A.1. Sabarimalai. As the media screamed, ‘vandalism’! ‘3000+ people taken into custody’! ‘Khalistanis!’ ‘BJP, RSS!’ and more, my mind flew back to 1984[i]. “When a tree falls, the earth shakes”. Though Rajiv Gandhi’s understandably emotional statement at a time of extreme personal grief had the most unimaginable consequences; this time the tree was a supposedly rational well deliberated majority judgement in the Sabarimalai case [henceforth, ‘Sabarimalai’]. But as one followed the reports including that of the deployment of 15,000 police and 200 additional riot police to contain the ‘Hindu parties’, it was not the sceptre of more riots or that of India becoming a police state which arrested my attention – that is, or should be, the concern of most Indians. The Eureka! moment was the result of sudden recognition/ confirmation of the multiple sources, dimensions, dynamics and ramifications of the growing intolerance in Secular India[ii].
A.2. The Collins English Dictionary defines Intolerance as: “unwillingness to let other people act in a different way or hold different opinions from you”. Highlighted in the last few years, western academics/reporters whose authority is the basis for most of our knowledge of Hindus/ Hinduism variously ascribe this to the ‘Hindu Nationalist Party[iii]’, ‘the uneducated Hindus’, ‘Brahminism’, ‘Hindutva’ – defined as ‘a militant form of Hinduism’, ‘Hindu fundamentalism’ etc. Indians usually prefer the more contained, ‘Right wing fundamentalism’ as some secular (Hindus) recall a past when India (and its ‘native Hindus) was extolled for its tolerance as it welcomed fleeing Zoroastrians, Christians, Baha’is, Jews and others, though they ascribe India’s tolerance to figures like Gandhi, Nehru and possibly Swami Vivekananda/ Sri Ramakrishna who came many centuries later. Thus, perhaps the only common understanding is that it is Hinduism and Hindus who are the cause of the intolerance[iv]. Therefore, within the context of Sabarimalai, this study explores the role of Hindus and therefore Hinduism’s contribution to Intolerance in India.
B. Intolerance in India
B.1. Possibly following an unwritten code that Hindus as a people must not be alienated but recognising that many at Sabarimalai were ‘protesters not devotees’, the BJP is held guilty as the primary cause of what is seen as ‘defiance of the Constitution’. However, that Hindus immediately decided to request a Review, suggests that they are not against the Constitution. Again, had Indians been less busy pontificating, following opinions and politicking, they would have realised that across the last few years Hindus have been increasingly disenchanted with the BJP for not doing anything for Hindus – though they do recognise that Hinduism itself requires that governance be for the common good of all. Unlike the ’84 riots which were politically driven – but ascribed to Hindus, Sabarimalai is a people’s protest ascribed to politicians who, even if possibly sympathetic like the BJP, are a distant second.
B.1.1. I was first alerted to the possibility that Indians (so India) are in self-destruct mode in the Jajmau slums outside Kanpur, in 1987[v]. Possibly I stepped on unknown corn(/s) while trying to understand preferences in location and kind of toilets, for I was suddenly in the centre of a loud, vociferous flash crowd of Hindu women demanding accountability for (what I thought was at best, the perceived) discrimination against Hindus in Development schemes and projects. Increasingly startled as they reeled off supporting facts, I acknowledged I had not realised it but would look into the matter. However, it was only in 2009 when I initiated and facilitated a three-month focused Group Discussion with over a hundred well educated participants on the internet, that I glimpsed the extensive, deep and, unfortunately reasonably legitimate reasons for the Hindus’ conviction that they are discriminated against for being Hindus – ‘believing’ in Hinduism. More worryingly, underlying the occasional spurts of anger were reasonably strong currents of the hopelessness and powerlessness normally associated with the disadvantaged who have been further victimised[vi].
B.2. Put differently, Secular India blames Hindus and Hinduism for the recently observed increasing intolerance in the polity. But though Hindus may verbalise on the day to day hurdles set up to the transmission of their religion/perceived partisan treatment & reporting of Hindu-related issues/ ‘Hinduism-splaining’/ on recalling the sacrifices of their fore-fathers who filled the jails in the struggle for independence etc, they have for some years predating the BJP’s consolidation of power, seen themselves as a disenfranchised non-people, at best subalterns, in an India defined by religious apartheid. Clearly there can be no worthwhile Development, sustainable or otherwise, in a country that is increasingly strongly divided against itself.
C. Approach and Methodology
C.1. Accepting the contention of ‘educated Indians’ that Hindus and Hinduism are the cause of all India’s ills, yet faced with enough prima facie evidence against the theory, I kept an intermittent finger on the pulse of social and environmental developments in India. The simultaneous involvement in a PRA (Participatory Research& Action) exercise wherein intolerance played a significant role allowed for close observation of its dynamics and provided an unplanned opportunity for testing the role of Hinduism as also various hypotheses including some for possible methods to ameliorate/ end the intolerance.
C.1.1. The theoretical framework continued to be a Working Model on Sustainable Development conceptualised at Yale and used in multifarious situations thereafter [vii] as it automatically factors in multiple causes for a given symptom and vice versa, thereby highlighting constituent colours, shades and hues. The bottom up approach it requires proved ideal since it also allows for the use of beliefs/ academic frameworks for arriving at testable hypotheses and thus: results in a more realistic evaluation of factors and variables comprising the seemingly black and white, enables the tracing of linkages between/ among diverse factors for reasonably definitive conclusions that can be operationalised after accounting for possibilities and, facilitates the development of new approaches, methodologies and theoretical frames of reference.
D. The Faith- based source of the Rise and Rise of Intolerance in India
D.1. The PRA across multiple situations involved a reasonably representative polity and different institutional/ organisational groups including the Police. It revealed that Hinduism and therefore Hindus per se, are not the source of the exercise and display of the brute prejudiced power/ authority associated with Intolerance. Contrarily, repeatedly, there has been reason to believe that it is recourse to some basics of Hinduism that could be the best safeguard against/ antidote for intolerance – though operationalising these basics is difficult. As confirmed by the Sabarimalai saga the main source of intolerance is the increasingly large number of people across the spectrum who have imbibed/ emulate what they believe are the raisons d’etre of Secularism – forcing an agenda onto the posited ‘other’ through the mechanistic exercise and display of power/ authority with no thought of, let alone minimal interest, in the understanding of the posited ‘other’. There is no consideration for those who are different or who think/ speak/ act differently and therefore no holds barred in the use of all the language/ physical/ emotional/ mental skills and all means/ methods and available resources at their (peer group’s) disposal[viii].
D.2. The original idea of using a combination of Hinduism and Secularism for the PRA possibly developed as a result of a series of observations in different States during the course of Donor government/ other assignments and other formal/ informal stays which had eventually culminated in an assignment for a Desk Research study related to the Uttar Pradesh Van Panchayats[ix]. The Terms of Reference for this Study were interesting in as much as, with a focus on the field data collected and presented within a set of Reports, any and all reference input and, all additional, substantiating, corroborating and/or falsifying data was to be sourced only from within other documents available with the Donor Agency. The Findings/ conclusions of this Study were the immediate reason for using the combination approach when circumstances forced the need for concomitant research and analysis to formulate new hypotheses, approaches and methods. An excerpt:
‘The present study reveals that in their understanding of the tradition behind these groups, both Donors and concerned Indians are missing the trees for the woods. Contrary to all that has been reported so far, tradition is not ‘informal’ [emphasis added]. The ‘Traditional’ is a different … system, one that has grown out of a people’s worldview as their response to their [experiences], circumstances and environments. A sophisticated system, it has factored in most ‘modern’ concerns [emphasis added] and in some cases made provisions for contingencies that proponents of PFM [Participatory Forest Management] have not found solutions for to date. …… Like the air one breathes, it is difficult to recognise and/or particularise the presence of the intangible within. In the traditional system, the ‘formal’ has inextricably locked into the living system and become a part of it, ie, ‘informal’.
Interestingly, some of the questions raised in that paper are equally applicable for Indians in the context of both Tolerance and, Sabarimalai:
- Can [people of faiths/ persuasions other than Hinduism] accept that there could be different routes to similar goals?
- What in fact does [equality/ non-discrimination/ tolerance] mean in a situation where [it is] a vital goal [for the change agent], but where the catalyst to be introduced proves to be a raw form of crystals already amalgamated within the situation [emphasis added]?
