Dear Mohan Bhagwat,
I recently came across the text of a speech you gave either in Kolkata or Madhya Pradesh. I am not sure about the place and I don’t even intend to know. It is what you said, actually it is what you have been saying continuously for past 6 months that I intend to target here. You want India to become a Hindu Rashtra.
Oh, aw, ah, boom! Are you sure you are the right person to decide that? Do you know Hinduism? Did you ever care to read our religious books? Well, you might have and not understood it properly. There are 100 different perspectives of Mahabharata and not everyone gets it right. I am not claiming I know everything, but I know a few things. I am a congenital Brahman turned atheist. Oh! Now you won’t read further? Because I am an atheist? Haha. This is where you are wrong about your religion. Let me tell you what it is and why it doesn’t teach us to make India a Hindu Rashtra, the way you mean it and are pushing for it.
Hinduism didn’t use to be a religion long ago. It is a religion today, because it is being projected as such. Hinduism used to be a geographical identity. You know it very well! Before Islamist rulers started attacking us, we never called ourselves Hindu. They called us Hindu because of their own reasons to identify us with a name. This is how we became Hindu, perhaps in between 7th and 15th century. India existed for thousands of years before we were given this identity. Or perhaps even before this we were known as Hindu to the Mesopotamian, Greek and the Mongol, yet we never called ourselves with this name.
We were diverse, but we found our ways to live together. Thousands of years made us that way. Rajput in the west, Gupta, Chola, Bengali and Bihari in the east, Maratha, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil in the south, and Kashmiri, and Punjabi in the north. We were a country of many kingdoms. We had even more tribes than kingdoms. Now, people living in the south were never the same as people living in the north, or east or west. Move your head around and you’ll notice the change in rituals, gods, and food as you move to different parts of India. Many rulers united us but we were all different. We followed gurus. We followed spiritual man. We followed scriptures. We worshiped gods. We worshiped art. We danced. We sang. We worshiped animals. We also sacrificed them. We worshiped rivers and mountains. We allowed every part of society to flourish, but marginalized none.
India is the land where we never objected to teachings. We let everybody preach what they had got. We never stopped one. Sikh gurus emerged, taught many, and more followed them. Jain gurus preached, surprised many, and the crowd followed. Buddha came and spread his teachings, and millions followed. There were thousands of different sects within the Brahman community. Some pundits followed Lord Vishnu, some only believed in Lord Shiva. Some wore white clothes, some wore bhagva(saffron). Some kept long beards and scalp hair, some went bald keeping a small ponytail, while some remained absolute bald. Some went around naked, while some stayed meditating at a place for their lifetime. This diversity and its beauty constituted India.
India has always been the place where writers and thinkers were always free to challenge religion. Kings might not have tolerated those who wrote against them but we were always free to write about religion. No saint was ever put behind the bars. There was no restriction to those who preached a different way to spirituality.
I do not claim that there were no bad elements in the society then. I never said we were a utopian state. Many emperors ruled over this land and each one of them must have ruled differently. There would have been crime and much poverty. That is a part of society. Women may have been treated unequally. Men may have considered themselves heroes and the rulers. Mahabharata and Ramayana clearly show inequality in the society; both ways, if we consider it as an inspired fiction or mythology. But patriarchy is an ideology. It may be looked down today but it is also the reality of not only India’s history but also the world’s history. So, we had our share of problems but religion was never one.
We never fought with each other because we followed different gods. We accepted eunuchs, transgender, and all. We never banned books. Kalidasa openly wrote erotic and voyeur poetry. He praised the beauty of women, worshiped them, and his poetry is full of comparisons between women and nature. There was a dissent in society but his books were never banned and he gained many followers and lovers. This was our “Hindu” Rashtra, but we never called it one.
Be empathetic! There was a humongous diversity; many gods, many preachers, many saints, but all lived happily ever after. We never rejected any. We accepted all.
Now, imagine the contemporary India! There are many religions, castes, and identities. Mahatma Gandhi, a true Hindu, understood our religion well, and decided to make India what it was before. He wanted Ram-Rajya. Do you know what Ram-Rajya is? India, being a secular country is Ram-Rajya. Indians respecting each and every religion is Ram-Rajya. Indians never spreading hatred against other religions or groups is Ram-Rajya. Freedom to express ourselves, freedom to criticize religions, freedom to start your own religion, freedom to preach your own path to spirituality is Ram-Rajya. When peace prevails, no hatred is contrived in hearts, and art is appreciated. When there is a proper distinction of job in society, nobody is looked down by anybody, and the rulers carry pure intentions. Then, it is Ram-Rajya. And Ram-Rajya is Hindu Rashtra.
I am sorry sir, but your definition of Hindu Rashtra or Hinduism is utterly wrong and immoral. If you have grievances with any particular religion, you must criticize it. You must go for open debates, you must preach what you believe is right and you must try to sway the followers of other religion by your love and determination to make things better. But you must not spread hatred. You must not dream of a country in which the existing 170 million population has no role. You must not hurt their sentiments. You must respect them. You must not make them feel insecure. You must not make them feel alien in the lands they have been living for hundreds of years. You must be empathetic enough to understand their pain as well. Then, we will be a Hindu Rashtra one day, the way I defined it, the way Gandhi preached it but not the way you want it!
An ordinary Indian.