This was posted as a reply to my friend Bijoy’s blog post A bridge to burn at CNN-IBN Blogs.

I post a copy-paste of my post to solicit your thoughts…

Dear Bijoy,

“Why the Saffron-bashing?” – That’s all I have to ask.

You talk of traffic snarls, and being a co-inhabitant of Bangalore, I can concur with that thought. But ain’t every political party and so-called VVIPs to blame here: They hold up traffic to ensure ‘important’ people can catch their flight, and the rest of us can miss ours. Traffic cops get sacked because HDD’s cavalcade has to wait 5 minutes.

So why single out this one stoppage organised by the so-called “saffron brigade”? This could have just remained the immediate trigger for your write-up, but alas, that was not what it is.

I find the constant brandishing of the anti-saffron flag by most sections of the media – and now on blogs too – rather disturbing. We in the writing and media circles seem to take pride in criticising anything that has any inkling to ancient India and what was ancient Indian culture.

We have now stooped to questioning the basic texts that define modern Hinduism – the Ramayana & the Mahabharatha – and questioning the faith of millions that are associated with the same. And if anybody dare ask a question to this – they are termed saffron and non-social.

Well understanding the danger that a lot of readers (other than you!) are going to term me just that, I can’t help but ask if ANY such behaviour would be found acceptable if we started questioning events from the Bible, Kuran, and other religious texts.

I respect the other religions, what they preach, and what the respective followers practice. All I ask is let me practice my faith, in peace.

I do not infringe on other’s beliefs. Please do not infringe on mine.

Is that a fair thing to ask?

Nakul

PS: Two points on the DMK-related incident: It is utterly sad and unfortunate that two people had to lose their lives, for what is clearly a political issue.

My heartfelt condolence goes to the families and friends of these hapless souls. I pray to God that justice be done, and that the criminals be brought to justice.

9 Comments

  1. Re: Faith in peace?

    Hi Vinutha,

    Thanks for those thoughts. Allow me to indulge in a smile of satisfaction 🙂

    Let us get one thing straight: I am not writing in support of the anti-social activities of the Hindu/Cultural ‘militant’ outfits. Justice should be awarded to their deeds in the same way the law of the land would treat with any citizen who takes law into his/her own hands. How does faith matter here? A murderer is a murderer, and Law should treat him/her so.

    I am however questioning the one popular thought that is sweeping the mainstream media in India: Criticising Indian-ness (especially Hindu ways) has become a prominent newsvalue and second nature to most. Possibly first too?

    I am amazed that you ask the question “Is Hinduism only Mythology?” And happy too, for I agree. It is not just mythology; We are talking of the two most important Hindu religious texts here.

    I too have not read any of these texts in detail, nor am I a scholar of theology. But if I were to believe the religious texts that have been narrated to me it was Lord Ganesha himself that penned the Mahabharatha.

    Then again, many may well ask: Who is Ganesha? The ASI may well say they neither found Ganesha nor his parents and family atop the Himalayas.

    Being as magnanimous as we are, we Hindus are willing to decontextualise ourselves out of the context — including our faith, and look at each and every issue as a non-Hindu. Being a avid student of Deconstruction, I know this phenomenon would make Derrida proud.

    We are lauding a statement that questions the basis of arguably two of the most popular Gods of the majority religion. We are proving how learned of the Hindu texts we are, when we state Hinduism is a way of life, and not limited to a couple of fables.

    Brilliant! I salute the people who do this. Now I ask them to do the same and question one story in the Bible, or one in the Quran. For starters, let us question the fact that God created the world and life in it, and support the findings of Modern Science which proclaims Darwin’s theory of evolution? Try laughing at the story of how the sea parted to let Moses and his people through…

    Consider this for starters, the chapter on Evolution has been removed out of many a science text book in the United States of America, because it was against their religious beliefs. You can easily think what might happen if we started talking about the Holy Quran. Why? You are well aware what happened with the ‘Bicycle Thief’ story.

    Today, we are a country where the majority lives under tremendous pressure and keeps their thoughts to themselves for fear of being termed a Right-wing activist. The Hindu majority has learnt to act as the minority, and worse — settled down comfortably in this role. Any public statement/expression in support of their faith, and BHAM! You are termed a part of the Saffron Brigade.

    The Republic of India has become a mockery of democracy (Didn’t Remo say it in a song a decade back?) where anything remotely ‘Hindu’ is Communal, while being part of any other faith is ‘Secular’.

    I am not sure if the faith I practice qualifies to be termed Hindu in the real meaning of the world. But considering I visit temples occasionally, and pray to the ‘Hindu’ Gods, guess I roughly qualify to be one. And now that I have written a piece remotely (arguably?) supporting the Hindu thought, guess I qualify to be termed a part of the Saffron Brigade?

