Posts Tagged ‘Hinduism’

The Slippery *Hindu*.

29 August 2012

Lest it invites instant opprobriums, let me clarify that the word *slippery* has not been used in a pejorative sense -meaning wily or deceitful-, but in a humorous way to illustrate that *Hindu* defies definition. Not that people have baulked and not dared to define, but all such attempts look pretty torturous. The difficulty is not without reasons. Legislators and Judges had to grapple with this beast on several occasions and same finds echoes in our constitution too. Supreme Court while ruling ( In AIR 1996 SC 1119) on Hindu Places of Public Worship Act had to take refuge in what Lokmanya B G Tilak had said: ^^Tilak faced this complex and difficult problem of defining or, at least describing adequately Hindu religion and he evolved a working formula which may be regarded as fairly adequate and satisfactory. Said Tilak: “Acceptance of the Vedas with reverence; recognition of the fact that the means or ways to salvation are diverse; and realisation of the truth that the number of gods to be worshipped is large, that indeed is the distinguishing feature of Hindu religion^^. Most Hindus would fail if they were tested for their consciousness of these distinguishing features. Many would not even know what are  Vedas. Yet, no authority, legal, temporal or spiritual can disqualify them from being accepted as Hindus. Hindu eludes definition because Hindu has many meanings, and all of these are highly context sensitive. In a recent exchange on a group, I came across this intriguing reference to *Legal Hindu*. To the already bewildering array of Geographical Hindu, Historical Hindu, Religious Hindu, Cultural Hindu, and the newest Political Hindu, was added one more category. The site –Voice Of India– , which carried this piece, is a votary of Political Hindu or Hindutva vision of organizations like VHPRSS and BJP.

It also has link to the on-line Hindu Holocaust Memorial Museum, which as the name suggests attempts to *educate Hindus about their past* through *stories of Genocide of Hindus*. It obviously uses word Hindu without context. But that exactly is its motive to make *all other Hindus* to sub-serve the agenda of Political Hindu. In its Books Section, it has writers like, Koenraad Elst, N S Rajaram, Sita Ram Goel, David Frawley, Francois Gautier, Shrikant Telgiri, etc. who postulate *doubtful theories* based on *fanciful evidence* like reverse migration of Vedic People from between Gangetic Belt in the east to Indus belt in the west to outside of Sub Continent through the rugged passes of Spin Ghar and Hindu Kush mountain ranges. Such theories are not scholarly abstractions, but bulwark to stoke fires of chauvinism. These folks are serious about their agenda and seem to have resources to the boot to take it mainstream. In terms of Cyber-Presence and Cyber-Flooding, the religious fundamentalists of Islam, Christianity, Judaism and *Hinduism* are matchless; and Each of these sustains and nourishes the other- its sworn enemies. Don’t believe? Daniel Pipe, whose site seems devoted to the theme -Christians and Jews in danger from Islam, quotes approvingly Elst’s book, Negation in India: ^^Hindu GenocideAccording to some calculations, the Indian (subcontinent) population decreased by 80 million between 1000 (conquest of Afghanistan) and 1525 (end of Delhi Sultanate). But the Indian Pagans were far too numerous and never fully surrendered^^. *Some Calculations*? Who made them? If the claim is that in 1525 the population figure stood less by 80 million than in 1000, an absolute decrease, then the claim is patently false. If it is a relative claim, that is the difference between what the population would have been in 1525 but for the genocide of 80 million Hindus and what it was, even then the figures don’t wash. One thing must be borne in mind that the populations of these periods are at best estimates as there were no regular census exercises or maintenance of records. According to one site the world population increased by 215 Million between 1000 to 1500 and by another estimate the increase was at 480 million from 1000 to 1750. The Asian population in 1750 is estimated at 502 million and made up some 63% of the world population. Even if we take higher of the two estimate, 480 million increase for the entire world, and apply the 63% ratio, then we arrive at a rough estimate of 300 Million increase for Asia in seven centuries. This gives an increase of some 45 million per century. Conservatively it can be estimated that in 1500, the Asian population would not have been more than 240 million. If we take India’s share in Asian population at say 25% (today’s figure), then population increase for India comes to 60 million people. That means more than one in two pagan Indian addition to population pool was slaughtered over 5 centuries. This flies in the face of the statement that Indian Pagans were *far too numerous*. No serious study of demographic trends would support such nonsense. Yet Pipe describes Elst as famous Belgian Historian. This is how dubious claims acquire veneer of self evident truths through motivated endorsements & replication to saturation levels. When search in cyber space throws up so many sites repeating same dubious claims, a question arises in the mind of an innocent seeker: Can so many people be wrong?


