Hinduism in danger?

Author : Andre Beteille

SOME OF the most vivid recollections of my childhood go back to the Great Calcutta Killings when as a boy of 11 or 12 I had to travel by bus and tram between home and school in an unsafe city. I did not have a clear understanding of what was happening, but something from those days that echoes in my memory is the phrase `Islam in danger’.

The phrase had different connotations at home and in the school. At school I came to befriend a number of Muslim boys whose social and political orientations were very different from those of my home. They spoke Urdu and English rather than Bengali. They were a couple of years older than me, took a keen interest in politics and were passionately attached to the idea of Pakistan which in 1946 seemed a fantasy to me. They had obviously been taught at home that in India there was a serious threat not only to the Muslims as a minority but also to Islam as a way of life.

My home environment was quite different. The place where we lived at that time was not my parents’ home but one to which my mother, born a Bengali Hindu, was closely attached by ties of fictive kinship. It was a liberal, secular, middle-class Bengali home, strongly attached to the idea of a single India and strongly opposed to the two-nation theory. The most articulate member of the household, who was a humane and broad-minded nationalist, became my mother’s political mentor. I remember him explaining to us with great clarity and conviction that the idea of Islam in danger was wrong and pernicious and that it would bring great suffering to the Muslim minority for whose predicament he had deep and genuine sympathy.

The wheel seems to be turning full circle now, and more and more people are beginning to feel and say that Hinduism is in danger. If someone strongly opposes that view, he may be denounced as a pseudo-secularist, even if he happens to be the Prime Minister of India. Surely, it is this growing hysteria about the danger to Hinduism that has led members of his own parivar or extended family to describe even the stout-hearted L. K. Advani as a pseudo-secularist.

The hysteria about Hinduism in danger is growing and spreading, and it tends to catch liberal and enlightened Hindus on the wrong foot. This seems now to be the most serious challenge not only to the religious minorities but to Indian society as a whole and, indeed, to Hinduism itself. One would expect Hindu intellectuals, whether they are secularists, pseudo-secularists or plain honest Hindus, to oppose the spread of this hysteria which is being nurtured by persons whose main motivation is revenge for real or imagined injuries inflicted on their co-religionists in the past or the present. Yet one sees very little intellectual opposition to it from within Hinduism.

At the time of Independence Hindu intellectuals were by and large free from the kind of paranoia that characterised many of their Muslim counterparts, and this continued into the years of Nehru’s prime ministership and beyond. But the tide may now be turning. Hindu intellectuals appear less confident about the prospects of a modern, secular and democratic political order in India than they were when the Republic came into being in 1950. Some if not many of them have begun to feel that Hinduism is in danger not only from other religions but from secular modernity itself. The attack on pseudo-secularists comes not only from those who are opposed to other religions but also from those who are opposed to secular ideas and institutions.

Is Hinduism really in danger? On the evidence, objectively considered, the presumption will be that Hinduism is far less endangered in independent India than Islam was in India before Independence. But that is not really the point, for the objective evidence of danger is one thing and the feeling of being endangered is another. It may well be that the number of Muslims now in Pakistan who feel that Islam is in danger is larger than the number of those who felt in that way in undivided India. The partition of India did not reduce the feeling among Muslims on the Subcontinent that Islam was in danger, it probably enhanced it.

Where is the danger to Hinduism believed to come from? Does it come from other religions within or outside the country? Or does it come from the ascendance of secular ideas and institutions which tend to be represented by both Hindu and Muslim traditionalists as godless and immoral?

There has been some agitation in recent times over conversions from Hinduism to other religions. Various things may be said for and against religious conversion. But surely, one is not going to argue that the conversion of a few hundred, or a few thousand, or even a few hundred thousand Hindus to Islam or Christianity or Buddhism will bring about the collapse of an ancient, complex and vibrant religion such as Hinduism. Hinduism has withstood conversion on a far more massive scale in the past. It is most unlikely that conversion on that kind of scale will ever take place in the future.

It is said that Hindus are no longer safe in their own country since their temples are now open to assault. The assault on places of worship of no matter which religion is a criminal act which does not weaken religious faith and observance as much as it challenges the legitimacy of the secular state whose responsibility it is to protect all places of worship.

