Will the real Hindu please stand up?!
The events of last week have been so emotionally topsy-turvy that I cannot help but start with them. I was at AIIMS the night those wounded kids from the two warring factions of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) trickled into the trauma centre’s emergency ward one by one. There was enough blood, tragedy and politics in that scene to last me a lifetime.
A lot has already been said about the identity of the perpetrators and their politico-religious motivations. I am not going to talk about them today. Let’s blur the perpetrators out of the hospital scene for a moment and focus our attention on the victims. Who are these people – collapsed on beds, slumped into wheelchairs, bandaged on the forehead, fractured in the limbs? What is their religion, their politics, their agenda?
Fun fact: from the eighteen-odd people who had their MLCs (medicolegal cases forms, for serious injuries) drawn up that night, more than half had Hindu names. I spoke to a few among them. They were resolutely polite and calm despite all the madness in the hospital, patiently dealing with endless CT scans, X-rays, nurse enquiries, doctors, lawyers, journalists, without so much as raising their voices. When you meet that kind of Hindu, you wonder who the hell that crazy person vowing to kill everyone and yelling at you through your TV screen is.
They were resolutely polite and calm despite all the madness in the hospital, patiently dealing with endless CT scans, X-rays, nurse enquiries, doctors, lawyers, journalists, without so much as raising their voices. When you meet that kind of Hindu, you wonder who the hell that crazy person vowing to kill everyone and yelling at you through your TV screen is.
It is as impossible that these two people belong to the same religion as it is natural for them to show up on different sides of the communal dialogue. One defending harmony, the other inciting hate. One fighting for justice, the other meting it out instantly on the street. One getting the stick for all its compassion, the other ruling the roost for all its anger.
Let me introduce you to the first Hindu, the Hindustani Hindu. She is far removed from the second. In fact, she is quite an unusual breed.
The Hindustani Hindu: the underdog and her Hindustan
She is out on the streets of India in protest, but don’t mistake her for an ordinary protestor. The world in 2019 saw countless citizen-agitations for all kinds of reasons. In Chile, people first struck out because of a hike in subway fares. In Egypt, because of corruption. In Hong Kong, because of a law which enabled extradition of criminal suspects to China. Everywhere, people fought for their own rights. Their own economic, political, societal, betterment. Not our Hindustani Hindu though. What has brought her to the streets is a concern that her Muslim sisters will become ‘illegal immigrants’ under a newly introduced Indian law which secures favourable citizenship for Hindus like her. She is fighting for the freedom of another, against a system that is designed to favour her.
Everywhere, people fought for their own rights – their own economic, political, societal betterment. Not our Hindustani Hindu though…She is fighting for the freedom of another, against a system that is designed to favour her.
She has been slow to come to this point of dissent, but don’t compare her to the Nazis in Germany. When Hitler introduced the Nuremberg laws and reserved citizenship for the ‘German-blooded’ alone, the Germans barely retaliated in support of their Jewish neighbours. But that’s not our Hindustani Hindu. She is up in arms in every visible way. She is in public places across states, even those with a near-90% Hindu majority (Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu). She is in the courtyards of leading universities, even those with traditionally apolitical stances. She is on TV amongst journalists, actors, politicians, even those who have held their silence for the last six years.
Many of her kind are yet to take a stand, but don’t misread that for her marginal presence in the country. This is her Hindustan. The one that chose secularism even after being partitioned on religious lines. The one that has peacefully harboured federal states with Muslim, Christian and Sikh majorities ever since. The one that has been crying out ‘Jai Hind’ to the blue skies above JNU’s gates, drowning out the voices of ‘Jai Sriram’ for a week now.
Many of her kind are yet to take a stand but don’t misread that for her marginal presence in the country. This is her Hindustan. The one that chose secularism even after being partitioned on religious lines...
There are millions like her. Some of them are torn between their pride in Gandhi’s inclusive Hinduism, and a rhetoric which keeps reminding them of the past: the partition of Pakistan from India, the forced exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, Hindu-Muslim riots… Some of them are scared: they don’t want to lose business, jobs, friendships, over a fight which seems far removed from their comfortable lives. But all of them are awake, alive to what’s going on around them… and making up their minds.
India’s tomorrow: the aggression of a Hindu and the resistance of another
Contrary to popular opinion, the fate of India does not depend on the aggression of the Hindutva Hindu but on the resistance of the Hindustani Hindu. Will she and her kind be able to rally around the Gandhian idea of an India which derives its political and economic strength from the unity of its diverse people? Will they refuse to right the past by doing more wrong? Or will they sit back and watch their country disintegrate into smaller and smaller fractions of minorities, backward classes, women, homosexuals, liberals?
Contrary to popular opinion, the fate of India does not depend on the aggression of the Hindutva Hindu but on the resistance of the Hindustani Hindu.
In a sense, India is at the same precipice she left behind 70 years ago. The same choices which troubled our Hindustani Hindu then haunt her again: love or hate? grace or revenge?
India waits with bated breath for her to make the right decision, as do her wounded kin from the hospital beds of AIIMS.
(This series is not associated with the NDTV programme, ‘We The People’, or the NDTV channel, reporters, employees, or any person / entity related or affiliated to NDTV. All opinions are personal to the author.)