Nov 21, 2016

An Atmosphere of Intolerance in India

R Jayaraman

Today’s news headlines informed us that Mr. Ratan Tata, in a speech in Gwalior, in the presence of Jyotiraditya Scindia, expressed concern over the alleged growing intolerance in the country, dubbing it “a curse we are seeing of late.” What prompted him to say these words? Since it is coming from an impeccable source of uncompromising integrity one cannot ignore or brush it under the carpet. One must respect and ponder over why he is feeling that way. Ignoring the warning can be only at one’s own peril.

India has been under attack from Pakistan for many years now. All these years, the Indian response has been to put up a brave face to control the damage and slowly but surely put out the memory of the events, manage the outfall and move on. Making some noises at the UN followed by many seminars, conferences, back channel talks and other such efforts to once again establish a semblance of friendship. There was nothing wrong with this approach. It was by and large dictated by our thousand years of slavery under various foreign rulers. It is to the credit of the Indian that he never sees anyone as an outsider, but only another fellow human being on his journey through this earth, to attain nirvana or moksha.

He has never ever had any biases or prejudices; on the contrary the culture of the Indian soil has always been Athithi Devo Bhava. This was not a mere slogan, there are innumerable stories in Indian folklore where people have gone out of their way to serve guests to their own disadvantage, given them priority over self needs, always “shared” what was available. Such was the overall situation that when the Pandavas came back to Hastinapur and informed their mother that they have come back from their travels and that they have brought home a treasure, the unsuspecting mother told them “share whatever you have brought” which is when Draupadi had to become a wife to all the Pandavas.

Another issue is the Hindutva brand of politics that has come into practice with the BJP coming into power. For many centuries now, due to the many attacks and persecution, conversions by all and sundry, the country lost its self-respect. This has been in evidence for many years now. At the simplest level of manifestation, many Indians, once they hit foreign shores, change or shorten their names to sound like they have descended from the Anglo Saxons. Krishna becomes Kris, Rama becomes Ram (pronounced as in Ham), Ramaswamy becomes Ramsay. Tell me one foreigner who changes his name. Except the odd one who either through association with Hare Krishna or similar such movements get themselves rechristened.

Similarly, we get very sensitive if Bombay is renamed as Mumbai, in reverence to Mumbadevi. We immediately start pointing out the long term damage that can be done to the secular fabric of the country. Valid, however the damage that has already been done to the fabric of the nation is forgotten or trivialised. How does a country regain its lost self-respect?

I wish to remind all that India is a civilisation which has been around for many moons and will be around for many more; however it has to be rejuvenated from time to time. Like what Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita – I will appear from time to time to establish Dharma when I perceive threats.

The last avatar of the God was in the form of Adi Shankara who in 700 AD walked the length and breadth of this ancient land of ours, and once again established the truth of the immutable truth, advaita, the oneness and non-duality, only through debates. He was a giant of his times, he has composed such gems of philosophical treatises that are unmatched even to this day, walked the entire length and breadth of India and established great institutions.

Did he kill anyone? Did he convert anyone? Did he blaspheme anyone? The only person he defeated in his very short lifetime of 30 years was Mandana Mishra, the highest ranking Bouddha Bhikshu of his times, who, after the defeat in the debate, became Adi Shankara’s first disciple as per the terms and conditions of the debate. This is the tradition that India comes from. But how many Indians have heard of him? In how many schools and colleges do we read about him? On the contrary, a whole host of efforts is made to ensure that he is never even mentioned in any meaningful manner.

The great Indian culture will fight to preserve itself, but never impose itself on anyone. Fight it will, just like what Krishna said and great souls will happen in India from time to time to do this. The process of going from the present when the country has disowned its civilisational heritage under the garb of secularism, to the real Hindu Rashtra, where the only business that anyone has is to find his path to moksha through karma yoga, irrespective of what his creed, religion, etc. is what the journey is going to be. Along the way there could be perceptions – backed up by facts – which the pace is too fast, or just plain wrong or getting derailed.

We must listen to such wise counsel, like that of Mr Tata, and make the necessary course corrections and assure them that the movement towards a more egalitarian society, for which our ancient land has been well known, will stay its course.

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