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~ Radhika Bhattacharyya Shah.
When Independence came, Hindus had not anticipated what they were about to see. They had never guessed that they would soon be witnessing the Congress’ experiment with free India’s Muslim community. The declaration of Muslims as ‘minority’ was an audition of a conflicting phenomenon. It gave the illusion that they were ‘slighter’ ‘pitiable’ or ‘reduced’ since they were lesser in number as opposed to Hindus, hence it was imperative to elevate their morale to make them feel precious and important in a country they chose to remain in, despite the option of moving to Pakistan, a nation created for the Muslims, by the Muslims. How could one make a community entrapped in such a conflicting trend, making them feel both reduced and special at the same time? Hindus soon realised that essentially Hindu India would never be about the Hindus of India and this dichotomous new reality only helped sow the first seeds of confusion in the minds of Hindus.
Over the decades, India has witnessed the blatant political mollycoddling of the Muslim community, whilst the other minority communities like Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis, Christians, Jews, etc, who were actually the littlest minorities in India, remained a mere insignificant representation of India’s multi-cultural religious identity. Politics of the time was such that Hindus were burdened with the responsibility of showing large-heartedness as the majority community to make the Muslims feel special, as a minority community. Since the Congress was a major player in gaining India’s Independence and there was no opposition at that time, the Hindu never raised his voice to assert himself under a party that had quite openly shown its bias with an ‘un-uniform’ civil code.
When a political party absorbs itself in success, it sometimes forgets that the very success that it is enjoying was a gift of the people, not one of its own making. Who would have imagined that the Congress, a stalwart in the Indian political arena, would one day be ousted by a party whose image would portray a Right-wing Hindu nationalistic persona and which could one day reduce the allure of the Congress’ vote-bank appeasement tendency amongst the Muslim community in India?
The dark psychological side of the Muslim appeasement trend was that it would create confusion about what it meant to be a ‘minority’. It had unfortunately made Muslims become overconfident of themselves in Indira Gandhi’s ‘secular’ India that had given them the false notion that they were not just equals in India but bigger equals in a country dominated by Hindus. Since the Indian Muslim had found himself in a good place, both as a minority and as an important vote base, he began to even suppose that in his equal status and importance, he could assert himself any which way he wished since ‘brand secular’ gave him the right to say, do and behave however he wished; even challenge the majority’s cultural and religious sentiments in the very land that was the Mecca and Medina of the Hindu faith. In the absence of influential Muslim leadership post-Independence, there was no one to guide the Muslim minority on how to be an equal Indian, with reverence for the religion of the land and sensitivity for the sentiments of the majority Hindus at the same time.
The tight-lipped Hindus, on the other hand, were falling prey to political parties who were dividing them on the basis of language, region and caste, thus diluting the Hindu voter’s community identity and creating different vote banks within the larger Hindu community. In such a scenario, it was quite clear that the divided Hindu community would never bond against anyone, even when their religious sentiment was challenged as Muslims would, against those who dared to demean Islam or question their religious practices.
Since the Constitution had no specific laws to uphold Hinduism’s dignity as is in Islamic countries where a word against Prophet Mohammed or the Quran or Islam is a crime, there was nothing to restrain anyone from criticising Hinduism in the land of its origin. With the proliferation of Islam in India and the rise in the population of Muslims in the absence of a Uniform Civil Code, Muslims had in no time grown to become the second largest majority, which they are today and yet, their status remains ‘minority’ in today’s India.
If we hear an Owaisi speak in a particular language in a particular tone today about Hindus or the Hindu leadership in India, the fearlessness or lack of sensitivity comes from a mindset that the Congress had implanted; that as a minority in secular India, it is acceptable to openly disregard the feelings and sentiments of the Hindus and challenge them without second thoughts. It was this assumption and over-confidence that had in the past, given artists like MF Husain the audacity to paint Hindu goddesses in an objectionable art form and it is the same overconfidence that makes them believe that Islam in India is above the sentiments of the Hindu land.
The Congress had methodically silenced the actual minorities by making the word ‘minority’ synonymous with only the Muslim community as if to assert that Jains, Buddhists, Parsis, Sikhs, Christians and others did not exist. The Congress aside, political parties that had emerged in the various states of India and led by Hindu leaders had deciphered the winning formula — gain Hindu following from their Hindu identity and woo the Muslims through optics that would appease them, so the sight of a Hindu Mamata Banerjee offering namaz and another Hindu, Akhilesh, Yadav conducting Iftaar dinners became a common sight in Indian politics.
The emergence of the BJP and its establishment as a heavyweight party in India was not anticipated and when the curtains arose, it exposed strong and influential Hindu leaders like Narendra Modi and Yogi Adityanath. Hindutva or Hinduness was not just showing its face as a wave that would come and go, but it was emerging as a contagious phenomenon that would aid the resurrection of the Hindu’s confidence, pride and identity as never before.
The once silent Hindu was now no longer burdened by the expectations of him — to show himself as the larger-hearted, non-confronting, all-accepting and non-controversial Hindu in India. In the BJP environment, he was feeling relief that he no longer had to hide his allegiance or reverence for his faith, as earlier, any outwardly show of it would brand him ‘non-secular’ or ‘anti-Muslim’.
The Modi government’s success with the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya was a game-changer for this new and empowered Hindu. The building of the Ram Mandir for him was not a win against India’s Muslims but a win against the bitterness of history and the pain of time. The Hindu has now realised that his time has come to proudly be seen as the ‘new’ Hindu.
This ongoing Uttar Pradesh Assembly election will reveal the strength of the new Hindus. No doubt, there has been negative publicity, anti-Yogi social media campaigns, television debates, charged speeches and every plot and ploy by Yogi’s opponents to undermine his popularity, but despite all this, he knows that this UP election is not about losing. It is only and only about winning and Yogi knows how the grass smells near its roots. Hindus will support him in great numbers to not only show their gratitude to the BJP for upholding the “maan and maryada”, the honour and dignity of the Hindus, but also for the progress they see is beyond caste and community, gender and religion in their state.
They say that when push comes to shove, there is no one more committed or “kattar” than the Hindu. It is perhaps the only explanation as to why even after centuries of Islamic invasions and rule, the Hindu faith could never be erased. This election in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, will be about Yogi and Modi, the two men seen as trend-setting Hindus; the men who changed the way Hindus began to look at themselves, and from whom the Hindus have learned how not to be coy about their Hindu identity.
The writer is an author, poet, and a member of the BJP. Views expressed are personal.
The article was first publish in Firstpost on March 1, 2022.