Acts of competitive vandalism aimed at the desecration of sacred places are on the increase. Sometimes they are undertaken with the open or tacit encouragement of popular religious functionaries. Today it is those who engage in such acts who are likely to raise the slogan that their religion is in danger. But the sad thing is that they are not the only ones. Those who first raised the slogan of Islam in danger in pre-partition India were not all vandals. Some of them were educated, even cultivated men. Indeed, intellectuals always play a part in creating channels for the expression of popular passions. They do not always do so with evil intentions, but they are easily intoxicated by their own ideas when they find that those ideas resonate among the masses of people.

The disquiet about the future of Hinduism seems to be more widespread among Hindu intellectuals than it was 50 years ago. How far this mirrors the disquiet among those who speak for the minority religions, and how far it is based on autonomous and independent causes, it is not easy to determine.

As the strains created in society by secular modernity become increasingly apparent, more and more Hindu intellectuals are beginning to believe that their religion and way of life are endangered. They are less confident about it than they ought to be in view of its demonstrated vitality, resilience and adaptability. One consequence of this is that the internal critique of Hinduism which began in the 19th century and continued for well over a hundred years seems to be drying up. This is unfortunate because the vitality of a religion depends upon a continuous critique of it by its own reflective members. Some years before he died, the Marxist economist and writer, Ashok Rudra, published a critique of Hinduism in Bengali entitled “Brahminical Religion and the Mentality of the Modern Hindu”. I wonder how many such books are being written today in Hindi which is the most widely used among the Indian languages.

Enlightened Hindus in the 19th century felt free to attack the corruption and decay in their own religion and among their own religious leaders. Their present-day counterparts find it more convenient to train their guns on secular intellectuals than on their own religious leaders whose intolerant and vengeful acts do far greater harm to Hinduism from within. If Hinduism is in danger today, the main source of that danger may lie within and not outside it.

Andre Beteille

Jan 03, 2003; The Hindu



About Dilawar

Graduate Student at National Center for Biological Sciences, Bangalore.
This entry was posted in Andre Beteille, Religion and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Hinduism in danger?

  1. Pingback: Chanakya's speech on how to keep Hinduism alive |

  2. Maria Thomas says:

    Most of the assertions appear to be true and valid and yet untrue and invalid. This is because of the misguided use of secularism ideal selectively on Hindus not on others. Every Hindu is communal/sectarian unless he can be certified ‘secular’ by virtue of siding with an islamic cause or fact he condones everything a muslim does such as babri reclamation, or anti-Modi hate speeches. That the tide is turning massively against HIndus is in no doubt. Look at the number of islamic actors in bollywood versus few decades ago, number women in sarees in 1947 versus now, number of women with tilak on forehead versus now, now of islamic women in burqah then and now; so on. Number of poor/prostitutes/suicides among Hindus is high; poor is about 70% now versus 10%-20% in 1947; same among non-Hindus is much fewer. Look at how Kalam/SRK-bollywood are hogging publicity even now.
    You are losing credibility and trust if you write such blogs!! Be a little more objective!!

    • Dilawar says:

      Secularism has suffered a bad advocacy in India and those who act in the name of secularism do not always act in good faith. There are criticism of secualrism which Amartya Sen has pointed out and discussed in his book ‘Argumentative Indians’ on page 301.

      • Maria Thomas says:

        While Hindus are inherently secular given most are only cultural or born not practicing Hindus, given India has the largest number of atheists, agnostics, communists, maoists, animists, Buddhists, gays, etc given that almost all of them are apolitical or anti-politics, there are not many defenders of the ‘faith’. Even the main opposition party seldom cares for the targeted murder of its own cadres by islamists. It is unaware of the presence of islamists or potential danger of crypto islamists like Kalam whom BJP chose as President.
        The danger the women and girls from such anti-social elements is yet to be reckoned. Jimmy Saville type grooming targets females as the moguls and sultans had procurers fill their harems. Whole nation is groomed and silenced by cyclist Armstrong type bullying so deception is accepted as truth – this is called Webs of Mass Deception among my friends! I wish you had more intimate knowledge of facts and history – one of colonial persecution and exploitation that continues to this day. There is no political space for BJP who have been demonized and maligned by anti-Indians even in NY Times – read “Secularism in Search of a Nation”.

