Lies Like Beauty, Depend Upon the Eye of the Beholder by Dr. Bhaskar Dasgupta SignUp
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Lies Like Beauty, Depend Upon the Eye of the Beholder
by Dr. Bhaskar Dasgupta Bookmark and Share
 
With a Grain of Piquant Salt:

Last week I reviewed the recent book, titled 'Lies, Lies and More Lies' by Vivek (ISBN: 978-0-595-43549-4), which is a collection of articles aiming to shed light on Hindutva. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a nation and there is also nothing wrong in defining that nation on the basis of religion. But nationality, as a measure of human identity and possibly politics has to be very dense and logical from an intellectual basis. I identified some issues with the thesis and this week I pick up and continue with the rest of the book and end with some suggestions on Hindu nationalism.

In Part Two of the book, Jaswant Singh is quoted saying that Kashmir is at the core of Indian nationhood. I found this very curious, because it echoes what the Pakistani politicians have been saying since 1948. We have moved far beyond trying to define Indian nationhood as a fountainhead of secularism. The problem with using this quote is that it negates most of the author's other points. If India is not a believer in denominational definitions of nationhood, then why is the author conflating Hinduism with 'Indianness'? See the inconsistency?

Kashmir has been rehashed quite a lot, but I am surprised that the author missed out on the rampant corruption and vote theft in the 1989 elections.

Also the solid support given by Kashmiris of all stripes to India during the
1965 war and the miscalculations by the Pakistani Generals, or the
(estimated) 80,000 killed and missing in the two decades long insurgency.

Chapter 8 is something that I definitely sympathize with. The plight of the Kashmiri Pandits is very bad and their neglect has been shameful indeed. The last quote on page 69 is very telling. I have seen this quote repeated for Jews, Hindus, Communists, Liberals, Conservatives, Christians, etc. any discriminated against community tends to drag out this quote and bang on about it. It has become totally overused to the point of being a clich' now, but that's just a personal opinion.

The Chattisinghpura massacre has too many unanswered questions, and I am very suspicious of the "official" statements. There have been far too many inconsistencies in the story; no follow-up massacres of Sikhs happened, the Kashmiri militants rejected the accusation far too strongly. I do accept that Kashmiri terrorists attack Hindu laborers, Pandits and pilgrims, but Sikhs have been a new one back then and none since then.

I am not surprised at Arundhati Roy's assertions, the Arundhati school of writing has its own dubious pleasures, one of them being wallowing in a surfeit of hyperbole, fantasy and just lightly dusted with facts. But the Graham Staines murder is very cavalierly treated by the author, as is the IDRF report and the accusations thereof. The breaking story of most of the US electronic infrastructure of the US based Hindu council being the same as that of the Sangh Parivar came out after the book was published, but the situation is the same.

Chapter 13 skips the BJP Rath Yatra, which helped in inflaming passions. Bit unfortunate that. Also it skips the most crucial element, which was the way too many reported incidents of official stage government machinery being used to identify and isolate Muslims. Yes, Hindus were killed, but curiously, so many years after that event, Muslims are still inside DP camps and subject to economic boycotts. The usage of the state machinery was the kicker putting the riots beyond the pale. And it is indeed tragic that the author points to the fact that the anti-Sikh riots (also state sponsored) happened. One crime does not excuse another, I am afraid. And no, it is not against Hindus at all, because if it had been so, then Hindus across the country would have been affected. Does the author know of anywhere else such an incident happened? If 1984 was a blot on India, then Gujarat was a body blow, because it just showed that the Hindus are equally barbaric as any others.

Chapter 15 talks about how Karnataka State Government is actually in charge of the Temple trusts and is worrisome and frankly not on. The state government has no business being in the religion business and should hand it over to the local temple trusts immediately, under regulatory control just like all charities are. So if a temple, mosque or church is engaged in receiving charitable donations, then accounts have to be filed in public. So I agree with the author that the donations given by the faithful have to be ring fenced and hypothecated for the purpose for which the donation has been made.

The other remarks about commentators commenting unfairly about Hindus is a viewpoint and there is nothing much to be said about that, but the fact that we have a good broad open press which singularly treats every bit as different is good. Mind you, the points in Chapter 16 and 17, relate more to the English language press which is relatively small in coverage, the vernacular press, the other media channels like tape cassettes, etc. are really hair-raising.

