Indian civilization has had the unique distinction of engendering a social discourse characterized by tolerance of differing arguments and practices. This discourse is in fact a telling commentary on the essence of the faith that has shaped the trajectory of our civilization since time immemorial – Hinduism, not as religion per se and as understood generally, but as a way of life in which tolerance of the other, however differing, is the salient feature. This, of course, pseudo-secularists will fume at. But the fact of the matter is that Hinduism as a way of life – y, as a philosophy as epitomized in the Vedas and the Upanishads – has this remarkable feature of preaching the values reflected by tolerance and of having the adherents of this faith practise tolerance. Nevertheless, recent times have been witness to the contrary. It is rather growing intolerance in our socio-political life that has characterized our thoughts and actions. There is no use blaming the other. For instance, some outfits swearing by Hinduism blame radical Muslim groups for growing violence and disorder. The same holds true the other way round with the Muslim groups in question playing the victim card and blaming it all on the upper hand that the so-called Hindutva groups enjoy in a country domited by Hindus. What is expediently glossed over is that there is nothing like Hindutva; it is just Hinduism as a philosophical and spiritual way of life. This is what the clarion call of the Bhagwad Gita is. But this is what the self-styled Hindu outfits have forgotten too. And this is their choice. It is not that they have forgotten the cardil principle of Hinduism. The fact of the matter is that they have chosen to forget it, because it suits their socio-political engineering project. The bulk of the blame is thrown at the BJP, which is seen as the mainstream avatar of some self-fashioned Hindu groups. And when self-styled secularists do this, they too choose to forget that their choice of practising and perpetuating ‘minorities’ appeasement politics is doing them no good, except for ebling them in creating a vote bank out of a politics of fear generation among this prized bank. Let us call a spade a spade then: when the Congress and others of its ‘secular’ ilk talk of and champion the cause of ‘minorities’, they have in mind just one religious minority community – Muslims, especially the backward among them who can be wooed for votes, and for votes alone, and not for their empowerment in the real sense. Why, even after decades together of Congress rule and its advocacy of the ‘minorities’ cause, Muslims have remained one of the most backward communities in the country, pointed out so glaringly by the Sachar Committee report on the socio-economic status of Muslims in the country. It is a different debate though.
Doing away with Intolerance
The debate here is about the wisdom pertaining to tolerance that has streamed to us from our rich ancient civilization, with its genesis in the Hindu way of life as a philosophy and spirituality, so very well written about and debated upon right from the time when the seeds of the freedom movement against the British Raaj began to be sown with the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857 – called, very aptly, the First War of Indian Independence. When, let us visit modern Indian history, the Sepoy Mutiny was launched, and when there were subsequent fireworks of patriotism, what was on display on the high table of ‘tiolism’ – there was no notion of any Indian tion-state at that time – was some sort of a rrative that the imperial power out to rag the pristine Indian land must be taught a lesson. That was a military revolt, from the point of view of the strategic sense at that point of time. What was forgotten was the message from giants of that time, such as Swami Vivekanda (does the ‘modern’ Indian youth even know that this so-called Swami was recognized in the West in the beginning of the 20th century as one of the most decorated intellectuals?), who told his countrymen and the world at large (how can we forget his address to the World Parliament of Religions at Chicago) that the best export that India could do was, and still is, spiritual thought and practice. It was the Buddha who had ages ago planted such deep and ennobling thoughts of all-encompassing humanism, and it was Vivekanda, a devout Hindu by virtue of him being a devout student of the Hindu philosophy, who would called Buddha as someone who he cannot match because this greatness called Buddha was perhaps the first man to walk on earth to spread the message of motiveless service.
So, here we are – an ancient civilization. It is on this land that the likes of the Buddha walked, that the likes of intellectual giants like Vivekanda and Aurobindo enriched upon, and to which the likes of Mahatma Gandhi simply walked into with khadi dhoti to flush out the British colonialists. All of this happened only in this land, the ancient land of Bhaarat. And it is this Bhaarat that must inspire us continuously towards the paramount values of tolerance. This is some very serious water for thought when people want to quench their thirst for peace amid all-pervading intolerance and violence.