Pretty much all my adult life, I’ve been a fence sitter, as far as religious matters are concerned. It’s not a bad choice after all, given that I’ve been lead to believe that religion and science don’t go together. I’ve even mocked my friends/family for following their faith, without bothering to understand about the philosophy and the tenets. The weird part being, even they don’t know, or, fully comprehend the ‘why’s’ of it all. Since I was so liberal in my thoughts, the concept of “India” was vague & a very recent phenomena, a gift of the British, so to speak. I really wondered at times (being a Punjabi) that since current day Pakistan’s West Punjab was a part of India’s Punjab, why are we even fighting? Since the Kashmiris were promised a plebiscite, why not give it to them and get it over with? I’ve even fought online wars with other keyboard warriors on these topics, not to mention, the heated debates with real friends. My secular credentials ensured that I was in the Congress camp for a large part of my life, only to get disillusioned by the scams in UPA-II regime. I had pretty much given up on political affiliations when AAP came along as a breath of fresh air. I even donated 5k towards the cause, hoping that it might be the change in political landscape everybody dreamt about, but never happened. Please note that BJP was not an option because it was a party of Hindutva forces backed by the “terrorist” organization, RSS.
But then, something strange happened in 2014, which shook the basic premise of Indian polity of last 30 years. Narendra Modi led BJP to a historic landslide victory. Although, the drama had already begun to unfold on the television debates on how “evil” Hindutva forces were gaining ground and the society was getting polarized. I could not comprehend the need for such vitriolic discussions & venom spewing, after all, this wasn’t the first time, a BJP government was coming to power. It had happened very recently, back in 98. It is also important to point out that this was the time when clear boundaries had been drawn between the different camps on social media too. Now, this was the hardest part, when your friends’ opinions are clearly divided with no reconciliation, and, “facts” being thrown from all sides. This, coupled with those TV debates, newspaper blogs, caused an information overload of sorts. It just looked as if the world was going to explode and all the religious minorities (mostly Abrahimic faiths) would be wiped off from the face of India. I believe, this is when a realization of sorts kicked in. A quick introspection revealed that I was born and raised as a Hindu, but I don’t subscribe to the ideology, as was being portrayed all over the place. There had to be more than met the eye.
This is when I started to research and read more about the events being reported by our “intellectual” journalists from different sources and the corresponding counter arguments. The more I read, more I realized that there was a specific bias in reporting the events, with an inherent subliminal message. So for instance, every incident that portrayed Hindus in bad light would include keywords like “Hindu fundamentalism”, “Hindutva ideology”, would clearly specify the names of persons involved, however, something related to muslims would have keywords like, “a particular religion”, “local fundamentalists”, with no names whatsoever. Then, there were TV debates and interviews, where the anchors, instead of nonpartisan approach, had a clear leading agenda, particularly among them, Arnab Goswami, Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose, Barkha Dutt, Karan Thapar. Some of the news items would start off with such a great fervor as if there was nothing more important to report, but just disappeared from the news arena when no specific Hindu group involvement was proven (for instance, the Church attacks or the nun-rape case in Ranaghat). While we are at it, I must also point out that this hasn’t been happening in isolation as a recent phenomena. There has been a concerted effort to distort and subvert our history, lies or partial truths have been planted via our history texts in schools, just to ensure that the collective consciousness remains colonized to the whims and fancies of a few. Yes, my obvious reference is towards a particular dynasty and it’s lackeys. So, for instance, there is a reason why our school history text books have dedicated chapters on pretty much all the Muslim rulers and British, whereas, nobody knows in detail about the resistance Hindus/Sikhs offered to their atrocities. In fact, the texts would go on elaborating the contribution of the Mughals, but would never talk in detail about the destruction caused by them. In a more recent context, it would be a travesty to just talk about the rights of Kashmiri Muslims, and not include the forcefully displaced/persecuted Kashmiri Pandits/Sikhs of the valley. Or, that the gap between Sunni Punjabis in West Punjab and Hindu/Sikh Punjabis in East Punjab can not be bridged because it’s an ideological difference based on the two-nation theory, exacerbated by the Islamization of Pakistan back in 70s. However, the peaceniks would have us believe otherwise.
It’s not been my intention to belittle or demean any person or a community. Neither am I advocating for any violence against anybody. However, I’m of the belief that history should be taught, the way it happened. It is also imperative that the intelligentsia, while debating in any forum should be armed with the relevant facts and not solely rely on emotions. An important part of de-colonization is to study about our Vedic/Dharmic past, the basic tenets of Sanatana Dharma, and embrace, feel proud of them, instead of brushing them under the rug by terming them as antiquated and old-fashioned. I’m not claiming that we’ve have had a perfect past, or that we were the only greatest civilization that ever lived, however, it’s important to discover an identity for oneself. It’s also incumbent upon us to fix (or rather change), the concepts which don’t make sense in the present day and age. The so called ‘secularism’ (I’d prefer the phrase ‘mutual respect’) is inbuilt into our way of life, hence, it’s not a coincidence that it has survived for so long. We’ve already won the war against brute force, which has been waged against us for millennia, however, as Rajiv Malhotra points out, it’s an ‘Intellectual Kurukshetra’ that we need to win now. I can no longer remain a fence sitter.