    Nakul

    1. I will… Will you?!

      The comments of Nakul and the original write-up of Bijoy provoked a thought in me. The following story is a fiction of my imagination:
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      20-year old Shukla was shocked after reading the newspaper.

      The ASI and the CM of a state gave a statement that the person who married Shukla’s mother 22-years back and whom he had been calling ‘Daddy’ was not his actual father. But a saffron-clad politician gave another statement that the ASI and the CM were wrong and that Shukla’s father was indeed his real father.

      This bothered Shukla a lot. He wanted to get everything cleared. He went to a clinic for a DNA test. He waited for his turn to meet the doctor. His mother and the person who married his mother sat in a different row. [I could have written Shukla’s parents but there was a doubt in his mind, so… you know…] Shukla’s thought-train chugged.

      If the result of this DNA test is positive, the saffron-clad politician would say ‘See! I told you…’
      If it is otherwise, the ASI and this CM representing a state would say ‘Now, what?’

      A simple point came to his mind –Why should someone approve/question my faith?

      He was convince – Yes, its a question of trust and faith. Your mother shows someone and says ‘There’s your father’ and you would call him ‘Father’ for the rest of your life. You trust her completely. I repeat ‘completely’. Do you need an outsider to endorse or question your faith?

      The End

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Epilogue

      If someone questions my faith and if I don’t like it, should I go and burn a bus and kill someone?

      This is Ram from Bangalore and I hate those who kill innocent people in the name of Religion.

      I say it aloud – ‘It’s my faith. I will protect it. I don’t need another person to support me or to correct me.’ Will you?!

  2. Re: I will… Will you?!

    Hi Ram,

    Interesting analogy that! If I have understood your thoughts correctly, then we are in agreement on this topic.

    Not only do we look at other around us to endorse our beliefs, we Indians take that thought – especially questions asked – in high esteem. So all that modern (read ‘Western’) Science says is true, while everything in itinerant culture is superstition and blind faith. In fact, Indian thoughts and philosophies are great/good ONLY when they have found acceptance by the ‘Western’ society.

    So what if “modern” theories ‘evolve’ (revolve?) every once in a while? We will change and adapt, and start or stop eating sugar/salt in accordance to what the “latest study” recommends.

    If Hinduism is answerable to ‘Modern Science’ (many would see it as a cult in its own right), I see no reason why others are not. And if one finds the latter idea preposterous, I only say “treat others how you would like to be treated”.

    It’s time the politicians and others in India learnt that they cannot get away by making preposterous and controversial statements about Hindu and Hindus. It is time the people of the country let them know that they cannot expect to get away with it.

    But then, stating this would make me un-secular, un-democratic, and communal. Wouldn’t it?

    Nakul

    1. Re: I will… Will you?!

      Hey Nakul

      🙂 Oh yes… My thoughts are in sync with yours…

      ‘So all that modern (read ‘Western’) Science says is true, while everything in itinerant culture is superstition and blind faith.’ – Sadly, this is what they think…

      And buddy… When you say politicians cannot make such controversial statements, you are bound to draw wrath of a lot of people… 🙂

      All the best…
      ~Ram

      1. Re: I will… Will you?!

        Nakul: While I agree with the crux of what you are saying insofar as the current trend of majority / minority bashing goes, I must confess that I personally do not understand the requirement for this debate.

        For it is my belief that religion, as practiced currently, is made up of a docile following of dogmas, while I believe that true spirituality, to which religion is a means, needs to be experienced and not spoken off, heard, seen… in fact, I believe true spirituality is way beyond our sensory perception. It makes us rise to a level that is beyond the ken of human intelligence.

        Call Him God, Almighty, the Supreme Power, we need to experience that power and not follow the dogmas created by middlemen – or the Pandits, Padris or Maulvis. I don’t need an outsider, be it the BJP, the Imam or the local priest to tell me how I can experience my God. And if what the priest or the maulvi says is religion, I’d rather do without it.

        You would also agree that the word Hindu itself is alien to us as is Hinduism which our part of the world has always known as Sanatan Dharma. And Sanatan Dharma is all-encompassing as ours is the only belief that allows questioning. That is what makes it Great. Take the cases of people who were slain for questioning dogmas… right from Socrates to some more recent Sufi saints or even Jesus!

        I would like to respond to Karunanidhi or the Left on some of their recent statements but cannot do so as my voice is not loud enough. But, I don’t want them to think that the BJP is my voice! It isn’t as they are just the other side of the very same coin. Today, they are creating an issue with the Ram Sethu project, which incidentally was cleared by the Vajpayee government. And why didn’t they think of Adam’s Bridge then?

