Saturday, April 13, 2024

A Supreme Court gets serious only when a community gets serious

Gyanvapi Mosque is in news. There has never been any doubt it was built on a sacred Hindu temple. Even powerful voices in the Muslim community concede but assert that the Places of Worship Act 1991 prohibits conversion of places of worship as they existed on August 15, 1947. Supreme Court takes call on this matter and opinions, yours and mine, are on the sidelines. 

But should it be on the sidelines? I say so for recently reciting Hanuman Chalisa in public places has been termed as incitement to communal violence. Hanuman Chalisa! And all this when we know that “peaceful” namaaz on roads or other public places have gone on for ages. 

It begs a question: Should everything be left on the government and judiciary? Do Hindus value their cultural heritage enough? Hanuman Chalisa today and “Ram-Ram” greetings tomorrow—do Hindus realize their space, on purpose, is being squeezed out everyday? And if it becomes a default position, the peer pressure—in jobs, forums and public places—would leave no one standing?

A colleague of mine, Bhumika Arora (@_BhumikaArora), was good enough to chance upon a talk by J Sai Deepak (@jsaideepak), a lawyer but a voice of reason like few in contemporary India, which ought to shake the conscience of all Hindus. The talk can be accessed here and its salient points below, not in same words, are worth your time:

Let’s look at social and cultural aspects and stay out of political ones. Let’s also revisit what we think as dignified silence. Dignified silence in public life rarely yields decent outcomes. After a point dignified silence must be, should be construed as cowardice. 

There is no other way of putting it. 

You have to realize that you’re fighting a losing battle only for one reason: there is no younger generation to take this fight forward. 

If physically you’ve started vacating the space, where is the question of occupying mental space? Where is the young blood?

The NRIs like me but they also know bitter pills will come from me. I say to them your connection to India remains one Tirth Yatra every year. Sometimes it is out of fear. Would that keep the tradition alive?

I tell them at the very least try protecting your Kuldevatas. I mean ensuring they have resources, support system. Is it really that difficult? That might produce the next generation which takes care of the intellectual and spiritual traditions of the temple. So the problem is not outside: It’s within. 

Assume for a moment nobody has the political will or a legislation. Are we saying that nothing can be done? No. There are solutions.

The problem is two fold: One, tendency of the Hindu community to constantly look to the State for support. That has to go. Second, if you are responsible and what you could do, once you begin it will automatically start reflecting in your political choices and priorities. 

So by 2024, which happens to be next major landmark, is there anything that the leading organisations of multiple castes, which are still Hindu, can come together and forge some kind of a roadmap?

You need to think of it together because if you think of yourself in silos, it will be easy to pick you apart. That’s exactly what’s happening. 

It’s time we start talking. And don’t give up on any community and these are your people, whether you like it or not. You have a significant responsibility. 

You also have to find ways of taking back and reclaiming and also use boycott wherever necessary to send the message across. I will give you a simple example. New Delhi Television (NDTV) and I really don’t have a great relationship. But if they call me to speak on a certain subject, I would go if it’s a subject which needs articulation, especially from that particular platform. I will never boycott it. I will go and speak. 

How much will you boycott? Your space is already shrinking. It’s time to reclaim everything: Either you find it in community or come out with alternatives. 

Where is the platform to ventilate your opinion? Will all of us be shouting on WhatsApp groups only? Where are the solutions coming from? 

If anyone adds me to one more WhatsApp group, I would sue them. It’s almost as if you have chosen technology not as a means of convergence for concrete action but for empty ventilation. 

What is this? What has changed if you don’t have the guts to come out to the streets? They say you have a lack of spine. Do you want to reinforce that stereotype or shatter it? Who stops your children if they get up tomorrow and say what’s the point of this identity? Because there will be peer pressure in school campuses, office spaces plus pop culture will not let them breathe easy at all. 

I will try and tighten the screws even more. Forget the incentive, there is serious disincentive to continue being associated with these roots. And that situation cannot be changed unless you start investing in yourself as a community first. 