D.3. It is definitely not recommended that anyone try replicating any portion of the PRA[x],[xi]. For the preservation of authority – assigned, devolved or self-abrogated – with its attendant benefits, typically becomes (is?) an end in itself as reason takes a back seat if it was ever on the scene and, no matter how ‘educated’ and ‘refined’, power holders hunt their quarry (individual/ group) like a pack of hyenas. The eagerness to wield power is ideology, religion, gender and class neutral but very opportunistic and, underneath the veneer, methods and means of implementation are similar across the spectrum. The State’s response at Sabarimalai and, the tone and body language of some of those leading television ‘discussions’ on it, displayed strong clear glimpses of power-in-action.
D.3.1. Unconnected but related, is western academia’s response to Hindus outside their peer network writing and/or speaking about Hinduism in English, i.e., on ‘their turf’. When Doniger’s publishers withdrew the book she claims was banned,[xii] as an ‘intellectual’ it would be expected that she/ other academics re-examine problem areas and either convince litigants of their mistake or accept hers and make changes. Instead tom toms were beaten within the ivory towers: derisiveness and denigration, largely based on illusionary concepts, morphed into focused attempts to destroy opposing voices and designate Hindus and ‘their version’ of Hinduism as the outpourings of pariahs[xiii].
D.3.2. Secular India joined the crusade against the ‘uneducated’, ‘unethical’, native Hindus but instead of getting silenced, this time many Hindus responded. Not only were they ‘not ashamed of themselves’ they began ‘muscling their way’ into the intellectual/cultural/ social arenas and demanding recognition of their religion the Sanatana Dharma (SD) a.k.a. Hinduism, their values and priorities – in fact identifying themselves positively and, as a people, demanding their space on the table. The timing confused Secular India which ascribed it to the the BJP at the Centre and conflated it with reports of the horrifying (cow) vigilantism, lynching, ‘Brahminism’, the evil ‘caste system’, ‘Hindu Godmen’, etc, as yet more aspects of ‘Hindu Fundamentalism’/ depravity but, in effect more defamation and denigration of Hinduism using hypothetical constructs outside of SD[xiv].
D.4. Intrigued by a situation wherein Hindus’ complaints got dismissed as emotional reactions or, proofs of Brahmin/ Hindu illiberalism or, an insistence that Hindus do not know their own religion and, finding no worthwhile reports of Hindus denigrating ‘the other’ even when ‘ghar waapsi’ hit the headlines, I informally explored the subject of conversions. The study was short lived. The wanton desecration/ loathsome misinterpretation of the Hindus’ texts and/or the ugliness of the claims and methodologies, timings of actions, use of inducements/ negative techniques and the canards spread against Hinduism and Hindus were obnoxious. While the Evangelicals, who constitute the backbone of the ‘Right Wing’ in the USA are known to be problematic, the other proselytising groups are, in essence, not much better and all of them have a field day when faced with Hindus and Hinduism.
D.4.1. In this context it is important to keep in mind that Christianity (and Islam[xv]) enjoin their followers to proselytise – for many neo-converts the most exciting part of Conversions with its God-delegated power over/ to improve others[xvi]:
: Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to me 19. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father ……., 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely …..” (Matthew 28:18-20) Also, “And the gospel must first be published among all nations” (Mark13:10)
Jesus Himself envisaged the rise of Intolerance:
“51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three”. (Luke 12:50-53). “For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36. A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household” (Matthew 10:35-36 reiterated in: Micah 7:6)
Hindus are especially targeted because of their “multiple gods” and “idols” as both are diametrically opposite to the most basic teachings of The People of the Book. The Ten Commandments start with:
“1. I am the LORD your God ……. You shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:2-3) 2. You shall not make unto you any graven image, or any likeness of anything … You shall not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation…… (Exodus 20: 4-5)
When He came later, Jesus told his disciples:
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)’. “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Matthew 11:27)’.
D.5. It is a double whammy for Hindus, enjoined by their religion to accept ‘the other’ and not proselytise and yet find themselves constantly berated, denigrated, derided with falsehoods, insulted, hounded and targeted, often with their secular vulnerabilities exploited[xvii]. Secular India does nothing to help them, but everything to silence them if/ when they lose their cool[xviii]. Sabarimalai can be viewed as an instance of the Courts adding their effort to the same ends. It helps to remember that Hindus are human beings too. In Victoria, Australia the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 makes illegal,
conduct that incites hatred against, serious contempt for, or revulsion or severe ridicule of, that other person or class of persons” on the grounds of religious belief [emphasis added][xix].
But even this does not envisage a situation wherein many, possibly most of the supposed ‘beliefs’/ actions “of, that other person or class of persons” are emotionally driven problematic ideational constructs/ reports largely in the self-interest of those whose ‘knowledge’ power drives, nurtures and sustains Secular India.
D.5.1. In the last few years sporadically, the boot has been transferred to the other foot and Secular India realises it pinches badly. This definite if infrequent transference, exponentially magnified by the shock of being unexpectedly confronted with the existence of an articulate ‘other’, is what Secular India refers to as the ‘Rise of Intolerance in India’. For, trained by and following the principles inculcated by the elite of a globalised world in all aspects of life, learning and governance; it suddenly finds the ignored natives in its own backyard questioning its authenticity. Having fewer ‘educated’ ones among them they are unorganised and therefore seemingly less disciplined and loud, as pent up emotion replaces the single minded focused furious determination to silence (eliminate) ‘the other’ that is more characteristic of cadre-based methods of opposition. It helps to recall that Intolerance viewed in the light of reason rather than emotion is, by definition (A.2.) an attribute of those unwilling to share space/ accept different modes of thinking and being, not those seeking acceptance while acknowledging they are different.
E. Faith based Intolerance and Sabarimalai
E.1. With Brahmins, ‘Manuvaadis’, Hindus and Hinduism on the backfoot for years, Sabarimalai was the stick ‘Secular India’ needed to ‘teach Hindus to be tolerant’. They proceeded to use it fervently. After over dramatizing the protests as Hindus’ subversion of the Constitution, any vestiges of political correctness – already at premium when commenting on/ talking with ‘Hindus’ – was thrown to the winds as they castigated those who thought differently for their inability to think, their ‘discriminatory’, ‘backward’, ‘uneducated’ views, etc. Depending on position, status, outreach, etc, individuals within peer group gave it different colours as they added fuel to the fire. Since the focus of the paper is on Intolerance, a couple of clarifications on Hinduism are in order:
— Hinduism requires of, and in all its forms is ‘designed’ to help its people transmute/ transcend their ‘baser instincts’ – from which the prejudice that drives Intolerance emerges – and ahamkaara, a form of the ego that encourages ‘othering’, which lie at the base of all intolerance. Thus, in essence Hinduism per se, militates against intolerance. But Hindus being as human as other Indians, at times including during riots, as a result of immediate provocation suppressed negative emotions are released at the target(s).
— SD’s cornerstone is the Search for the Truth so by definition it requires that Facts not ideas are paramount. It enjoins followers to uphold truth and therefore Justice that provides the crucible within which truth can flourish. This in turn requires that one recognises the Rights of each individual human being to follow their own piper within provisos that allow others similar Rights and, within the overarching concern for the wellbeing and Rights of all. Therefore, SD has inbuilt mechanisms to promote the ‘acceptance of all as human beings with the same Rights’ instead of insisting on mere toleration of ‘the other’. By definition, ‘accepting everyone’ includes women and the marginalised and those who follow a different religion.
E.2. The Hindus’ response at Sabarimalai needs to be viewed in the above context. Staying with Faith as a single cause of Intolerance this study assumed that Their Lordships passed the judgement in good faith but with an appalling lack of knowledge of the worldview which nestles both Lord Ayyappa and His devotees. It takes up a few of these issues as reported in the media, within the context of Hinduism in the worship of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimalai, before a short foray into some of the devastating fallout of Secular India’s penchant for Social Reform perhaps more correctly described as ‘Social Engineering’, and its (most likely) unintended consequences, before concluding.
E.2.1. To assist clarity, it appreciates that Secularism as a political philosophy was a product of the Reformation with the same structure as Christianity, i.e., God was replaced by the Constitution, the Church with the Pope and its College of Cardinals by a Government headed by Parliament which makes the Laws and the Judiciary who interprets them and adjudicates and; the priests who represent God among the masses and have the authority to deal with sins, with the media (informative) and, the State and the police (dealing with sins) and; compares some of the concepts within Secularism/Christianity with those in Hinduism. For assistance it draws on the PRA to highlight some of the ground level fallout of the ‘Clash of Civilisations’ in a Power obsessed polity. It is likely that some readers are unable to reconcile their current understanding of Hinduism and the contents of this paper. They are referred to https://medhajournal.com/vedas-revisited-paurusheya-or-apaurusheya/ especially Sections F, G and the Conclusion.
