Monday, January 22, 2018

Am I becoming a religious intolerant person?

“As many of you would know, Saraswati Puja was celebrated today at Kaveri lawns. The deification of Hindu Goddesses like Saraswati and Lakshmi as sources of education and wealth who were themselves uneducated (as Brahmin women were not permitted to acquire education or property) is hypocritical and problematic. It is not the only casteist as the Vedic Gods and Goddesses and their narratives have constantly discriminated against the Dalit-Bahujan masses but also misogynistic as these women were used as tools for the symbolic appropriation of Hinduism. Quoting Kancha Ilaiah, "To our Dalitbahujan mind, there is no way in which Saraswathi can be compared to Savitribai Phule. In Savitribai Phule one finds real feminist assertion."

Let us protest against the glorification of an oppressive culture via a counterculture. We are meeting tomorrow i.e. 23rd January 2017 at 11 AM outside SSS II to celebrate Savithribai Phule's birth month and remember Fatima Sheikh as the real figures of learning. We will commence with the reading of an excerpt from Kancha Ilaiah's book, 'Why I am not a Hindu' titled 'Brahma and Saraswati' followed by a discussion.

Jai Savitri, Jai Fatima.”

The above message was dropped in my Whatsapp inbox and it got me thinking: why would a mere idol provoke such radical thoughts. Then I reached the conclusion that it is because of the way JNU thinks. JNU is full of left-liberals and some radical ultra-left people. ABVP is a laughing stock in the campus and even if they run sensible campaigns like anti-smoking drive or similar social campaigns, they are made fun of. This takes us to the bigger picture. Since Mohammad Akhlaq’s lynching in 2015, the country has been engaged in public debates about religious intolerance. But the question remains, are we as a society tolerant towards all religions or are we not. The general consensus is that radical Hindus are intolerant towards Muslims and non-Brahmanical Hindus like Ambedkarites and Peryerites. But are the so-called Left tolerant too?

Me, being an agnostic person, subscribe to the idea of being intolerant towards all ritualistic religions. If not that, then we have to be equally tolerant towards all religions including a diverse and complex religion like Sanatan Dharma (for the sake of contemporary discourse, let’s call it Hinduism). I used to be indifferent towards all religions and made fun of them. But lately, maybe since the BJP came to power in 2014, my attack has made a paradigm shift towards Hinduism in particular.

Just like everyone else in JNU, I find it convenient to attack Hindutva. I even get a kick in criticizing ‘power’ i.e. the Hindu nationalist groups like the Ram Mandir Kar Sevaks and Gau Rakshaks. I am not saying they are doing any good job. These two unorganized groups need to be banned for sure. But while criticizing them, I don’t know when I started criticizing and attacking moderate Hindus. I would pass random judgements on vegetarians of north India (in the east of India, even Brahmins are meat eaters). I started insisting Hindus eat beef too. It is only recently that someone pointed it out and I realized that I am being intolerant here. I know that eating or not eating beef is just a matter of choice and it makes no difference, but just to make more people, or should I say more Hindus, a beef eater like me, I started forcing them verbally to eat beef. My defence was based on the idea that if more rational Hindus come forward then we can fight the real intolerant groups like Gau Rakhshaks who kill in the name of cow protection.

But then comes other thoughts too. Somebody pointed it out that I attack only Hinduism, which has already had many reforms since Bengal Renaissance. The general Hindu population is rational and without any political drive, nobody would like to harm a non-Hindu. But, Islam has fundamental problems in its theology. Islamic theology makes it a religious duty to convert people to the Mohammedan religion otherwise treat them as Kafirs and go into Jihad (holy war) with them. Jihad is as misunderstood as Gau Rakhsha. Just like Gau Raksha means service to the holy cow, Jihad means persuasion of non-believers. But in most cases, it is misread and people take up arms against non-believers.

I have realized that Islam has more problems then Hinduism. The position of women is worst in a Mohammedan society, they have caste and class differences too. Apart from that, they have groups which are as stupid as the Bajrang Dal. For example, Sonu Nigam made sense when he said that the Aazaan on loudspeakers should be banned. Even I agree with it, those who want to worship should visit the mosque instead of making the locality listen to that boring (to my ears!) chant. In fact, I want Kirtans being banned too. All daily rituals should be banned on loudspeakers. Only the festivals can be allowed to be carried on. But when Nigam posted it on twitter, he was beaten black and blue by the so-called left-liberal intellectuals and media. A fatwa was issued too.

My attack on Hindutva is not only the kick of attacking power. There is some amount of Islamophobia involved too. I do not attack Islam openly because somewhere deep down I am scared if I hurt their religious sentiments then I would not be able to handle the situation. But I am never scared of doing it to a Hindu as I know the religion since childhood and I can debate it out. I am comfortable to criticize Hinduism and Hindutva as I know it inside out. Also, I find it a responsibility to clean my own home before cleaning the streets. So, I would rather attack Hinduism and reform it than attack Islam or Christianity for the matter. And unfortunately, I do not find enough Muslim people attacking the vices of Islam like me and a lot of people like me do to Hinduism. This is very disappointing.

But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have biases. Both Islam and Sikhism have military roots. And both are a warrior religion. Sikhs even keep weapons as part of their rituals, but we hardly ever criticize them. But if a Hindu group like Bajrang Dal goes out with weapons, we feel free to attack them even before asking why they are moving about with weapons. Of course, I understand the fact that stupid groups like Bajrang Dal will use their weapon, but the point I am trying to make is the bias we have.

I am a cultural Hindu, but a practising atheist. I do not worship any God, but I like festivals like Holi, Diwali and Durga Puja. And when they ban crackers in Diwali, even though the rational mind in me supports the move, the Hindu in me cries inside even for a bit. Similarly, when I insist Hindus to eat beef, they feel offended too because they are happy without eating that.

Now if we come to the latest incident in JNU, an idol of Saraswati is being installed inside a school and the entire left is trying to resist it. I do not get the idea behind this. An idol is not a threat to anybody, but if allowed it might make some moderate and so-called radical Hindus happy or satisfied. So why make a fuss about it?

The Left may believe in the rigid idea of Sarva dharma varjat (reject all religions), 
But, don't we live in the nation built by Gandhi and Nehru, who propagated the noble idea of Sarva dharma sambhav (accept all religions) ???