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Thursday, 3 August, 2000, 11:19 GMT 12:19 UK
Has Hindu nationalism united or divided modern India?
Perhaps the biggest change in India's political landscape in recent years has been the rise to power of Hindu nationalist parties.
Have these organisations become a liability for the Government and the nation? Are they posing a law and order problem? Or are they the genuine voice of India?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Jim Mather, USA
The rise of Hindu nationalism in a country with a very significant number of minorities (the numbers are even larger than the whole population of some large countries around the world) only means that India, for a very long time to come, will be embroiled in yet another crisis like the many it faces now. This will impede the positive growth and development of its existing shaky economy. Fanaticism and the chaos it brings, whether in India or across the border, is not healthy for the growth and prosperity of any of these poor nations.
In a democratic system, there is only one real criterion that needs be used to evaluate a political movement: does it infringe on the rights and liberties of other people within the democratic society? If it does, then it has transgressed beyond what a democracy should allow. In a democracy, the people have a right to choose their way of life. But the majority must always provide constitutional guarantees that the minority will not be trampled. Let Hindus in India choose their way of life freely. But if they were to impose it upon any other groups, then they would clearly be in the wrong. The concept of liberty must always come hand in hand with responsibility, but most importantly, justice. Let no-one's freedom become someone else's torment.
This is to all those who feel "threatened" and warn of civil war. India was divided into a Hindu homeland and a Muslim homeland. If you feel threatened, as the Hindus in present day Pakistan did, do what they did - leave. There will be no civil war - only the establishment of a Hindu-Sikh nation, as it was meant to be.
So many Muslims are lecturing Indians on how to be secular. How many constitutions and laws of Muslim-majority countries in this world compare to the secular Indian constitution which was democratically voted for and has been upheld by the Hindu majority for the past 53 years.
Hashim Effendi, India
Hindu nationalism is a positive and patriotic force that instils a sense of nationalism in all Indians.
If India and Pakistan plunge the world into a nuclear holocaust, Britain will be the one to blame. The legacy they have left every country they have been forced out of, is the division of a united people - Ireland, Fiji, Sri Lanka and India.
For the first time in over 50 years, we have a working government but anti-India people want to destabilise it with all this false propaganda. I am not advocating violence but India is the only country where the majority is the victim of the minority.
India is similar to Europe with several cultures and ways of life held together by a single constitution. Hindus and other minorities identify themselves first with the region they come from. Religion always comes second. Compared to today's polarised societies, Hindu nationalism, as a movement, is in its infancy and will always remain a regional movement.
Rahul Rao, India/ USA
Hinduism is nothing to do with nationalism in India. It divides people in the name of caste. The developments in India are a result of Western science, free education and above all the secular fabric of Indian society.
As India is a democratic nation, there will be policy changes as and when the government changes.
Religious organisations should be kept under the tight watchful eye of government
Looking at it from an Indian Muslim's perspective, these fundamentalist Hindu groups are a threat to our (Muslims') existence. No-one lives under threat for too long - this could lead to civil war.
Hindu nationalism has risen due to successive Indian governments giving too many concessions to Indian Moslems in order to win their votes at elections.
Even Pakistan does not allow them some of the privileges they receive in India, such as the right to have four wives and no entitlement to pay maintenance after divorce.
In school, we studied India's special feature as "Unity in Diversity". However, in real life, it's very sad to see that there is no unity but disharmony.
Amal de Silva, Sri Lanka
Let the people who talk about "Hindu Nationalism" first speak about "Hindus". Do they even know what HINDU means? There is NOTHING wrong in loving one's country more than oneself.
I think that Hindu nationalists have time and again shattered India's image as a country tolerant to all religions. The major issue is that these religious tensions are created by political leaders to get votes from people and keep the people busy with some or other kind of religious issues. The only people to gain from all this are the politicians.
India is an extremely secular and diverse country. Only a few rotten apples (regardless of their religion) spoil the integrity of the country. Unfortunately one and all magnify these apples! It is time this negative publicity stopped. India as a country will move forward if people look beyond communal problems and focus more on our cultural wealth.
