April 01, 2017

India: Taliban-like fanatics using strong-arm tactics are giving Hinduism a bad name says Jug Suraiya

The Times of India, March 30, 2017

Is Hinduism being Talibanised by fanatics?

Jug Suraiya in Juggle-Bandhi

Taliban-like fanatics using strong-arm tactics are giving Hinduism a bad name.

The most recent case is that of Shiv Sena vigilantes – backed by members of the Bajrang Dal and the Hindu Kranti Dal – forcing meat shops in Gurgaon to shut down for nine days during the Navratras.

The Sainiks claim is untenable that their action was motivated by the aim of protecting Hindu sensibilities during this period, when many Hindus fast or go on a special diet.

Such coercion is totally contrary to the basic Hindu tenets of tolerance and liberalism.

Of all the major religions of the world, Hinduism is perhaps unique in that it not only doesn’t seek to convert people of other faiths, but it doesn’t enjoin upon its own flock inflexible rules of religious practice.

You can be a perfectly good Hindu and never go to a temple. Or observe the Navratras, or Karva Chauth, or any other Hindu festival. You can eat beef, or be an atheist and still be a Hindu.

Of recent times, however, a handful of self-styled guardians of the Hindu faith and traditions have taken it upon themselves to use brute force – or the threat of force – to enforce a supposedly “Hindu’ code of conduct upon others.

They have stopped people – literally on pain of death, and irrespective of religion – from eating beef, or being held in suspicion of eating it. They have stopped, or tried to stop, people from celebrating occasions such as Valentine’s Day, on the grounds that such ‘western’ observances go against Hindu culture.

Indeed, the list of things which, according to this moral police, purportedly go against what they deem to be Hindu culture is long and daily growing longer, to include such pernicious practices as women wearing jeans, or going out in the evenings, or pursuing a career.

Far from protecting Hinduism, such a narrow and bigoted interpretation of that complex and subtle life science which has been given the convenient shorthand title of Hinduism, sabotages its very foundations.

Is the elegant and enduring edifice of Hinduism, which has withstood invasion and foreign rule, really so fragile that it needs such misguided and ham-handed interventions to preserve it?

Today, true Hinduism is indeed in need of protection. Protection not from outside forces but from those within its own fold who constitute a saffron Taliban.

Jug Suraiya
A former associate editor with the Times of India, Jug Suraiya writes two regular columns for the print edition, Jugular Vein, which appears every Friday