A New Religion in the Making
Traditionally, Hinduism has been known as a religion of tolerance. This characteristic has been its hallmark. While Christians insisted that God was three and three were incorporated in one, and the Muslims that He was One in every sense of the word, an indivisible entity, Hinduism never stressed on any primary dogma essential to its system. It believed in all, accepted all (whether it came from the east or the west) and accommodated all (even if somewhat grudgingly). As against Islam, which maintains that religion has to be based on an uncorrupt Revelation to be true, and therefore, it alone is true, Hinduism maintained that there can be several ways to reach God, and hence all religions are equally true and valid. Islam insisted that in religious matters there could be no dilution, no inter-exchange and no borrowing. Muslims could interact with others as they wished, but not at the cost of religious principles. They could co-exist with anyone in every sphere of life, but in spiritual, no. Hinduism on the other hand insisted on no such restrictions. This gave it an accommodative character. The reason was simple. There was nothing very special in Hindu religion that could make it stand out as unique in any respect or that could be offered to non-Hindus as a substitute for what they already had. Could it say, for example, ‘Don’t worship ‘this’ idol, but rather ‘that’ idol?’ What’s the difference between one idol and another idol anyway? Indian temples are filled with all kinds, varieties, sizes and shapes of idols, and Hindus believe in one or more of them, rejecting some or all of the rest. Insisting on any single god as the qualifying mark of a Hindu would push a whopping majority out as non-Hindus.
As the things have been, addition of a few more deities was never a distasteful idea to Hinduism. It is a religion of numerous deities. Some Hindus say there are 33 million (Amiya Chakravarty, Great Religions of the World, p. 39). That might not sound exciting to hear. But the fact remains that there are more deities in Hindu religion than a tongue can count. This fact logically led to a no-quarrel situation with non-Hindus. After all, the addition of another deity – every now and then – made things neither better nor worse. Not surprisingly, when Muhammad bin Qasim, the first Muslim ruler of Sindh region died, his image was included among the deities to whom respect was to be paid on occasions of worship. Yet, and despite the numerous deities, the concept of one Supreme Being who controlled all and was high above everyone managed to survive. Therefore, there was no question of a quarrel with monotheistic religions such as Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. The wide scope and practice led the Hindus to conclude that to disagree with anyone meant disagreeing with oneself and to persecute anyone for his beliefs would lead one day to the persecution of a great majority of Hindus. There wasn’t any course left but to accept all and live with all. And that’s what they did.
Expectedly, there is such variety within Hinduism that someone who believes that God is everywhere and resides in every pebble is a Hindu. Another who believes in a few deities alone – and not all – is also a Hindu. Another who believes in One Supreme Being, and rejects idol-worship is also a Hindu. Finally, an atheist who believes in no God whatsoever, remains a Hindu too. Indeed, in the absence of a creed, code of conduct, or law, acceptable to all, Hinduism could not even be defined in a manner that would accommodate all the variant adherents under one religious canopy. If Hinduism was ever to acquire the characteristics of an intolerant religion, forcing its beliefs upon others, then, the question would arise, ‘What beliefs, and what gods? Who is in and who is out?’ Thus, to be tolerant and accommodative is something in-built in the Hindu religious system.
Accordingly, Hindus were always known for tolerance, broad-mindedness and broad vision in religious matters. That had its effect on their attitudes. They were accommodative in behavior and conservatively progressive in outlook. In addition, like all those who live in this sub-continent, (be they Muslims, Christians or others), Hindus were also always known for humbleness, kindness, passivity, non-violence, and for possessing great amounts of patience that led them to bear hardships with great endurance.
But now things are changing. Today Hindus are being handed down a new religion. It has its own high-priests. They issue commandments that are not lifted from traditional sources. They occupy a position above the traditional religious authorities. Their word, recognizable by its bitterness, is the law. They are simple, ascetic, sacrificing, other-worldly men, devoted to the services of a single cause. A closed group with a closed mind, they are self-inclusive and all-exclusive. Their central spirit is separatism (instead of unity) and hatred (instead of love: the basic ingredient of every religion).