If a Tamilian didn’t stand up to help the Hindu Bengali who was murdered in May 2021, he has no right to expect help from anybody else. As long as you continue to live in your walled garden, there is no solution. Very few people are talking about it. These problems aren’t going to go away on own. 

So give incentives to children to stay back in the country. They want to go out—educate yourself, use that country, milk that country but come back. Foreign education must be used to acquire skills. Period. Retain a strategic presence there but the rest of the community must be here, youth must be here. 

American Indians, once you uprooted them, put them on reservations, their culture died within one generation. And that’s because Dharmic systems are non-Abrahamic systems. It’s based on nature, environment and surroundings. Your culture has come primarily from your surroundings: The worship of rivers, the deification of nature, all this is a direct product of it. It’s not an ethnic religion: This is a rooted religion or Dharma. Once you uproot in the name of progress, development, that’s the end of the culture. 

Abrahamic systems have expansionism at the heart of their though process. You remove that they really have nothing much to offer in terms of spiritual solace. So when expansionism is central to your thought process, it can not be rooted to one particular place. It can move from one place to another because it is meant to morph and change and convert. Therefore, even if you hope to build massive multi-million dollar temples in New Jersey, you will not be able to recreate Hindu Dharma. That is my point. 

Is it all about chanting mantras? Is that what it is? That level of sanctity is simply here because your heroes have lived here, your pitas have lived, your deities have walked this space. Therefore it is sacred. This has to be drilled into us. 

At some point you seriously have to think of a reverse brain drain. If this does not happen and everybody uses this country as a launch pad to go to West; when you have chose to escape this country altogether then you shouldn’t be talking of Hindu dharma. That’s the end of the story. You have no right to speak of it. 

If you are not willing to population this country, that’s a problem. You have a problem with other communities. But they are willing to stay here. They say this is my place. Even if they say from a point of ownership and not from patriotism. He is willing to take ownership of that place. Are you doing it? 

What is the law when it comes to property? If you don’t take care of the property and somebody else chooses to do that for a specific period, the property is his. How is that position any different when it comes to communities and regions? If this is your place, then behave as if you wish to stay here. 

First you vacated the village, then you vacated the district, now you’re vacating the city; now the country. How do you really hope to alter the demographic composition or restore it to natural balance if you are not here physically? 

You have given up the unorganised employment space completely. Anybody who uses the “puncture-wala” jibe at any other community according to me is a rank myopic idiot because one, you have demeaned that profession; two, you then say we have equality in Hinduism. That hypocrisy has to be called out. 

Second, from electricians to plumbers to all other service categories, its out of your hands. And if you really think its an achievement, then I don’t know what is your sense of community security. I am not saying to boycott a community. Please try to understand. I am saying you must be present here, must have a share in the unorganized sector. How you hope to retain the sanctity of your so-called religious places if the florist outside doesn’t come from your community? 

So you must be there is wealth creation but also equally in professions that require the use of hands. Anybody who demeans the use of hands is completely killing one essential critical building block of the Chaturvarna system. Period. 

(Then Sai Deepak answers a few questions.)

Q: Does our Constitution empower the state government to govern temples? If not why does the Supreme Court not take a Su Moto case and relieve all temples from government control? 

Sai Deepak: So a Supreme Court or anybody in this country typically reacts to the seriousness shown by the community. For example, within hours of the demolition activity in Delhi, people landed in the courts. Immediately. Whether it’s Jahangirpuri violence or Lakhimpur Kheri or Tripra—people landed in court immediately. Apart from that there were public demonstrations of outrage. 

So come out of the myth: One, pressing the button every once in five years is sufficient. No it’s not. Two, if you think that legal process is an academic insular process, not influenced by public opinion, I am sorry to say you are being an ostrich and you’re living under the rock. 

The fact of the matter is every institution in this country—good, bad or ugly—whether constitutional or unconstitutional necessarily reacts to public opinion to some extent. So therefore the sense of urgency with which an issue is taken up by the court is a function of the sense of urgency displayed by the community. 

