Those claiming to act on behalf of Hindus are, therefore, shaming the vast majority of Hindus.
I am proud to be a Hindu, but I am deeply concerned at some things that are happening in the name of Hinduism. The Hinduism that I subscribe to had sages who had the courage to say millennia ago that tolerance and inclusion are the essence of the spiritual vision.
Centuries before Christ was born, at a time when people, for lack of other exposure, believed that only what they believed was right, our sages pronounced: Ekam satya bipraha bahuda vedanti — the truth is one; wise people call it by different names. Around the same time, when most other people believed that only their world had legitimacy, our sages had the courage to say: Udar charitanam vasudhaiva kutumbukam — for the broad-minded the entire world is their family. Those who laid the foundations of our religious worldview could confidently say, at a time when most other social groupings were insecurely insular: Aano bhadra krtavo yantu vishvatah — let noble thoughts come to me from all directions.
Unfortunately, this great religion is being hijacked today, but not by outsiders. It is being undermined by a small group of Hindus who believe that they alone know what Hinduism is. Unlike our sages who said that the one truth can be interpreted by the wise in many ways, their approach is to say that we alone have a monopoly on truth. Unlike our founding fathers who wished to embrace the entire world as their family, these “Hindus” believe in singling out for exclusion anyone who does not agree with them. And, unlike our wise ancestors who invited noble thoughts to flow from all directions, these fanatics have a closed mind to any other opinion.
This tragic coup is unfolding before our eyes, and the majority of Hindus are watching mutely. One reason for this sorry state of affairs is that these self-anointed guardians of our religion are violent people. They do not believe in persuasion, discussion, dialogue, debate, shastrarth or argumentation. Nor do they believe in the rule of law. They believe that they have the right to silence those who oppose them through physical violence and brute force. And, the level of their violence directly corresponds to the level of their ignorance.
What is worse is that they believe that they can get away by breaking the law because those who are supposed to be the guardians of the law are actually on their side.
The most ugly and frightening symptom of this devaluation of Hinduism is the emergence of vigilante squads consisting of lumpen groups who now roam around this ancient land beating up and killing people on the basis of mere suspicion. They have no sanction, or remit, or locus standi or authority to do so except their own hubris and the belief that they can get away with it because the authorities will not take action against them.
This last part is a very worrisome development because it undermines not only the rule of law that is the very basis of an organised, democratic society but the Constitution and the Republic itself. It is for this reason that the Supreme Court has issued notices on April 7 to six states seeking to know within three weeks why groups calling themselves gau rakshaks should not be banned like other outlawed outfits for taking the law into their own hands.
The six states are UP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, Maharashtra and Karnataka. The highest court has also asked these states to explain what administrative measures they have taken to prevent such vigilantism. It is not a coincidence that of the six states five are BJP-ruled.
Many Hindus hold the cow in reverence. That sentiment should be respected. In many states there are laws banning cow slaughter. Those laws should not be infringed. But, enforcing the law is the jurisdiction of those authorised to do so. If citizens believe that they can, in the name of religious belief, take the law into their own hands, we are looking at a state of anarchy. Enough has already happened to justify the SC’s directive.
Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched in UP on the suspicion of eating beef; dalits were flogged in public in Gujarat on the suspicion that they were cattle thieves; Majloom Ansari and Inayatullah Khan, who were on their way to a cattle fair, were hung from a tree in Jharkhand; Zaid Ahmed Bhat was burnt alive on a highway in Udhampur in Jammu & Kashmir on the suspicion that he was smuggling cattle; a 25-year-old was thrashed to death by cow vigilantes in Ahmedabad; another 29-year-old was lynched by a mob in Udupi for ferrying cattle in a van; and now, we have the latest incident of Pehlu Khan beaten to death by gau rakshaks in Rajasthan.
This manner of taking the law into one’s own hands presents a very strange version of the slogan “Sabka saath, sabka vikas”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the majority of those masquerading as gau rakshaks were just “anti-social” elements. But that view does not seem to be shared by those implementing the law in the states in which his party is in power.
The deeply worrisome thing is that one act of hijacking the law emboldens the next. We now hear of Yuva Hindu Vahini workers halting church services in Gorakhpur. Some days ago members of the Karni Rajput Sena attacked filmmaker Bhansali and vandalised the sets of his film on Padmavati at the Jaigarh Fort in Rajasthan. We also hear reports of excesses being committed against couples and boys and girls by vigilantes acting under the sanction of “anti-Romeo” squads.
Hinduism does not sanction this kind of violence. Nor can Hinduism, that upholds dharma, countenance this kind of willful abrogation of the law of the land.
Those claiming to act on behalf of Hindus are, therefore, shaming the vast majority of Hindus. All those who live the genuine Hindu experience must work together to stop them.