Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Biki my brother has two kids. The elder one Dhiaan is four years old and his younger sister Parthavi is two years old. Parthavi wants to do everything which Dhiaan does, wants everything which her elder brother has, including playing with his toys, and also displacing him at being pampered by their parents. Possibly she evaluates her self-worth by comparing how well she fares against her brother. Dhiaan on the other hand is annoyed at this emotional blackmail by his younger sister. He senses a visible loss at being dotted on whenever Parthavi tries to shift all focus of attention to herself. He possibly feels insecure and that definitely leads to the breakdown of his normally good behavior.

This scene is very common in families and several couples must have experienced such sibling rivalry, many people must also remember this from their own life story. It is not the fault of the siblings that they behave so, nor is it their fault that they have been placed in such a situation by their parents. Of course how can anybody blame the parents also? Its life after all, isn’t it! We advise and cajole the elder one to bear with the younger one, sometimes scold him too for being selfish. We more often than not succumb to the tactics of the younger one. In the end we see better judgment in taking a back seat and let them fight it out and decide for themselves.  I find an interesting parallel to this sibling competition scenario in today’s inter-religious inter-caste landscape where intolerance has once more raised its fierce head.

Today the nations’ social fabric is once more torn by religion and by caste. Some sections of the population have once more become extremely intolerant. I use the phrase ‘once more’ to emphasize the fact that such episodes are not new. Maybe if I may dare say, we have managed to rise slightly above the gender, colour and geographical divide, though the fault lines are still visible. However much we proclaim that diversity is our strength, each diverse group is at pain justifying how it is secular while others are not. It is very easy to get carried away in this emotionally charged atmosphere. We all end up taking sides which are familiar to us, each religion sides with their own and each caste side with their own. Each group feels justified in its thoughts, words and actions. Each group wishes to enforce its writ or get it acknowledged. Each group carries the opinion of having being wronged by the other or by the state or maybe even fate. Each group behaves as if its existence is under threat. Insecurity rules over reason. Fear rules over love and this happens when religion rules over spirituality.

People often refer to some trigger some past cause to explain the present disturbance. While nothing happens without a reason but having said that, one must not lose sight of the fact that causes are also events which can be easily misrepresented and misinterpreted. A normal consequence, a natural sequence can be given an intention ridden twist, a political or even a partisan colour. Sometimes the cause also has a previous cause which gets overlooked. Every reaction generates some unnecessary counter reaction. Definitely a conscious and deliberate acceptance of the situation would be more advisable; however it is easier said than done in this impatient age. Today Allopathy is more popular than Ayurveda. People just want a quick-fix solution which may be ineffective in the long run or could even be counter-productive.

It is very interesting to notice that India has gone through such phases of social struggle or if one wishes to call it social mayhem time and again. Sometimes it became a fight for survival, sometimes it was to fight against the present regime and sometimes it was an altercation of egos. Researchers should dwell into the root cause of these frequent incidents, whether it has something to do with a typical psychology of the people of this region or even their genes or whether can it simply be attributed to bad luck.  A broad brushing through history reveals some of these shades: Post migration of the Indus people – The old culture was destroyed and replaced by the Vedic culture. Even the spiritually inclined and open Vedic culture changed and became religious and closed. The old native gods disappear or almost, now they can only be seen in few villages and even fewer houses. New gods were created, new religion professed, where rituals and instant benefits took center stage. The caste system made a grand appearance and natives, the aborigines were either converted or segregated. Post the Buddha- The classical clash between the spiritual and the religious. He said there was no god and neither did he respect the caste system. Political patronage became the means to survival and court intrigue ruled the roost. Even the Buddha was poisoned and murdered. Over time both groups modified their respective stands, modified their practices and also their literature. Post the Mughals – Foreigners enter the scene yet again, this time in search of gold and glory, introduced a different way of living and a different religion. This time it was a clash of cultures. Bitter conflicts ended with slaughter of humanity and only those who converted were spared. Cow protection became a rallying point for the Hindus. Destruction of temples and looting its gold became rampant. Post the Christians – Yet another foreigner comes in, again in search of gold and glory, and introduces yet another god and a very different culture. They convert people with a missionary zeal to increase their footprints and social acceptability. They take away local raw material and work, bring back finished goods, take away the profits and livelihood, and make everyone a slave. Modern times post independence – Now there are too many gods, too many religions and too much population. Old habits die hard and the religious plus caste fights continue. New constitution proclaims everyone is equal and to balance the past sins introduces reservation policy. This placating of certain castes is now beginning to hurt, however there is no way out.