So if petitions relating to temple freedoms are still languishing since 2012, it’s not a reflection of the ineptitude of the team because they have done whatever they could. But it is clear the issue has not received the kind of traction it should. All I am saying is you’re moving the system, pushing the system to act. 

Q: Why are Hindus not proud of being Hindus? Many parents want children to be good human beings and do not want to thrust any religious beliefs on them. They think it’s radicalization. How do we overcome this syndrome? 

Saideepak: If you think indoctrination or training in religion is radicalisation then subconsciously you have equated Hindu Dharma with other religions. The truth is you have outsourced cultural moorings to schools—and you’re not even talking of Hindu schools. I want to understand what goes on in these heads? How long will you keep blaming others? Indeed, the Hindu community in general was better positioned in the 60s and 70s to repel the ideology they are up against today. That’s also because it has started producing traitors from within: Hardcore and massive.

So to quote Savarkar: I don’t think I have to fight others: The first person I need to fight is myself. 

Q: Many of my friends are devout Hindus and visit temples regularly. But their understanding is distorted. How do you make them realize the true Hindu identity? 

Sai Deepak: Okay, find out the number of Bengali communists who are not Mata worshippers. I had a roommate in Kharagpur. Every Friday he would chant and pray Devi Bhagwati with the kind of energy my room would vibrate but he was an astounding communist. 

He could put people to shame the way he chanted every Friday. But he’ll come out and say why are there pure vegetarian restaurants; it’s a Brahmin conspiracy. Thanks to education, you have compartmentalised both these aspects. You don’t see the conflict between these two positions. So you’re comfortable straddling both these universes. One is real and the other is fictional and nonsense. 

In my book, a Muslim inspector of schools of Eastern Bengal is quoted as follows on education policies under the British administration. He says Hindus hailed Raja Rammohan Roy as the saviour and creator of modern Bharat: Within one generation, they couldn’t spell their names in their own mother tongues. Muslims, on the other hand, who stayed away from colonial education, retained their collective civilizational memory. They insisted that even when they consumed Western content  in education, they did so in Urdu and Urdu alone. If they did so in Bengali, it was in de-Sanskritized Bengali. 

So blame the other but also learn from the other. This is commitment. This is conviction. And this attitude has continued across generations. So you may say no change between 1740-1925, no change in thought process, since their societal institutions continued the way they were.

Why is this important?

By 1749, the Mughal empire and Delhi had become a puppet to Maratha empire and to Jats. After the loss of State power, this was their commitment and ability to keep their identity alive. Political wilderness is a fantastic period for preparation: When you use this time out of power to prepare and start creating trouble for the other side. 

Q: Considering a huge number of crypto converts are enjoying the fruits of a caste reservation, is there a legal way to identify this and stop its misuse? Also, how we counter the planned infiltration of the anti-national ecosystem into every institution, be is health, judiciary or education. How to cleanse this filth? 

Sai Deepak: One there are no legal solutions. Stop looking at the law for every problem. I don’t wish to get political but number of non-HIndu entrants into the UPSC of last 7-8 years…extent of commitment but you have also eased and facilitated that particular entry by giving specific language exemptions, specific increase in marks if they come from a particular language which is not extended to others. This year, lo and behold, we have set up specific community specific residential coaching academies in Mumbai to coach one particular community. 

So the point is, whosoever comes to power, they are the beneficiaries and you are the orphans. 

I have clearly said this for SC/ST reservation. It cannot be extended to Dalit Christians: The position should be, the moment you go out of the Hindu fold, we don’t recognize you as far as the varna system is concerned. I say you give solutions but also encourage people to give up their SC/ST status. You might have a social solution because no political party will have the commission for this because electoral arithmetic is huge. Optics are huge. 

To quote Mahaperiyava: “The only way to save this particular dharma is when this community starts going back to the village.” As isolationist as it sounds, and as outdated as it sounds, but that’s true. 

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