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Civilizational tasks for the Narendra Modi Government,Continued

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  • Civilizational tasks for the Narendra Modi Government,Continued

    Civilizational tasks for the Narendra Modi Government,Continued

    Inside the Sangh, the RSS is becoming less important, the other organizations are becoming more independent. Thus, the VHP is, under the dynamic de facto leadership of Swami Vigyananda, a veteran of the Ayodhya movement, unfolding its wings worldwide. People loosely tied to the Sangh have started their own media ventures, once pooh-poohed by the Sangh. Thus, I was once interviewed for the TV programme India Tomorrow by Mayank Jain, vaguely linked to the Sangh.
    Moreover, acknowledged influence from outside the Sangh is on the increase. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised when in 2003 the Gathering of the Elders took place, a kind of Pagan international which since then has been held every three years, so far always in an Indian city. It hosts Mayas, Maoris, Lithuanian Pagans, Yorubas, Lakotas etc. The Convenor is RSS Pracharak Prof. Yashwant Pathak (USA), who was inspired to give a positive Pagan response to Christian and Islamic aggression by reading and then meeting Ram Swarup. The ideas came from outside the Sangh, but for the manpower and effort to get the whole conference going, we have to thank the Sangh.
    In that sense, it is now no longer the need of the hour to criticize the Sangh. Anyone who feels called upon to serve the Hindu cause, is free to set up a separate organization. This is effectively forcing the Sangh to correct and improve its performance. So, the focus should not be for or against this or that organization, but on the Hindu cause. This is a time to forget the past and keep the common goal in mind.
    Hindu prospects for power
    Today, the BJP led by Narendra Modi has come to power. He is presented as the saviour who can deliver where everybody else has failed and will fail.
    Mind you, he is not there yet. The propaganda campaign against him by the secularists, their minority allies and their foreign media dupes, will go through a crescendo in the near future at least. Moreover, he has important enemies within his party. A large faction, including much of the old guard, consists of time-servers, whose highest ambition is to enjoy the perks of office, and who don’t want to rock the boat by raising controversial Hindu demands. Their dream had been first to come to power on the strength of the pro-Modi vote, and then to “sacrifice” Modi in order to appease whatever interests. This way, they would have used the Hindu electorate to come to power, then to pursue un-Hindu policies, not distinguishable from those of the so-called secularist governments.
    A proof for this assessment is the actual conduct of the last two BJP governments (1998-2004). Under Atal Behari Vajpayee, nothing pro-Hindu was done. The secularists and the world media had uttered all kinds of doomsday predictions if he BJP came to power, and they were all proven wrong. So far, so good: the grimly predicted “genocide of the minorities” did not take place because no Hindu ever planned such a thing in the first place. But something worse happened: not the fact that the BJP’s pro-Hindu policies failed to provoke the predicted communal conflagration, but the fact that there were simply no pro-Hindu policies to be reported.
    A critical majority of the BJP politicians behaved as opportunists, shunning any ideologically profiled policy. Others did entertain the thought of taking the initiative and raising specifically Hindu causes, but were intimidated by the opposition of the less Hindu-minded allies. Of course, the allies and the BJP time-servers merely reacted to an anti-Hindu opinion climate resulting not only from the machinations of the anti-Hindu lobbies, but also from the near-complete absence of a pro-Hindu voice in the public sphere. At any rate, many BJP politicians meekly toed the dominant line and shunned the Hindu agenda.
    So Narendra Modi, or any Hindu political leader, will have to deal with inertial and even plainly hostile opposition from within his own ranks. Another problem is that his supporters are unusually person-centred. If Narendra Modi gets shot tomorrow, his support base will be in disarray. The policies he embodies would still be there and could still be pursued, yet much of the current enthusiasm is not directed to something abstract like “pro-Hindu policies”, but towards the person of Narendra Modi. Many historical battles, though virtually won, have ultimately been lost because the Hindu commander was eliminated. I hear numerous internet Hindus complain that the “Hindus are cowards”, as even Mahatma Gandhi said, but they are not. They have fought very bravely, and under Chandragupa Maurya or Vikramaditya, under Shivaji or Baji Rao, they were rewarded with victories. But too often they owed their defeats to other factors, especially their mindlessness in not updating their strategy and in relying too much on the person of their commander.
