted that it was vital for the BJP to come back to power in Karnataka, adding that it was the ‘janmabhoomi’ of Lord Hanuman. He also said, “Karnataka will benefit like Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh did if it is also ruled by the BJP, which is heading the NDA government at the Centre under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” This emphasised the necessity of synchronicity between the government of Karnataka and the centre for substantial developmental progress in the state. However, the approach under the saffron banner has shoved the holistic development among all states, on a democratic footing, to the rear.
Shashi Tharoor’s take on the issue
Taking a step back, one comes to understand the implication of these ideologies that are repetitively and passionately imposed upon a majority of the population. Over time, political leaders have managed to manipulate the line which discerns Hinduism and Hindutva. “Hindutva has nothing to do with Hinduism as a faith or a religion, but rather as a badge of cultural identity and an instrument of political mobilisation,” says author and Member of Parliament, Shashi Tharoor. He further adds, “Hinduism is a religion without fundamentals – no founder or prophet, no organised Church, no compulsory beliefs or rites of worship, no single sacred book…What we see today as Hindutva is part of an attempt to ‘semitise’ the faith – to make Hinduism more like the ‘better-organised’ religions like Christianity and Islam, the better to resist their encroachments.”
The ideology of Hindutva essentially tapers the varied beliefs, customs and practices of Hinduism, and puts them forward as imperative aspects of the same. According to Shashi Tharoor, “Hinduism embraces an eclectic range of doctrines and practices, from pantheism to agnosticism and from faith in reincarnation to believe in the caste system. But none of these constitutes an obligatory credo for a Hindu… Hindutva seeks to impose a narrow set of beliefs, doctrines and practices on an eclectic and loosely-knit faith, in denial of the considerable latitude traditionally available to believers.”
The manifestation of a misinterpretation
In the country today, the protection of ‘dharma’ has been construed to mean gau raksha (protection of the holy cow), a severe ban on the consumption of beef, and the demand for a Ram temple in Ayodhya. It has also come to mean the worship of Shiva, Krishna, or any other conventionally revered Gods or Goddesses. However, this is a source from which stems the complete neglect of both the local faiths and the deeper philosophies of Hinduism. According to historian Harbans Mukhia, “Hindutva has no use for Hindu thought or philosophy of religion, for that would go against it. All it needs is a few symbols of Hinduism which can be mobilised to create tension vis-à-vis minorities. The cow is that symbol.” Scholars hold that Hinduism is a conglomeration of religious beliefs and practices, and cannot be streamlined in any form to cater to an ideology.
The need of the hour
The rush for power, and the imposition of ideologies as an attempt to cater to the public need strips the election process of its fundamental purpose. In order to feed off the emotional and religious sentiment of the masses, political parties neglect the essential demand of the people, which is; ‘fitting democratic representation’. Sociologist Dipankar Gupta says, “To argue that certain political practices are against the essence of Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam or Christianity is certainly not the way to argue for democratic rights.”
The time is such that the nation should prioritize its citizens’ rights over sentimentality. One needs to question why the self-styled custodians of Hinduism should govern the manner in which Hindus practice their religion. Lastly, the government needs to understand that India is not a country that can be tinted saffron, but is host to a spectrum of people from varied walks of life who are to be governed and not herded.
Featured Image Source: Flickr
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