I think the rise of Hindu nationalist parties is good not only for the Hindu community, but for the nation too. In the present day circumstances where you and your nation are threatened by the rise of terrorist organisations around the world in the name of Jihad, there's nothing wrong in supporting the rise of Hindu nationalist parties and the so-called hard line or militant Hindu organisations. Everyone should realise that India is a multi-cultural and multi-ethical country and nobody can change it. But when some people are not satisfied with this and want to break the country up on the basis of religion by resorting to militant activities, even Hindus can fight for the national integrity and Hindu religion.
I think India cannot be India without its religions. National pride is not identifying each other by the religion we practice. If India is to foster in the new century, it will have to pull together and advance in technology and humanity.
I think these Hindu nationalists should realise the importance of secular India and should not repeat the same mistakes which led to Pakistan.
Hindu nationalism has been increasing steadily, but during the last few years it has growing at an alarming rate.
Minorities like Sikhs, Christians and Muslims do not feel safe and are being killed by Hindu fundamentalists who are aligned with the present political party running the Indian government.
It is sad that the two-nation theory is now becoming true, but now it is becoming a four-nation theory, namely one for Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and Muslims.
Hindu nationalism is a necessity for the Hindu population in India today. For centuries, Hindus and Sikhs have lived together in peace with other religious groups. Yes, India does belong to all of us, but there is great injustice towards Hindus and Sikhs today. It is okay for Christians to convert tribal people to Christianity, it is okay for Muslims to open a religious school and turn kids into fanatics, but it is not okay for Hindus and Sikhs to talk about their religion and unite their people. This is an injustice, which has to be corrected, and it will be.
Rahul Mahajan, UK
India/ Indians is/ are a secular country. If it were not, then the majority Hindus would drive out the Muslims to Pakistan and Bangladesh. Instead we have had millions of Muslim refugees pouring in from Bangladesh.
The rise of Hindu nationalism stems from the spread of the Islamic fundamentalist influence in the region. From Kashmir to Hyderabad and Calcutta, the combination of drug and oil money, with no democratically elected government, has created an environment of rough Islamic governments around India. Hindus have for centuries been a non-expansive religion, unlike Islam and Christianity.
What is all the talk about Hindu fundamentalism? Hindus have been oppressed and persecuted for thousands of years by outsiders. Even the Muslims within India do not want to live peacefully with Hindus. Muslims and Christians are the fundamentalists, not Hindus.
All Indians should realise that their roots lie in HINDUISM and no one should denigrate any religion as is done by some preachers of religion but they should mobilise their energies to unite the country
The problem with India is that it continues to keep religion and the state intertwined.
In a country that has many religions, the government must realise that religion
and the state has to be separate. Mixing the two has never worked and
India is a diverse nation. United we stand, divided we fall. The so-called Hindu fanatic groups do not in general represent Hindus in India. They are pretending to be so. A normal Hindu lives peacefully with Muslims, sends his/her children to institutions run by Christians even today. Any attempt to change the secular structure of India will be detrimental to peaceful coexistence.
Those who instigate and implement such acts do not truly represent a very precious culture that has evolved over thousands of years. That's religious intolerance which is vertically opposite to the Real spirit of Hinduism. Politicians have found it an easy way to get to power by supporting such anti social elements
C George, India
It is very rich of Pakistanis to turn
around and say that India should be
secular and treat all minorities equally.
Although I agree with the secular ideal
in principle, it is difficult to sell it
wholly when an antagonistic, hardline
Muslim state was carved out of your
nation solely on the basis of religion.
It is hardly surprising that fundamentalist
elements on both sides have grown.
Rahul Dhir, United Kingdom
Like any other extremist groups, the Hindu nationalists also believe
in their supremacy over people of other faiths. This in turn refuels the
supremo-feeling of other sects and so forth. In my opinion, this same
philosophy has been nurtured and 'flourished' among the Nazi Germany,
and we are all too aware of the outcome.