E.3. As there is a contention that, ‘Lord Ayyappa is a Dharmasastha, Buddha was the first Sastha, so Sabarimalai is a Buddhist temple’ it maybe useful to spend a couple of minutes on this. Technically, the word ‘buddha’ is used for one who has chosen not taken what The Buddha call Nirvana and Hindus refer to as Moksha[xx]. A Sastha is a Guide/ teacher. Buddha was a Sastha but he was neither first nor last – he focused on a means to eliminate individual suffering and in the process unveiled a (different) route to Nirvana (Moksha). Lord Ayyappa is regarded as a (Hindu) Sasthadeva because He is a Guide and, in keeping with the legend of his birth, which could not be more Hindu. The route He enjoins and thus His method of ‘teaching’ is different to that of the Buddha and even that of many other Deities. But as with most Deities, it is his likes/ dislikes, needs and the ‘rituals’/ prayers associated with Him that guide His devotees.
F. Secularism, Hinduism and Sabarimalai
In its essentials the Sabarimalai issue is that menstruating women – and therefore those in the 10-50yr age group – are/ were disallowed. Activists contended that menstruation is not dirty, Hinduism is backward, discriminates against women; women must have equal Rights to enter and ‘worship my God’ once they have observed the formalities of the ‘ritual’. Their Lordships agreed. The devotees pointed out that menstruation releases negative energies but, insisted that in any case, the issue has nothing to do with Women’s Rights. Entry is disallowed because Lord Ayyappa is a ‘Naishtika Brahmachari‘. The State pointed out that women did at one time enter the temple. Their Lordships found no merit in devotees’ arguments, contended the temple is a public space and, in the interests of bringing in Social Reform gave all women the Right to enter. Hindus concluded Secular India is worse that the British and responded in their ways. Therefore, this section very briefly discusses some of the points of contention. As Secular India and its Lingua franca, English, both derive their concepts of religion from Christianity it is used as reference point.
F.1. One God vs Many Devas/ Devis. God/ Deities Rights vs Women’s Rights
F.1.1. Hinduism’s multiple gods and ‘graven images’ is possibly the most major reason for Secular India’s contemptuousness and anathema of the backward, uneducated pagans requiring modernisation[xxi]. Briefly, Christianity believes God is transcendent, immanent and loves humanity but is Not of the same substance as the created universe[xxii]. He is held in awe, worshipped and adored and, invites obeisance as One who is above all creation but came through His son Jesus Christ through whom all sinners can hope for salvation. He is also immanent Through the Holy Ghost but still not of this world. To know God and love Him one must be fully conversant with the Bible directly or as interpreted by priests[xxiii] . Baptism is required for regeneration and admission into the Christian Church and is usually done soon after the child is born though some denominations like the Church of Latter Day Saints increasingly prevalent in India, believe one must be ‘Born Again’ to establish the Holy Ghost in the sinner without which one cannot be a proper Christian. However, whatever the denomination and method/ time of entry into the fold, the Creator and His Son are constants and therefore following the Bible is standard practices for all Christians.
F.1.2. Though English language dictionaries present Deity and God as synonyms, in the context of Hinduism this is a major mistake. For while Hinduism does have a single Creating principle, there is no awesome transcendent Covenant maker/ Law Giver. The Devas/ Devis are immanent forms of the Creating principle Who rather than acting through Covenants/ Laws, are guides and mentors to their devotees. Each Deva/ Devi has his/ her own strengths, likes and dislikes and, guides in His/ Her own way through differing practices, disciplines and ‘rituals’. Thus, they are ‘worshipped’ not in the Christian sense of ‘ revere, bow down to someone way above humankind’ but rather, with the notion of ‘love, respect, and admiration for someone while respecting the ‘bad (uncomfortable) qualities’ of that person[xxiv]. Individuals choose to worship One main Deva/Devi depending on which form appeals to their interest and capacities. However, having made the choice the devotee is required to follow all the associated regulations. Again, individual Deva/ Devis can be worshipped in one of different forms, e.g, Sri Krishna can be worshipped as the child, Bal Krishna; as the lover with all the intensity of the Raas Lila or, as One who gave the Bhagavad Gita on the battlefield at Kurukshetra. Similarly, Lord Ayyappa can be worshipped in His forms as a child or, as a teenager or, as ‘Naishtika Brahmachari‘. More usually, there is a “family God” Who has been worshipped for generations.
F.1.3. In other words, depending on their own strengths and predilections Hindus have multiple options of the form in which they choose to worship the Creator (‘many Gods’) but for any individual it is One Deity with a few others invoked when necessary. Having made a choice, they must stay within the guidance norms related to the Deity, i.e., there is only One Way for the form. Devotees, the ‘family’ of the Deity are obviously enjoined to ensure that their Deity’s needs are accepted and observed. The Crusades were fought on this premise[xxv]. While aspects like Crusades and Jihad have no place in Hinduism’s schema, devotees will obviously ensure the safety, wellbeing and Rights of their Deity, e.g., if a child/ parent/.. is unable to look after himself it is normal for the family to ensure the individual’s safety often at considerable/ total personal cost. The more devoted the family the greater the effort into ensuring that the vulnerable one’s needs are met.
F.1.3.1. Activists going to Sabarimalai prioritise their Own Interests and/or that of Their Own Group and are unwilling to even recognise that He is an individual with His predilections and requirements (‘Laws’). Ipso facto, they are not devoted to Him, do not prioritise Him and ‘worship’ Him as a loving family member would. They are in fact imposing their own Will on the Deity and adding insult to injury with their rituals rather than observing the requirements borne out of Faith in His guidance.
F.1.4. Very obviously, women willing to go in disguise with police as protection cannot be bothered with the ‘minor matters’ of His requirements. In theory it is possible that the Activists have some emotional/ mental construct which expediency refers to as Lord Ayyappa, but there is still the issue of His desires. While it is likely true that some women entered in the past, it is more than likely that women who did enter were not menstruating. Unlike the Activists, they could be trusted to observe the requirements as is the case with women devotees who have preferentially stayed away for decades in accordance with the age group fiat, rather than subjecting Him to the risk of the entrance of a menstruating woman. Put differently, women devotees are following their religion (Hinduism) and learning to accept differences through personal ‘sacrifice’, while the ‘Secular’ (Activists) insist their desires must be met and their methods are the Only way. Then they rain insults on the Hindus for not tolerating difference!!!!! Hinduism inculcates the acceptance of difference.
F.1.5. Perhaps the most scathing indictment of ‘Secular India’ was in the palpably innocent insistence of one woman “devotee” (Activist) who said something on the lines of, ‘I am a devotee. I have observed all the rituals x,y,z and am doing a,b,c as required. Why am I not being allowed to enter?” The woman was obviously born in independent India wherein day in and out we hear of ‘the Hindu majority’. Yet clearly, she was never taught basic concepts vis a vis the ‘thousands’ of ‘Hindu Gods’ or, the difference between a temple and the church/ mosque. From the responses of the judges and English language media it is clear that this branch of education has also eluded India’s ‘educated’ elite. Viewed in the light of the outbursts of anger during communal riots it suggests that a significant portion of the blame for the riots lies in India’s education system and its intelligentsia which has, thereby, also contributed to what is evidenced as Secular India’s partisan approach.
F.2. The Temple: a Public Space? For the worship of God?
F.2.1. Though some Christian denominations are increasingly emphasising a personal relationship between the sinner and God, it cannot begin to emulate the characteristic as it exists in Hinduism. For, by definition God is transcendent while Devas/ Devis are in a familial relationship with the devotee. In accordance with the nature of the relationship He/ She has His/ Her own dwelling where by Right only those who are of the family can enter, i.e., it is His/ Her own private space – His/ Her Temple[xxvi]. That Secular India abrogated unto itself the power to govern and manage temples is a separate issue – an anomalous situation wherein a Church, which by definition is a building where people gather to offer worship and therefore a public space, is governed by Christians; while the temple which is a home and therefore the private space of the Deva, in this case the ‘Naishtika Brahmachari‘ form of Lord Ayyappa, has through the ‘wisdom’ of the judges of a Secular government been designated a public space, governed by the State.
F.2.1.2. The judges then proceeded to rub in yet more salt by implicitly ‘clarifying’ to devotees, and by extension Hindus, that their familial relationship with the Deva is wrong for God is transcendent and worship happens in a public space. Therefore, His Will as understood by the devotees is irrelevant when it comes to the Rights of others entering the said designated ‘public space’. Which in turn provided the political party governing the State an opportunity to display its power through the police and a ‘women’s wall’ and encouraging women’s entry in under disguise under police protection. While it is correct that God describes a transcendent form of the Creating principle, it is incorrect to insist that the worship of the Creating principle can only be in the form of God. In Malaysia for instance, the translation of the word ‘God’ as ‘Allah’ is sacrilegious, a punishable offence. Both are forms of the Creating principle and though both refer to a single transcendent form seemingly, unlike Secular India, Malaysia appreciates that it is the Creating principle that is worshipped, the concepts are not interchangeable as God and Allah have different attributes, and therefore a different relationship with His followers, consequent to which the forms of worship and requirements thereof, also differ.