I was also reminded of Edward Said in his very obtuse book 'Orientalism'
while reading this chapter. It evoked the same feeling of victimhood based upon a select reading of facts. "Our newspapers possess a degree of freedom that is unmatched in the world. That this freedom has been blatantly misused in recent times is another story" on Page 110 points to a fundamental misreading of the facts. You cannot praise freedom of speech in the press and then complain that it has been misused. Remember what Voltaire said?

Chapter 19 is something which I again agree with. Religious based discrimination is an anathema to me, whether it is the OBC/SC/ST or what have you. To hell with all these religious denominations, if you do want to give sops and help, then help them as poor Indians. There is nothing more corrosive than to give one poor Indian a leg up and give another identical poor Indian a shove off simply because s/he happens to be born into another religion, caste or creed. Disgusting.

One can argue for a strong political voice for Hindus but I am afraid that form of political consciousness does not function for such a heterogeneous lot like Hindus. For example, the Christian democratic parties in Europe are totally different by country in terms of their ideological underpinning and allies. The other problem is that as soon as you plug in religion into a political party, you introduce an element of tension between secularism and religion. By it's very nature, if you are reliant on one religion's tenets, you have to treat others differently, but for a political party to aim for government, once inside government, you have to treat everybody equally, hence the tension. The biggest mistake that the Hindus have made is to make a political party in the first place, because that exposed them to the demands of governance. If they had stuck to being a social, religious and cultural organization, then they would have made a better fist of it. I suppose the love and lure of power was too strong. Also, creating a nation out of Hindus means trying to force them into one straitjacket and as the past history has shown, it is not possible. People will throw you out if you try to impose a common religious idea.

Second, while many elements of this book point to inconsistencies and discrimination against Hindus, the basic inconsistencies of the arguments and the limited use of facts means that the book remains what I would call as a pamphlet. If the author is hoping for a Hindu consciousness based upon arguments such as these, then he has to work much harder and go back to basics. He has to think about what do they want to be, Hindu or Indian, a secular person or a religious person? a political party or a religious group? a desire for equality without any reference to casteism or other religious ills? a huge amount of thought needs to be generated. Some hints, consider why the luminaries such as Vivekananda and Dayananda never breached the boundary between nation, religion and politics. That is the reason why their message still resonates. Compare that to the fate of Gandhi, who managed to make a pig's ear out of the mix between religion and politics and that is the reason why his reputation is taking so many hits these days. And ironically, he being a firm committed Hindu did not save him from being bumped off by another Hindu who thought he was betraying the Hindu cause.

Politics and religion never mix!

So the conclusion is that the author would be better off arguing for equal treatment of Hinduism under the equality perspective. He needs to stop whining about being a victim, because it is demeaning and frankly embarrassing, see the example of the Palestinians, the almost constant whining and moaning is so irritating. He should not confuse India, Hindu, Hinduism, Bharat, Buddhism, Secularism etc. and aim to reform Hinduism by eradicating social and religious ills such as the position of women, widows, caste, and superstition. Encouraging the usage and spread of Sanskrit, Tamil and other Hindu languages, of traditional schools of learning ranging from Ayurveda, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, literature, etc. is also an option. An Indutva rather than Hindutva so to say, and one will see that many of the inconsistencies and incoherence dies away. One has a far stronger historical, economic, sociological, anthropological, philosophical, theological and even epistemological basis than relying on Hindutva, More importantly; one will see that all the objectives of Hindutva are satisfied by the Indutva concept and very little of the religion specific downsides.

Mixing religion with politics never works and l never will recommend doing so. If one does want to see how others have defined a nation on the basis of religion, one can read about people starting from Shaka for the Zulus, Theodore Herzl for Zionism and the various books on Jinnah for Pakistan.

These three chaps would be good indicators on how a nation can be constructed and how complicated and impossible it is to reconcile a religion, a nation and a state. And no, Sarvarkar's and Golwalkar's books and thoughts are not at par, they are inapplicable and in many cases inconsistent. Oh! The last thing, remember Godwin's law!

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!

9-Sep-2007
More by :  Dr. Bhaskar Dasgupta
 
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