L.S. Rajput, a retired civil servant, declared in New Delhi ‘‘Anybody born in India is a Hindu.” Shedding all hypocrisy and presence to secular slogans, he called upon every turbaned Sikh and worshipping Moslem, Christian, Buddhist, Jain and Parsi to consider himself ‘‘first and always a Hindu.” ‘Sooner the followers of other faiths accept this position, the better for them,” said he.
Rajput asserted that only Hinduism could lead the country to unity, and frankly admitted of the resurgent wave of Hindu revivalism that had been set into motion through a calculated official policy of the ruling party. As a result a movement in North India has sprung up to liberate important Hindu shrines which were converted into mosques by the Muslim rulers.
The extent of the movement or wave is as difficult to define as Hinduism itself. It is being variously described as part cultural muscle flexing by India’s 85 percent Hindu majority, part religious backlash and part calculated political exploitation of the country’s biggest potential voting block. After centuries of slavery, Hindus have tasted power and like a high potency country liquor it has gone to their head and a long passive community is fast developing a chauvinistic and aggressive attitude towards other religious minorities. Nationalism has come to mean Hindu fanaticism. Mrs. Gandhi’s weakening hold and waning popularity were suddenly given a new vigour when she began visiting scores of Hindu temples often dressed in saffron color held holy in Hinduism. She found a new hope to fulfill her desire of perpetuating dynastic rule through playing up Hindu passions and at the same time undermining the interests of the minorities. She sought to build the solid support of the majority by playing on the Communal tensions to pull the Hindu vote solidly behind her and her death can in part be attributed to that strategy getting out of control.
After her death communal tensions have further deepened. Rajiv Gandhi, in his anxiety to win the elections, openly and unashamedly fanned communal passions. In the immediate aftermath of her killing, optimists had hoped that the storming of the Golden Temple and the death of Mrs. Gandhi would cancel each other out, leaving a clean slate in Hindu Sikh relations, but as the ghastly details of the most cruel genocide became available that possibility has also dissolved into thin air. Voices of reason, describing the Hindu revivalism as ‘‘a cynical exercise to confuse the Hindus and to exploit them as political ballast when there is a bankruptcy of thought to deal with the real issues of mass poverty and backwardness, political and economic incompetence,”” have become redundant and irrelevant in the context of the landslide victory of Rajiv, accomplished purely through communal appeals.
Neither the rulers nor the leaders of Hindu organization anymore talk of secular values. Instead they plainly want minorities to embrace Hinduism. “The time has come,” says R.S.S. Chief Bala saheb Deuces,”’ for Indian Sikhs and Moslems and Christians to come back to the Hindu fold.”
The position has been made crystal clear. It is up to the minorities to accept it or suffer extermination or exile. Some Sikhs still keep on hoping against hope. They feel that what had happened to them in India was only a temporary estrangement with the ‘“‘big brother,” for which perhaps Sikhs were also to some extent responsible. Their attitude is typical of the proverbial pigeon that closes his eyes on seeing the cat and thinks that she is gone only to be devoured to bits in one hungry leap.
Article extracted from this publication >> February 15, 1985