        • Dilawar says:

          I posted something on IIT Bombay news grounp on secularism. It has attracted some debate and reaction. I’ll post the debate on my other blog ( dilawarrajput@wordpress.com ). On this blog, I collect notes and articles. I’ll let you know once I finished that post.

          Thanks for links and various facts you have provided on this post. It should be helpful for other readers.

          • Maria Thomas says:

            In summary, secularism in India is of the same sort as that in Saddam Hussain evil regime where minority ruled majority shias in Iraq with iron fist much like Sonia maino rules India as a police state arresting Baba Ram Dev, Mr Anna Hazare,killing one Mr Dikshit very recently, etc. Bolivia has shaken out of neo-colonialism; indigent leader Evo Morales is the first BJP type leader there. India cant sustain that after BJP were ridiculed as nazi and hitler though these anti-BJP criminals are the real nazis using NAZI ethnic cleansing in Kerala, Kashmir, Assam, using bollywood as NAZI propaganda machine, [worse bollywood collects ‘infidel tax’/jizya too that hitler never did], etc.Who is ANDRE and why is he not responding?!

    • Dilawar says:

      You wrote, ‘every Hindu is communal/sectarian unless he can be certified ‘secular’ by virtue of siding with an islamic cause or fact he condones everything a muslim does such as babri reclamation, or anti-Modi hate speeches.’

      The ‘favoritism for minority’ is one of the point against secualrism and no doubts this has been gaining currency. But all of this does not make case for a secular nation any weaker. It perhaps make it more stronger.

      • Maria Thomas says:

        I disagree case for secularism for minority is made stronger. It will never happen though.

        I need to correct “fact he condones everything a muslim does such as babri reclamation..” must read to say “riots for babri…” because such riots caused severe loss of life numbering 1788 from official counts. The savage equation- unused bldg = 1788 lives is an abomination, dont you agree?! Shia pilgrims, mosques and prayers are routinely attacked in Iraq, Bahrain, India, Pakistan, Yet no one in BBC/UN/NGO/USA/UK calls it account unlike Kachin rights in Burma as if Hindus and Shias have no claim to autonomy/self-rule though being majority in India and Bahrain respectively..when will they see democratic rights??! Bias and prejudice rule UN/BBC/CNN and the West!!

      • Maria Thomas says:

        I mean to say, “case for secularizing the minority” by De-nazification or De-bathification of India from mogul domination; official position is not given to nazi or bathists in Germany or Iraq, right?!.

        • Dilawar says:

          Yes, you are right in this context. This is what I meant when I said that secularism has suffered from bad advocacy. The recent demand by Muslims for quota is one of such demand which I find unreasonable. They are not disadvantaged group. Their forefathers were once proud rulers of these lands. To be sure, a secular government need not encourage or discourage religious matter. Secularism is not favoritism for minorities. It is a matter of policy for government must protect minorities if need arise. For “it is wrong for the majority to deny the existence of minorities’ but ‘it is equally wrong for minorities to perpetuate themselves.’ [to quote Dr. Ambedker]

  3. Maria Thomas says:

    Another major flaw in your blog is it is nearly impossible to find such people among Hindus; i.e it hard to find anyone who feels Hinduism is threatened. It is figment of your imagination. But there ought to be very many. It is indeed under threat by indices and numbers I cited. It is being run over the anti-India mobsters, fraudsters, tricksters who have tons of money in the swiss bank, who run cultural assaults, indulge in criminal activities such as trafficking of women and kids, weapons, drugs, etc, indulge in hate speeches against Indian leaders, write dishonest blogs, make propaganda movies, perpetrate ethnic cleansing of whole regions like Kashmir, Kerala, Assam, etc. – all much worse than what Hitler did.
    Get your facts right! You are not even marginally acceptable!! Way off the mark!! Better to win the hearts and minds of the 1 bil Indians with advanced civilization than write such divisive controversial blogs!!

    • Dilawar says:

      You wrote and I quote, ‘Another major flaw in your blog is it is nearly impossible to find such people among Hindus; i.e it hard to find anyone who feels Hinduism is threatened. It is figment of your imagination. But there ought to be very many.’

