In the Independence Day week, we seek the indulgence of our readers to dispense a few homilies. Since professional secularists have picked on the stray remarks of a couple of Hindutva votaries and tried to paint a scary picture of the country under Narendra Modi, a bit of well-meaning advice should be in order.
To begin with, stop being obsessive about our ancient past. No purpose is served harping on our great cultural and religious heritage, especially if our present is what it is today. We may well have been a great civilisation five millennia ago, but shouldn’t the bigger concern be what we are at this point of time in our history.
Whether or not India, that is Bharat, was a ‘Sone Ki Chidiya’ in the long-forgotten past is not half as relevant as is what we all, irrespective of caste or creed, region or religion, intend doing to make it a truly modern 21st century nation. Leave the past narrative to rival historians. The luxury of imagining the past is for a select few. A vast majority must necessarily obsess with the here and now.
Ordinary folks should be encouraged to concentrate on improving lives in a meaningful way while always keeping on the right side of the law. From the roadside ‘chaiwala’ to the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company, everyone ought to have but one objective — to grow as per the dictates of the prevailing laws. Cutting legal and moral corners can succeed only up to a point. Those following the law do themselves and the nation a great service. The duty of the state is to create conducive conditions for the self-employed chaiwalla and the top-notch CEO alike so that both can attain their utmost potential.
But the votaries of Hindutva should not feel redundant. There is a lot they can do to help India become a great nation. Instead of harping on the past, they can gainfully engage themselves in ridding Indians of their ingrained bad habits, their terrible civic sense, and their tendency to be wholly unmindful of the larger public good. Inculcating a sense of responsibility, a sense of discipline would do the country far more good than re-writing history books or sharpening the religious divide. There is more percentage in moulding the national character than there is in moulding history.
Truly, someone like Dina Nath Batra would earn the gratitude of the entire people if he undertook, say, a mission to ensure that every Indian who mechanically recites theGayatri Mantra knows its meaning. Knowing the meaning might actually inspire some to heed its universal appeal. Also, if the pandits and priests performing various pujas could be made to first understand the true meaning of the ‘slokas’ they mutilate badly on sacred occasions and then explain the same to the devout in simple words, Batra would have saved the Hindu traditions from sinking further. It is a better way of ensuring a useful connect with our ancient past than simply purging history books of some inconvenient truths or supposed untruths.
Another set of Hindutva protagonists can turn their attention to setting things right in our cremation grounds. Here too greed and malpractice is rampant. Whether it is run by the local Arya Samaj or the local municipality, there is no dignity even for our dead. Invariably, the caretakers cheat on the firewood, demand donations even while the body is waiting for cremation. The last rites are conducted in a most perfunctory manner, the attendant Dom mumbling what sounds like sloaks which neither he nor the mourners have any clue about.
One can continue in this vein at length. Suffice to say that reforming Hindu temples and cremation grounds is a worthy mission. Batra and others keen to serve the Hindu religion would do a great service to Hinduism by cleansing it from within. Professional secularists, who have fattened themselves on the patronage of a corrupt elite, need not be given another lease of life. Stories about our wondrous past, even if true, cannot imbue the living with a sense of purpose, a sense of true citizenship.
But making model citizens of Hindus will not only improve our collective present but ensure a better future for the coming generations as well. Therefore, it is a cause Batra should embrace, leaving the business of writing history to professional historians only.