    Having said that, we all now have to adapt to the reality that this is a battle between Narendra Modi and the rest. Modi has gained the support of the masses because of his impressive success story as Chief Minister of Gujarat, but also because of his reputation as a tried and tested Hindu activist. Critics allege that in his twelve years as Chief Minister, he has done little that is specifically pro-Hindu.
    But first of all, containing corruption and furthering economic growth are two very Hindu achievements. Since Mahatma Gandhi, Hinduism has come to be associated with voluntary backwardness, and under Jawaharlal Nehru’s socialist and bureaucratic policies, it even became synonymous with extreme poverty. The ruling party rubbed it in further by naming its own dismal economic results “the Hindu rate of growth”. But this does not conform to what Hindu society was in antiquity: the envy of its neighbours, a proverbially rich and developed country. Nor does it tally with the successes of the Hindu entrepreneurs and professionals outside India, freed from the Nehruvian impediments. So, Hinduism stands for prosperity, and merely by his purely secular economic policies, Narendra Modi is indeed a Hindu activist.
    In the more explicit sense, Modi has not done anything spectacular, if only because the main relevant competences are exercised at the federal and not at the state level. However, he has ably withstood a unique storm of blood libel from the secularists and the Islamic and missionary lobbies. Many Hindu nationalists would have buckled and become apologetic, trying to appease their critics. After twelve years of the most intense defamation, he knows in his bones just how extremely vicious the secularists can be. That is why he will not feel inclined to toe the secularist line now.
    A Hindu agenda for parties in power
    Let us survey the most salient items on the Hindu agenda. Some of them are to be rejected forthwith, others are useful but hard to achieve in the absence of some preparation, others yet are very important though easy to achieve, while some are not on anybody’s agenda but deserve to be.
    - Declaring Hindu Rashtra: many internet Hindus declare in all seriousness that this would be the solution. But this is really a case of logocentrism (taking a word for the thing designated by it), mere symbol politics, and banging your head against the wall. This is sure to make you many enemies while getting you nothing of tangible value. The original Ram Rajya was not a “Hindu Rashtra”. Moreover, as Prof. Vir Bhadra Mishra, the Varanasi Mahant who used to be my landlord long ago (and who came in the news in 2006 when his temple became the target of Islamic terrorism and he calmed down a Hindu crowd eager for revenge), remarked to me: the status of “state religion” will only make Hinduism weak.
    - Other purely symbolic moves may not exactly be counterproductive, but they show that you have wrong priorities. A few days ago I was in Indore and saw a statue of Deendayal Upadhyaya. I guess he deserves to have a statue somewhere, but I have a feeling that the energy spent on it, could have been used better. There is nothing wrong about it. It is good to keep the Hindu masses happy, but in an age of struggle, other things should be reckoned more urgent. Yet, at the same time, sometimes political symbolism is important. Thus, I once heard a Hindu nationalist pleading for renaming Delhi as Indraprastha, the city founded right here by the Mahabharata hero Yudhishthira. This ancient-new name would constitute a statement heard loud and clear around the world.
    - Probably the language issue will not be raised in the near future, yet it is fundamental. I will not give any specific advice on what to do, but let me sketch the problem, obvious to outsiders though maybe less clear in Hinglish-speaking Delhi.
    We are presently expressing ourselves in English at most public events, aur yeh toda afsos hai [“and this is kind of a pity”]. For the generation that had successfully concluded the freedom struggle and that laid down a language policy in the Constituent Assembly, it was obvious that free India’s link language could not be the colonial language. A vote was held to choose between Hindi and Sanskrit, which Hindi won with the narrowest of margins. This meant that Hindi would replace English for all official purposes by 1965.
    But when 1965 came, the memory of the freedom struggle and its nationalist fervour had dimmed sufficiently, while under Nehru the English-speaking elite had gained enough self-confidence to thwart the explicit choice of the Founding Fathers. Since then, English has completely elbowed out Hindi and the other vernaculars, to the extent that schools with the vernacular as medium of instruction are shunned and have come under pressure to switch over to English. A nation with a glorious literary tradition is now voluntarily turning into an underdeveloped country dependent on the former colonial language for all grown-up purposes, where virtually the whole next generation will be schooled through English as medium. The former Jana Sangh would never have accepted this.