      Blog says, ‘The hysteria about Hinduism in danger is growing and spreading, and it tends to catch liberal and enlightened Hindus on the wrong foot.’

  4. Maria Thomas says:

    Remember that India is the only nation on earth that has had murderous riots for events even outside of its borders such as looting, arson, loss of life for 1) SADDAM’S hanging in far-away Iraq; 2) Reverend Falwell’s remarks in distant USA; 3) cartoon in Denmark; 4) end of caliphate in Turkey by brits; etc. In neo-colonial India, it is getting much worse- temple lighting, or temple music or temple street procession triggers riots… that is why every Ganesh festivity takes so much police presence. Indians foolishly assumed colonial persecution, oppression, exploitation, all will end. Alas, it has all worsened much more than ever..

  5. Maria Thomas says:

    There are more islamists on Indian soil than all other nations combined including MALI, SOMALIA, ALGERIA, etc. But no one like Mr Hollande for India- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-21095456 who said “Defeat terrorism!” There are grooming going on of the type in
    1) http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/jimmy-savile
    2) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-17993003
    3) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-21027681

    • Dilawar says:

      You write, ‘There are more islamists on Indian soil than all other nations combined including MALI, SOMALIA, ALGERIA, etc.’. If there are so many blood-thirsty islamists are in India then why it is relatively so peaceful. Most of the riots has happened in cities and not in villages. It is often reported that riots against Hindus (and also against Muslims and Christians) were organized : if people are so bloodthirsty then why there is a need to organize riots?

      Proving this fact ‘that there are more islamists….’ is one thing and caught in this feeling is another.

      • Maria Thomas says:

        You ask, “why it is relatively so peaceful.” No, it is not peaceful. I ask the same q to everyone visiting or returning from a visit. All report bloody violence. It goes unreported than ever – it was better a few years ago when I got such reports-
        EXHIBIT-A:- 11 injured in acid attack in Mandi Tribune News Service Mandi, May 27 2005 ..the attacker has been identified as Muhmud Magrub from Muzaffarnagar in UP.
        EXHIBIT-B:- Human trafficking scam kingpin surrenders
        Hyderabad, May 4: The story of Rasheed, alleged kingpin …
        EXHIBIT-C:- Three men Shahid Sayed, Tariq Sayed and Abu Bakr were arrested for the alleged gang rape of a teenager in Surat..
        EXHIBIT-D:- Patna, Jun 28 Depite Government’s efforts to rein in human
        trafficking,Bihar has registered an alarming rise..(One Saleem has been
        implicated..Siddharth Kara researched sex slaves in several nations but was attacked only in India)
        EXHIBIT:-E Jewellers want to bar burqa December 27: The Pune Saraf (jewellers’) Association has decided not to conduct business
        To prove more upper caste muslims practice violent discrimination, this example may be cited:
        EXHIBIT-F:- …dalit Mukhtar Mai was gang raped in Pakistan by the upper caste. Meaning, there is casteism over there too; we heard of Muktar Mai who was raped by upper caste masters for a mistake her brother did. She was then manipulated to visit USA to beg for schools for girls. Double manipulation!! Nice tricks we need to learn from muslims of S Asia!!!
        EXHIBITT-G:- “SC upholds conviction of rapist on child victim’s testimony New Delhi, Jun 15 2008 A minor rape victim’s testimony is reliable … A sessions court in Bihar had earlier convicted and sentenced Mohammad Kalam to ten years RI and a fine of Rs 500 for raping the minor under section 376 ipc (conviction for rape). Kalam’s appeal before the Patna High Court was dismissed .. also claimed that the sentence imposed on him was too harsh.”
        Look at Holi function in India where girls get acid while being among friends. Acid us is a very common crime in af-pak region; worse in India where infidel girls are abducted, raped and converted to islam – subversion/conversion type

  6. Maria Thomas says:

    Yes there is book reflecting internal debate usually by those who are pro-neo-colonial regime- as this one-

    BOOK ON VIVEKANANDA which book is full of vitriol b/c he is being followed by Mr Modi of Gujarat. And this venomous hateful blog is the worst of all-

  7. Pingback: Secularism re-examined : By Andre Beteille | Fragments of time

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