Religion destroying India

India is heralded as the world’s largest democracy. Proving that democracy is not just a luxury for rich nations. Some claim messy democracy is bad for economic development — citing China’s high growth rates under authoritarianism. Yet is dictatorship really good for prosperity in the long term? After all, the richest countries are the most democratic. But anyhow, man does not live on bread alone, economics is not everything, and people value democratic rights for their own sake.

That was true of Indians — until lately. Now they’re sacrificing democracy, not for economics but for religion.

India was founded as a state both democratic and secular. This made huge sense given its diverse religions, mainly Hindu and Muslim. And its experience of vast intercommunal bloodshed accompanying Pakistan’s being made a separate Muslim state.

Some nevertheless wanted India to be a Hindu state. One was Nathuram Godse, who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. Hindu supremacists like Godse hated Gandhi for promoting accommodation with the nation’s Muslims. They’ve instead advocated “Hindutva,” an ideology of “India for Hindus.”

India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has its roots in the RSS, a pervasive nationwide Hindutva organization. The BJP’s leader Narendra Modi rose out of the RSS, and in 2014 scored a big election victory, becoming prime minister, on a platform stressing economic reform. He won even bigger in 2019. But Modi seems focused less on the economy than on Hindutva — and on his own power. He’s increasingly authoritarian, and intolerant of criticism or opposition, using every possible means to suppress it. The RSS acts as a parallel government. That’s Modi’s power base. He openly rejects the founding concept of a secular state.

Kashmir is India’s most Muslim region. India and Pakistan have perennially contested sovereignty over Kashmir; effectively they’ve split it. India’s portion had a special status with much home rule. But in 2019 Modi’s government revoked that, putting Kashmir under military rule, while locking up legions of politically active Kashmiris, imposing a curfew, and cutting off communication with the outside world.

Another Indian state with a lot of Muslims is Assam. Hindutva activists claim many have “infiltrated” from next-door Muslim Bangladesh. The government has now created a register of citizens; if your name’s not on it, you’re put through bureaucratic hell to document ancestral Indian citizenship. Almost impossible if you’re poor and illiterate. Over a million Muslims are being thusly made stateless, with nowhere else to go; India is building detention camps.

Meantime, nationwide protests have greeted legislation to fast-track citizenship for refugees — provided they’re not Muslim. This is seen as violating India’s religiously color-blind constitution. And, more importantly, as presaging extension of the Assam initiative to the whole country. To make millions of Muslims not just second class citizens but non-citizens, stripped of rights. Including, of course, the vote. (Muslims mostly vote against the BJP.)

Defenders of religion call it a force for good. But too often it hijacks people’s rational brains. For many Indian Hindus, it’s not enough being freely able to practice their religion. They want it to reign supreme, crushing others. Rather than having a nation of equal rights, and peace among faiths.

Persecuting some small religious minority, though nasty and unjust, might be no big deal really. Not roiling the nation too much. But India’s Muslims number around two hundred million! With already a history of much sickening religion-inspired violence, mostly against Muslims, including lynchings. To deliberately stoke that religious conflict is national insanity.

Godse, the Hindu fanatic assassin of Gandhi, is now being rehabilitated as a hero. While Trump has staged a Texas rally with Modi lionizing him as a great pal.

One Response to “Religion destroying India”

  1. Shivraj Biradar Says:

    A New Religion in India? Karnataka’s Lingayats Seek Recognition
    The state government of Karnataka has granted a separate religion tag to the Lingayaths.
    A new religion has the possibility of being added to India’s official roster of existing and practicing religions. The state government of Karnataka has granted a separate religion tag to the Lingayats, who make up to 17 percent of the population of the southern state.

    Following the recommendations of a committee constituted especially to look into the matter, the government of Karnataka now awaits the approval of the Central government. But is this move a moment where nearly 40 million voices are finally being given their due, or is this a strategic move ahead of the elections in Karnataka in a couple of months?

    Lingayats are currently classified as a Hindu subcaste called “Veerashaiva Lingayats,” even though the community evolved from a 12th century movement led by the philosopher-saint Basavanna to help downtrodden sections of Hindu society break the chains of caste.

    According to NG Mahadevappa, a Lingayat scholar and retired professor of philosophy at Karnatak University, the Lingayat religion is separate from Hinduism. “The Lingayats are strict monotheists. They enjoin the worship of only one God, namely, Linga (Shiva). It must be noted that the word ‘Linga’ here does not mean Linga established in temples, but universal consciousness qualified by the universal energy (Shakti),” he wrote in his book Lingayatism: An Independent Religion.

    SM Jamdar, a retired bureaucrat from Karnataka, who has been among the strongest advocates of this cause, states that it is the only religion that openly rejects idol worship and the rituals that are associated with Hinduism.

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    There are 15 million in Maharashtra, 10 million in Karnataka, 8 million in Telangana, and 5 million in Tamil Nadu who associate themselves with the Lingayat religion. There are nearly 3,000 religious monasteries of the community, which run hundreds of schools and colleges in Karnataka, and the need for the separate status is geared toward maintaining the teachings of Basavanna, lest they get subsumed within the Veerashaiva and Hindu nomenclature.

    The Lingayats in Maharashtra have been demanding a similar separate minority religion status since 2014. Jamdar takes a leaf from the 1955 Hindu Marriage Act and the 1956 Hindu Succession Act to justify the call for the minority religion status: “Lingayats, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs are included among Hindus, but Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains have been identified by state and central governments as minority religions. Only Lingayats remain.” Once so recognized, the Lingayats would be able to avail benefits of freedom of religion and rights of minorities under the Indian Constitution.

    There have been several signature campaigns in the past toward this end. However, the movement gained momentum last year in July, when a wave of gatherings of thousands of people became visible, towards pressuring the Indian National Congress, which is in power in Karnataka.

    Lingayats are traditionally considered to be supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has, since 2014, emerged as the ruling party in most states across India. Political analysts and the opposition have accused the opposition Congress Party of playing up the issue for electoral gains.

    Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has ordered pictures of Basavanna to be put up in all government offices. Some ministers within Congress have opposed the appeasement to the Lingayats. On the other hand, the official Twitter handle of BJP in Karnataka likened Siddaramaiah to the Mughals and the British for playing divisive politics and called him the most “virulent” chief minister.

    It is interesting to note that journalist Gauri Lankesh and academician MM Kalburgi had both supported the movement for Lingayat to be a separate religion. Both residents of Karnataka, Lankesh and Kalburgi were shot at point blank range in front of their houses by bike-borne assailants, two years apart, for questioning the rise of religious intolerance in the state.

    Between the time when the Central government may issue its verdict, and the polls in May, it is evident once again how religion and the ensuing divisive politics continue to be used as an election prop in India.

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