The argument that we’re all Hindus because once upon a time Hinduism was the original and only religion of the subcontinent doesn’t cut much ice with me. If you really want to dig back in time and find a common feature that unites all of us, the truth is before everything else we were all monkeys, chimpanzees, orangutans or whatever Charles Darwin would have had us to be. In fact, push back further and, no doubt, we all started off as protozoa. Indeed, even further back and we all emerged from the same big bang. But so what?
What matters is not how or where we originated but what we have become, what we believe ourselves to be and what we hold dear as our identity. This is, after all, how we describe ourselves. Indeed, it could even be the centre point of our curriculum vitae.
So, if today we’re Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis, animists or atheists then that’s precisely what we are and it’s fatuous, mistaken and even offensive to insist that, actually, we’re Hindu because that is the ancient link that once connected us. It’s not. As I have just pointed out the anthropological bond goes far further back and way beyond religion or, possibly, even human existence.
Which brings me to the Sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. I’m not sure he is aware how hurtful is his claim that all Indians are Hindus. Even if he hasn’t realised it, this assertion refutes and denies the individuality of those who think and feel differently. For them it’s more than a snub. It’s an insult.
Consider carefully what he said in Meerut. First, “Every Hindu is my brother”. But what about those Indians who are not Hindus? Does brotherhood for the Sarsanghchalak stop at the borders of religion? What, then, are the rest? Not enemies, I hope.
Next, “In India, one may follow a different eating habit, way of worshipping gods, philosophy, language and culture. But all are Hindus.” And then he added: “There are many who are Hindus but they are not aware of it.” This is particularly offensive for it suggests that those who identify as non-Hindus are, in fact, Hindus whether they like it or not. It’s a case of force majeure. Second, if they think carefully they’ll realise the Sarsanghchalak is right and they’re wrong. Which, of course, denies them the right to think and decide for themselves.
However, it’s the last bit of the Sarsanghchalak’s statement that’s particularly disturbing because he has the gall to narrowly define who is or isn’t a Hindu. “Only those who consider Bharatmata his own mother are true Hindus.” Now, I consider India my motherland but not my mother. No one is going to replace mummy. So where does that leave me? Am I not a true Hindu? Frankly, if the Sarsanghchalak is, so am I!
Perhaps the Sarsanghchalak doesn’t realise there’s a difference between mother and motherland? The former implies an inseparable and undeniable biological connection. The latter is simply your native country. Of course, feelings of patriotism bind you to it, but love of mummy is an altogether different thing.
Finally, Indian Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis, animists or atheists look upon this land as their mother country. Yet they’re not Hindus and they don’t need to be. But they are Indian and that’s all that matters. If only the Sarsanghchalak could appreciate that.