    Remember that Madhu Kishwar has said: whether you succeed or fail in India does not so much depend on religious or caste background, but on whether you speak English or not. India cannot become a democracy unless every citizen masters the link language, in effect English (John Stuart Mill observed that a working democracy presupposes a common space of discourse, a linguistically homogeneous community). If India had been serious about either Hindi or Sanskrit, everybody would be familiar with that language by now, if only because so many words would be nearly or completely the same in the chosen language and the other Indian languages. Instead, you now have a linguistic “anarchy that works”, but at a high price for the lower classes.
    To be sure, this is a plea against self-interest: my Hindi or Sanskrit will never be as good as that of the native speakers, yet I am arguing against English because I care about the best interests of the Indian people, not of the visiting foreigner who feels so at home when he is being served in English. To sum up, I am merely giving my impressions about the problem, I leave it to Indians how to solve it. Older Hindu nationalists would, if given the chance, have phased out English and replaced it with an Indian language. The new generation of pro-Hindu politicians may think of digital translation technology to overcome the problem of multilinguism, or some other novel solution out of the box. But the problem must be tackled, the present undemocratic and humiliating dependence on a foreign language cannot continue.
    - Make the populist reservation system evaporate, as it was always intended to do, even by Dr. Ambedkar. Right now it pits caste against caste. It brings out the worst in people, who vie with each other in cornering the maximum of benefits for themselves. Everybody tries to utilize the nation for the benefit of the community. Like many items on this list, pulling this reform off will require the utmost of intelligence and diplomacy, for the missionaries (who are now falsely clamouring worldwide that reservations privilege the “Hindu Dalits” over the “Christian Dalits”) and the neo-Ambedkarites are lying in wait to accuse the Hindu activists of caste oppression. First gain some experience, perhaps you will need to take small and measured steps, but ultimately all citizens regardless of their provenance should enjoy the same rights.
    - Bring the laws pertaining to ethics more in line with Hindu tradition. An issue now in the limelight is homosexuality and the Victorian law against it, still on the statute books. This law may be useful as a protection against the predations by foreign tourists in places like Goa, so I understand why many Hindus applauded the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold it. But it is equally true and relevant that Hindu tradition has a different view. The law codes hardly mention the matter, and at most impose a token penalty, nothing like the stoning prevalent in the Muslim world. The ancient Hindus effectively pursued a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Less prudish than today’s Hindus, and quite pluralistic in marriage affairs, scripturally recognizing no less than eight different types of marriage, they nonetheless withheld from homosexual unions any form of public recognition (as implied in ‘”gay marriage”, which the VHP of America has opposed); but they did not prescribe repression either. The philosophy of ancient Hinduism, as of some other ancient civilizations, was: as long as it is done in the shadows and doesn’t upset society, we prefer to ignore it. Of course, even the law codes make room for reforms, so Hindus must decide for themselves whether they want this scriptural approach or a newer approach to this question. But at any rate, Hindu tradition is a good and nuanced guideline.
    - A similar Victorian law prohibits euthanasia, on the basis of the Christian view that only God has the power over life and death. Hinduism has a less absolute view of life and death, and while rejecting emotional suicides among youngsters, like Romeo’s and Juliet’s, it allows aged people and renunciates to walk gently into the night. Thus, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar fasted unto death in 1966 when he felt his time had come. When Vinoba Bhave did the same thing in 1975, all while Prime Minister Indira Gandhi paid him a visit on his deathbed, secular editorialists were screaming that Bhave was violating the law of the land (as if this is an unquestionable God-given authority) and should be imprisoned and force-fed. While this is not a prominent issue at the moment, it would prove the Hindu bona fides of a Government with the power to reform laws, if it replaced the Christian approach inherent in the present law with a more understanding Hindu approach.