        Finally, why didn’t anyone in our country bother to find out more about the bridge? Why was it left to NASA to discover? If we all believed in Lord Rama so much, why didn’t we make some effort to find evidence of His travel from Uttar Pradesh to Lanka?

        As for Indian culture looking westward for acceptance, I believe that the principle fact on which Sanatan Dharma is based is questioning. So, be it our Upanishads, the Vedas or the Bhagavad Gita, they are always asking the reader to experience the Truth… and not believe it unless this happens. What’s more, these books also provide very practical solutions to improve our quality of life.

        And finally, let me quote a recent speech by President Kalam at a function in California…

        “Where there is righteousness in the heart there is beauty in the character;
        When there is beauty in the character there is harmony in the home;
        When there is harmony in the home, there is order in the nation;
        When there is order in the nation there is peace in the world”

        Why do we seek more chaos by discussing something as personal as our right to believe? I mean would anyone of us accept if the State created a law on how we had sex with our spouses? For me, my faith is mine alone and not to be shared even with my spouse… so, I’d rather not speak about it. I’m happy just experiencing the Power.

        1. Re: I will… Will you?!

          Hi Raj, (I guess this is you…?)

          Thank you for your thoughts. Much of what you say reflects my own thinking and beliefs related to God, and my personal relationship with The Ultimate Truth. I think I have been eloquent enough on this in the past, so I will not get into that now.

          Having said that, your piece falls right in the category of the pieces I find funny, to say the least. People who want to state how great our ‘Sanatana Dharma’ is, that it is beyond any religious constructs. Talking of and quoting from the Vedas, Bhagavat, and the Upanishads, and holding it separate from “Hindu”.

          It is almost like a kid who has fallen off a bicycle, shrugging it off and trying to say the fall did not hurt. Stating things said about Hindus and then saying I am not hurt nor do I care, as Hinduism is not the real name – For it is Sanatana Dharma. Then again, I will not get into this favourite topic of mine, as that would be besides the point.

          I continue to be perturbed by the way the mainstream media successfully portrays the dominant discourse as the non-dominant one. I continue to be amused with the way we lap up what the media dishes out, unmindful of the way it may impact our life – now and later.

          Then again, I may be wrong.

          Nakul

          1. Re: I will… Will you?!

            Nakul… Taking your example of the boy on the bicycle further, I am sure you’d agree that just because I fall from a bicycle I cannot blame the bicycle itself?

            Or my father who bought me the cycle or the road on which I drive it on? I am to blame for my fall and nothing else…

            So, the right attitude is to forget the pain and move on… because if you focus on the pain alone, that will prove to be an interference to logical thought and you’d never learn to ride the bicycle!

            Also, we are not referring to the nomenclature when we speak of Hinduism or Sanatan Dharma. It is an experience – a way of life and any study of a way of life has to be different from religion and its dogmas.

            The reason is simple… we can never question dogmas for fear of retribution (as seen in other religions), but in our way of life, every one of us can question every tenet presented in our religious text.

            And finally, I would never open to such debates that question or try to interfere with my experience of the Supreme. It is my personal experience and nobody but nobody has a right to discuss it. So, I am totally oblivious of what media says about religion… as it is usually a vote-grubbing exercise. Do you recall that India’s first communist chief minister EMS Nambudiripad was quoted as saying that he is an atheist but doesn’t mind his wife being a theist…So each man to himself… we don’t need politicians telling us what we should do.

            Moreover, I believe a culture and way of life such as ours has the inherent strength to survive not just media assault, but ravages of other religious fanatics over centuries. There was no BJP to save our religion in the past… So, what you are seeing today in the form of BJP’s sudden love of religion is just a reaction to Congress’s appeasement policies.

            We are just falling pray to divide and rule all over again!!! And this time the villain is not a Gora but our own people.

            Amen!
            Raj

  3. It surprises me. On one hand, people bashing the saffron brigade, and on the other, they themselves playing God. Who are you to tell me what is right and what is wrong. Corals…. I mean, how can we be so sure that it’s all some oceanic formation? Maybe it is, but then just as much as you know that all that was written about God creating the bridge was just fiction, I could say all that you are claiming is science fiction.

    Also, whats with the anti-BJP agenda (Not hinting that I go and caste my vote on anything orange), but then how about not making a mockery of faith? To each his own is it not? I understand it’s “safer” to flog a dead horse. Much like being pro women’s empowerment and equality (again quite juxtaposing, but then again, I am not God, so I cannot judge).

    I am not questioning the resurrection of Jesus, am I? Or even debating over statements like -“Killing the infidels is our religion, slaughtering them is our religion, until they convert to Islam or pay us tribute” Now that would would make me trade in dangerous waters, maybe the corals also might give away. I for one certainly cannot take that responsibility.

    1. I concur with your thoughts, Kaushik. My thoughts and fears exactly!

      Nakul

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