I’m a minority. A minority who generally considers herself very fortunate to be blessed with the opportunity to call India my adopted home.
However some elements in the Hindu majority have a ‘majority minority complex’ and recent expressions are quite disturbing.
Fearing losing its place as the majority, certain ‘Hindu’ leaders in positions of political power and influence, are flexing their might with tactics such as:
- Telling schools to have ‘good governance‘ activities on Christmas, effectively cancelling the holiday
- ‘Ghar wapasi’ campaigns with announcements of ‘reconversion’ ceremonies scheduled for Christmas day
Now… good governance is sorely lacking in this country….
However it certainly will not be achieved by keeping schools open on Christmas, imposing quiz competitions, declamation contests and screening documentaries on “the best practices of good governance.”
With immediate sensational responses such as “BJP cancels Christmas!”, there was much back-peddling and clarifications that are incredible in their lack of credibility.
And ‘ghar wapasi’?!
Don’t even get me started! Irrespective of what happened generations ago, how exactly did folks ‘leave home’ if they converted to a different faith? Are non-Hindu citizens of India not ‘home’ already?
And the contradictory debates on legislating a ban on ‘conversion’? The logic defying argument that if it is ‘homecoming’ i.e. a ‘return’ to Hinduism it isn’t conversion?! But others conversions away from Hinduism should be illegal?!
Even if some sense has prevailed with the police not giving permission to hold a mass ‘homecoming’ ceremony provocatively on Christmas, what is going on with all of this? When did the majority become so insecure that elements feel compelled to ‘fight’ against its minorities?
As someone with a degree in history, it is hard to ignore how politics twists and ignores historical evidence. Let’s just say that the history books are indeed re-written by the ‘victor’ or prevailing sentiment, however misinformed.
Historically, India has always had a remarkably syncretic religious heritage, blending cultures, beliefs in a myriad of ways that evolve and change in response to various influences and developments.
I was first drawn to India by an interest to explore this further and even wrote my thesis on a topic that delved into the debates around the colonial legal construct impacting definitions of cultural and religious traditions in its treatment of women in one community.
So it is troubling indeed to see this amazingly diverse country take steps away from celebrating such plurality and steps towards deliberately provoking communal responses – such as an attempt to quash a Christmas holiday or ‘reconvert’ non-Hindus to Hinduism.
The point that literally lept out at me from a recent Scroll.in article is one of several potential factors for a slightly lower birth rate amongst Hindus vs Muslims – the practice of female infanticide (Despite claims of conversions, data show that Hindus face no danger of losing overwhelming majority)
So, before trying to convert minorities to the majority faith, how about focusing efforts on saving the children that are killed before being born or neglected to the point of death in their early years?
Now I’m not about to make the mistake of blaming ‘Hindus’ for this state of affairs… Just as one tragically troubled man wrecking havoc on Ottawa’s Capital Hill (or more recently in Sydney), does not represent an entire community, so too these strident saffron coloured announcements do not represent ‘all’ Hindus. How can they when Hinduism is by its very essence a delight of diversity with a remarkable range of gods, goddesses and different paths to follow?!
However when an element within the ‘majority’ acts as though threatened by its ‘minority’, dangerous things happen. Look no further than Hitler’s Germany and the Holocaust.
So my ‘Christmas wish’ this year is the hope that these elements in the ‘majority’ will see past their ‘majority minority complex’ to embrace and support ALL peoples of India for a better future together. Let’s avoid devolving into communalism of any kind.
Religion is always being used by certain groups or people to strengthen their position and suppress others. Same as in India some religious leaders are using this situation now.
However this problem you can find anywhere in the world. For example in Germany now there are thousands marching up to demonstrate against people seeking refugee here! It is just insane what is going on in some / many people’s heads and very sad that they appearently do not learn from history at all
I just have a bad feeling about several such developments…. and casual comments from unexpected parties that are incredibly disappointing.
It is very sad to see this coming from India – considered to now rank as a ‘developed country’. Even in a developing country such as Bangladesh which has many religiously-inspired clashes between different groups and more than its fair share of religious fanatics and bigots, I haven’t seen this kind of fear of minority faiths. I hope it is all a storm in a teacup and that all faiths will have the freedom to exist in India as Gandhi would have wanted.
Everyone knows India is hardly a ‘developed’ country… ?! Walk outside our doorstep and witness much that is crying out for ‘development’ and ‘change.’ One could argue it is these very gaps that are leading to this nonsense.
Alas I’m not convinced this is a ‘tempest in a teacup.’ These elements have been quietly growing for years and just feel they can be more open about the sentiment now that the BJP is in power.
India is a borderline Developed country which not long ago overtook the UK in economy for a brief while. This is why so many Brits are now angry that the UK continues to give aid to a country which has its own Space program. That is not to say, of course, that India doesn’t continue to have considerable poverty. But compared to its neighbours it is very developed.
I think that this issue will wax and wane, like so many similar issues in Asia. Those who hold power today won’t tomorrow.
The laws against conversion from majority religion, and encouragement to convert to the majority religion is as old as official religion. The Christians initiated this vis a vis Judaism (as far as I know), and the Muslims borrowed it in their first legal codes.
I fear India learned this technique from the West.
I’m a Christian myself, but I have a big problem with official, state-sanctioned religion (unless the sanction is for any form of religiosity or lack thereof).
Amen to that! (If that won’t be construed as too sacrilegious!) It is a serious challenge though and one can only hope more open-minded, accepting and inclusive perspectives prevail.