Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Distinction Between India's Hindu Rightists and Christian/Muslim Rightists in Christian-Majority/Muslim-Majority Countries

Speaking of the Hindu right, it is very crucial to understand that while it is convenient to dehumanize rightists under any religious banner – Hindu, Muslim, Christian or any other - that is not the solution to the problem, and the solution, as the author sees it, lies in impartially understanding the narrative of the religious rightists and countering the same in the language they understand, as the author has attempted to do with respect to the Hindu right in a book authored by him titled 'Anti-Muslim Prejudices in the Indian Context: Addressing and Dispelling Them' (

Minorities other than Muslims and Christians, like Sikhs, Buddhists, Zoroastrians and Jews, have never been the subject of criticism or violence by most Hindu rightist groups. In fact, Buddhism and Sikhism are seen by most Hindu rightists as offshoots of Hinduism, with Sikhs especially loved by them, owing to their (the Sikhs’) historically having fought Muslim emperors, including emperors specifically intolerant to Hindus. In fact, when some members and supporters of the Congress party, a supposedly secular party, engaged in rioting against Sikhs, owing to the fact that some Sikhs were involved in a theofascist and secessionist insurgency, which even entailed killing the then prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi, who was from the Congress party, some Hindu rightists even protected Sikhs from the rioters. This fact was acknowledged and appreciated by the highly renowned late Sikh journalist Khushwant Singh, who was otherwise extremely critical of the Hindu right. To quote him (it may be noted that Vajpayee was a senior leader of the BJP, a supposedly Hindu rightist party, and the RSS is a Hindu rightist organization)-

‘It was the Congress leaders who instigated mobs in 1984 and got more than 3000 people killed. I must give due credit to the RSS and the BJP for showing courage and protecting helpless Sikhs during those difficult days. No less a person than Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself intervened at a couple of places to help poor taxi drivers.’ (Singh, 2005)

As for the Jews and Zoroastrians, they had historically come to India fleeing persecution at Christian and Muslim hands respectively, and were granted asylum by Hindu rulers in India, and these communities in India do not resort to identity-based violence against Hindus, nor do they usually proselytize anyone to their faith, and so, these communities are projected by most Hindu rightists as being the model religious minority communities in India (that their faiths were not introduced to India by foreign invaders, as Islam and Christianity were to a great extent, also matters a lot in the Hindu rightist psyche), whose example Muslims and Christians should emulate, and highlighting this also brings to focus the tolerance of the asylum-giving Hindus back in history and the intolerance of those Muslims and Christians engaging in religious persecution, which is in line with the agenda of the Hindu rightists, whose intolerance (varying in degree, and all Hindu rightists do not condone or support sweeping negative generalizations, vandalism and riots, and many of them, even extreme ones, ironically have close inter-personal relations with Muslim and Christian individuals), stems primarily from chauvinism about the supposedly not-so-reciprocated Hindu tolerance, rather than Muslims and Christians supposedly being doomed in hell for following another faith, an idea completely alien to Hindu theology. By and large, even extreme Hindu rightists do not engage in unprovoked violence against Muslims or Christians.

Also, the Hindu rightists, while romanticizing India’s “Hindu past”, do not have any clear agenda of putting in place any ancient or medieval legal framework, for Hinduism, given its pluralistic character with no single, objective truth (something many Hindu rightists take pride in, and emphasize that as a reason for India’s sustenance of democracy), does not offer any divinely ordained legal framework, and the Hindu right prides itself in having fought for democratic values when a state of emergency had been declared in India in the 1970s in an authoritarian fashion. There have been several law codes (as distinct from scriptures) among the Hindus in ancient and medieval India, though the Manusmriti, one ancient law code that emphasizes caste discrimination, was somehow given exaggerated importance by the British, and that text has been denounced by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), an extreme Hindu rightist outfit, which advocates Hindu unity, as you can see here -

Also, Hindu rightists are usually not averse to any kind of scientific research (though they also make claims of science in the scriptures of their faith, as many Christian and Muslim rightists do, as has been discussed here - and are more open-minded on issues like homosexuality (as you can see here -, given the ambivalent stance of the Hindu scriptures on this point.

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