Time to de-saffronise Hinduism and Politics

Maya denotes illusion. Appearances remain true only for the senses or the mind. Mankind has romanced collective and personal illusion throughout the ages. Maya today remains the most misunderstood construct, often identified with an accumulation of wealth or used as an excuse against admitting one’s failure to achieve in life. All of us religiously practice a certain degree of both personal and collective illusions, vehemently defended by our own delusions when challenged. Illusion can be attributed to a perceptional disturbance of the physical, delusions remain purely mental. A collective illusion is an illusion that is shared by a large number of people.

The realm of politics romances Maya, like no other. It has sold and repackaged illusions to billions over centuries. The perceived path of greatest pleasure lies at the root of such an endeavour. The prevailing collective illusion in India since the past century has been a focused and blatant attempt to glorify inferiority and victimisation. The political class since independence has understood this very well and has creatively used this to further their own gains and make themselves seem as though they have been for the greatest benefit of mankind. The many who came throughout our history to eradicate collective illusion remain forgotten but hallowed today, the few who came for power and wealth, understood early on that politics was a game of illusion and control.

Politicians have exercised unhealthy control over a largely poor and uneducated population for most of the post-independence. The average Indian is trusting by nature, so much that it is only after a series of deceptive promises are ultimately broken that one is forced to realise how they have been misled. Regardless, Indian democracy and politics have flourished in the post independence era and overcome every threat it has come across. Dr Subramanian Swamy once famously proclaimed to a then unconvinced Jayaprakash Narayan, “Nothing works in India without politics”. The appropriateness of this statement was proven post the Emergency and holds true even in the present-day Modi era. What is worrying, however, is the mushrooming of self-proclaimed flag bearers who have largely remained fringe voices in the past but now seem determined to enter the political arena. An electorate plagued by poverty and illiteracy coupled with religious divisions left behind as a legacy of the colonial masters has proven to be easy breeding ground for unscrupulous elements misleading a large number of people on twisted religious grounds.

The mainstream media has encouraged them and seemed to have positioned them as authorities on Hinduism which has led to a saffronization of both Hinduism and politics. While this works in favour of vested interests who wish to accuse the government of oppressing the minorities; an overwhelming conclusion any rational individual can arrive at, is that this short sighted encouragement by elements aiming to malign the government for narrow political gains combined with the ruling party’s sympathetic ignorance towards these groups is a dangerous game. It is merely the influence wielded by these individuals over a large number of people that attracts politicians on both sides, not necessarily their vision or messages. The rulers will use their influence for electoral gains and the opposition will use their influence to sell victimisation to the highest bidders.

Hinduism and its tolerance to variations and different beliefs, food, faiths and cultures and its embrace of diversity within the subcontinent and outside of it have come to define India and Hindutva. Sanatan Dharma or eternal law preaches limitlessness as an ethos of human existence. Throughout history, whenever man has encountered boundaries, he has tried to breach them. Boundaries in scientific research, psychological boundaries of self, boundaries of thought and even physical boundaries leading to both miraculous and tragic consequences. It is this thirst for knowledge and limitlessness that true Hindutva should have been directed towards. Throughout history, Hinduism has remained largely forgotten and patronised by western science. Gurus and spiritual leaders in history have attempted to lead thousands of their followers to self-realisation. Gurus like Aurobindo have even been part of the freedom struggle when they felt that their participation became absolutely necessary.

However, a worrying reality today is that mass religious leaders along with fringe leaders are being wooed by the political class for electoral gains. An even more alarming reality is that they are being perceived as authorities on Hinduism. True Hindutva preaches liberation from Maya, not the pursuit of it. Somewhere this centrepiece of Hindutva is under threat of being hijacked by the saffron-ists. Focus has shifted to food, clothing, chanting and individual definitions of patriotism instead of the intended pursuit by research into medicine and Ayurveda, ancient Scriptures, Vedic Knowledge, Self-Realisation, Dharma and Karma. The mainstream media seems to have had a field day reporting clashes, but does not report the Politics and governance in India remains largely personality-centric and hence reflects the personality of its leader. It is, therefore, a duty of the Prime Minister to bring on board young political leaders that represent his vision of the future and not the visions of past glory. Leaders who practice and encourage questioning, research, spirituality and intellect, not those who sell victimisation. Leaders who are aware that freedom of expression exists to protect unpopular speech and not popular speech and not those who question nationalities over unpopular speech.

Nation-building requires visionaries, innovators and leaders with a spine; not gurus that make money for the world reeling thousands of voters for the spineless political class. Their right to pursue their businesses and make them successful remains their personal choice, however, there is no need for them to enter the political processes. Their advice, however valuable it may be does not require a constitutional post. Lord Krishna, Gandhiji and JP understood this well. How long will a country pegged to be an economic superpower tolerate blind faith? The world awaits India to retake its rightful position as the spiritual and intellectual leader of the world. For the time being, many of us are left to squabble amongst ourselves over leaders who are busy exploring creative ways to end up behind bars, and thousands of their followers destroying public property, desecrating the guiding principles of constitutional framework and the rule of law.

For too long has the political class looked the other way, the after-effects of Ram Rahim’s conviction on charges of rape and the illegal destruction of public property by his followers requires a serious course correction by the opposition, the ruling party as well as the government of India. Mere opportunism will now prove to be a recipe for disaster. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been a leader who has challenged dogma and political methods of every politician in the country. He will be remembered as a reformer in the administrative history of India. He has proven himself as an astute politician and a hard taskmaster, but to be remembered as a legendary leader, he must remain on the right side of history. History is not created by astute politicians, it is created by leaders who have shattered collective illusions rather than use them for political gains. If India is going to lead the world in the intellectual and political domain of the 21st Century, a crucial ingredient to this path to greatness begins with the de-saffronization of Hinduism and Indian politics.