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Thursday, October 23, 2008

1,2,3 Mic Testing. Speaking for the Hindu...

Lots and lots and lots of discussions on the subject of religion, in the blog world. I had posted about this a couple of months ago.
Some that are worth a read are here: MumbaiGirl, MadMomma and Broom. I agree to the larger argument, but disagree with certain issues within.
I could have commented in detail on those blogs (I did comment on one, briefly) – but then of what use is this space?
I am not going to get into a point by point argument or agreement.

What I noticed in the comments on above blogs is this: There were apologetic/defensive/offensive Hindus. Many seemed genuinely ashamed by the way some from their community behaved. There were many who said really nice things about friends from other communities.
But from the Christian and Muslim readers, anger seemed to be the main emotion. They don’t have nice things to say about the 600 million Hindu Indians they know or Hinduism itself? Really? Why?
The main premise of the argument for tolerance is that there should be no generalisation. But it takes two to tango.
I do get annoyed that when we talk about religious tolerance or doing the right thing, it is invariably targeted at Hindus (in the Indian context, at least).

Yes, we do have a larger responsibility, being in the majority. We need to be more conscious of our actions. But that does not absolve other communities of their responsibilities. How about making a few accommodations too?
And the increasing tendency for those from minority religions in India to paint themselves as victims all the time, is something I can’t digest. Can’t they find anything redeeming in the country they call home? In their fellow national of other religions? Is there no one amongst them who are doing well, enjoying the best of opportunities, living a good life?
While it is understandable that when you are in the minority your insecurity tends to be a tad more pronounced, it is also important not to paint the entire Hindu community as villains.
There is no excusing Khandamal or Godhra. It’s a shame that we never will be able to erase or live down. But amongst a billion population in a country as huge and diverse as ours, please don’t tell me you can’t find any reprieve.
Domination of one religion over another, discrimination based on religion, killings, marginalisation – it’s there everywhere. It’s been there for centuries and centuries. And the fact that we are not used to it still, says a lot in favour of the whole human race. It means that most of us are still fair and tolerant and are hoping for a more ‘equal’ world to live in.

PS: I used to think I am an atheist. But I am not. I am way too spiritual and believe in Karma above all else. I am totally irreligious, but Hinduism shaped my identity.
PS: And if you thing I am member-in-waiting for VHP or Bajrang Dal, that’s your problem!

Edited to Add a comment by ME on MG's post. It just made a lot of sense to me, so adding it here.

the thing that strikes me is how everybody seems to have generalized everybody else.
Growing up outside of India, I never though being a Christian in India made me a minority. In fact, as a kid vacationing in Kerala, i thought all the parts of India were like mine - where you woke up to the bhajans, call to prayers from the mosque and the church bells - all nicely living side by side - a bit naive I know, but i don’t think the religion divide registered in my psyche.
I don’t remember religion as being an issue in my Indian school in the GUlf.
I do remember randoms getting hecked up about the North - South Divide and in college about the Mal - Tamil divide: talk about inane.

i guess what i am trying to say is - uh? Is this really such a big problem
And when did it become an issue on the scale of minority vs. majority? As far as I can see, you can’t really tell who’s a minority in India by looking at their face as opposed to the West (or more specifically the US) where the colour of your skin clearly marks one out as a minority.
And really, when did reading a couple of random blogs make anybody an authority on what the entire Hindu, Christian or Muslim community thinks?
For this Christian reader, it’s more like bewilderment that this non-issue could even be an issue.


Anonymous said...

You said it! Have been dying to say much the same but have no blog and didn't want to leave a verbose comment on someone's blog.

And where are the christains and muslims who open denounce their religion or sections of fellow believers when horrific atrocities are commited by their brethren in the name of Goa in our country. Why is it that I see only the liberal, secular Hindu predominantly apologetic and bending over backwards to denounce acts of violence commited by rabid Hindus?


deepa said...

Sorry for the typos! Meant "in the name of God"

Anonymous said...

Can I please hug you!!!!!! You've said it sooooo well!! Kudos!

- Anu

mumbaigirl said...

Wrote a giant comment and it got lost. Sigh. Will try writing again later.

mumbaigirl said...

Wanted to add-I wish more people from otehr faiths would write comments. It seems to be mostly Hindus. But do have a look at Paul's and Raj's comments.

shyam said...

You said it! And much better than I could ever have. And that line "I'm totally irreligious, but Hinduism shaped my identity" - SO very much me too.

The plus point in being objective about religion - all and any - is that I can see the good in all of them. I still think, however, that Hinduism is the one religion which has tolerance built into it, around it and through it. That is its very basic premise.