F.2.2. The convoluted reasoning of the judges of Secular India and the resultant situation could be the result of one or more of a number of factors which include:
— possibly the judges did not do their homework as Ownership Rights of Sabarimalai rest with Lord Ayyappa, the Sashtadeva in his Naishtika Brahmachari form – Who, as per religion, knows whether or not He wants visitors, which visitors, when and under what conditions. But its also possible that their Lordships did not recognise those Ownership Rights, probably because in their worldview God is not of this world (being immanent only through his Son, Jesus, who gave up his life for mankind almost two millennia ago) and therefore God cannot own property. That the property is managed by the State, seems to have had a bearing on designating the temple a public space.
— Their Lordships were ignorant of Hinduism’s recognition and acceptance of the immanency of the Creator in the form of Devas/ Devis with the result that they are unfamiliar with His requirements of space, the familial relationship between Hindus and their Devas/ Devis; the form of guidance provided to men, women and, children as human beings with their individual/ group requirements, etc. This study was based on the assumption that this is the main factor and seeks to ameliorate the situation by providing some relevant basic information.
— an attempt at Conversion has been packaged as ‘Social Reform’ to ensure acceptance of what is in fact Religious Reform, since it impinges on a basic tenet of the Faith. For the judgement implies that the only form of worship accepted and therefore allowed, is that of a transcendent God. Devas/ Devis have no validity in religion. As per their interpretation of the Constitution it is only God’s will that falls within the sphere of Religion, so Lord Ayyappa’s will is deemed a ‘secular matter’, which in turn means the interests of the general public override those of the Deva and His devotees[xxvii].
— It is important to drive home to Hindus that they and their understanding of religion is backward. They have therefore to be pulled up, be educated and ‘modernised’. In fact, Their Lordships apparently mentioned bringing in modern concepts of equality as a major reason for the judgement. Christian Churches also holds that Hinduism is a pagan faith – which is why the strong, focused, united attempts at conversion – and Hinduism so Hindus are often off/ a footnote in many ‘major religions of the world’ lists/ interfaith, especially reconciliation related, meetings.
F.2.3. As Secular India grouses over Hinduism’s backwardness, both as a result of and in an unthinking reinforcement of Western academic/ missionary views, it seems to forget that many of the leading lights among those who drew up the Constitution were Hindus with a Hindu worldview and, that most of them were most definitely immersed in some form of Hinduism’s Bhakti tradition with its temples and ‘multiple Gods’. That Indians laud their Constitution, and Sabarimalai revealed some lawyers are very proud of it, strongly indicates that the Hindu world view has something going for it. For instance, the dictated ‘Right’ to women’s entry into Sabarimalai begs some questions:
— Assuming that a woman is bent on worshipping Lord Ayyappa and insists on going to His temple, she has the option of visiting any or all of the several other temples where He resides. Why is it necessary that He be visited in his celibate form at Sabarimalai? Does He only become worthy of worship when in a form wherein He prefers to have only men?
— The idea of a ‘sisterhood of women’ with their Rights is great but are we insisting that all the onus for self-control and self-discipline is vested in men, women can do as they like?
— Are we insisting that all women must ascribe to the party politics, work norms and Power values intrinsic to secularism/ communism if they are to survive in Secular India? In which case why do we allow special provisions for women of other Faiths? Again, are women only actualised as a herd or can they have (be allowed to have?) differences in Faith, ideology, worldviews, etc., among themselves?
— Are we convinced that women are superior beings, or conversely that women do not have the ability to control/ discipline themselves and thus God as Deity had better adjust instead?
— Can Christ or Allah be told to change His attributes/ Laws? If not, how is it we presume that Lord Ayyappa as Naishtika Brahmachari can/ should be forced to do so?
F.2.4. This of course brings up more fundamental issues, e.g., Do Indians have the Right to trample over Hindus because their religion is indigenous to India and action against them will not have the international repercussions that messing with Christians/ Muslims; Christianity/ Islam has? Is it morally/ ethically right that ‘seculars Hindus’/ communists/ Christians with Hindu names but little or no connection with the root religion, more especially its worldview, claim to speak on the behalf of its followers[xxviii]? That Christians and Muslim intellectuals in Secular India stand by as their ‘brothers’ stoke fires and when trouble arises, rush to their aid and/or have activists go to ‘parent’ countries for aid against Hindus? Is it ethical/ moral that having airbrushed the effects of the Partition on Hindus at the time, seventy years after Independence Indians more forcefully demonise Hinduism and (perhaps unthinkingly) attempts to legislate Hindus into the Abrahamic mould and/or ‘secular power-based values’?
F.2.5. There have been reports of Transgenders entering the temple. A case of the media fishing in and muddying troubled waters since it was never an issue – and the issue of sarees vs whatever, never came up; police may not have been familiar with regulations. There was also the pull on the heart strings by mentioning ‘Dalits’. Again, some groups/ individuals trying to add fuel to the fire since Dalit entry per se is not an issue at Sabarimalai though it is likely true that they are not a prioritised people either. In fact, all the men are ‘Swami’ and the entire pilgrimages allows men to bond across castes as they move to their goal of Darshan of their Lord. Even a basic familiarity with some Indian languages would make it clear that Darshan means ‘to see’, ‘be in the presence of’ rather than adore Him ‘up above the world so high’. Obviously too, devotees are expected to go during visiting hours and not disturb Him when resting or eating, a point that seems to have escaped The State/ Activists more used to a servant master relationship wherein the servant (apparently the Deity) is placed at the beck and call of the master (the Activist)[xxix].
F.3. Energies: Menstruation; The idol vs the Murti
If Secular India’s ‘educated’ women had bothered to listen and try to understand the Sabarimalai issue, they would have recognised that it had nothing to do with women and even less to do with menstruation per se. However, since the age group fiat focusses on women of menstruating age and the devotees mentioned ‘dirty energies’ this sub-section briefly discusses a matter not officially recognised and even less understood in much of the West but integral to most Eastern traditions including the Chinese wherein they are more familiar as Yan/Ying forces.
F.3.1. Unlike the Semitic religions which focus on a transcendent all-powerful God, the underlying focus of the Wisdom Traditions of the East, Dao, Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, are the energies within the human body. The healing associated with Acupuncture, the Sowa Rigpa tradition, Yoga, etc are all based on manipulation of these energies. The traditions postulate that anything eliminated by the body – phlegm, blood, excreta, urine, sweat, oils, etc – contains and releases negative energies, in common parlance ‘dirty/ crude energy’ or ‘toxins’. All released energies, negative or positive, affect people/ things in the vicinity. For instance, the feeling of peace in some old churches is the positive energy of the collective prayer of hundreds that having penetrated the walls over time. Similarly, there are some alleys, a walk through which is ‘scary’. Negative energies are always avoided as they result in ill-health. The menstruating woman exposes both Lord Ayyappa and devotees to negative energies at a time when they are at their most vulnerable, their own energies having been refined through over a month of prayer and associated practices.
F.3.2. As mentioned, Devas/ Devis are immanent forms of the Creative principle. The stone idol is a graven image until it is energised through mantra (the nearest equivalent is prayer) which is a mix of sound, emotion and other positive energies and, appropriate practices associated with the Deity in a ‘ritual’ known as ‘prana pratishta’, whereby a portion of the life-energies, prana, of the invoked and worshipped Deity are established within the erstwhile idol usually but not always, over a few days. Thus, the murti is a Living presence with His/Her energies, the prana common to all Life but very much more refined, having been incorporated within His/ Her ‘new’ body. The structure of the temple is usually based on rules in the Agamas and is designed to promote the positive energies of the Deity and His/ Her home. The immanent Creative principle as the worshipped Deity, in His/Her form of the murti (His/ Her body) is housed (not installed/ placed) in the temple. Since S/He is a Living presence, negative energies affect Her/ Him as they do anyone else, in fact more since His/ Her energies are more refined. There are also some forms of some Deities that are specifically for women, with the temples closed to men. The mantras and ‘rituals’ there are different. The Chinese practice of Feng shui and the Hindu Vaastu shastra are based on the principle of transference and incorporation of energies, as are healing practices like Reiki and Pranic Healing.
