Uploaded by G. Ayyaneth

Religion & Politics in India Today

Religion and Politics Played out in India Today
The Gorakshaks (cow-protection goons) spread unrest in India, instigating mob lynching.
Groups of assailants murder innocent people alleging that they have stored, transported or
eaten cow meat.
The social activists, politicians, media personalities, writers, thinkers, etc., who criticize the
Modi Government are killed, intimidated, bullied, arrested, shouted down, trolled, etc., by
labelling them as antinational or traitors of Hindu Rashtra.
A media institution like ND TV can be threatened through a CBI raid simply by the sway of
a BJP spokesperson, Sambith Pathra.
Central Film Censor Board, a political spade of the ruling party, eliminated words such as
‘Gujarat’, ‘cow, ‘Hinduist’, ‘Hindu India’, etc., from a documentary directed by Suman
Ghoshon about the world renowned economist and Nobel Prize winner, Amartya Sen.
National top educational, cultural, economic, defence and security agencies such as UGC,
ICHR, NCERT, IIT, FTII, ISRO, CBFC, CBI, NIA, etc., have been filled with Sangh
Many prominent figures of Sangh Parivar appealed to the people not to give relief aid to
Kerala, because they are beef-eaters.
To wipe out the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru, the Central Government is going to reconstruct
the Jawaharlal Nehru Museum in Teenmurthy Bhavan, New Delhi, into a museum for all
Prime Ministers.
Many social activists were arrested and the residences of social activists, such as Fr. Stan
Swami SJ, were raided by Pune Police the other day alleging their role in Bhima Koregaon
All in the name of one religion - Hindu, one religious ideology – Hindutva, one religious symbol
– cow, one religious identity – Hindu nationalism. The undercurrent of the prevalent condition
in India is intertwined with the word “Hindu”. BJP, the political party, functions and propagates
ideas in a way as if the monopoly of speaking authoritatively about the word ‘Hindu’, its culture
and religion, solely belongs to them. BJP, in fact, ought to thank the British colonials for giving
religious attire to the word ‘Hindu’. It is the British who categorised the non-Christians and the
non-Muslims into a religious group entitled Hindus. Thereby, thousands of ethnic groups,
having Vedic traditions or belief in regional deities or nature worship or Buddhist-Jainist ways,
were brought under the single religious label of ‘Hindu’. In fact, all these categories differ
widely in their beliefs and rituals. It is BJP which now enjoys the fruits of the unification of
these ethnic groups which constitute around 80% of the Indian population as they were brought
under a single religion by the British. Thus, BJP is playing a political game by which the
cultural identity ‘Hindu’ is given a religious attire, thereby creating a religious majority and
transforming them into a vote-bank.
The word ‘Hindu’ is mentioned nowhere in Indian scriptures or literary works. Two different
opinions persist among historians about its etymology. First, the Persians who shared a common
ethnic identity with the Indian Aryans considered those tenants who lived across the Sindhū
(Indus) river as ‘Hindus’. It was due to the difficulty that they had in pronouncing‘s’ in their
regional language that ‘Sindhū’ became ‘Hindu’. Considering this, the word “Hindu” itself is
foreign. Later, it was the Muslim invaders who first called the land across the river Sindhū
‘Hindustan’. Secondly, it is the reference to ‘Saptha Sindhu’ in Rig Veda. ‘Saptha Sindhū’
means the land of seven great rivers. Here, the word ‘Sindhū’ is used in the sense of river. In
Vedic Sanskrit the letter `s´ is pronounced as `h´. That means ‘Sapta Sindhu’ became ‘Hapta
The geographical semantics of the word ‘Hindu’ are found in common in both interpretations.
The sense of religion is not found anywhere in ancient tradition. The settlements of nomads
were always river plains. Later, as they became agrarian societies, various tribes came to be
known along with the rivers and their civilizations grew. It was subsequent to this change that
the people and the culture of the regions near to the Sindhū (Hindu) river came to be known as
‘Hindu’, ‘Hinduism’, ‘Hindu Dharama’, etc. This culture was also shaped by the contributions
made by the native aboriginals, Aryans, Persians and many other tribes who existed in these
regions during various eras.
