It was August 5, 2020. Times Square in New York had been rented to promote Hindutva (Hinduness). There were functions held in numerous western capitals. All of India was agog.
Except for India’s 200-million strong Muslim minority. Their mosque, the Babri Masjid, was torn down by Hindu zealots in the northern Indian town of Ayodhya. Many Hindus alleged that the mosque had been built by in turn tearing down a Hindu temple. So they wanted the temple restored.
Narendra Modi became India’s prime minister for the second time in 2019. Some months after his reelection, the Indian Supreme Court in a judgment dated November 9, 2029, stated that the demolition of the Babri Masjid was illegal. It also said that there was no evidence to suggest that a Hindu structure stood underneath the mosque.
Yet, the Court handed over the disputed land to Hindus to construct their temple, while at the same time awarding a large tract of land in Ayodhya for the construction of a new mosque. Modi hailed the verdict in his by now all-too-familiar television addresses.
I am a Hindu. A devout Hindu. Perhaps not as devout a Hindu as Mahatma Gandhi, the founding father of India. Yet Gandhi gave his life for India’s Muslims. Gandhi hails from the Indian state of Gujarat, the state of Modi. In his office, Modi has a statuette of Gandhi.
But does Modi follow Gandhi’s ideals? India is one of the biggest, most-diverse nations on earth. Gandhi wanted India to strictly separate church from state, and handed India to the atheist Jawaharlal Nehru to run for close to two decades. In 1984, there was a watershed election. The Hindu right, almost always marginalized until then, won only two seats in parliament.
They didn’t know where to look. Their leader, LK Advani, latched onto the temple-mosque issue to gain power. It became a matter of pride for Hindus. Hindu pride.
But Hindu pride is not like white pride. Hinduism is one of the world’s oldest and one of the most peaceful religions in the world. Unlike some other religious groups, Hindus do not proselytize. Circa 1000 AD, Muslim invaders started arriving in the subcontinent and by 1200 AD they had captured almost all of India.
They ruled uninterrupted until the British arrived in the mid-eighteenth century. Nehru himself acknowledges in his Independence Day speech on the night of August 14, 1947, that the soul of India had been long suppressed. By the soul of India he meant the soul of India’s Hindus.
But Gandhi wanted every wind to sweep through the house of India. Advani stirred and shook the nation with a violent, traumatic journey across the country in 1992 to promote the temple. His party’s seats grew to almost a hundred, still nowhere near enough to form a government.
But he knew he was on the right track. In 1998, Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the PM, and in 2014, Modi. Modi marginalized him and made him a part of the path-showing council, which is neither path-showing nor a council. It is defunct. Advani, the architect of Hindutva, was made defunct. Power does that.
He did not attend the foundation laying ceremony of the temple in Ayodhya. Maybe because it’s because of Covid, maybe because Modi did not want him to. Modi was of course the chief guest. This was not a Hindutva opportunity to be missed.
As many of India’s exult, almost all of India’s Muslims cow down in shame. Modi’s regime has not been kind to them. Cow vigilantism has led to numerous attacks of lynchings on India’s Muslims. The Muslim majority-state of Kashmir has been under a brutal lockdown for a year. Modi has given refuge in India to persecuted minorities in India’s neighborhood like Hindus, Sikhs and even Christians (in a sign of clear concession to the West), but not to Muslims.
Today the Indian Muslim lies almost comatose. He is at the bottom of the country’s societal and economic totem pole. No real programs are launched to help him. Many Hindus rejoice at his fate, who they consider their former tormentor.
The Babri Masjid was built circa 1520, almost five hundred years ago. Modi’s supporters say that with the construction of the temple, he has accomplished what no one had for five hundred years. But India’s soul is being torn apart. Gandhi’s ashes are being singed.
Modi’s supporters mock Hindus like me to be bad Hindus, just as Trump’s supporters mock liberal whites to be bad whites. But what would Modi say about Gandhi? Does he pray to him only to show the world, while internally he regards him as a relic. Gandhi won India its freedom. Why not let his thoughts linger on for a while? Must we all breathe from the putrid stench of hate.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.