F.3.3. For people who ‘do not believe in energies, all this is B***S***’, it may be useful to cogitate over the following example from the PRA. In India, unlike Sweden and some other countries there is no recognition of the harmful effects of and so no Laws against, Electromagnetic-energy (EMW) and nothing worthwhile against noise pollution (NP)[xxx], both components of ‘negative/ dirty energies’ known to badly damage/ kill human beings in certain instances. EMW for instance immediately targets the heart, liver, lungs, brain and the Central Nervous System and, bones[xxxi]. When multiple crimes did not silence the victim and make her kowtow to Power in all its filth and ugliness, Authority decided to use the negative energies of EMW and NP, emboldened by the observation of their effect on her as severe seizures including asthma, loss of voice, difficult gait (symptoms of brain trauma) and, confirmatory tests by its protegees in 2009 and their colleagues in 2011 supplemented by plenty of easily available information. This gave Authority and protegees a great means of surreptitiously using Third degree methods to silence the victim while simultaneously consolidating and multiplying benefits of power. Officially, energies are B***, Authority as police and their protegee Power groups are ‘educated’; people’s suffering as loss of sleep/ spinal/ heart/ other issues and the severe damages and disabilities inflicted on the victim, are irrelevant.
F.3.4. Another glimpse into the case study provides more food for thought. Senior doctors had worked in tandem through their individual specialities to arrive at their diagnosis, recognised the symptoms of the damages inflicted and, familiar with the fact that Indian systems can often help a patient when allopathy hits a wall, accepted her ability to cope. However, in the face of Authority’s onslaught with its extremes of immediately identifiable horrific traumas there was nothing to account for her (repeated) survival– though clearly it was linked to the ‘miracles’. She became housebound, then further incapacitated so that only her mind remained intact but she could not even talk easily, and then, injured further so that even the mind, because of the condition of the body, is only available for short spaces of time. Amazingly, not only is such a condition postulated in SD literature but finally, it also became clear that the ‘miracles’ were a result of constituents of what tradition refer to as ‘positive energies’, described in its literature and represented in its iconography in a different context, a different way. To put it differently, the backward Hindus not only recognised the possibility of these conditions and the fact of ‘miracles’ millennia ago, but have documented some of them and also incorporated the learning into formal worship and practices, which are in many cases related to enhancing these positive energies within individuals and/ or in the environment.
G. Secularism, Hinduism and, Social Change
G.1. In Christianity God’s Law is dictated/interpreted by the Pope/ Bishops who are replaced by their Lordships[xxxiii] in a Secular country, i.e., the Law – which adjudicates Right vs Wrong and religious/ social change – is promulgated and imposed by an external authority comprised of comparatively few worthy people who can undertake the knowledge based specialised task of understanding God’s will (/the Law) better, with a designated group (media/ priests/ police) ensuring people adhere to it. Put differently, the Religions of the Book and therefore Secularism are based on the assumptions,
- that people are ‘bad’ and fear of (God) the Law is required to ensure they become/ remain better human beings whereby individual/ society’s Rights can be upheld as envisaged under (God’s Law/) the Constitution, i.e., in the secular world Biblical morality/ ethics is replaced by (at least theoretically,) Constitutional morality/ ethics. The process is an external hierarchical imposition in which social change is pushed by the interpreters of the Law and its arm, the police.
On the other hand, the social format deriving from Hinduism assumes that,
- people are innately ‘good’ and are self-directed to improve and, every human being has the ability to interpret and follow (God’s/) Constitutional Laws related to Religion and Society for the benefit of both individuals and society[xxxiv] It is only in when criminals refuse to consider the overall good of the many, that policing becomes a requirement. In other words, change for the good of society is for the most part an internal process through self volition.
The result is two almost diametrically opposite approaches to social change, law and order. Basava, Narayana Guru, Dayananda Saraswati, Sunderlal Bahuguna, Mannathu Padmanabhan and others including Vinobha Bhave and, MK Gandhi all initiated and brought about social change from within the Hindu worldview and, unlike in the case of social change brought in by Periyar, the Naxalites earlier and the communists in Kerala in the late 1960s/ or now at Sabarimalai, it came about without force/ bloodshed[xxxv]. The awareness/ consciousness raising exercises used in Left/ communist movements first inculcate a sense of deprivation – imposed by ‘a suggested other’ who is deemed to have victimised one and is therefore ‘bad’ – then push emotional buttons to fight ‘the other’ to restore worth, i.e, change is imposed. It seems the Activists used the same principle possibly in the hope that women devotees would ‘feel liberated’ and respond.
G.2. Social Change as Imposition of ‘Authority’s’ Will
In the Sabarimalai case their Lordships objected to what a leading lawyer referred to as the ‘morality of the mob’ – ‘Hinduism’s (therefore, Hindus) discrimination against women’. It is the wider social implications of this attitude – imposition of seemingly modern ideas on the backward Hindu ‘mob’ – and, its mirroring in the police and polity, that caught and held my attention in the Sabarimalai case. For, it has resulted in the assumption that Power has the Right to ignore facts and preferentially make agenda-based ‘judgements’. By extension, it is kosher to use the perquisites of power to impose on the polity and victimise them to preserve/ improve one’s (/peer group’s) relative position without need to reflect on either one’s own actions or their needs. This makes life living hell for the powerless/ power-deprived, e.g., poverty groups, single women, old people, etc, living in proximity to Power groups, especially those promoted, nurtured and protected by ‘Authority as the Law’ as ‘authority’ over citizens. A mutually beneficial exercise for them, it is characterised by the most unscrupulousness methods and vilest means to (re)acquire/ retain Power. ‘Authority’ is merciless and preferentially goes for the kill, with the support of hierarchical institutional/ organisational and /or, money/ status-based relational structures and systems. Other than those in the inter-dependent Power groups, human beings are, at a maximum, entities to be crushed. ‘Efficiency’ peaks for police are the law (ch:the judiciary, academia) as are those to whom they delegate authority (ch:the media/State and its police/ Secular India/ local ‘authorities’).
G.2.1. For, the subliminal message of such judgements on a people whose worldview and religion are regularly negated/ demonised is that those in power are the holders of the keys of the kingdom and no one gets through unless, until they fall in line. Within the police for instance, Authority’s dismissal of Hindus’ concerns gets reflected in the apparent deafness/ blindness that affects ’Authority’ even when faced with incontrovertible proof validating the victim’s stand. Successive governments and the media have rued the resultant situation and castigated senior police. However, during the PRA, there have occasionally been senior officers who were/are not only aware of the problem but tried changing it. Interventions though counterproductive, helped reveal details of the warp and woof of the canvas[xxxvi]. With Sabarimalai, the reactions, approach and methods of the English language media/ State finally explained why, even in seemingly watertight cases, there is/can be no hope for straight forward, honest victims/ victimised people especially if powerless, power-deprived and/or if Authority can find a means of nullifying their worth[xxxvii]. Honest integrity is apparently the worst form of morality/ ethics in Secular India.
G.3. (Unintended) Consequences on the polity.
G.3.1. To understand the effect of this imposition among the polity at ground level, let us stay with the example of the police using a case study from the PRA. A young, enthusiastic SI/ or an older but honest Inspector interviews the victim. He delves for reasons, look for facts, realises that she is totally correct, has requisite proof, a very strong case. He delves further trying to find possible lacunae as the observed simplicity is (apparently) incompatible with the Power which (in his estimation) would validate the personal information collected; on leaving he checks with others and realises it is an open and shut criminal case so the form of protection she wants is easily given. However, as per procedure the powerful in the complex are decision makers as as also the ‘higher ups’ in the hierarchy: SHO/ ACP/ DCP.
G.3.2. Unlike the judges who possibly did not know better, in this case the leaders of the powerful knew for they had been repeatedly requested to intervene before police were brought into the picture[xxxviii]. But since the victim [and other fact finders] had the audacity to presume ‘authority’ does not know what is best for the victim: “she must be made to learn”; like Hindus do not know – they must learn from western academics, as the devotees must learn from Secular India. Over a decade later, with multiple ignored major crimes including “heinous crime” against the victim and structural damage to her apartment to diffuse the case against the original perpetrator as also for the benefit of others in the group; despite repeated (appeals for/) interventions by relations, doctor, friends, JCPs and SplCPs and; having inflicted major damage to all her vital organs and spine; she is still ‘being taught’. Every intervention results in ‘Authority’ intensifying action against the victim: the polity must show respect for Authority (In Sabarimalai – the media and State representatives said this repeatedly). Drama ‘takes care of’ headquarters and silences the victim and the public, as police orchestrate protegee efforts and all available resources to fulfil mutually beneficial agendas including the display of power. Authority always Knows best; detail – the fine print – is irrelevant [xxxix] as are morality/ ethics in pushing the agenda.