    - Protecting the Hindus abroad. The problem of the harassment and persecution of Hindus must certainly be pursued more actively than has hitherto been done. The Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh now know only that their country’s Government will at best look the other way while they are being tortured by their Muslim neighbours, and that the Indian Government will not interfere on their behalf either. If it turns out that nothing can effectively be done for them, then bring the Hindu minorities to India. Just like any Jew can immigrate into Israel, any Hindu must know that he can find a home in India. And if the illegal Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants are sent back, there will be room enough for the Hindu newcomers. But that should only be plan B. The best course is to make life safe for them even in Pakistan and Bangladesh, so that they can be the core of a renewed Hinduization of those countries, or rather, those parts of historical India presently under Islamic occupation.
    - Building the Rama temple in Ayodhya. Or rather allowing and facilitating its construction, though the state should not be involved as such. Hindus need not be apologetic about it: what is more normal and less objectionable than Hindus building a temple at a Hindu sacred site, where millions of Hindus but no Muslims go on pilgrimage? Moreover, the Hindu case for the Rama temple (or rather, the scholarly case) has survived a 20-year-long storm of ridicule and denunciation, only to be proven right in the end. The world media and the professional India-watchers in Western universities had all the while parroted their Indian secularist contacts and ridiculed the Hindu position. As Dr. Meenakshi Jain has documented, when the case was finally taken up by the Court of Justice, the “eminent historians” had to admit under oath that they hadn’t studied the matter, that they were not qualified, that they had not visited the site, all while they had pontificated against the old consensus that the mosque had forcibly replaced a temple. So, Hindus can now hold their head high when building the temple, while the secularists have only covered themselves with shame. But under the separation of powers, it may be a welcome circumstance that a possible Hindu Government does not have to get its hands dirty on this, as it is the Court that has decided in favour of the Hindu claim.
    - Change the power equation in education and in the intellectual sphere in general. Since education is partly a competence of the States, BJP or other pro-Hindu State Governments could contribute to a less anti-Hindu climate in the world of teaching. They have the power to take initiatives with long-term consequences. Thus, I applaud the creation of a University of Sanchi by the Madhya Pradesh Government as a fitting reply to the Nalanda University, a Leftist-controlled reconstitution of what was the biggest university in the world when it was destroyed by the Islamic invaders in 1194. (As these were Buddhist sites, let me remark in passing that the Leftists have falsely portrayed the genesis of the Buddha’s sect as a revolution against Hinduism, a propaganda story which Buddhologist Dr. Lokesh Chandra, will easily pin-prick.) Any smugness or unconcern about education is misplaced here, for it has become vitally important.
    In the old time, Hindu culture was in the air, any illiterate Hindu child acquired it just by breathing. But now, education interferes with this natural process and pits many Hindu-born youngsters against Hinduism. Indeed, that is largely how the secularist class has come about. So, textbooks introducing Hindu tradition have to be crafted or improved, and taught to the new generations. There is also a problem of what personnel is nominated. Since about 1970, the Left has dominated the Humanities, and wherever possible, it has blocked access for anyone reputed to have pro-Hindu leanings. If you want to understand the custom of untouchability, it is best to observe the Leftists and the way they shun every contact with rival convictions.
    Under the Leftist principle of reservations, the victims of untouchability must be compensated with preferential nominations, so now the pro-Hindu candidates should massively be recruited. But since the anti-Hindu indoctrination has been quite massive, the quota for pro-Hindu nominations cannot even be filled up. So, the best is simply to forget about these reservations and let things take their natural course. Objective scholarship (slandered as “pro-Hindu”) cannot artificially be ordered to come into existence. It has to be crafted by hard work, and then, gradually, a new generation will come up with a more truthful understanding of history, society and worldviews. But Government can at least play a role in unblocking access and preventing Leftist censorship.
    - Abolishing the special status of Kashmir and its Constitutional guarantee (Art. 370), as also of Nagaland and Mizoram. This might be opposed by local political parties, but should be in the interest of the minorities in the rest of India. It ought to be feasible to get their support for this reform. Unlike the Vajpayee Government, the Narendra Modi Government should at any rate resettle the Kashmiri Hindu refugees in Kashmir, thus making the province multi-religious once again, a secular move par excellence.