It is not in alliance with any one particular religion that the ‘Hindu’ culture emerged and
continues to grow. The present Hindu culture is a conglomeration of thousands of tribal
traditions and ancient Vedic and Persian traditions. Owing to the absence of so-called ‘modern
science’, during ancient times, culture was transmitted orally, through rituals, customs, arts,
stories, myths, etc.The moral precepts, truths and practical guidelines in them were known as
science (sastra). This was always susceptible to change. This is how India owns a tradition
enriched with such diversity. It is ever since Sanskrit got prominence that conservatism which
resists changes gradually began to tighten its clutches. Yet, the ethnic tribal culture continued to
exist in its own glory by overcoming it. Under the monopoly of Sanskrit, the Hindu culture got
its own shape. It was called ‘Hindu Dharma’, ‘Sanathan Dharma’ and so on. Even then, it never
had any religious attire. Hindu dharma refers to various ways of righteous living as laid down
by seekers of truth. In addition to various such ways like, Vedic, Buddhist, Jainist, Parsee, Sikh,
etc., Muslim and Christian cultures also joined this stream. The present Indian culture is evolved
not from any one religious identity, that is, Hindu. It is like the river Ganges that flows down to
the low lands some times as a single entity, but usually as different streams merging and
converging to make it a whole.
There are serious attempts by right-wing political parties, especially, by BJP, to give religious
interpretations to the Hindu cultural identity and thereby deconstructing the same to suit their
ideology, to procure power. This is in immediate and distant future, a challenge to the political
existence of India as a country, a country which has its basis in the motto “unity in diversity”.
With this political and religious background, let me come to the main point of today’s
discussion. Wherever there has been unholy alliance between religion and politics, it has always
resulted in the downfall of the religion. The ultimate loser of this power-play of BJP and Sangh
Parivar, misusing the identity, symbols, sentiments and traditions of Hindu Dharma for their
political gains, will be Hindu Dharma, for that matter, the Hindu Religion itself. In the course of
time, we will see the decline of the Hindu Religion, because of BJP’s and Sangh Parivar’s
unholy game to convert 80% of the people who fall under the British invented label of Hindu
religion, into their vote-bank. It is against this backdrop that we should view the Gorakshaks’
mob lynching, Yogi Adithyanath’s Chief Ministerial Post, the appointment of Modi-Bhakts and
Hindu fanatics at the top most positions in public institutions, intimidation and arrest of social
activists, rewriting of India’s history looking through the prism of extreme Hindutva ideologies
for text books, hate speeches against Muslims, Christians and Dalits, moral policing by fringe
groups of Hindu organizations, etc.
Through all these means BJP is trying to establish that they have monopolized the so-called
Hindu religion. The official spokespersons of the Hindu religion now are the propagators,
beneficiaries and activists of BJP party. The ‘Hindu Dharma’ is hijacked by the high-tech
Yogis, Babas, Swamis, Sanths, Mathajis anointed by BJP and Sangh Parivar. Earlier it was not
the case. The enlightened Sanysis, Swamis and Yogis of monasteries such as Sri Sankaracharya,
Sri Ramakrishna, etc., were the true teachers, interpreters and spokespersons of ancient Hindu
Dharma. Everybody looked to them for their wise teachings and their teachings were considered
as the final word about Hindu Dharma. But, today, no one wants to pay heed to these learned
and enlightened people who are true heirs of Hindu Dharma. Their spaces are occupied by
frauds who are political puppets in the hands of BJP. These frauds have adopted the noble
symbols such as saffron dress and names such as Yogi, Baba, Mathaji, Swami, etc. By pitching
these people against their opponents, BJP is playing a political game. BJP knows that they will
not get the noble, enlightened, learned, great and just people of Hindu Dharma on their side.
Here, Hindu Dharma is degraded before the entire world. The world is given an impression that
Hindu Dharma means ‘cow vigilantism’, ‘Yogis with political activism’, ‘high-flying Godmen/women’, ‘commercialized Yoga’, ‘products in the market with the name of Rsis (seers)’,
like Pathanjali, etc.
