Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Election 2009

I was very elated when BJP was elected to rule Karnataka a few months back. For one, Karnataka has been ruled by both Congress and Janata dal, both parties did nothing worthwhile. They were both disappointing, sometimes outright stupid. On the other hand BJP was a fresh option, with promising fresh ideas and fresh ways to do things. So personally though I was unable to cast my vote, I was happy for my state and my people. May be there will be a change, a positive one.
Unfortunately my optimism is misplaced. There are numerous allegations of corruption like the one involving real estate lobby and the Bangalore master plan, some mining company and its gross violations, transfers for money all that were very well features of the past governments, BJP being no different. The worst part of the whole process however is the aggression of fringe Hindutva groups.

I have been a passive supporter of Hindutva, not because it appeals to me and I believe in all their ideas, but that the other voices – the voice of centre and centre-left leaves me very uncomfortable. The centre-leftish groups in India are the most vocal, followed by the Hindutva voice. Unfortunately I do not identify myself with the centre-left because for them, I being a part of majority am less worthy than a minority who votes en-block for these parties. Therefore they are not ready to listen to me, they do not want people like me to unite, they always support ideas that are in sync with their ideologies. For them, Ramayana is just a poem but Quran/ Bible is extremely holy. If a non-hindu criticise Rama, Krishna or any other mythical holy men, it is freedom of speech, human rights etc. If a Hindu criticises a non-hindu holy man, holy symbol etc, it is gross violation of minority rights. So while M F Hussain’s filthy pictures constitute an artist’s freedom of expression, Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’ and Taslima Nasreen’s “Lajja” are banned because they hurt minority sentiments. So their logic here seems to be that hurting majority sentiments is fine as long as the minority sentiments are unaffected. I can see it plain and clear that there is no level playing field in India when it comes to non-Hindus vis-à-vis Hindus. As a Hindu with rights to no other land but India, as a Hindu whose forefathers withstood persecutions for being Hindus remained Hindus and paid hefty price doing so, as a Hindu who has struggled to protect the culture and civilisation for centuries, I feel extremely marginalised and threatened.
Reading the English language new papers like The Hindu, Asian Age, Times of India, and watching the news media based out of Delhi, my feeling of marginalisation has aggravated. I know most of these folks at JNU, ACJ who eventually populate media, are hotbed promoting this kind of thinking. In fact these institutions do not encourage original thought, curiosity and questioning; they merely promote a particular way of thought. So promoted is the idea that hurting majority is ok as long as minorities are ok. It has hence become intellectually fashionable as well. So much for the quote that hangs everywhere in JNU, “A University stands for humanism, for tolerance, for reason, for adventures of ideas, and for the search of truth. It stands for the onward march of the human race toward ever higher objectives. If the universities discharge their duties adequately then it is well within the nation and the people” Poor Mr Nehru must be rolling in his grave.
There are also certain academic debates which I find rather one-sided. So how many school children even know that there are two view points on the crucial question ‘who are we?’ Aryans? Dravidan? Eastern Europeans? South Asians? Who are we? What were we before? In fact the major debate is between the Aryans as central-eastern Europeans nomads invading and destroying the Dravida-Indus Vally civilisation to build their own edifice of a civilisation; which is popularly known as ‘Aryan Invasion Theory’ or the AIT. Other the other hand there are scholars who are of the opinion that there is nothing called Aryans and Dravidans, we are all just south-Asians and everything we see today originated and grew here; it is popularly known as Out of India hypothesis. The debate is still inconclusive and we still do not have a concrete proof as to who is right. But how many of us even know about these theories as a part of our school curriculum? Not many. Are children in India learning these possibilities? No? every Indian kid only knows that Aryans were invaders and they destroyed Indus valley civilisation. Therefore a perpetual fissure between the Aryans and Dravidian is perfectly valid. What are these teachings and text books except for being divisive at best and devious at worst? Another element is the wilful ignorance of Muslim brutality on Hindus in the medieval period. As a student of History during my under-grad, I read only two lines about Jaziya, temple destruction, conquest, subjugation and conversion of Hindus. No more than that. All these indicate a lot of social turbulence between the Hindu and the non-Hindu communities, lot of blood, lot of violence but how much of it do we know as a part of structured syllabus? None. (More or less S.L.Bhyrappa’s views here, I could never agree more) Even after studying Tippu Sultan for so many many years I did not know his missionary zeal to persecute Hindus till S.L.Bhrappa’s controversy and the associated press coverage!! Is it not strange? Just that I studied the syllabus and texts prescribed by the great Bangalore University. Why should not we learn history as it happened? Instead learn politically palatable history? On the other hand tt is interesting to note that when ever the Hindutva supported academic groups comes to power, any attempt to revise school textbooks is termed as ‘saffronisation’ etc which is a well known bull crap.