    - A Common Civil Code has been a long-standing demand of the Jana Sangh-BJP, and therefore it is deemed a “communal” demand. However, anyone outside the ambit of Indian secularism, anyone who can see through its veil of fallacies, would call this a secular demand. Indeed, it is enjoined in the Directive Principles of the Indian Constitution.
    To be more precise, the Nehruvians sidelined this demand by only giving it a place among the non-enforceable Directive Principles, but at least it forms part of the Constitution. The Supreme Court has asked the Government to report on its steps towards a Common Civil Code, a request gone unanswered by the past two Congress Governments. Equality of all citizens before the law regardless of religion, hence a Common Civil Code, is a defining trait of all secular states. Yet, the secular parties justify their tacit support to the continuation of religion-based Civil Codes with the fear that abolishing them would provoke an enormous wave of protest.
    And this has a semblance of truth to it: a threatened abolition of the Islamic Civil Code would probably trigger fiery sermons in the mosques and a vast Islamic protest movement. Any Government taking up this issue should realize it is playing with fire, and that it will at any rate get the blame for whatever untoward happens as a consequence. Moreover, this is more a secular than a Hindu demand. In the past, Hindus had legal pluralism: just as different communities practised different religious traditions, they also practiced different societal customs. It was therefore deemed only logical if a new, foreign-originated community would also introduce its own law system for itself. By contrast, it is secular modernity that does not tolerate this legal pluralism, but imposes equality before the law on all citizens.
    Therefore, Hindus have to prepare the ground by creating public opinion and making the secularists own up to this very secular project: a Common Civil Code. I suggest that this issue is only taken up after the Hindu activists have gained some experience in law reform–in particular, after they have successfully piloted reforms that are far more important to Hindu society, namely, the following two.
    - Bringing temples under Hindu control. Whereas mosques and churches are inviolable for the envious grasping fingers of the politicians, Hindu temples are frequently nationalized and financially plundered by corrupt secularists. The solution is not to abolish these privileges for the minorities, but to extend them to the majority. Here and in all fields, anti-Hindu discrimination should be abolished. A justification brought up by the secularists for interfering in the management of Hindu temples is that the temples’ own managers are incompetent or corrupt. Where genuine, this problem can be remedied without any outside interference. In Gujarat of all places, a training programme for temple managers has recently been set up, with the first batch of graduates typically being hired by overseas temples. This constructive solution points the way forward. The law should require competence and transparency from temple managers, but otherwise Hindus should be the masters of their own places of worship.
    - Most important of all is to abolish discrimination against the Hindus in education. Changing the much-contested Article 30 of the Constitution may not even be necessary. This Article confers educational rights on the minorities without saying anything about the majority. If it had not assumed the same rights for the majority, it would not have passed in the Constituent Assembly. Yet, gradually the secularists managed to impose the interpretation that the minorities were given rights withheld from the Hindus. That is why the Arya Samaj and the Ramakrishna Mission went to Court to have themselves reclassified as non-Hindu minorities: in order to safeguard their network of schools from nationalization. But perhaps the original egalitarian interpretation was the correct one. The Government could approach the Supreme Court for an authoritative reading of this Article. If the verdict is favourable, a major Hindu-friendly reform has been achieved without even changing the Constitution. If not, then this Article does have to be changed, but it can be done without affecting the minorities at all. So, such a reform could be achieved without conflict.
    These are some things to be done, if the present Government intends to fulfill the expectations of its supporters. Some political plans that Hindus think up, are not realistic and will never come to anything. Others are necessary but for the inexperienced Hindus they are a bit hot to handle and require some preparation. A few reforms, and coincidentally the most important ones, can and should be introduced as soon as the political possibility presents itself.
    Thus, reforms really affecting the Hindu masses are the abolition of the existing anti-Hindu discriminations in education and in temple management. These issues do not concern the minorities. Let Hindus, as much as Christians and Muslims, henceforth control their own establishments of education and of religious practice. That would be a minimum requirement of a Government deriving its legitimacy from the pro-Hindu vote.
    Article Title
    Civilizational tasks for the Narendra Modi Government
    Koenraad Elst