Tolerance or intolerance or the fight against both, whichever way you look at it, now runs in the psyche of the people of this land. This has lead to two different schools of thoughts. One says that India was never a tolerant nation; there has always existed these killings and destruction. The other says that when inspite of so much struggle if today we are able to call ourselves a nation, then it is only because we have slowly come to accept and tolerate the difference in all of us. Over time the number and intensity of such incidents have reduced and this trend will continue. Maybe that argument holds weight and promise for the future. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


A new wind has been blowing in the country during the whole of 2015. It wants to overpower the existing air circulation system. It sees an opportunity and therefore seeks to establish a new narrative and thereby recreate history. That this wind see the present moment as its golden chance cannot be faulted to it. Indeed this could be its last chance, its only chance. And if it play its cards correctly and is able to carry a sizable population along with it, then it could succeed to a considerable extent.

I am referring to the awakening of the pro Hindutva forces in India; maybe Bharat would be more appropriate, and their political efforts to script a nationalistic renaissance of sorts. Some of these efforts have transformed into violence and killing. It would be an understatement to simply say that civil society across the country has been rudely shaken by all these alterations to the status-quo. All this has snowballed into a huge intolerance debate and agitations have erupted at various sections with a number of groups taking or being forced to take sides.  A few of these significant and yet very unpopular and embarrassing actions were; branding the current education contents and systems as anti-national, branding the heads of governmental institutions as leftist, western educated and therefore again anti-national, lauding Vedic science and its achievements at an International Science Conference, the murder of rationalists and the steam rolling or destruction of opposition, the revival of the Cow Mother belief theory and the frequently expressed desire to dispatch Muslims from India to Pakistan. Let us brace up because I am certain that many more will follow.

As a neutral observer I find it very difficult to equate the forward looking and progressive desire of vast majority of Indian population with the backward looking and regressive thought process of these pro Hindutva groups. That such people do continue to exist in society is not unbelievable but that they are able to exercise some degree of influence is tough to understand. I see this as an affirmation of the presence of fear in society. The pro Hindutva groups like to paint themselves as nationalists and seem to suggest that all remedy of problems of present day living is in bringing back the past traditions. They seem to suggest that the  present education system is bad, the present governance system is bad, the present religious system is bad, the present culture of the people is bad, the present caste and religion based appeasement system is bad, and so also the way in which the present population is growing. I really can’t argue on all the above since I don’t have the knowledge but have only some simple questions; one when in the past was it ever good and two is not the present a direct outcome of all past systems.

I don’t have any issues with publicizing the Vedic texts as information. However instead of waving its contents as facts some of these groups should try and if possible establish all its claims as not mere fiction. That may take some doing, some real research. Possible most of it would still remain as information but some portions could get established as real science in the school curriculum. That would still be considerable achievement as it would surely lend a tremendous support to the authenticity of Vedic science which is the real goal of the pro Hindutva groups.

But I do have a major problem with the killing the voice of dissent. This country was never united until the past six decades. Plurality of thoughts and beliefs was the main reason why we were fragmented. But to remain united if we have to shed this privilege of being different, then I really don’t care to remain united. I am myself one unique being and I cannot think or perform like anybody else. I hold this distinctiveness very dear. If we all can remain united but at the same time preserve the right to be different then I am with all. There are huge economic benefits of being one nation and also there are certain rules, responsibilities and accountabilities expected from every citizens of a nation. There are times when individual preferences have to be given up for a common good. Certainly that does make sense. But as a human being I find it degrading that someone needs to be killed or sacrificed in order to bring about homogeneity. Moreover there would hardly anything interesting or even any development if everybody did the same thing.

The Cow Mother is another concept I am unable to digest. Why is cow the only animal to be given such recognition? What crime has the buffalo committed? In India we consume more of buffalo milk and it’s by products. Neither do we distinguish cow and buffalo dung. And yet the Vedas eulogizes only the cow. What sense does it make to selectively legalize in the present days some portions stated in the ancient Vedas? The Vedas also describe horse sacrifice which we don’t practice today. Logically since the Vedas were from the Indus and Saraswati River civilization its influence should not be enforced on the natives of central, south and east Indians. Why not ban the killing of all animals? As a vegetarian even though I would welcome it but as a citizen of a democratic country I would condemn that too.