G.3.2.1.. The parallels in the approach and actions of Authority(s) within the PRA and during Sabarimalai (/even in academia vs Hindus) are uncanny – until one factors in Secularism’s foundations, Power with its Groups and ethics. At Sabarimalai Hindus had to learn to respect Authority, never mind the review – women were escorted into the temple using all resources. The drama of a women’s wall satisfied ‘authority’ in the form of the ‘liberals’, the Secular India Power group. Again, in the example from the PRA, had the victim been shot it would have been murder with its consequences on the perpetrators. By using negative energies, Authority had engineered it more competently. In the case of Hinduism (and so Hindus) ‘the other’ for all Secular India’s composite cultures and the deemed cause of all India’s ills, had the State outlawed Hinduism or desecrated an ‘idol’ there would have been an outcry, possibly accusations of genocide. State legislated reform, conversion, Hindu-splaining, etc are slower processes to modernise Hindus.
G.3.2.2. In fact, the root of the problem lies in the fact that Power needs a pool of people on whom it can exercise its Power whether that is called ‘uplifting the (section of/) masses’/ ‘spreading the Word’/ articulating on behalf of a people/… is irrelevant. Without the ‘backward’ Hindus their world falls apart for their own monies and status, like that of western academia, depends on the existence of these people. The Activist would have nothing to be active about had everyone recognised that Hinduism has gender equality in a different form. During the PRA every valid intervention was threatening to the Power of those who had authority for it meant they would no longer derive the benefits currently available. The State in Kerala needs temple funds, it also needs to consolidate its Party’s position as leader so that it can stay in Power and extend its benefits. An interesting observation has been that the BJP has apparently done nothing right in its years at the Centre and, the previous governments never did anything wrong. After Sashi Tharoor talked to people in his constituency and tried to present their side, there was an outpouring of anger; the Kerala Congress MPs distributing black bands in Parliament were ordered to desist – Secular India cannot accept difference and definitely not appreciate honest integrity when it does not follow its own agenda. When Secular Power cannot tolerate difference why does it complain about Intolerance in others? Again, Power requires that everyone fall in line. But blames the occasional honest policeperson for not doing his/ her duty.
G.3.3. Until Sabarimalai, the root cause of Power groups’ certainty that Power, especially when reinforced by ‘Authority’[xl], is the sole requirement to judge and/or uphold/ change social dynamics in the direction of the (self) interest of the Power group, remained elusive. During the saga both media and the State insisted they are upholding the Law, i.e., everyone assumed the role of implementer. In the social sphere the DCP/ACP/ local police is the judge[xli], others are ‘implementers[xlii]’. And emulating their Lordships, after ‘judgement’ the judge remains mentally, often physically, inaccessible. ‘Standard investigative techniques’ are opinions, beliefs and ideas of members of Power groups as mediated by mutual self-interest, i.e., agreement on agendas. Lies and defamation seem to be standard practice among these groups. ‘Facts’, ‘proof’, human dignity/ Rights, ‘justice’? As a TV anchor emphasised, ‘we are not here to understand’. Opposing voices and/or attempts at discipline of any (/member of any) Power Group fan tribal loyalties and exponentially increase vindictiveness, viciousness and underhand practices. In practice there is no authority over the dishonest and/or negligent DCP/ ACP/ local Power group’s ‘authority’, any more than there is over the media and/or the State. And, within their structure Local ‘authority’ follows the same pattern, as they together castrate all honest people. Groups’ individual agendas are paramount, means justify the end and, human beings feed off human beings as they exercise and display their power and, cling to its benefits.
G.4. (Unintended) Consequences on the Police
G.4.1. In Secularism, Power as money and status, having replaced the God of the Christians – a message reinforced by the media which informs, discusses, polices, etc as it concentrates on the peccadillos and needs of the rich and/or powerful, activities of ‘concerned’ groups/individuals and, the blunders of others – hierarchy is inevitable as both denominators promote comparison, shades of more vs less, higher vs lower; with the consequent binaries of superior and inferior, Ruler and Ruled, Right to impose one’s Will with it corresponding expectancy of genuflection by ‘the other’, etc. Human beings are commodified, reduced to an immediate/ potential ‘benefit-supplying value’ through their visible assets, money/ status/ contacts, etc. Those on top have ‘wants’, ‘tell’; those below are to carry out orders and fulfil those desires. It is reflected all down the line into and within the public automatically making those with less power irrelevant, ignorable entities[xliii]. Though status can be/ is equally corrupting, the money component of power being more universally available and visible, is perceived as ‘corruption’ – though pinning down an exchange is unusual. The ‘terrorists’ to be eliminated by Authority and its protegees are the ethical, knowledgeable, considerate individuals, known to be unwilling to appreciate and follow ‘Secular (power-related) values’. Others can be cowed down with occasional carrots and displays of power.
G.4.2. While complaining of corruption and insensitivity in police ranks, Indians forget that corruption is a corollary of the hierarchical mode, a tangible exertion/recognition of Power and therefore, a symptom of the underlying morals and ethics inherent in Secularism. These become more apparent in the absence of a strong moral and ethical base and/or the fear of retribution. With Hinduism viewed as an encapsulated form of Satan’s religion which has kept its adherents backward, by implication its fundamental values like facts, truth, self-control, empathetic consideration, etc are values of the Devil. The result is that self-worth is defined not just by the trappings of power but by its visible exercise and display. Thus, India is unwittingly promoting the development of an unscrupulous people, trained – and known to train others – to sink to and scrape the depths of the gutters to uphold an agenda, normally to further self-interest; with tribal loyalties/ fear of the powerful within their ranks to keep even the honest, responsible ones in line. It is pathetic watching them flaunt the constituents of Power – including their ‘training in soft skills’ – totally unaware that Power powered by execrable morals/ ethics cannot get them the respect they crave. A pity, as most local police are quick thinking, perceptive, efficient and effective[xliv].
H. India: Secularism sans Hinduism – the PreView
H.1. Secular India has ascribed the rising Intolerance to the ‘morality of the mob’ which in turn is ascribed to Hinduism viewed as being the cause of the immoral, unethical, narrow minded, uneducated backwardness of its followers. But, an unbiased representation of Hinduism has clarified that it cannot be the cause of the degraded morals and ethics under reference. Hinduism may have its grey areas, but Intolerance is certainly not one of them. Contrarily it likely provided a bedrock and hurdle that prevented the spread of Intolerance. The Study reveals that the ‘One Way, My Way’, agenda driven, almost robotic, human crushing morals and ethics associated with Intolerance are in fact the result of policies that have promoted Secularism sans Hinduism. For Secularism as the springboard of the ethics of Power with its necessity of postulating an ‘other’ to be destroyed by whatever means to promote its own agenda, has in the increasing absence of Hinduism, nurtured increasingly larger numbers of people who parade the morals/ethics of the raptors, hyenas and cannibals of the animal world [xlv].
H.1.2. The horrors of Gulag, the Holocaust, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, ISIS, etc., are ample evidence of the depths to which human beings can descend. Communism in all its shades having postulated that religion is the opium of the people promotes Power with its concomitant ethics for subsets of people and thus, implicitly endorses the descent as long as it is used against ‘the other’ – after which the State takes recourse to extremely strong policing methods against its public. Evident at Sabarimalai through police deployment, the ‘women’s wall’ and then the moral/ ethical descent to get women into the sanctum sanctorum in disguise with police protection, these are standard practice in Communist countries. Having demonised Hinduism and posited Hindus as ‘the other’ in ‘knowledge enhancing/ producing’ frameworks; under the guise of ‘modernisation’ Secular India has unwittingly encouraged Power-based morals/ethics in the race to be deemed ‘Secular’ and thereby sponsored the descent of the moral/ ethical standards in India. Concurrently, it complains about the Rise of Intolerance!
I.1. Can Secular India really succeed as a country with police and individuals/ groups in the polity increasingly demonstrating their ‘peace time’ ability to descend to levels even most animals avoid? How long can a habitually victimised people, no matter how peace loving, law abiding and ‘not virile’, be expected to provide the stage on which Power Groups can dance and display their power? With the seeming rise of intolerance have come the accusations of majoritarianism by those drawing parallels with other countries in the globalised world. But as this Study has revealed the parallel is illusionary. It is also useful to note that despite being home to most of the leading intellectuals, universities and think tanks, in the last many decades the social situation within national boundaries in Europe and the USA, has had little to recommend for itself in terms of the treatment of ‘the other’
I.1.1. This study also indicates that there is a major chasm between Secular India’s hypothetical construct of Hinduism – the likely basis for its actions and rulings as related to Hindus – and, the reality that is Hinduism with its capacity to factor in multiple hues and shades[xlvi]. This was also reflected in the earlier study on the Van Panchayats wherein: “Findings revealed a close parallel between envisaged ‘modern alternatives’ and ground reality”. It is also clear that not only do Hindus have good reason to resist the imposition of a different religio-cultural construct, but the process of imposition is in itself having negative consequences.
