The battle for the soul of India: Loony ideas spiral from the fringe as silence grows in the mainstream

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The battle for the soul of India: Loony ideas spiral from the fringe as silence grows in the mainstream

Post by Rashmun on Sun Jun 11, 2017 2:15 am

In balmy Goa, from June 14 to June 17, 150 Hindu organisations (I did not know there were that many, but this is what they claim) will meet to discuss how their common goal can be achieved – the creation of a Hindu rashtra, a Hindu nation, by 2023. That is six years away.

At the turn of this decade, such ideas attracted derision. Although 79.8% of India is Hindu, the country never seriously considered declaring itself a Hindu nation. If this is now a possibility, it would imply that the majority of Hindus is considering the idea. It is hard to say if this is the case, but it is equally hard to say it is not.

There is little doubt that what were once considered nutty, fringe organisations – and fringe, extreme beliefs – have gone mainstream. This did not begin with Narendra Modi’s ascent to power in 2014. The empowerment of popular hate began, I wrote last year, after the Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992. Instead of taking a stand, the Congress often pandered to emerging prejudice – soft Hindutva, as some call it – allowing it to become a part of Indian majoritarian thinking. A sharp acceleration is evident since Modi became prime minister three years ago. The most proximate evidence is from Uttar Pradesh, which appears to have gone even more extreme with the installation of Adityanath – an unabashed Hindu supremacist with a police record for stirring up violence against Muslims – as chief minister in March...

As I write this, Justice Sivasankara Rao of the Hyderabad High Court declared that cows were “substitutes to mother and God”. Last week, his learned colleague, Justice Mahesh Chandra Sharma of the Rajasthan High Court, in the course of suggesting that the government declare the cow India’s national animal, said that the cow’s bellow destroys germs, its dung destroys cholera germs and its horns acquire cosmic energy – and later expounded on the celibacy of peacocks. “No crime is more heinous than cow slaughter,” said Sharma, ignoring, like most Hindu apologists, the barbaric lynchings by Hindu mobs. Also, last week, a Rajasthan minister spoke of the “miraculous medicinal properties” of cow dung, milk and urine.

These seemingly bizarre thoughts mask darker, more widespread feelings, many of which are held closely by Hindus in the so-called mainstream. There is no evidence to back this, but there seems to be a greater acceptability than ever to the idea among many friends, fellow Hindus, who otherwise show no evidence of bigotry but whose minds appear ready to be moulded. As I heard a character in a Broadway show (it was the Wizard of Oz, actually, explaining his hold over the good people of the Emerald city) say recently: People believe the lies they want to believe...

During the era of racial segregation in the United States, when the white majority refused to see what was happening to the black minority, Martin Luther King Jr said: “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamour of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” This much we know – the silence among India’s good people is growing.


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