The present government though blamed to be pro-Hindu, has given a political and economic stability and protected its borders from intruders without being impulsive and thus preventing literal war (Kargil incident). Hinduism has generated great people like Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vevakanand. Therefore, it is not wise to equate Hinduism with politics. Illiteracy and mis-communication worsened by poverty are the root of present problems in India.
M D Jhaveri, UK
The rise of nationalism will lead to the break up of the Indian Union. Indians must realise that their union is not based on one single ideology of Hinduism. Its power lies in its many different ideologies based around a set of common South Asian values.
A lot of Hindus say that in Pakistan there is no equality for non-Muslims, strange that they allow Hindu Nationalists to come to power. Do they not realise that these Nationalists will do the same to non-Hindus in India? Then we will have two fundamentalist nations of different religions against each other which could lead to a great religious war in the subcontinent.
Nationalism has always strengthened the country. India is the only one big country of Hindus, why can't they be proud of them? Fighting in the name of Islam is not bad, spreading Christianity is not bad, then why Hinduism? Hinduism is not against any religion, then if now we feel its' greatness, a great contribution comes by these nationalist groups.
Ruchi Bhanot, India/ USA
How can Hindu nationalism possibly be a uniting force in a country with large Muslim and Sikh minorities?
Hindu nationalism never existed in India - it cannot exist now. History has shown how the land is made to live in diversity. The majority Hindu population provides the warmth, and base for people of various faiths to grow. If we talk about nationalism, we cannot talk about Hinduism, and if we talk about Hinduism, we cannot talk about nationalism
Growing up in an orthodox Muslim family, I have observed the nonsense and useless religious rhetoric in and around me. I am just forty and do not feel embarrassed to say that I have seen more cruelty than good carried out in the name of religion in and around the Indian sub-continent. Religion on its own is probably not bad if one does not use it in politics. What one needs in this century is openness and accountability. NOT cliché and hatred.
It is a myth that India is a secular country. The most serious incidents against minorities have occurred under so-called secular Congress governments. These being the pograms against Sikhs in 1984, the attack on the Golden Temple, The demolition of the Muslims Babri Masjid to name a few.
Today's Hindu nationalists are just a continuation of what has happened before. The answer to the problem is to let minority groups have their own independent lands where they can live without fear.
In my opinion the activities of these hard-line Hindu groups are very essential to counter and check the constant threat to national security posed by Muslim fundamentalists who are waging an "unholy" war against secular India in the name of religion.
The stance the Indian Government is taking is very disgraceful and the world as a whole should stop what is happening. Hindu nationalists are as extreme, if not more so than Nazi Germany before WW2. For many years Muslims were being persecuted, then the Christians. Who will be next? The Sikhs? When will it stop?
Hindu nationalism is an insidious entity indeed. However, unless foreign Islamic powers precipitate some horror that polarises the Hindus of India, I do not believe the Hindu Nationalism can do any more damage.
That it exists is sad but inevitable. However, it will grow no further. The vast majority of Indian Hindus are not driven by religion, and value peace and harmony more than a Ram Rajya. Besides, India's exploding technology industry is shifting the political and economic power base from religious zealots to educated youth, who, on average, don't care much about the religious structure of the country.
With about 140 million Muslims in India, it's not going to be so easy to establish a complete Hindu identity. These hardline Hindu groups don't want to see another Pakistan, that's for sure. Although their tactics to undermine the minorities might have improved, it's almost impossible.
Muslims, the biggest minority in India have lived there for about 900 years. Regardless of who came to power in recent years, the land belongs to its minorities, as much as it does to Hindus. The true identity of India is secular, and nothing else. These fundamentalist organisations can only deteriorate India's image and culture.
Hindu nationalism is not good for India simply because India is not just one country but it is a collection of many countries. Spread through these countries are many nations, religions, and races, members of which often transcend the traditional regional boundaries.
It seems India is heading towards two nation theory which created Pakistan 53 years ago and Indians never accepted this theory, instead blamed UK for creating Pakistan to divide and rule. Only this time it's not two nation theory but seven nation theory.
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