Namaskar, Secularism and Hindu Pakistan

My sage-like friend, who I respect not just because of his age, but experience and wisdom, sent me below video highlighting the importance of Namaskar (नमस्कार:) in Hindu culture.

While I understood and liked the video in principle, I found it flawed at multiple levels, and thought of writing my views because it serves as a perfect example of what I find wrong about the Right Wing ideology.

I’m not going to talk about far-fetched analogy between name of athelete (Hima) and snow (what would have happened if her name was Mary Kom?)

I will highlight two specific areas I find objectionable and elaborate on them.

The first objection is this:

The person says that if celebrities and youth show in public these identities (such as Namaskar with folded arms) of Indian culture (भारतीय संस्क्रुती) it will be great encouragement for all other youth.So very cleverly the person has mixed Hindu culture with Indian culture and made it synonymous. They are NOT. The right wing in subtle manner want to emphasize that everything Indian is Hindu.

Most common people use these words interchangeably because they do not notice the subtle difference. RW people do it with specific intention. They want to establish that India belongs to Hindus and other religions, other ethnic minorities can live here peacefully provided they accept that this is a Hindu nation.

This is not the idea of India our forefathers thought of, or majority of people identify with. And that’s why there is a secret mission to change the Constitution.Pakistan was born on two-nation theory and it’s a Muslim country by design. We (India) did not choose that route. We chose to remain a multi-religion, multi-culture, pluralist society – a secular state (which was added in the Constitution later, however the ethos was the same right from beginning).That brings me to the second flaw in the video:The person says: Today the environment is such that one should not identify with any culture or religion. This is what is called as secularism. This is not Bharatiya (Indian) culture.This is completely false and the RW harps on this version because it suits their agenda.Here is a note on Secularism from Wikipedia page:

Secularism is the principle of the separation of government institutions and persons mandated to represent the state from religious institution and religious dignitaries (the attainment of such is termed secularity). One manifestation of secularism is asserting the right to be free from religious rule and teachings, or, in a state declared to be neutral on matters of belief, from the imposition by government of religion or religious practices upon its people. Another manifestation of secularism is the view that public activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be uninfluenced by religious beliefs or practices

Note two important aspects above. State should be separate from persons. Secularism DOES NOT mean that “one should not identify with any culture or religion” as the person in video was asserting. It only says that the state, the government institutions should not identify with any particular culture or religion. Otherwise, we may have Muslim religion/culture in states where Muslim political parties are in power and Christian where Christian are in power and so on. And this may keep changing as power shifts hands from one tenure to the other. That is not good for democracy and stability. The state should be neutral to all religions and cultures…neutral does not mean insensitive or disrespectful. State should not impose religion or religious practices on people.

Second aspect is that Hindu is not same as India. If traditional Hindu practices, rituals are constantly referred to as “Bharatiya”/Indian, slowly the two get equated. That is what has happened in India. We consider the two as synonymous. They are not. RW wants them to be synonymous – and this goes back to their hidden agenda of “India belongs to Hindus and other religions, other ethnic minorities can live here peacefully provided they accept that this is a Hindu nation.”.

My economics Professor at IIM-A, who is a Christian, debated this point openly, and at length. He said that installing a Saraswati idol in a Government run institute (because Saraswati is Goddess of Education and Wisdom as per Indian culture) is wrong and subtle oppression. Some students argued, what’s wrong in that? It is commonly accepted local symbolism which goes beyond religion. Well, imagine having a tall statue of Jesus or Paigambar or some other saint from other religion in such institutes – not in place of Saraswati, but along side. Most people would find it difficult to digest.

Professor said that if people of other religion keep their religious idols in their cubicle or confined workspace, that would be “allowed” (some may have objection even with that). But having such idols at prominent public place is difficult to digest – let’s accept it.

Professors’ point was, religion and rituals are strictly private and personal and should not be brought in public domain. I agree with him completely.

As I am writing this blog, heavy sounds (actually noise) of Dhol and Taasha are disturbing me. The noise is from the practice sessions of troupes from Ganesh Festival, which is still 2 months away. These goons and rowdy people start their “practice” two months in advance, break all rules related to noise levels, deadline of 10 PM and yet nobody feels that there is anything wrong. They call is as their “cultural right”.

Imagine a Muslim or a Christian group doing such thing everyday for two months and it would be considered as an act of inciting or causing trouble intentionally. But when a Hindu group does that in the name of “culture” it is legitimate and “expression of sentiments of majority”.

That’s a good example why many say that RW’s agenda is to create a Hindu Pakistan (most recently reiterated by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and Ashutosh). All it means is to establish India as country based on religious identity (Hindu in our case) just as Pakistan was born on basis of a religious identity.

The fear is that the next logical extension of Hindu Pakistan would be conversion into Hindu Taliban – if (actually not if, but once) Hindu fanatics take over the control of Hindu Pakistan. Some may argue that the process has already started and there is enough substance in that argument – lynchings, attacks by Gau Rakshak, brutalities against minorities, threats to and murders or prominent thinkers from other ideologies, rape threats by trolls (even IT Cell members), abusive and demeaning quips by Union ministers and key leaders and above all – top leaders patronizing these incidents and supporting silently.

I have argued vociferously with many of my friends and almost all of them (after enough rounds of mental gymnastics and verbal diarrhea from both sides) have  conceded that they would like to see “Hindu” India. They would like to be known as Hindustan, where other minorities can live peacefully. And this is the true face of Hindutva – not Hinduism, which is totally different and sacred.

And we, I and people who believe in “idea of secular India”, oppose this idea of Hindutva and continue to fight it in our own capacity, across different forum! Hindutva is not Indianness (भारतीयता). Indianness is more plural,  all-inclusive and respectful of other religions and cultures. Let’s not allow a bunch of people to hijack the idea of India and impose rule of Hindu Taliban…



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