What do they believe and what do they preach? Well, they believe that they were grossly wronged some centuries ago by the ancestors of the present-day Muslims! That’s what they believe. And they preach revenge. When a Muslim hears of this, he looks into the sky, into the face, and at the moving traffic, but cannot make any sense of it, or discover any logic. But to the priests of this new religion and to their followers, it makes lots of sense, and the statement follows the rules of logic perfectly. That the historians differ that any community was specifically and especially targeted in the past, is immaterial to them. That to use the term “grossly” in reference to past wrongs, is itself a gross error is also immaterial. And that the present day people bear no responsibility for the assumed wrongs of the past centuries, makes no sense to the leaders and their followers either.
What else of this new religion? Well, not much. This is all in all, the central and paramount creed, the philosophy and policy in a nutshell. It is the modern version of the great Eastern wisdom. Call it hatred, call it intolerance, call it Fascism, or anything else you like. It does not matter to its adherents. To them you don’t matter, the public opinion does not matter, the lack of support from their Scriptures does not matter, world criticism does not matter. Nothing matters. To them, the words are equal to the Divine Commandments, and the call for revenge holy.
Accordingly, the demand on a follower of this new religion is not simplicity, asceticism, sacrifice, charity or other-worldliness (the qualities of the religion he has abandoned), but that he should carry a load of hatred wherever he goes. He feels crushed under the load and must find ways to off-load it. So he looks for the poor, the weak, old men, and, of course, not to forget women to off-load his anger in full wrath. See him in full action in news flashbacks. Religious men are never afraid of the exposure of their devotional acts. Piety demonstrated, he proudly proclaims, “Learn from me how to burn the Muslims.”
Imbued with intolerance, characterized by a red eye and a bitter mouth, the new adherent is in the court demanding that Muslim Prayers be disallowed in public, in the parliament petitioning that the Qur’an be banned, in the newspaper columns demanding closure of all religious institutions, and in the streets demanding that Azaan on loud-speaker be disallowed. The list of grudges fills his Bible. Divine threats – as in the Bible, or the Qur’an – that those who refuse to live by the religious commandments face chastisement, are replaced in his Bible by threats of severe chastisements that await those who ever dare live by their religious commandments.
What about prostitutes, orphans, widows, terminally sick, the lowest of the low that every religion vies to serve, help, and uplift? How does this new religion look at them? Well, it thinks that their numbers should be increased ten-fold for the happiness of the rest. It believes in converting India into a country of endless number of refugee camps, dotting the country map from one end to the other. Notices are regularly posted by the high priests that godliness, asceticism and piety – of the new brand – will be demonstrated in other places after Gujarat.
What are the other demands of this new religion on its adherents? Well, a few more. One of the demands on its adherents is hypocrisy. In private, an adherent is supposed to say and do one thing, in public another. He is required to be of several colors. In private he is devoted to the god of peace. But in a crowd (of his own kind) he follows the instructions of the god of violence. In the USA he expresses his belief in the age-old Hindu tolerance. But in India he preaches hatred. In theory his religion is that of broad-mindedness. But in practice he keeps a good distance from his assumed enemies. If he is among them, perforce, since he avoids their company altogether, such as in railway compartments or airplanes, he behaves as if he doesn’t know of their existence. If he cannot avoid looking into their faces, he will look out of the window intently – even if it is at thin air offering no vision. Or he goes into a deep study of the last week’s journal. After that he quickly falls asleep. If there is any effort from a Muslim to open a conversation, he responds with hmms, or with one or two syllables uttered in desert dryness after which he falls into a pensive “don’t disturb me” mood.
There are other aspects of his hypocrisy. He claims his religion teaches compassion. But he is ever ready with a dagger. His new religious leaders tell him that he is to take pride in the most civilized religion that humanity ever inherited. But he waits for the word ‘go’ to gas off houses and set them afire along with their occupants. He says his religion teaches him magnanimity and courage. In practice he is required to jump upon hapless women and gang rape them to death. Compassion is another quality that he boasts of in private. But he can cut open wombs and toss foetuses on spears.
