India's problem is not just Hindutva, but bigotry across religions

Last Updated: Thu, Mar 23, 2017 10:58 hrs
India's problem is not just Hindutva, but bigotry across religions

Since the announcement of Yogi Adityanath as the new chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, the minority of intellectuals that believes it represents the country has been expressing shock on social media and in conversation.

When we log in to our Facebook and Twitter accounts, we encounter outrage that echoes our sentiments, and we believe that these farcical decisions are made without taking the will of the people into consideration. After the ridiculous stitching together of incompatible alliances from power lust in Goa and Manipur, we know we are not entirely wrong.

But it is time we acknowledged that we are, in fact, a minority. We live in a bubble of our making, a virtual bubble in which bigotry and communalism and caste prejudice do not belong in a democracy.

Most of the world lives outside that bubble, and it is being proven over and over again across India, and across the globe.

America essentially lost its shot at honesty and liberality when Hillary Clinton defeated Bernie Sanders to become the Democratic nominee for President. The battle was now between two billionaires, who had at some point of time voiced similar sentiments on issues ranging from homosexuality to immigration.

India, too, is ruled by bigots sporting various colours – saffron, white, and green – and willing to share platforms just as long as they serve to cripple progress of any kind.

Few can forget the sight of various religious leaders representing Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity, accompanied by self-proclaimed godmen for good measure, sitting together to voice their support for the reinstatement of Section 377, both after the decriminalisation of “unnatural sex” in 2009, and before its recriminalisation in 2013. Here were several men who agreed on literally nothing except the fact that democracy was not for everyone.

Now, the whole of India is ruled by people who agree only on one premise – that there is no place for rational argument, debate, or dissent. Perhaps I should not make a blanket statement about the number of points on which they see eye to eye, because it is quite likely that they are in complete agreement on atheists, intellectuals, and women.

The selection of Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister should not surprise any of us.

He was as active a campaigner for the BJP in UP as Rajnath Singh was, and the fact that Singh did not want to return to state politics had already been made public. Adityanath’s immense popularity is evident from the masses that thronged his rallies and sermons.

The fact that a man who claims to be a sanyasi, living a “simple life” and renouncing worldly pleasure, has repeatedly stood for elections while retaining his epithet and his following – which appears quite immune to the irony of a purported sanyasi coveting power – is all set to move into the official residence reserved for the chief minister shows us that logic has little place in a country run by bigots.

We know this is a country run by bigots because rationalists are regularly killed by adherents of the religions into which they were born.

We know this is a country run by bigots because the Prime Minister’s official Twitter account follows trolls who have made “secular” – a word enshrined in the constitution of the country they claim to love – a term of contempt.

We know this is a country run by bigots because films and books that ignorant and illiterates find offensive to Hinduism or Islam or Christianity, are duly banned by the powers that be.

What we need to understand is that this country is run by bigots only because bigotry is popular.

When a politician promises to cut off arms that are raised against Hindus, he is cheered.

When a politician promises to install Hindu idols on the sites of mosques, he is cheered.

Any move towards rationalism or liberality is virulently opposed. And this is true irrespective of the religion to which the bigots in question belong. There is opposition when women want to enter the Haji Ali dargah. There is opposition when women want to enter the Sabarimala temple.

There are those who will oppose the imposition of a Uniform Civil Code, alleging discrimination against religion, and oblivious of the irony of that sentiment.

There are those who will make a case for dress codes, whether it is for entry into temples or gurdwaras or dargahs or streets.

The problem we face is not simply the rise of Hindutva, but the popularity of insularity and conservatism across religions.

For as long as we deny that this is indeed the case, we remain in our virtual bubbles.

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Nandini is a journalist and humour writer based in Madras. She is the author of Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage. 

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