Coincidentally all these eruptions have manifested after the BJP has come to power at the center. No doubt the BJP has won with the help of the RSS and its pro Hindutva umbrella of organizations. But the basic pitch which has brought it to power was development. To my mind it should stick to that basic and all work should be centered on that. Any deviation would and should be punished like the Bihar election results. However all these pro Hindutva umbrella organizations are proving to be the Achilles heel for the central government because each one of them wants to bring out its own organizations agenda on top of the BJP agenda. All these organizations have to realize that now they are dealing with real politics. When politics confronts economics, politics always loses. That is because the population only wants a better living and they can do with any kind of religion, culture, or belief. The economic argument is so powerful that it can overcome all other arguments. People only want development and that too, only equitable development. That is where the Congress government messed up with their corruption. That is where Vajpayee government lost because they claimed India to be shining while infact there was no such shine in the lives of the poor. People want their next generation to lead a better life. People want the next generation to become internationally competitive and have a broad outlook so as to fit in anywhere in the world. Today the Dalit parents want their ward to study and work in the UK and the USA which until yesterday was the privilege of the richer section. Information technology and information explosion has reduced the whole globe into one geographic mass. This stark difference is so much evident that while the ordinary people are looking to the future, the pro Hindutva groups are look to the past. Perhaps it is high time to ask the question, whether these pro Hindutva organisations are anymore relevant, whether they have outlived their utility?

One also senses the feeling that just because all these decades these pro Hindutva groups have never had the opportunity on a mass scale to try out, explore, implement their ideologies, they are now desperate. They were consistently restrained on the grounds of secularism, and that is one word that they have come to hate. Today they want to pay back intolerance meted out to them by the same coin of intolerance. Today one can see an air of arrogance in their behavior. But in an electorate democracy such arrogance is also short lived and they too will bite the dust. People of this land have always been free to choose their belief systems and sometimes are even forced to. In the past too there have been forceful conversions, but inspite of that, plurality has survived. The Vedic culture had morphed and adapted itself to suits the needs of the time. However inspite of the efforts of the Islamists the Christians and the Buddhists, the Hindus have survived. I find that amazing and I see no reason to fear that it could ever be wiped off from the face of the earth. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Whenever the tide turns you can see a different landscape, at the peak of high tide water takes over and drowns every life form while at the peak of low tide you get to see the dirty debris at the bottom. Neither is very pleasing to watch, neither complete by its own and neither very long lasting because slowly and definitely the tide has to turn. This metaphor also applies to the return of the apparently pseudo but mighty Hindutva sentiments of intolerance, insecurity, impatience and violence. Political, philosophical or religious turmoil is commonplace all over the world and my country cannot claim exception to this universal phenomenon. Such troublesome occurrences are not new to this land and its people. If I may dare say so, its old hat really! I risk being considered or bracketed as far too simplistic in my approach but never the less, so be it.

Sporadic incidences of communal abuse, fights, violence, bloodshed has been happening in this land from time to time since ages. Every new thought, new philosophy or a new religion has always had a uphill task in establishing itself and thereafter in maintaining. According to recorded history since some 2500 years ago, since the time of Gautama, the acts and words of these pro Hindutva groups against that great man were legendary. Again since some 700 hundred years ago when Islam militarily took command and started handling the political reins of this land, such incidences have surfaced time and again, all over the place, decades after decades. We can very safely proclaim that Islam is some kind of a friendly enemy, someone whom we know now since many births. That says a lot about their resilience and also about the tolerance of the Hindus. Then again since some 250 years ago when the East India Trading Company took over the political management of this land such sentiments could be seen in pockets, at that time we used to call them freedom fighters, and the funny part was that they also fought our own countrymen because not everyone liked their methods. Going back to before 2500 years during the time when history was not recorded, when the people of Indus and Saraswati river civilization migrated to the Gangetic belt, we can only imagine the huge problems this would have created.