That there are radical Hindu a$$holes around doesnt change that basic fact.

umm oviya said...

MG: Saw Paul's earlier -- but I was only talking about non-Hindu Indians. The Christian Westerners seem more positive about India.
And Raj's comment just now -- that was really nice.

Teesu (very very Indian, very very good) said...

Really, really, well said.

Anonymous said...

Umm Oviya,
I am copy pasting a part of a comment I wrote on MG's blog. Please delete it if you are not comfortable.

But Umm Oviya said it so well in her post. I might need to get her permission to print it and frame it in our new NGO office - when its ready!!!

I really wish I could pick a phone and call you/Umm Oviya and tell you how I agree with you guys on many levels. Alas, I dont have the good fortune to know you personally. Maybe some day....


Broom said...

UO, my favourite line is about Hinduism being what shaped you. It's true for me as well, despite my atheism. That's also why I feel so much anger at what it's now becoming.

Anonymous said...

I came here from MG's blog, and admit I haven't followed the past discussion. But I thought I needed to challenge the tome of the post; here's my comment:

Can’t they find anything redeeming in the country they call home?
Well a country is basically a myth, a symbol. I'm sure most Indian Muslims can find many things to celebrate in the geography of South Asia, in the people they know who inhabit that area, etc. But is that the same thing as celebrating the nation as a concept?
I mean I love Radiohead, Iain M. Banks, fish and chips, my Mum and the Pennines - all of which come from the UK - but I still can't look at a Union Jack without wanting to set it on fire, and Gordon Brown's calls to celebrate "Britishness" make me want to vomit. I can celebrate cultural products, but I abhor the jingoistic appropriation of culture by nationalistic banners.
I certainly wouldn't want to paint all Hindus as villians (I'm engaged to one). However, the vigourous assertion of Hindu identity and pride and all isn't the same thing. I mean, some of what's said above sounds a lot like the people who say "if there's a black history month, why isn't there a white history month"? It sounds like you're uncomfortable about being reminded of the exist of structural racism in your society.
I don't get what you're implying by "Is there no one amongst them who are doing well, enjoying the best of opportunities, living a good life?" There were some Black South African aristocrats who did quite well out of the apartheid regime (and, indeed, some of the upper levels of Fatah cadre who play a similar role in occupied Palestine); does that mean that apartheid wasn't (and zionism isn't) a racist aberration? No
Look: "anger seems to be the main emotion" from oppressed minorities because they have things to be angry about. You can share that anger, that passionate rejection of the system that oppresses them, or you can preach to them that it is unreasonable to feel that way, draw up false equivalences between the experience of Black and White, Muslim and Hindu, Palestinian and Israeli that come down to holding the oppressed group up to a double standard. Up to you really.

umm oviya said...

Complex: What if I replace the word nation with ‘the people you live, grow up, work, study with’?
But personally I am all for the concept for nation.
I don’t think you can compare apartheid or the civil rights oppression to what’s happening in India. It is not a political dispensation or a government order.
It’s a pure matter of law and order getting totally out of hand. But I guess that doesn’t make a difference to those affected.
Again if you look at the population break up, and analyse the stats on who is doing well and who is not, you won’t find such a huge difference in percentage of Hindus/Muslims/Christians doing fantastically well or horribly bad. The state of the people is not based on their religion but on the economic or social structure they hail from.
Since you say you don’t consider all Hindus villains as you are engaged to one, let me add, I don’t consider all Christians victims/angry as I am married to one (unless being married to me makes him a victim/angry).
Keep in mind that a large number of those protesting the plights of affected Christians and Muslims are Hindus.
Again, you can’t compare Israel-Palestine and Black-White to this.
This is a conflict between two sets of people who hail from the same ‘nation’, who are probably even related by blood, but unfortunately separated by religion. It is not a fight between a group of displaced folks vs those ‘of the land’.
I see them as my countrymen. And it hurts to see them kill each other.
The reason a concept of nation works is because you bind people on the basis of common economic and social goals. You talk about jingoism, appropriate of culture and Muslims finding enough celebrate in the geography of south asia. Let me just pick on the last, as it’s more convenient – that’s what the extremists among them say right? Nation of Islam. So a brother you’ve never met or ever will is more important than the non-Muslim folks you grew up with?

Blogeswari said...


Very well written di. I am a staunch Hindu.. if I go out and say this, am labelled a religious fanatic / fundamentalist etc.

