Is violence the only way to express religious pride?

I grew up hearing “Garv se kaho hum Hindu hai” (Say with pride that we are Hindu), a chant by Shiv Sena supporters in their rallies. It is perfectly fine to be proud of one’s religion and express the pride; after all it brings the sense of belonging that we humans crave for. However, it is disturbing to see how the expression has manifested in cowardly acts of violence these days.

The religion that I grew up practicing didn’t enforce that one’s own path towards God is the only true path. The festivals, the foods and the colors strengthened the beliefs and hate towards others didn’t even get a second thought. We recognized the evils of caste and superstitions addressed them. After years of vote bank pleasing politics the majority Hindus in India seeped into the minority complex. The combination of caste based politics and non-confrontational attitudes made the majority become complacent. However, the overwhelming belief propagated that minorities had forgotten their place and were appeased by the ruling parties. The right-wing recognized the change, stopped playing victim and capitalized on the Hindu resurgence to gain power. But it changed the Hindu religion in ways that I don’t recognize it anymore.

The angry, hateful and mob justice seeking transformation of Hinduism is frightening. The people who you thought you know have become cow vigilantes, attacking lovers and artists, and promoting their extreme beliefs on social media. ‘Anti-nationalist’ is the label awarded for any criticism of the government or the angry activism . Violence has become the weapon for showing the religious pride. The medieval thinking together with political environment that condones the aggression is not only dangerous for the country but it is destroying the core of the religion. The all-encompassing nature of the Hinduism that has room for all, from atheists to worshipers, from bhakti (worship) to karma (service) is definitely under threat. I believe that there is no particular way or worship that makes you a true believer.

Many will argue that Hindus faced religious persecution in past, they were driven out from Pakistan and Bangladesh and even today places like Kashmir continue to be hostile to Hindus. There is no denial of the fact that Hindus were on receiving end in the past but there are multiple reasons to blame for that; from the inapt rulers who connived with the invaders to caste based fractions of the society. In my opinions the minority should not feel threatened but have a sense of belonging. The proclamation of “Islam khatre me hai” (Islam is under threat) is equally polarizing and disturbing.

So how do we thwart the attempts of creating a new yardstick for proving your religious pride and allegiance? How can we be assertive and not be victims while ensuring that the minorities also feel welcomed? What does it say about our mentality that we worship women as Goddesses and at the same time don’t show any aggression when they are abused? We want to show our pride by indulging minor issues hurting our egos while no one wants to talk about the larger issues. There is no silver bullet that is going to fix all this.

May be this is a transitional step before we recognize the fallacy of this transformation and find our way back to the true form of religion. In the meantime, it is responsibility of the both right and liberal sides to express their opinions and have more active participation in the debate without resorting to violence.

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