The other voice I hear is the hard core Hindutva voice. I cannot even say it is Hindutva, because I have very strong reasons to believe that many people today who speak of Hindutva do not even know what they are talking about. I do not believe in hate mongering, I do not believe in orthodoxy, I do not believe that women should be confined to kitchen, I do not believe that preserving our tradition means having to dress in a particular way, I do not believe in tradition meaning not wearing lip-stick or cutting my hair. But there are fire band leaders who are interpreting Hindutva along these very particular lines. They also happened to be gifted speakers trying to hijack the Hindutva plank for their own selfish reasons. That is how controversy is created around Ram Temple, Ramsethu, which has now extended to attack on women in pubs, those wearing jeans, those wearing modern outfits! The BJP incidentally benefitted from the Ram Janma Bhoomi issue though they failed to do anything significant about it. They also abandoned Uniform Civil Code thereby enabling Mr Mohan to marry Ms Arundati aka Fiza! So my country is a secular land where Hindus can never be equal to non Hindus. They also abandoned article 370. However they resorted to eye wash action like attack against Valentine’s day, attack on women in pubs, attacking women wearing modern dresses. The valid successors of ideologues like Swami Vivekananda, Veer Savarkar they have debased themselves so much that today thy are all but just thugs waiting for their turn to make money. Of course I identify with none of these myself as a jeans wearing, pub-going, freedom loving, modern but devout Hindu with a large number of non-Hindu friends. Of course if anyone did come to me and say I better wear a Saree instead of my usual pair of jeans, I did say ‘go to hell’.

This is pretty much who I am. So the question is who represents me better? Who will safeguard my interests? Where is the voice that speaks for me, identifies with me and understands me? I am looking for this voice which will let me know the history of my civilisation in its entirety, not only politically palatable parts, I am looking for a voice that will let me know more about the injustices and persecution my forefathers went through, I want to know what were the temples that were destroyed, what eventually happened and when, I also want to know how different Hindus were treated differently, I want to know the previous societies with all its flaws and problems. I want to know how people coped up with all those problems. It means so much to me because it answers big questions that I have about myself – ‘who am I’, ‘where did I come from?’ and ‘now that I am here, where were we before?’ I want a voice that will criticise me when I am irrational, at the same time, criticise others irrespective of their religious orientation when they are irrational. I want a voice that will not put me into disadvantage because of my religion or gender. I want a voice that will give me the reassurance that I am not marginalised and I am being heard. I want a voice that will guard my sanity, freedom, history, present and future. I want a voice that will respect me, love me and make me feel wanted for what ever I am, irrespective of my religion, race, sexual orientation, gender, etc. I want the objects of devotion to be as holy to everybody else as it is me. I want a voice that says destruction of Ramsethu amounts to damaging Hindu beliefs (ecological effects apart), I want a voice that will respect Rama the same way as it would say Prophet or Jesus. I want a voice that is blind and fair; if Rushdie’s and Nasreen’s books are to be banned, so should M F Hussain’s. On the contrary if Rushdie and Nasreen’s books are published, let M.F.Hussain be allowed to do more nudes of his choice may it be Saraswati or Madhuri who cares. But let there be level playing field. I want a voice which will tell me to be proud of being a Hindu and not be apologetic for having celebrated Dasara or Deepavali. I want a voice which did treat me more like a human being rather than a voting head. I want a voice that condemns the action of a minority chief minister disrespectful towards one of the holiest of Hindu shrines. I want a voice that will speak against the practice of government alone managing Hindu temples while Mosques and Churches are not. I want a voice that will speak against subsidising non-hindu pilgrimages abroad at the same time confiscating the Hindu temple collection.
These are my desires as the election dates are announced and India readies to elect another government for another five years. But what do I hear? Devil here and a deep sea there, I am stuck between these two and still searching for something to call my own; Just the two extremes and the political parties ready to squander money during elections just so they can make more later. All I see is opportunistic shameless figures, ready to be strange bedfellows just for the sake of money….