The authentic sages, yogis and swamis who lead a life moulded according to the real Hindu
Dharma might be deeply wounded by seeing and hearing such things. Their silence has sunken
in the political cacophony of frauds. The words of these sages are being pushed into oblivion by
the clamouring created by Adithyanath, Ramdev, Uma Bharathi, Chakrapani, etc. BJP is
dragging the Hindu Dharma to a huge historical error. These people who are apparently the
protectors of Hindu Dharma are, in fact, traitors to Hindu Dharma, causing self-destruction.
Wherever there has been unholy alliance between religion and politics, it has always resulted in
the downfall of the religion. This is the lesson that history offers.
There was a period in Europe during which Christianity was politically utilized. In order to
maintain their power, many rulers forcefully imposed rules, rituals, customs and morality upon
the pubic under the label of Christianity. This unholy alliance caused an aversion to Christianity
among the Westerners while they were going through many revolutions. This political abuse has
been the reason why a group of people hated Christianity which was the life-breath and root
cause of all the prosperity in the West. Many things which those political leaders have done,
claiming to promote Christianity, have weakened it in reality.
It is the same historical error that the Hindu Dharma follows in India today. If those politicians
insist others about what to eat, what to wear, what to say, whom to love, etc., based on Hindu
religion, then it would end up in the downfall of that religion. Though there were many foreign
invasions, why then Hindu Dharma could not be ravaged by those invaders? It is because Hindu
Dharma had the inner dynamism of diversity, pluralism and inclusiveness. In fact, the languages,
cultures, art, literature, music, etc., brought by those invaders only added to the beauty of Hindu
Dharma. If this inner dynamism, freedom and spontaneity are lost, then the next generation will
fall into the other extreme of counterculture. In simple terms, if somebody is out there to dictate
me in the name of Hindu religion, what should be in my frying pan and what should I eat, drink,
wear, what language I should speak, what kind of art and music I should make or enjoy, with
whom I should make friendship and to whom should I relate, etc., then, the future generation
will not only hate that religion, but also a counterculture movement will rise up against this
religious fundamentalism and moral policing.
Europe has gone through this phenomenon. The seeds of counterculture in Europe were already
sown in the period of renascence, from 14th to 17th Century. Then it got momentum by the
Reformation in 16th and 17th Centuries. This counterculture got emboldened by the new
discoveries, ‘isms’, ideologies, French Revolution, World Wars, etc., in the period of
Enlightenment in 18th and 19th Centuries. Finally in 20th Century, precisely, the 1960s,
counterculture movements became an open threat to mainstream dominant culture and the
Catholic Church bore the brunt of these developments. As a result, the hold of Catholic Church
on people, political power and state, slowly waned and the number of churchgoers has
drastically fallen. The unholy relationship between Church and political power over centuries
brought about a hostile attitude towards the Church. People started questioning the misuse of
religious sentiments, ethos, symbols, institutions, etc., to amass political power by religious
leaders and religious dominance by political leaders. A good number of churchgoers left the
Church and adopted materialism or atheism or agnosticism or ultra-secularism. These kinds of
developments forced the Church to shed off all political powers from its clutches and to stay
away from state politics. Where the separation of State and Religion was most efficiently
enforced, that often happened through fierce and painful struggles, sometimes even reaching the
verge of civil war. In almost every western European country religious intolerance, bloodshed,
‘religious cleansing’, extermination of religious minorities was the initial way political and
religious powers dealt with those counterculture movements. The 20th century witnessed the total
separation of state and religion and the loser in the end was the Church, i.e. religion.
Now India is going through the same painful process which the West has already gone through.
Indians have not yet learned to face modernity, a lesson learned in the West only with great pain
and many failures. Hindu Dharma is being subverted or deconstructed. Here, subversion or
deconstruction means the destructive activities which will lead to the downfall of Hindu Dharma
by Hindutva forces themselves. This deconstruction which deviates from the essence of Hindu
Dharma will only alienate the coming generation from the so-called Hindu religion of which
BVP claims to be the custodians. It will only help in creating a new generation that hates
religion. What we need is not the political deconstruction of Hindu Dharma, but a re-discovery
of the spiritual inner dynamism of Hindu Dharma.
G. Ayyaneth