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Portents of a religious autocracy

With the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) being the fountainhead of Hindutva, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government being strongly influenced by the RSS, we may ask: “Are we moving towards a Hindu religious autocracy which would move the country away from rationality and reason and, thus, democracy?” Unfortunately, it seems so. In any rational and reasonable society as in a democracy, dissent is accepted as a norm and reasoned dissent is encouraged. However, in India at present, the space for reasoned dissent is shrinking day by day, being reduced as part of the public policy of the present government. Consequently, intolerance to any different view is increasing. Thus, on October 22 in Karnataka, a young Dalit student-writer, >Huchangi Prasad, was kidnapped and beaten up by a group of men for showing disrespect towards Hindu gods and writing about caste discrimination. Though the caste system has been the bane of Hindu society, it is now being practised with increased vigour. This is reflected in the growing number of crimes against Dalits, including the horrific incident in Faridabad last month where two Dalit children were burnt to death when a mob attacked their home.



Pushpa M. Bhargava
Apart from violence, cases have been filed against well-known organisations such as >Greenpeace, and individuals such as >Teesta Setalvad, because they have dared to show dissent.

Promoting unreason

According to Article 51a(h) of our Constitution, it is the fundamental duty of every citizen “to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform”. However, the government now is the biggest hurdle to the practice of scientific temper which, by definition, is rooted in reason and rationality. No government in the past has had such little understanding of science. This can have a substantially negative effect on the country’s developmental agenda.

Absurd claims are being made about our past: that we had large planes that could perform interplanetary travel and the ability to transplant an elephant head over a human torso. History is being distorted to suit religious beliefs with mythological figures and gods presented as historical figures.

There have been organised attempts to impose the Hindutva agenda across the country with the tacit support of organisations that have no respect for the law, leave aside reason or secular values. The recent actions of the Shiv Sena, despite being in a ruling alliance with the BJP, such as throwing black ink on Observer Research Foundation Chairman Sudheendra Kulkarni’s face because he launched a book written by former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, not allowing Pakistani musician Ghulam Ali to perform in Mumbai, and storming the offices of the Board of Control for Cricket in India during a meeting with officials of the Pakistan Cricket Board, are examples. Apart from attacks on freethinkers and Dalits, minorities are also made to feel like second-class citizens. Churches have been attacked and more recently, in an apparently premeditated assault, Mohammad Akhlaq, a blacksmith in Dadri near Delhi, was lynched and his son severely injured on the suspicion that they ate beef. This incident was defended by BJP legislators Sangeet Som and Sakshi Maharaj.

A Hindu fundamentalist organisation has announced a reward to all Hindus who have five or more children, to prevent the Muslim population in the country from increasing at a higher rate than the Hindu population. The Hindu Mahasabha has meanwhile announced that November 15, the >death anniversary of Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, would be celebrated as Martyrdom Day.

Privatising essential services

In any good democracy, education upto Class XII (upto 18 years of age) and health are taken care of by the state. In India, however, both education and health are being increasingly privatised and commercialised, making them accessible only to the rich — something that would characterise an autocracy.

In filling up top posts in the country, greater emphasis is being laid on political advantage and relationship with the RSS than on merit. An example would be the >appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as Director of the Film and Television Institute of India, sparking protests from students and filmmakers.

Cultural intolerance is a dominant element in the functioning of the present government which wants to decide what we may eat, what we may wear, whom we may love, what books we may read, and what films we may watch, in a way that no previous government has done. This government does not seem to be aware that eating of beef was permitted in ancient India. The qualities of beef are stated in the Ayurvedic text, Charaka Samhita, as follows:

“The flesh of the cow is beneficial for those suffering from the loss of flesh due to disorders caused by an excess of vayu, rhinitis, irregular fever, dry cough, fatigue, and also in cases of excessive appetite resulting from hard manual work.”

The votaries of Hindutva do not realise that no religion is superior to another, and all have substantial elements that go against the grain of scientific temper, rationality and reason.

History tells us that all autocracies are anti-intellectual. It is, therefore, not surprising that the present regime, instead of introspecting on the fact that over 300 eminent persons have returned national awards, has termed these persons anti-national and manufacturers of dissent.

The above listing is random and only partial. There is extensive evidence suggesting that the main objective of the BJP/RSS combine is to destroy the democratic fabric of India and make it a Hindu religious autocracy.

Being a professional biologist, I would like to end by quoting an important biological maxim — variety leads to evolution and homogeneity leads to extinction. India’s greatest asset is the variety it has in virtually every area. We have to learn to respect this variety through action, if we do not want the country to become a Hindu religious autocracy.

(Dr Bhargava is former vice chairman, National Knowledge Commission. He recently decided to return his Padma Bhushan. bhargava.pm@gmail.com)

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 10:02:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/portents-of-a-religious-autocracy/article7834155.ece

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