Patriotism vs Separatism

Hindu human rights in secular India – as illustrated by Kathua

Let me start off by emphasizing that I am referring to India, the 70 year old secular nation-state, and not India, the millenia old civilization (more on this later).

More disturbing than the constitutional discrimination against Hindus such as the RTE, is the increasingly diminishing value of Hindu life. Even just restricting to the Kathua incident, the following strands of discrimination have been noted by commentators:

(i) Non-criminal Hindu residents of the area asking to not be ethnically cleansed (reported as far back as February) or simply for due process is spun as “defending the accused” – by the very same people that insist on due-process for terrorists.

(ii) The very same people who say Muslims shouldn’t have to apologize for terrorism or prove their patriotism are:

(a) claiming that the Kathua rapists represent millions of Hindus

(b) asking all of *Hindu*stan to be ashamed while prominently highlighting the temple and its name with a `Devi’sthaan (sic) in it:

(c) bringing Lord Ram here and here into the picture just to hurt and humiliate, while believing in treating Islam with utmost sensitivity.

(iii) A demand for analogous concern for Hindu victims of Muslim rape is not only not addressed, not only dismissed as whataboutery, but construed as proof of hatred, by the very same people who repeatedly say “what about” whenever convenient to them.

(iv) The same people who urge skepticism in interpreting police version are taking for granted versions that emerged much after the first reports.

(v) There were already concerns that Rohingyas were being settled by Kashmiris in Jammu (and not in Kashmir) as part of an ethnic cleansing project – e.g., they might have been given bigger and better-stocked markets than the Hindu owned markets there, which could put local Hindus out of business.

This is not an isolated instance – as we have seen on numerous occasions, our secular republic has established a consistent pattern: Imposing silence on Muslim-on-Hindu violence, exaggerating Hindu-on-Muslim violence and using it to stereotype and shame Hindus. Hate-branding and censoring mere request for parity for Hindus.

The strange and unrequited patriotism of Hindus

Thus, it would seem paradoxical that the shabbily treated Hindus should be the ones to defend this nation state most vocally, and even shed their blood to protect it. Even the most influential Hindutva stalwarts, such as Rajiv Malhotra, use the term “breaking India forces”, as if India was something worth defending. So it is important to remind ourselves of why adherents of Hindutva are patriotic:

(i) They unwittingly, and in good faith, allowed the 70 year old secular nation state to speak for the millenia old civilization (though this is geographically slightly problematic: Panini was Afghan, Swami Vivekananda speaking  at Lahore praised the city as being “the holiest even in holy Aryavarta”, being part of the Brahmavarta).

(ii) The feeling that Hindus have `nowhere else to go’.

(iii) Taking for granted that at some point in the future India will stop discriminating against Hindus. It didn’t stop with Vajpayee, it didn’t stop with Modi, but somehow it will magically stop with a future Modi tenure or Yogi Adityanath tenure. This is just an assumption, one that they neither spend much time justifying, nor preparing for the event of its never realizing itself.

Muslims not to blame

The Muslims are not to be blamed here at all. They are of course concerned more about Muslim lives than about Hindu lives, but this is merely self-preservation instinct, which is understandable. After all, every single one of us privileges our own lives more than others’, and in the real world, the value of your own life is correlated to that of others in your demography (note that elite urban Hindus are secure, and hence can safely ignore other Hindu lives). Muslims understand this correlation well, possibly because fidelity to their religion prevents them from being deluded by virtue signalling sweet talk.

Thus, the villain in the story is not the Muslim; it is the secular Hindu, of the sort that constitutes or contributes to the establishment that runs this secular nation state, who systematically diminishes the value of Hindu life today.

Historical Perspective: The Inauspicious Birth of Secular Nation state

Remember that 89.2% of Indian Muslims who voted in the 1946 elections voted for Muslim league that ran on a two-nation plank. While only a small percentage of the population those days were given the right to vote, this already translates to a sample size of several million, and a votemshare of 89.2 percent is simply too stupendous to leave any ambiguity.