I.2. Though this study presents a bird’s eye view of a situation vis a vis the rise in Intolerance and Social Change in India, given the importance of a harmonious polity wherein the Rights, safety and wellbeing of every citizen and especially the marginalised and vulnerable is promoted and, the crucial similarity with the Findings of the earlier report[xlvii], it seems best to share another excerpt from that report:
“For the xxxxxx itself, possibly the most decisive implication of this study is the opportunity to reflect on whether and if so to what extent, it is willing to break with current Donor policy and strike out on a new path on its own. As with anything new, this path is likely to have its grey areas and frustrations. Contrarily, it is probable that eventually a working arrangement that synergistically combines the strengths of the traditional and modern and allows each to compensate for the weaknesses in the other, will result in a new paradigm for ‘Development’. A paradigm that could have a strong impact well beyond PFM projects.
There is a humongous difference in making basic changes in prevailing economics-centred Development theories operationalised in a large country like India and, initiating changes in the approach, structures and systems within an Institution even if change is envisaged State-wide. But the earlier Study, this one and the ongoing PRA exercise indicate the possibility of a very positive outcome if despite the likely hiccups en route, the ‘intangible within’ is given its due place; though experiences during the PRA as also western academics’ example suggest that Power groups do not easily allow devolution/dilution – Power’s constituents and benefits are enticing and there is fear of change.
I.3. Indians appear to have been unaware that the cut throat, morally/ethically devastating competition among Left vs Secular vs ‘Right’ is not the only ‘paradigm’ that is ‘for’, ‘by’ and ‘of’ the people – that an alternative existed within the country and though difficult to tease it out, may well repay efforts through vast improvements in the lives of the average citizen and vulnerable groups and, their social and bio-physical environments[xlvii]. For unlike secularism’s development models with economics at their core, the ‘intangible within’ as I finally discovered, is a natural consequence of a model that had human beings at its core. Another excerpt [xlviii]:
“This system works within a democratic framework, is accountable, transparent and equitable; perhaps in some ways more so than the ‘modern alternatives’ envisaged for it. As with any contemporary system of governance it has its own rules and regulations and, an on-going working relationship with ‘outsiders’ including State institutions and the formal legal system”.
But as researchers are aware, the ‘Panchayati Raj’ system has not always ended issues like those of Intolerance and/or many issues faced by the powerless and marginalised. Again[xlix],
“It is based on rules and regulations similar to those that constitute the ‘modern alternative’…. And, a phenomenon they are unused to but one which contemporary society is familiar with – it is becoming increasingly difficult to enforce the rules” [emphasis added]
Until that ‘intangible within’ and its source, Hinduism, is teased out and factored in, any social engineering and reform is essentially an imposition, as Power groups with the morals/ethics that characterise Secular India, take over.
I.4. Much water has flowed down the Ganges in the 20yrs since the earlier Report. ‘Godhra’ was a watershed for Secular India as evidenced by the continuing massive upheavals in its aftermath, indicated as divergently as through western academics’ consolidation of their own agendas and the recent brouhaha over ex– President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to the RSS Headquarters. The Kashmiri Pandit exodus, the reporting of it and the help extended to them; the burning of a compartment of the Sabarmati Express, Godhra and media reports; Khandamal and its aftermath, and; Secular India’s increasing demonization of Hinduism and Hindus through the years, have together had major repercussions on the Hindu psyche, further intensified by the Sabarimalai saga. India seems to have become ‘modern’ with ‘Left Wing Liberals’ who insist there is Only One (their) Way and Hindus, collectively labelled ‘Right Wing’ who insist ‘difference must be celebrated’ and there can be multiple paths to the same goal; getting at each others throats [xlviii]. Depending on their own interests, an irrelevant or very positive indicator for other nations but, if “Indians” is a euphemism for Power groups, will it suit India in the long run? How ‘long’ can that run be?
I.5. In a quirk of fate, the Sabarmati Express has made a temporary halt at Sabarimalai giving Indians time to recall Tagore’s words in the Gitanjali:
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high……
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls ………..
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit……..
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake
while it ponders over, reflects upon and discusses the implications of the Constitution’s opening phrase: “WE, the people of India ..” [li]
1. The credit for bringing the defining characteristics of Secularism under the spotlight goes to
— My father, (Late) Col Rajendra Nath Kumar for recognising the hold and characteristics of Power and its constituents and, their intrinsic effect on the morals and ethics of individuals and groups; which he revealed in two letters, painstakingly written in u/c for easier comprehension by a 12year old and;
— My mother, (Late) Mrs Indira Kumar, nee Anand, who helped me learn that judging must not only differentiate clearly between right and wrong but also allow for/ appropriately factor in the multiple motivations and causes including ignorance and worldviews, that underly any human action.
2. At the core of this study is the lifelong training imparted by my parents who attempted to inculcate a dispassionate understanding and empathetic acceptance of ‘the other’ with clarity of one’s own role in a dynamic situation and, the knowledge that Power as Authority is to be used only as a last resort and, towards just and humane ends. Eventually, each paid the ultimate price for what they believed defined being human. Together with their insistence on standing by the truth and helping those around without fanfare, unintentionally, the training in all probability also precipitated and kept alive the PRA.
3. A Thankyou to the numerous known and unknown Hindus who through the years shared with me all that has become the main content of this paper and; the known and unknown people in the vicinity and at a distance, including some police, who fruitlessly tried to help end the need for a PRA
[i] I coordinated Delhi’s Voluntary Relief/ Rehabilitation efforts with additional responsibility as the go-to person for all emergencies. People from all walks, sections of society, provided diverse expertise & inputs from food, clothes, locks and bolts to housing, monies, relief from government, counselling and reports on the rioting. In 1985 I was requested for by SEWA, Ahmedabad for help with rehabilitation of the riot affected women of the unorganised sector and the facilitation of the first ever government grant for this purpose.
[ii] ‘Secular’ with u/c is used for Indians as the people of India.
[iii] Of course, everyone has forgotten that the moniker ‘Hindu Nationalist Party’ was conferred on them by western academics. Anyone recalling the 1960s-70s will recall that seculars were also ‘Nationalists’ – Gandhi, Bhave, Salt March, Quit India movement and the Partition, were within recall especially for those paying 80-90% in Income tax, donating land/ giving it for a pittance for compensation when government wanted it, etc.
[iv] Rahul Gandhi is trying to change the discourse but the paper focuses on the ground situation rather than the changing politics.
[v] I was there as the Member Expert on Community Development/WID (Women in Development) in the Royal Netherlands Government’s Kanpur/ Mirzapur Environment and Sanitary Engineering Mission (Fact finding and Planning for Pollution Control under the first Ganga Action Plan). 1987 Jan – Feb.
[vi] Those who have worked closely with riot victims, victims of physical abuse or mental/emotional violence, women, poverty groups/ migrant labour of the 1970s- early 80s especially those in urban slums, disabled/ unwell and/or old people and other vulnerable groups, will find it easier to understand this statement.
[vii]. Forestry for Local Community Development – A Conceptual Framework. Incorporated into – Forestry for Sustainable Rural Development: the Search for a Paradigm. Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Yale University, CT, USA. 1988.
[viii] Historically most Indian linguistic groups share a past noted for its extremely sharp and colourful languages and analogies. It could be useful to figure out why tensions have got exacerbated even as political correctness is increasingly in vogue.
[ix] People’s Participation in Forestry and Natural Resource Management: Are we on the Right Track? “‘Traditional’ Or, More Modern Than Modern: Preliminary Evidence from the Uttar Pradesh Van Panchayats.” Report submitted to xxxxxxxxxxxxxx, N Delhi. 1999.
[x] No one had envisaged the existence of people for whom, irrespective of gender, class, religion, etc, power – in the form of money/ ‘knowledge’/ status/ contacts/ profession/ brawn/ whatever – as the ability to exercise authority, is the summum bonam of life.
[xi] Many Development workers personal experiences/ case studies including those on riots/ conversions especially in the last decades can be better understood once this group is recognised and the variable is factored in.
[xii] The Hindus: An Alternative History. Viking Penguin, 2009. Later published by Penguin India
[xiii] Tangentially, Secular India contributed to the disastrous social/ environmental fallout in the handling of certain issues by the BJP. For the untouchable ‘Hindu Nationalist Party’ members who likely also have hangovers from their life as Hindus in Secular India and, members of Secular India avoid each other and/or find it difficult to work together. The result is that the BJP does not have the ease of recourse to technical expertise issues as did earlier governments. Indians politic and India suffers.
