India has been reeling with rise of extremism on both sides of the camp- the Hindus and the Muslims. The most influential such groups is the Sangh Parivar, who will be my focus here. Rise of extremism in Muslims requires detailed analysis in it’s own “merit”, but the solutions are different in the two cases. The Muslim’s case has been analyzed in detail before at IM.
Understanding the Problem
In India’s first freedom struggle, in 1857, at first both Hindus and Muslims participated in good proportions. They could not agree upon a thousand other things; but they could agree on one thing- they wanted the Mughals to return. Mughals did not mean an alien rulers to them. Mughals represented Indian self-rule. This was true until late 19th century. Until the British, cunningly enough, divided Indian History into two parts- Hindu era and the Muslim era. A black and white version of History.
The Indian freedom movement took a new turn when what is now called Indian nationalism evolved around the Hindu identity and was growing strong early last century. The option for India was no longer limited to a return to monarchy. But the new options were not very clear yet. There were the extreme opinions- India for Hindus, and there were inclusive Indianness. But all of them vaguely related Indianness around some form of Hindu identity.
However, there was not a single vision among them that could fit all Hindus, let alone all Indians. That process is still not complete. People still have that vague association of Hinduness with Indianness, but none have very strong appeal except among a small share of Indians. Neither the Indian identity, nor the Hindu identity have matured yet. Much of India identify first with their ethnicity and/or language above the Indian identity- resulting in stuff we are seeing in Assam, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, for example. Even the champions of the “Hindu cause”- Bala Thakerey and Modi has to stroke up regional sentiments because Hindu sentiments are not enough to get them votes.
And that is part of the reason why we have Hindutva. They envision a India around their version of Hinduness, in which Muslims are nothing but invaders, an interruption in the continuum of Hindu India. A fairly corrupt understanding of History, as any serious historian will tell you. But nevertheless an appealing one because of it’s simplicity. It seems to unify India as opposed to external enemies- and if the enemies are overcome, we shall be safe.
Beyond food, clothing and a roof- a man has other needs. He needs an identity, a sense of belonging and a feeling of purpose. Things that the present fragmented environ in India has little to offer. However, there is enthnicity, there is language and there is religion that can offer strong identity and feeling of belonging. If you notice, these are the factors that are shaping the conflicts. These identities are not causing the conflicts. Identity alone rarely causes conflict. Conflicts have economic/political causes in general. Identities provide cover and support for the underprivileged, and network for the privileged.
Crafting a Solution
As in every other country, we have some people who have simmering energy and enthusiasm. Much of those people who feel the urge to do something, are falling prey to the Hindutva brigade. They (The H Brigade) confirm their emotions and then inflict a sense of urgency. We need to divert these misguided but motivated people to good use, it will get used for all the wrong reasons. Instead of breaking down somebody’s (who they are made to see as enemy) house, they need to be taught to build for their own. Setting fire to a neighbor’s house has never been a good idea. Never will be.
Hinduism as it is, is a diverse range of cultures and ways of living. That, unless forced into one single mold, will not lend itself to a common identity. We need to solve this identity crisis from a wholly different angle. I think we should not focus on being Indian per se. Let this be something like Indians for humanity. Let the uniting identity be being a human.
And there is a weapon in our hand that we rarely use- the constitution. In fact little do we know what a useful it can be. It has vision of universal appeal to offer. Indian constitution is one of the best in the world. We have woman’s suffrage and property rights right from the inception of the Indian state. The constitution also recognizes that different religions have their own needs for civic law. We need to learn the constitution and cultivate respect for it. We need to learn our responsibilities and rights.
We should include the basic tenets of the constitution in our schools. More respect for laws can only do good to our society. At the moment laws only apply to the weak. The rich and the powerful are mostly out of reach of law! Especially the politicians. Especially them.
I shall end by quoting two stalwarts.
Ajatashatru’s kingdom and the Licchabi states were nearby. He wanted to conquer the Licchabi states and sent Barshakar as emissary to Buddha asking him for suggestions and blessings. Buddha did not like the idea. Instead of answering Barshakar, he asked his disciple Ananda
Ananda, is it true that Licchabis discuss state matters among thems regularly?
Yes, that’s what I’ve heard- bhantey*
Ananda, as long as they do that, nobody can harm them.
Buddha paused, and then spoke again
Ananda, are they honest? Do they punish the unjust and do justice- even if it is hard for them?
Ananda confirmed him. Budhha then asked him about the old, women and the minorities, and when Ananda confirmed that they (Licchabis) treated them with love and respect, Budhha asserted-
These qualities will help them survive for long.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said- what destroyed the earlier generations was that the weak were punished for their crimes, while the influential got away with theirs.
In simpler terms, it is justice and rule of law that gives a society it’s strength. The moment the powerful (be that Bal Thakarey or Modi) can evade justice and law, it hurts the well being of the entire society.
* (“bhantey”- a title of respect)