Religious minorities and the mainstream in a pluralist secular democracy-Part 2
- Part - II
Mainstream should not be limited to any particular religion in conceptual
understanding. The general conception nowadays is that Hinduism is the
majority religion in India. This statement needs a qualification. The label
Hindu, as the label Syrian, is a very late creation. Until the foreigners
started classifying so there was no single religion called Hinduism.
Whatever they could not pigeonhole as a distinct religion, like Jainism,
Budhism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism or Christianity they clubbed
together under a vague umbrella and called the umbrella Hinduism. They did
not see or recognise the difference between Shaivism and Vaishnavism , or
that between Aryan Brahminism and Dravidian religions(some of which probably
had more in common with the ancestral worship in many Oriental religions).
In fact even as early as the third millenium before Christ India was
pluralist: we had the Sramanas, the naked mendicant monasticism, the
Ajivikas, the adivasis et al. There were Bhakti cults which did not
recognise the Vedas. Today we have at least eight great religions in this
country: Buddhism, Jainism, the religion of the Vedas and Upanishads called
Sanatana Dharma or generally though rather inaccurately Hinduism, Sikhism,
Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Zoroastrianism. The tribal religions of the
various regions of this large country, different from one another in details
but common in animism and totemism, which anthropologists may call Little
India are in addition to these. The main stream that I speak of is the huge
river emerging from the confluence of all these streams. NO single stream in
this can insulate itself from this mainstream without self- evaporation! One
point certain about Indian cultural heritage is that it was all along
pluralist and religious. The Indian mainstream is the confluence of Ganga,
Yamuna and numerous Saraswaties, known and unknown, seen and unseen. Once
this is appreciated it becomes easy to appreciate the fact that no minority
can or need develop a ghetto- mindset.
Here a reference seems called for to the word Hindutwa. The media have of
late made this sound ugly, but I feel that it is not at all justified to do
so. The late Justice Chagla said as early as in 1980 that he was a Hindu
with faith in Islam. And as recently as in 1996 Dr. Z.A.Karim of the Islamic
Research Foundation declared that every Indian is a Hindu, which expression
according to him was a definition of a location-specific culture. The great
Syrian Catholic historian Fr. Placid and the late lamented Cardinal
Parekkattil took pride in claiming that they were culturally Hindus. In my
speeches and articles I have also said many a time that the Christians in
India are Christian in faith and Hindu in culture. I have the authority of
no less a person than Devaras, the RSS Supremo, to reiterate this view. He
declared as early as in 1979 that a theocratic Hindu state was not part of
his dream. The Supreme Court also held in the election case of Manohar Joshi
that while it is not easy to define Hindutwa it had come to the conclusion
that it could not be confined to any one narrow religious definition. The
apex court held that Hindutwa is a way of life. Shri K.Raman Pillai, the
veteran BJP leader of Kerala has authored a book on this subject and he
broadly agrees with what ever I have said so far. In other words it is
incorrect, not merely inaccurate, to say that Hindutwa is a retrograde
political concept as the media have made to appear. On the contrary I find
it a socio-cultural concept which should be acceptable to all patriotic
Indians. In fact it is not only inaccurate but also unwise to allow Hindutwa
to be made the monopoly of those whom the �progressive� media despise as
Minorities in India should develop a participatory paradigm. To understand
it dynamically one requires a holistic perspective. As Revd. Valson Thampu
has observed in one of his many essays on this and allied topics any nation
is a multi-layered structure with subsystems, each a whole with respect to
its parts and a part with respect to larger wholes. Therefore each community
can be seen as a subsystem. And no subsystem should lay down agendas by
itself for itself, whether it is BJP or Congress or League or CPM or Kerala
Congress. BJP does not represent all Hindus (used in the ordinary sense) nor
is it confined to Hindus. Similarly League cannot claim to represent all
Muslims. And Kerala Congress, even with all its micro-groups, cannot claim
to represent the Christian community: in fact there are more Bishops and
Archbishops who are opposed to the very concept of a party like Kerala
Congress, the core support base of that party being actually confined to the
Syrian Catholics of the Archdiocese of Changanassery and its �vassal�
dioceses viz. Kanjirappaly and Pala. Unless the educated elite at least gets
over these petty loyalties- political or religious- the participatory
paradigm cannot work. Communalism, whether of the majority or the minority,
is a serious threat to the progress of the mainstream. In the context of
India that is Bharat no religious community can be an end in itself as many
intellectuals have already pointed out over the last eight or ten years. At
the same time those who are numerically small or socially handicapped may
have to be supported with special provisions of law. This was recognised by
those who framed our Constitution whose enlightened fair-mindedness can
never be challenged. Here I may be permitted to use a Pauline analogy. St.
Paul uses the example of the human body to illustrate the dynamic harmony,
and the need therefor, between the health of the part and the vitality of
the whole. According to Paul the interests of the whole body is jeopardised
if the optimum development and effectiveness of any of its members is
hampered. A withered hand is of no use to the body; in fact it is a
liability. Similarly what good is a healthy hand capable of if the body is
dead? It cuts both ways. I remember reading somewhere what distinguished
Ferdinand Magellan from his contemporaries. Magellan envisioned the sea as a
continuum; he saw it in terms of connectivity while his contemporaries saw
the sea as something that separated rather than connected. To see the sea as
a bridge one needs vision and it is this Magellanian mindset which we need
in this country now.
To be continued......
Bar 'Eato Briro Dr. D. Babu Paul
Member Id No: 075
- Dear honorable members
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