[xiv] Ref: https://medhajournal.com/vedas-revisited-paurusheya-or-apaurusheya/ especially sections B.1. and, F and G.
[xv] Islam is outside the purview of this study. Briefly, the Koran is very clear on treatment for infidels/ kaffirs especially idol worshippers but lacks Christianity’s zeal to “uplift” people. The difference likely has bearings on their methods of handling Hindus in Secular India.
[xvi] Proselytising nurses/ attendants, usual when sourced through hospitals, make life very difficult for patients.
[xvii] In the metros there are numerous instances of children and parents converting for the benefit of an education, money/ help during illness, etc. It extends in numerous forms and directions.
[xviii] The ruckus over the loudspeaker amplified calls of the muezzin, the spill overs from the mosques blocking streets and open spaces on Fridays, etc, need to be viewed in this context.
[xix] Wikipedia entry on Toleration.
[xx] I am grateful to The Venerable (Dr) Trogawa Rimpoche, of the Chagpori Tibetan Medical Institute in Darjeeling, who left his body soon after our meeting, for confirming and, testing for this. I was referred to him by Tai Situ Rimpoche. My thanks too, to ‘Geshe La’- Kyabje Gelek Rimpoche – who has subsequently also left his body, both for the prayers that facilitated these meetings and also (thereby) the Teaching on the stunning efficacy of prayer within given parameters.
[xxi] “Modernise”/ “make a Perfect World as per His Teachings”, etc
[xxii] Wikipedia entry on God in Christianity
[xxiii] Or their counterparts in other denominations
[xxiv] Meanings adapted from the Cambridge English Dictionary which lists both.
[xxv] Even today, USCRIF, the Vatican and Britain, keep a tab on the wellbeing of and selectively intervene on behalf of Christians.
[xxvi] It is the Deity’s equivalent of the Englishman’s “my home is my castle”. The Deva/ Devi’s home is the temple. Within a personal residence S/He has the “pooja ghar”: ‘home of the Deity who is worshipped.” Or “pooja ka kamaraa”: the Deity’s room
[xxvii] And yet we are all concern when the Yezdis/ Kurds/ Uyghurs are trampled on by the State!
[xxviii] A very difficult situation for those who view themselves as genuine Hindus but cannot cope with the ‘fundamentalist’ views, are ashamed of what is happening around, and keen to bring about change in the only direction they know. It is hoped that a thorough perusal of this paper will help.
[xxix] Apparently they are leading a class struggle promoting Equal Rights.
[xxx] Not that Laws help the powerless/ power-deprived; but they do help to bring the subject into the elites’ consciousness.
[xxxi] The tasers used by police for incapacitating people emit EMW. X-Rays and Gamma Rays which are used under strict conditions in hospitals are also forms of EMW, i.e, ‘negative energies’
[xxxiii] The word itself derives from ‘Lord’ another name for ‘God’ as in ‘The Lord’s Prayer’
[xxxiv] In Hinduism’s original social structure every adult had this responsibility to Society – Doniger has been quite derisive about these qualities as also the social responsibility under the rubric of ‘Brahminism’.
[xxxv] No doubt the CPM claims credit for the temple entry of Dalits, but Mannathu Padmanabha Pillai worked with, on and through the Nair community. Facts are passé in much of Secular India.
[xxxvi] If one has the expertise and a reasonably good empathetic understanding of the people.
[xxxvii] Defamation, blackmail, the threat/ exercise of forms of sexual violence, brute power, false witness, etc are among the usual tools.
[xxxviii] No different from Doniger who also knew her facts before the tom toms were put to action.
[xxxix] A favourite example – when the police/ power group member says its day the victim better agree its day and then bite the dust and admit that s/he was wrong all through……… appreciate them as the givers of wisdom and the goodies in life and recognise that if s/he opens mouth again s/he will pay for it with increasing punishment including maybe life. Very like the “recantation” of the Tibetan Lamas when the Communists took over Tibet/ the Pot Pol regime in action ….. )
[xl] This is usually covert and can take long to reveal itself, though powerless groups routinely factor it in as the bottom line.
[xli] I have used the DCPs as example as eventually, the buck stops (and, if the Power groups are well place, starts) here. It is often the ACP, usually the SHO though police’s ‘Secular-ethics’ and victims’ limitations usually stops it at the lower ranks.
[xlii] These are the bare bones to facilitate comprehension. In practice it is nuanced, complicated by many factors.
[xliii] The #Metoo movement, a response to Power as ‘sexual predation’ at an individual level, demonstrated Power groups’ protective capacity. The chain-snatching on streets, vigilantism etc are often basically individual displays of power. It is exciting for bullies. ‘Nirbhaya’s’ rapists were out ‘to have some fun’.
[xliv] Even among the IPS one occasionally comes across police who are beholden to ‘contacts’/ are sitting where they are because promotions are linked to tenure of service.
[xlv] Seemingly, Secular India has displaced the hierarchical structure inherent in the the Abrahamic religions and their derivative ideologies, Secularism and Communism, onto Hinduism and used this as a base for demonising Hindus, since their understanding is confirmed by that of western academia, which uses essentially the same (Biblical) frames of reference. Both Christianity and Judaism rose out of a situation wherein God saved His people. He was transcendent and all powerful – a hierarchical situation reflected in the religions (Islam too has the hierarchy but its inception and therefore its functioning is different) and later in the ideologies. Hinduism was not borne out of conflict – Power or the lack of it was not a determinant, has no intrinsic role. It was this that, until recently, allowed for Indian Secularism’s multicultural approach/ the comparative peace despite Hindus being riled at the abuse of their religion and their own seemingly caste in stone subaltern status, etc. While there is no doubt Power and its display backed by the ethics/ morals intrinsic to it can crush a people, will Secular India benefit? Does India really matter?
[xlvi] Another study, available at https://medhajournal.com/vedas-revisited-paurusheya-or-apaurusheya/ suggests a major cause of this issue
[xlvii] Bhutan has developed the Gross National Happiness Index, taken up in parts by France and Thailand. If India wants genuine Development it too will have to do its own modelling, draw up relevant indices. This study indicates that Secular India is clueless vis a vis a large section of its religio-cultural and socio-political spheres. Does it have the capability, capacity or even the inclination, for the requisite R&D?
[xlviii] People’s Participation in Forestry and Natural Resource Management: Are we on the Right Track? “‘Traditional’ Or, More Modern Than Modern: Preliminary Evidence from the Uttar Pradesh Van Panchayats.” Report submitted to xxxxxxxxxxxx, N Delhi. 1999.
[xlix] Ibid. The Report on the Field Work for the Study which supplied the basic data for this Report was dated Aug 1995, but the data itself was collected earlier possibly as baseline for Donor assisted Panchayati Raj efforts. The unexpected, colossal discrepancy between its data and conclusions resulted in a manifold increase in work. (Power ethics in Secular India; shades of western/ western trained academic output on Hinduism)
[l] With similar murmurs in the USA and France, perhaps it is becoming a characteristic of “Liberalism”?
[li] Note: Though the paper is based on Secularism as derived in the West for that is the form in which it is prevalent and therefore relevant, in Indian society; it does appreciate the contention made by Rajeev Bhargava (Centre for Developing Societies, Delhi and, Baliol College Oxford) that Indian Secularism evolved differently (though one may quibble on details); that it has at its base ‘multiculturalism’ and a ‘principled distance’ between State and religion. As this study has recognised, the issue then becomes, ‘Whose principles, how much distance and which component spheres?’ It seems to have contributed to the stand taken by the lone dissenting judge in the Sabarimalai case. Again, there can be no ‘multiculturalism’ until all composite cultures, irrespective of Faith and ideology, accept the proposition in practice, ie., the actual rather than ideological/ theoretical acceptance of difference. Thus, though Indian Secularism was different, in 21st century India it has become at best, a theoretical construct.
More posts by this author:
- Tharoor: Hindu Fundamentals Under Attack
- The Vedas Revisited: Paurusheya/ Apaurusheya, Anitya/Nitya??
In addition to occasional short forays with leading NGOs working with children/ women/ migrant labour/ natural resources, etc, As Sr. Consultant: Gender, Environment, Institutions most formal work was with Donor Governments – essentially, provided more clarity and fresh insights/ perspectives/ frameworks that catalysed changes in their projects and policies.
The last decade has been Participatory Action Research into causal factors resulting in the futility of current laws/systems/processes and accepted theories /strategies related to crimes against women/ vulnerable groups and; possible alternatives to ameliorate the situation.