I am not against any religion. But look at this - An organization where a certain group of people - say 'Team R' is supposed to work Monday -Saturday especially on festivals - no holidays. A muslim team member gets an off on Ramzan - it is a given because its Ramzan you see! Another team member - a Hindu wants to take off on Deepavali but "sorry you've gotta work on leave" is what she gets to hear from the boss(es).

The bosses obviously think that they will be labelled anti-Muslim rather the organization will be labelled anti-secular if the Muslim girl is not given an off on Ramzan but what about the girl who wanted an off on Deepavali? Aren't they anti-secular then they say no to deepavali?

Ask any Muslim in India which state he/she is from ... the answer will be "I am a muslim" . Ask her/him again what language he/she speaks. You are most likely to hear "I am a Muslim..."

mumbaigirl said...

I'm beginning to wonder if it IS a political dispensatrion of some sort, because this keeps happening, and it is ALLOWED to happen.

Have you seen MAd Momma's posts on nationalism and dual citizenship and why she doesn't want to live in another country. There was one about the national anthem in cinemas. I don't agree with them, because I have a different take on nationalism, but if you're looking for minorities finding redeeming things to say about their country there is plenty there.

I still have to write my response, and I will at some point!

mumbaigirl said...

Then there is Southways, a non-religious Christian from India who loves Kerala, where she if from, and who feels possessive about Gandhi.

Anonymous said...

Complex: What if I replace the word nation with ‘the people you live, grow up, work, study with’?

Well then you miss a very important nuance. I hate the UK and everything it stands for; I do not hate the British archipelago and everyone who lives on it (I am actually quite fond of most of the latter).

I mean what, exactly, is it you have a problem with? Because it seems from your post that 1/ you hear people in minorities complain about structural racism and oppression and 2/ you infer from this that they despise each and every individual in the oppressing "race". Which, frankly, seems a bit wierd and defensive, and as if you basically refute the legitimacy of all complaints about racism.

I could be described (albeit somewhat facetiously) as a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant of UK nationality, but if a Black person or a Welsh person or an RC person or a person of non UK nationality complains of their treatment at the hands of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Britain I don't then think "oh why do you hate me?" (I certainly wouldn't accuse them of wanting to create an ethnically pure Black/Celtic/Catholic/immigrant nation, as you seem to suggest in your last paragraph) - I'd rather take their side in their struggle against oppression.

(Your point about Indian Muslims and Indian Hindus sharing common ancestry, by the way, is irrelevant. So do the Palestinians and Israelis, the British RCs and the British Protestants, even the Black and White South Africans. The only race which exists as a biological reality is the human race, the rest is all socially constructed. Racial distinctions exist wherever and insofar as there is racism, the respective genetic histories of the people concerned are irrelevant).

The only way you can get off telling minorities not to "whine" is by denying the existence of any racial oppression in India; in your own post you allude to some of the reasons why such a position would be untenable.

mumbaigirl said...

Dave, I don't think the word "race" would be used int he Indian context-more "community" or "communal" or religious, though the word "race" is sometimes used in talking about caste problems. But then even caste, community et al are social constructs.

Anonymous said...

Yeah that's the point I was making, that there's no fundamental difference between "racial" oppression and "communal" oppression.

Anonymous said...

//Ask any Muslim in India which state he/she is from ... the answer will be "I am a muslim" . Ask her/him again what language he/she speaks. You are most likely to hear "I am a Muslim..."//

Doesn't it apply to certain caste people too?

umm oviya said...

i usually don't encourage anon comments. but in this case -- yes, bang on. people do this all the time. in fact i've heard far, far, far fewer muslims say this, than people of certain castes/states.

the mad momma said...

I'm replying to this because you linked up to my post - otherwise I take offence to these lines.

"Can’t they find anything redeeming in the country they call home? In their fellow national of other religions? Is there no one amongst them who are doing well, enjoying the best of opportunities, living a good life?"

I spoke up against some injustices. i refuse to allow you or anyone else to define India for me. I didn't speak up against the country because it is as much mine as anyone else's.

I feel terrible that someone should make such a statement - as it to say the onus of proving Indianness is on me. I am not a Hindu. I will never be a Hindu. I don't ever want to be one and I object to how one flies to its defence as a hindu. 80% of India might be Hindu - but India is not equal to hindu. and this is not a debate of how inclusive or tolerant the religion is. My posts are about individuals who TRY to make me feel like an outsider - none succeeded in hurting like this post of yours though...

anyway - here are some posts I have on my concept of India. On the way I feel about this country, about Delhi, my culture and much more... India is many Indias to many people and we don't need to 'find' anything to redeem it - that we live here with such pride says it all.

anyway - here are some posts I have on my concept of India.

have a good day

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