Clearly, unlike Hindus who believed that a harmonious secular polity could be willed into existence merely by the awesomeness of the Cambridge educated Chacha and his elevating speeches, Muslims knew that reality was far messier. Their wish could have been granted, they could have had a system they expressed a preference for through their vote, and we too could have a system suited to us. We could have had a partition with a complete exchange of population, and then remained in cordial terms with each other.

This possibility was ruined by the elite Hindu tendency to pat themselves on their back over secularism. Other human lives are less important for “intellectuals” than their own virtue signalling, so the elite Hindus forced an unrealistic arrangement, an unhappy marriage that continues to deteriorate Hindu-Muslim relations and the value of Hindu lives today. It is time to acknowledge that Jinnah and the majority of the Indian Muslims were right.

On the other hand, nothing better could be expected from an asymmetric national movement, which spun the Muslim-on-Hindu Moplah riots of the Khilafat movement as freedom struggle (and still teaches our children this interpretation), one for instance where Hindus were expected to sing “Ishwar Allah tero naam” while Muslims wouldn’t reciprocate one bit of that. Entrenched asymmetry of expectations betrays attitudes that breed long term divisions and hence strife.

Thus was born the secular republic that has since then increasingly been treating Hindus as a children of a lesser God. Secular Hindus could still have reasons to respect it (though they don’t), but it is almost unconscionable for a Dharmically aware Hindu to do so.

Temptations towards separatism

There are several factors that make separatism quite tempting. The liberal brain is wired to have a soft-corner towards separatism. The onus is always on the non-separatists to appease the separatists and beg them to stay. As much as secular Hindus hate us, it will not be easy for them to make a case that we should be loyal towards India, and some westerners may even support us.

More seriously, the area inhabited by Hindus has been systematically shrinking for about 1300 years. A select few luminaries like the early Rajputs or the Vijayanagara kings or Shivaji Maharaj have been able to decelerate this decline considerably, but even they have failed in arresting the trend for good. Separatism offers a sliver of hope that we might find a solution after 1300 years, in the form of a territory for ourselves, however small, which cannot shrink further.

We will then not need to live in a nation which will daily overwhelm us with negative rhetoric, where our social superiors regularly taunt us on how we harbor delusions of being a superpower despite being so poor and ugly.

Why is separatism a bad idea?

And yet, despite all these temptations, I have to disappointingly aver that separatism is a bad idea for Hindus. Here are some reasons that come to mind immediately.

  1. The problem lies less with Islam than with secular Hindus; even if we create a Hindu country, we cannot rule out secular Hindus rewriting the constitution to facilitate demographic invasion, and starting their demographic games later.

1(b). We cannot be entirely sure that the presence of secular Hindus is due to some intrinsic weakness of several of the dominant strands of Hinduism that predisposes its adherents to a naive tolerance that cannot deal with rogue forces.

  1. We may never be in control of how things turn out: perhaps things may spiral out of control and result in heart-wrenching violence.
  1. At the end, we may end with a smaller secular state and one or more Muslim countries.
  1. Not only is running a country a difficult task, for a country to hold together requires a good deal of luck. Just because India was lucky in this regard, we cannot take for granted that a new nation will be similarly lucky too.
  1. There is actually one reason to be grateful to India – its soldiers are the ones who sacrifice their lives to protect us! However, this is a limited point, since they are also making the same mistake as we do of confusing India the civilization with India the nation state. Ideally, better information should be made available to them.

A clarification on abjuring violence

Because conservatives are usually denied a fair hearing without misinterpretations, it is important to emphasize that this post does not support any form of violence. Violence is both morally reprehensible and usually strategically counterproductive. Violence may beget more and more of mindless violence, and we now know that the international media always selectively portrays violence in a way that demonizes Hindus and absolves the perpetrators of violence against them (this is not because people of other countries are bad, but because they let their perceptions be shaped by their IYIs, who believe our IYIs).

The path is long and tedious and this struggle is something that has been going on for more than 1300 years. It is difficult to find any quick solution to a long standing problem. Till the opportune moment comes, Hindus should make the best and try to get as many concessions out of the secular state as possible.

Author is active on twitter but requested anonymity.

Image Source: Partha Dalal Photography via Getty Images