After many days of inactivity, I am back. Thanks to Facebook. A friend of mine recently shared an article that appeared in one of the Kannada newspapers on ‘Why India cannot be a Hindu nation when western countries can be Christian?’ Debating on this topic on FB comments was a bit tidious and hence here I am writing my own perspective on my own blog :). And to those critics of Facebook, this is just one example of how it can be put to good use also!
In my school days, I never appreciated ‘History’ as a subject which used to be taught under the topic of ‘Social Sciences’. The subject is as good or as bad as the teacher is. That could probably be one of the reason for my disinterestedness. The other reason could be the curriculum and the content in the text books. History was more of …….. In 18xx, King X conquered Y, married Z, killed his brother to usurp the throne, etc. It was more of factual details which had to be critically analyzed by the teacher along with the students. This analysis was probably missing in my ‘history’ education.
Coming back to our discussion on ‘Why India cannot be a Hindu nation?’, the article smacks of the ignorance of the author about the importance of history in shaping the future. European history and Indian history were never the same and equating them would be foolish. The reason why India chose to be a secular nation is well articulated and debated by the members of the constituent assembly which framed our constitution. (BTW, majority of the members of constituent assembly were ‘Hindus’). The variant of Indian secularism is a unique one. It does not mean a total separation of the ‘State’ from ‘Religion’. In fact, there are many constitutional provisions which enable and empower religions to establish their own institutions, to be tax-free (that is how our politicians now keep most of their money here) and so on.
In India, secularism means that the State will not identify itself with any particular religion. This is the reason that the State which provides for Haj pilgrimage also provides for Amarnath Yatra. Such a definition of ‘Secularism’ implicit in our constitution also forms a part of the ‘Basic structure of Indian Constitution’ . So, this is one major reason why India cannot be a Hindu nation.
What is Hinduism ? I am fed up of hearing these lofty claims that Hinduism is a way of life. Hinduism is this. Hinduism is that. What the hell ? How does one become Hindu? By being born to Hindu parents. How does one become Christian? By being born to Christian parents. Religion also has a gory side to it known as caste which is a hierarchical structure that is mostly exploitative.
Can a Christian be Hindu and Can a Hindu be Christian? The answer is YES if you consider these as ‘ways of life’. This would mean that I accept whatever is ‘good’ in Christianity without losing my ‘Hindu’ tag. Reciprocally, it would also mean Christians accepting whatever they feel is ‘good’ in Hindu religion. Such a vision is Utopian thinking for it requires broad mindedness in the people of this country and the people of this world. Politicization of religion has made the realization of such wishful thinking a distant dream if not an impossible task.
So, the proponents of ‘India as a Hindu nation’ should first refine the definition of ‘Hindu’. There is a dearth of men and women like Swami Vivekananda who can reflect on the virtues of Hinduism as well as criticize the religious bigotry that afflicts our society. Religion and Hinduism should move out of the ‘kitchen’ before it can be considered an universal way of life and before India can associate itself with that particular way of life.