A follower of this new religion is also required to be a great pretender. He might be your friend and neighbor. The night witnesses attacks, looting, burning and murder. By morning he pretends he knows nothing. If you asked him about the events of the night, he expresses complete ignorance. Says he was too tired last night and went to sleep early! Then he wriggles with his pricking conscience and so looks sideways. He has been taught never to look into the eyes.
A question: is this a new religion, or is it simply a political movement? Many think the objective is nothing but to gain power. Others believe it is an effort to get back the wealth that slipped down to the lower castes and lower classes during the last fifty socialist years. But, even if these explanations are true, a careful study reveals the signs of a religion in birth. The emotions that are displayed, the fanaticism that is demonstrated, the frenzy that is shown are qualities that only religious beliefs can provoke. Political beliefs do not lead to eruption of such emotions, to such fanatic levels. Notice also that they inscribe god’s name on dead women’s foreheads. This speak of religious sentiments, and not political.
How popular is this new religion? Well, going by the responding crowds from the middle-class, by the intellectuals, the high officials, the supporting merchants, the number of Muslims steadily falling in governmental jobs (at the moment 1.2% out of a population of 20%), by the persecutions at various levels, one would say it is a powerful force and is likely to enter into every Hindu home. It is spreading its influence outside also. Consider that recently their lobby (in co-operation with another hate house) successfully managed to put off a resolution by the Senate in the USA condemning the Gujarat violence. In contrast, the people who are opposed to it now are condemned by it as traitors and non-Hindus – i.e., the secularists. That is a small minority and will be suitably dealt with. As for the religious leaders of the traditional Hinduism, they do not seem to reject it wholeheartedly. They never take out a procession condemning the new religion. They never issue any statement opposing the positions adopted by the new high priests. They never blame them for the violence, gang rape, human bonfires, murder and the shameful partition of towns and cities into Hindu-Muslim areas. They offer no help whatsoever to the victims, and say nothing except for blaming them. In short, they are at heart with them. This says something about the popularity of the new emergent religion.
Will it triumph? This is a difficult question. The traditional Hinduism might re-assert itself. It might not. It is their decision and not anyone else’s. As for those who are targeted by this new religion, we might say that if every human head is worth a dollar, theirs is a $200 million question. Human beings have a strange quality to survive. World opinion is also something that cannot be ignored for long. Will the Hindus accept to occupy the bottom-most position among the world communities or will they react now? We do not know. But one thing is quite certain. Lies that were circulated over decades and written down in (re-written, revised and edited) history books (lies about Muslims, that they are barbarians, looters, rapists, and everything else of that order) will go around in a full circle and settle on those who circulated them. The rooster will come back home. The originators will acquire the traits and characteristics they falsely attribute to others. The process is on.
What about other religions, notably Islam and Christianity? How are they reacting? Well, although they suffer pain at the process (of destruction), they also see a silver lining. They see two advantages. First, a re-awakening of their own masses. They will turn inward, meaning they will become more religious. This trend is already noticeable. There is no better way to make a man cling to what he believes in than to whip him. The harder you hit the greater the resolve. (Christian experiment with the Jews is a good example). The second reason why they feel something to cheer about is that if the new religion is successful, the traditional one will disappear and so there will be one religion less to contend with. Since devotion to God, justice to all, care of the oppressed are the qualities of a true religion and religion an inner call that cannot be suppressed for ever, the Indian masses, after the harakiri of Hinduism, will be ready for another religion.
Would the Muslims like to preserve their religion in all its purity? Would they like to demonstrate devotion to one God, justice to all and care of the oppressed? Would they like to remind themselves often that every night is followed by a day? “By the morning! And by the night – when it covers with darkness. Your Lord has not forsaken you, nor does He detest you. Surely, your last will be better for you than the first.” (The Qur’an, The Morning, 93: 1-4).