If I would chose to be critical of this pro Hindutva group’s method, I would wonder why they no more rake up the Hindu superiority on subjects like the four caste segregation, second grade treatment to women and the insistence on child marriage, older men marrying young girls and the more infamous one of no remarriage of widow. Somehow for reasons better left silent these topics no more interest them today. However to their credit they still carry that big ancient canon which still smokes fire and has never been silenced, the cow mother. Listening to their words and its shrill pitch I probably would dare to assume that these groups most certainly must eat, sleep and breathe the Vedas and the Gita, follow all its teachings, lead a life of purity in thoughts, words and action and ofcourse regularly sacrificing animals on a ritual pyre to appease the powerful one above and garner favors. Hope I never am disappointed here. Speaking in a tongue in cheek manner, a very interesting thought occurs to me, which is that since Hindus strongly believe in rebirth and also since as an unborn soul I cannot choose my parents, what if I in the next cycle am born to a Muslim couple or a Christian couple or a Dalit couple. Would I not suddenly become the victim, suddenly be sitting on the other side of the fence and suddenly be called beef eaters! Who would then protect me from my own friends with whom today I rub shoulders! Strangely not a single Hindu raises this question. Maybe our faith in rebirth is not so real after all. Just a stray crazy thought of this monkey mind.

But coming to the point, what I would like to register here is that such robotic-warrior elements have been in existence in society since donkey years and yet the Hindu society has survived. These are old arguments, old methods, of certain thinking processes which are also an integral part of the Hindu society. These people won’t let up and neither will they accept that the Hindu culture survived till date inspite of them and not because of them. Then why do we all need to point fingers at them today, why do we need to make them more fierce than they actually are, I fail to understand.

Taking the discussion forward, it brings us to another interesting question, what makes a Hindu and has it really remained unchanged since Vedic times? This is important because time and again, we hear that the past was glorious, and that old traditions are being abandoned. This is a subject fit for discussion by scholars and I am not one. My thoughts on this are far too simple. Primarily Hindu was a generic term referring to the people who live on and beyond the River Indus, which sounded quite logical. However as time proceeded the term went on to include the culture of the people, their philosophy, their ways of living, their science, their art, their mathematics, their warfare, their economic theories, their kings, their spirituality, their religion, their rituals, their food, clothes, physical structure, language and what have you. The term Hindu had taken gigantic proportions and we are now talking about a very huge subject. We claim that Ram walked the earth some 9000 years ago, but can we also say with the same confidence that all the above aspects of the Hindu lifestyle have been the same since the time of Ram. Factually speaking none of its distinctive parts of the Hindu way of life has remained consistently similar over ages, and what to speak about time, it has not even remained consistent beyond geography of 100 sq km. During the times of Ram, he was yet another ordinary guy, Vishnu was unknown amongst the Gods, a few intelligent folks owned flying machines, and the Bhagwat Gita wasn’t uttered. We have been constantly changing over time, improving on some matters and degrading on other fronts. New scientific discoveries were made, new philosophies were explained and some of them became a new religion, new ways of commerce were exchanged, new food items were introduced into the culinary, new materialistic things were created and used, new diseases are happening and coupled with new medicines being discovered. The Hindu individual has changed too, his desires changed, his needs changed, his style of living changed. How could anybody have stopped these changes from happening? If change is inevitable then why do we now wish to glorify the past?   

I am neither on the side of the pro Hindutva so called conservative group to the right nor on the side of the so called modernist and progressive left and center. I am simply amused to find that there in a mismatch in their present stance and the common experienced history till date. The inherent confusion in all the noise about intolerance that is created today is hilarious. This is purely a political struggle, a misguided one-upmanship. Each side is accusing the other about being intolerant. The conservative right, who have just recently got the whiff of nonrestrictive power, want to create in a few months what they couldn’t for six decades, while the modernist left and center who had unbridled access to authority till date are unhappy suddenly finding themselves being displaced and extinguished. Both want to adopt the moral high ground as their principle argument. Few from the remaining society are taking sides but the majority is just watching.

They are just watching because fundamentally there is a deep rooted fallacy in the argument on both sides. They realize that while religion and community strength is important to maintain a good life however it is not sufficient to create a happy life in the very first place. To create that you need modern development and age old traditions cannot bring new developments. Development in the world always comes with risk-taking, risk-taking needs finance and financing needs a peaceful environment. Thus more the unrest, less the development. The Hindus would be happy if their traditions alone are considered sacrosanct and their beliefs alone are upheld and respected as the supreme word in this country. But this can’t be acceptable to the Muslims, Christians and Dalit, who also happen to be the natives of the soil, at the cost of their fundamental rights and privileges promised by the Constitution.  My guess is that majority of the Hindus are keenly aware of this duality and it is playing in their mind. The Hindus have to make their stand clear; whether they want Ram mandir or they want development. Both cannot happen simultaneously. The whole fiasco, if potrayed as an emotional issue can get out of hand, but  if rightfully seen  as a struggle between politics and economics, then the solution becomes clear.