The Hindu Rashtra

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By Vaishali Srivastava, TIO: With the rise of the Right wing and the second term for the Modi government, the Hindus are in a euphoric state. They are ecstatic. Adorned with Bhagwa Chola and chanting ‘ Jai Shree Ram, jubilant Bhakts stride confidently to regain and reclaim their lost glorious past,  The Ram Rajya: A utopian state having the both ‘Hindu Rajya’ and ‘Hindu Rashtra’.
‘To the Hindus for the Hindus by the Hindus! ‘

So the Hindu Rashtra would mean a theocratic state. The state that keeps religion above reason, rationality and of course humanity. The state where the Godmen rule in the name of God; where fundamentalism overcasts the fundamental rights of the people and where ritual and symbolism overrides spiritual knowledge, wisdom, and transcendence.

Nevertheless, we aspire and strive to become a Hindu Rashtra!

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So what it would be like, if we were a Hindu Rashtra? Would that mean a utopian state characterized by the society which upholds freedom and treats all with equality, dignity, and justice? Well, the grass is deeper Saffron (our grass can never be GREEN ) on the other side!

Hindu religion is considered to be one of the most liberal and secular religions. True to the core! The tenets of Hinduism hinges on acquiring knowledge, seeking truth and attaining Moksha(salvation) through Dharma, following the righteous and karma, the right action. The path or method of its seeking it is left to the seeker. So the freedom to choose what we want to and the principles of inclusiveness, liberation, and tolerance which Hinduism adheres to is what gives us a sense of pride and what we boast about.

Undoubtedly Hinduism is one of the very few religions which is secular and liberal in its true spirit.  However, in practice, the old Hindu society was regressive and orthodox. The society was shaped on the strict norms Varna, the stratification based on color, class or caste. It vehemently denied the equal opportunities and rights to the people sitting on the lowest strata subjecting to ostracising and marginalizing those people which resulted into a massive violation of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. The tentacles of class and caste discrimination were deeply penetrated in the society.

Furthermore, contrary to the ancient Hindu society, where women were worshipped as Shakti and where they had absolute autonomy and power over themselves, the society of post-Temple tradition era treated women differently. The society kept women on the lower pedestal and women’s sexuality was controlled by the clutches of patriarchy. Hindu women were denied from some very basic rights. They had no right of succession or right to property. Men had control and ownership over women whether it’s the father, husband or the son. Caste groups became increasingly endogamous with strict rules against inter-caste marriage prohibiting inter-caste marriage. There was no provision of remarrying if the husband died. Many ill social practices were legitimized in the name of religion like ‘Sati Pratha’ in Rajasthan and the ‘Devadasi Pratha’ in the South. In the Sati Pratha, the widow would immolate herself on her husband’s pyre after her husband’s death whereas in the Devdasi Pratha women were forced to become the sex slaves for the rich and the powerful in the name of God. The practice of celibacy prohibited women from entering specific temples and on the days when they were menstruating. The relationship between patriarchy, women, and religion was complex, convoluted and vexed.

Discrimination on the basis of gender, class, and caste in the pre-independence Hindu society was prevalent. The religion was the controlling machinery to exercise power on the weak and the weaker sex.

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Post-independence, our founding fathers laid the foundation of our society on the principles of secularism, based on reason and rationality and equal rights and justice to all. Secularism, in the Nehruvian context, “does not mean the separation of religion from the state but rather benevolent neutrality towards all religions, which are treated equally.” It was Pandit Nehru, our first Prime Minister, and Baba Saheb Ambedkar, the Father of Indian Constitution who introduced The Hindu Code Bill. The Hindu Code Bill was intended to provide a civil code in place of the body of Hindu personal law which talked about equal rights and equal status to women in the society. The Hindu Code Bill caused a great deal of controversy and aroused unprecedented opposition by the Hindu fundamentalists. So much that it was further broken into three more bills to get it passed in the Parliament.
1. The Hindu Marriage Bill which outlawed polygamy and contained provisions dealing with inter-caste marriages and divorce procedures; 2.the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Bill had as its main thrust the adoption of girls, which till then had been little practiced; 3.the Hindu Succession Bill placed daughters on the same footing as widows and sons where the inheritance of family property was concerned.

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The Hindu code bill addressed numerous areas of discrimination against women. It brought women empowerment and ensured social justice to them. The Hindu Code is the most valuable gift what the Hindu society has received from our first generation leaders.

Through the road of Secularism, the constitution addressed the discrimination of caste and class. A decisive step was taken by Pt. Nehru to uproot the evils of the pervasive caste system. Nehru undertook decisive measures where laws were made and legal procedures were enacted to make caste discrimination illegal and punishable. The Untouchability Offence Act, 1955 was introduced which further underwent amendment and renaming in 1976 to become the Protection of Civil Rights (PCR) Act. Under this Act, ‘untouchability’ as a result of religious and social disabilities was made punishable.

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The seed of social justice was sown on the fertile grounds of secularism which went from strength to strength with the advancement of time.

Our Secular status also played a key role in land reforms. The main objective was to bring systematic and complete changes to the agrarian structure of the country. Its other main aim was to abolish the Zamindari system, the landlordism system of India in which the powerful Zamindars acquired all lands and collected tax and became more powerful year after year, accumulating wealth. The peasants, who actually cultivated the land, was often in poverty and remained landless. Our country adopted socialistic principles after independence and through land reforms law it regulated ownership, operations and inheritance and redistribution of land. Zamindari Abolition Act and Land Sealing Act brought about equity in the economy and society and ensured social justice towards farmers.

Hindu society went into a complete transformation since then.

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The Muslims society, despite being intellectual, creative and progressive-minded couldn’t help much in reforming itself because it didn’t get any legal support or provision to reform it. Rather the blasphemy law imposed by all Islamic countries which is punishable in form of exile, torture, ostracism, public marginalization, and too often life itself, made even the most progressive-minded Muslims be reluctant to voice opinions, raise concerns related to their society and the people or to talk about what needed to be addressed . This is the negative side of monotheism that it prohibits and limits any such provision which aims to deal with any diversion, deviation or aberration.  Islamic society believed in egalitarianism but didn’t embrace or even accept secularism in its spirit as secularism has a different political connotation.

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Secularism promotes values of the Enlightenment — freedom of speech, acceptance, equal justice under law and socialism. On the other hand in a theocratic state, everything is justified in the name of God. Shakespeare rightly quotes:

“What damnèd error, but some sober brow
Will bless it and approve it with a text,
Hiding the grossness with fair ornament?”

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Hinduism is liberal and secular but the old Hindu society was not. Because of the incessant efforts of our founding fathers who despite fierce opposition and criticism talked about it and worked on it to bring it in the legal domain. The constitutional provision acted as a deterrent which made the Hindu society progressive and liberal. Else we wouldn’t have been what we are today

Voting preferences are a  very personal aspect. It’s based on our own experience and our side of truth. Everyone sees a different truth.
But all who aspire to transform  this country into a Hindu Rashtra need to ponder   : are we  ready to step backwards and take a plunge  in  the times where women were denied from their rights; where people were discriminated because of their caste and class ;where Zamindars owned all the lands and property and farmers worked as slaves ..and where there was no place for equal rights or equal opportunities for all? Is this what we aspire for?

The formation of the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ would not be as much as frightening for other communities as it would be for us. Beware!

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Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi

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