I am a proud Hindu.
Ah! What was that? A declaration of self-confessed Hindu pride! I must definitely be communal. For when does a right-thinking person (with no reference to the political definition which can send the media lambasting everyone under its ambit) even a Hindu, declare so outrightly his love for his religion?
No sir! I must definitely be communal.
In a world charged with religious overtones where religion is no longer a merely personal pursuit which instead dominates world politics, terrorism, film-making, book-literature, facebook updates, election issues, it is still all right to declare yourself a proud Muslim or a Christian or a Jew, but a Hindu declaration must indeed be the right-wingedness of politics or at least an overt display of a newly-branded word: Extremist.
It is ironical and yet in many ways it isn’t, for after all, aren’t we in India – the land of contradictions, that calling yourself a proud Hindu and wearing the obvious badges of the religion on sleeve in an overwhelmingly Hindu population is publicly looked upon most disapprovingly and most suspiciously. You utter the ‘H’ word and the media, the people, the peers will point guns at you. Sarcasm and comments labeling you as a right-winger or as a Hindu extremist or as a communalist or as a BJPiite, will be thrown at your mercilessly.
It is another matter that this declaration is only an expression of one’s preference, with no intention to insult, invoke or slander any other religion, sect or community. Also, more often than not, statements to do with one’s religion are bereft of any purported signaling to any other.
However, that is exactly the meaning attributed to a harmless statement.
Nevertheless, my problem is much more latitudinous than the expression of one’s religiosity. It is the overt, repressive pressure to be all-conforming to the public-media-asserted holy line of “Moderation”. Political correctness has reached a never-before docile and obsequious standard.
And hence, I admit publicly that I am afraid. Afraid of the expansive and unsuppressed nature of this political correctness pervading our homes, our workplaces, media, discussion forums, facebook, and the worst of all - inter-personal relationships.
Somehow it is not right to express your opinions clearly if they go against the holy line of moderation. It is not right to say that you “hate” something or you “love” something. No sir! We all must dilute it to express our conformism to a ‘Moderate’ ‘like’. Worse still, eliminate the preference. Express the neutrality: This way or that way, I am ok, you are ok.
Riots break out for no explicit reason whatsoever if a word, a phrase or a declaration enrages someone. Calling a spade a spade is a thing left for English storybooks or literature from colonial era. I remember this conversation where I was telling someone that I love Sachin Tendulkar. Within a few minutes while talking about cities and lives, I said that I hate Delhi because of the insecurity it offers to girls. Having ably supported my preferences with some reasons, irrespective of someone else’s agreement with them, I did not hesitate while saying them aloud. In no time, I was an extremist with strong opinions. Strong opinions, apparently, are to be frowned upon, as long as they do not toe the line of moderation.
The worst of all is the penetration of this attitude in small sections of society and personal relationships. Wearing a saffron kurta to work will invite at least one joke about ‘being RSS-wadi”. The same is not true for a green garment.
Expressing political opinions frequently, especially by a girl, will invite the ire and the frown of the moderation-practicing populace. Saying things as they are, as they should be, factually pointing out anomalies is the symbol of an active mind, not of a demented one. That in no way dents the humaneness of a person.
Conformism suits the present world of traders and organizations. Euphemism is the new mantra. I shudder to think what would have been the outcome of our freedom struggle if our leaders were afraid and every non-approved, non-moderate sentence would be opposed using reductio ad absurdum.
And so, it is with being Hindu.
So for the left-leaning media and the majority of those conscientious Hindus who are afraid of being labeled extremists; criticizing kar sevaks for demolishing Babri masjid is justified, so much so that we can play the same record year after year, openly castigating the people involved but to talk of Muslim-led genocide against Kashmiri Pandits in one of world’s largest cases of ethnic cleansing is being - you are right – Hindu Extremist.
No normal, right-minded Hindu will support any of these two activities, least of all any riots. However, when any of them expresses a preference of voting for BJP, he is automatically labeled in a derogatory tone as a ‘RSS wadi”. Why can’t someone vote for BJP without being called so, simply because he or she is disgusted with the corruption of the Congress or with their flawed sense of economics or their misplaced idea of appeasement or the worst of all – their conniving sops to public, permanently damaging the exchequer without any effective ‘build money to spend money’ program.
A religion should be gauged by the way it treats its minorities when it is itself in majority. And India should be proud because despite being majorly Hindu, she has welcomed all religions with open arms. All communities, sects which were persecuted in the world found a refuge in this motherland. And that should make us delightfully proud of being Hindu. Pride as defined by dictionary also means “self-esteem” without any negative overtones. Why should that offend anyone?
“I am proud to belong to that Hinduism which is all inclusive and which stands for tolerance.” – Gandhi proclaimed a long time ago. He never went down in history as being communal. His love for other religions was so much that a real Hindu Extremist assassinated him.
Our democracy and its constitution gives the “Right to Free Speech” to each and every individual, limited only by its potential to invoke incendiary feelings in a community enough to cause destructive rampage or fuel insurgent emotions.
Apart from that, we are free to express. Unfortunately, what the constitution blesses us with; the society takes away – the Right to be an Individual.
A new thought emanates from a conflict of ideas. For conflict of ideas, there should be opposing opinions and the right to express so. Toeing the middle line has never revolutionized anything, neither any political nor any social or industrial change. The Moderates never got us freedom, so didn’t the Extremists. The conflict between them produced Gandhi - a new political awakening.
Moderation should not be an excuse for tolerance of the bad and the ugly – specks of terrorism, acts of vandalism, conformism to mediocrity, snubbing of free opinions, preferences and a societal snobbery for euphemisms. Continued practice of this has made us a soft and weak nation, which will tolerate just about anything: rapes, appeasement, terrorism, hijacking, naxalism, corruption and blatant misuse of power because as a community we are afraid of being labeled as “Extremists”.
Moderation is good, albeit in moderation.
In Sanskrit, there is a saying: “Ati Sarvatra Varjayet” , i.e. ‘Anything in excess is bad”. Even ‘Moderation’.
PGDM, IIM Kozhikode