Completing this small but necessary detour to survey Political Hindu ideology, we come to Legal Hindu, who had to be imagined to reconcile the often contradictory results the Different Hindus engendered. Legal Hindu has a fascinating career in Independent India. There are a range of statues in India governing marriages of Muslims, Christians, Parsis, Hindus, and even a secular Special Marriages Act, which is kind of a voluntary uniform civil code that two individuals belonging to any denomination can submit themselves to. The section 2 of Hindu Marriage Act -1955 states, and I quote in full:


2. Application of Act.

(1) This Act applies-

(a) to any person who is a Hindu by religion in any of its forms or developments, including a Virashaiva, a Lingayat or a follower of the Brahmo, Prarthana or Arya Samaj,

(b) to any person who is a Buddhist, Jaina or Sikh by religion, and

(c) to any other person domiciled in the territories to which this Act extends who is not a Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jew by religion, unless it is proved that any such person would not have been governed by the Hindu law or by any custom or usage as part of that law in respect of any of the matters dealt with herein if this Act had not been passed. Explanation.- The following persons are Hindus, Buddhists, Jainas or Sikhs by religion, as the case may be:-

(a) any child, legitimate or illegitimate, both of whose parents are Hindus, Buddhists, Jains or Sikhs by religion;

(b) any child, legitimate or illegitimate, one of whose parents is Hindu, Buddhist, Jaina or Sikh by religion and who is brought up as a member of the tribe, community, group or family to which such parent belongs or belonged; and

(c) any person who is a convert or reconvert to the Hindu, Buddhist, Jaina or Sikh religion.

(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub- section (1), nothing contained in this Act shall apply to the members of any Scheduled Tribe within the meaning ofclause (25) of article 366 of the Constitution unless the Central Government, by notification in the Official Gazette, otherwise directs.

(3) The expression”Hindu” in any portion of this Act shall be construed as if it included a person who, though not a Hindu by religion, is, nevertheless, a person to whom this Act applies by virtue of the provisions contained in this section



The provision 1(c) of  section 2 is a kind of Omnibus Clause, which seeks to catch all those not covered by other marriage acts (Muslim, Christian, Parsi, Jew) and are domiciled in India, except Scheduled Tribes. The legal definition of Hindu here is co-terminus with Geographical and Historical Hindu, but for the exception made in case of Scheduled tribes. Since some 3000 years ago, the Persians were in contact with the civilization around the Sindhu (Sanskrit) River. They called these people collectively, Sindhu. But since their language lacked the consonant for *S*, it was substituted with *H*, and as they say the rest is History. Hindu thus began as a Geographical Indicator. The subsequent waves of invaders and migrants got to know more and more about the interiors of the sub-continent and all the inhabitants here came to be called Hindus. Especially for the people of Judaic religions, who came to India, anybody here who was not a Jew, Christian, or Muslim, was a Hindu. Slowly, this Historical Hindu subsumed the Geographical Hindu. The scheduled tribe living in remote areas and dense jungles were left to their own devices except when conflict arose over resettling by clearing forests; but such tribes too came wrapped in Hindu label by default. The definition of Hindu in the Hindu Marriage Act takes advantage of this Historical Hindu, but made a conscious choice of excluding Tribes because of modern sensitivities about their unique traditions and cultures; and raw deal meted out to them over millennia.  .


Constitution had to grapple with another fault-line. Over the centuries, many Historical Hindus, especially those treated as Ati-Shoodra and Shoodra by Religious Hindus (followers of Varna- System) converted to Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Sikhism; attracted as they were by their promise of equality among other inducements. Along with them many Caste Hindus converted too, may be due to threats and allurements held out to them. This had an unexpected consequence. The hope of joining egalitarian community simply evaporated because new converts came in with their caste affiliations and customs intact. The depressed classes remained depressed despite change of religion. When constituent assembly had to deal with the evil of untouchability and reforms in Religious Hindu traditions, it came face to face with this challenge. The article 25 of Constitution states:


25. Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion

(1) Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion

(2) Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law

(a) regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice;

(b) providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus  Explanation I The wearing and carrying of kirpans shall be deemed to be included in the profession of the Sikh religion Explanation II In sub clause (b) of clause reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion, and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly



The crucial part here is the intent to reform and to throw open Hindu religious Institutions to *all classes* and *sections* of Hindus. Principally the reference here is to the caste system. The depressed classes, that is scheduled castes and at times even other backward castes, were denied temple entry – a menace that rears its head even now occasionally. Now how are depressed classes who had converted to other religions were to be treated vis-a-vis reforms in Hindu Religion and Institutions. Constitution drew a line here between those who had converted to Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism, which are indigenous to Geographical Hindu-land and considered offshoots of it; and those who had converted to the Semitic religions, which originated outside. Though no separate mention is made of Tribes in this article, they are obviously included under the *all classes and sections* wording. Therefore, for the right of  temple entry the tribals will be considered Hindu, but for the application of Hindu marriage act, they won’t be. Legal Hindu is indeed subjected to impossible contortions.


None of the ancient scriptures that religious Hindus revere mention the word Hindu or Hinduism anywhere. The words used to describe its religious practice are Sanatana Dharma or simply Dharma. The Sanatana Dharma conflated with the word Hindu to give rise to Hinduism sometime during last two or three centuries. Wikipedia cites the year 1830 but without any evidence of how it arrived at that date: ^^The term Hinduism was formed around 1830 to denote the culture and religion of the aborigninal Indians in contrast to other foreign religions. It was soon appropriated by the Hindus in India themselves as they tried to establish a national, social and cultural identity^^. The *Hindus in India* as used here is a vague term and a more appropriate term would be Political Hindus.The political Hindus  have not only usurped the term Hindu, but are now very aggressively confining it into narrow bounds so that it becomes useful in *We Versus. Them* discourse. A discourse that has mercifully failed to gain political traction on its own till now.