No, India is not a Hindu country. It’s a country of Hindus. The distinction is subtle. A lot of people don’t get it. I realized that recently when I commented that Narendra Modi craved one thing.
To go down in history as founder of the world’s first Hindu country. India. What’s wrong with that? my Hindu friends ask, their chests swelling with pride. If the world can have Muslim nations, why can’t India be a Hindu nation? Isn’t it a Hindu nation already? my friends add.
I have a straightforward answer. Yes, India’s a Hindu nation like the US, England, or France are Christian nations. But nobody thinks of the US as a Christian America and of Britain as a Christian Britain. Or of India as a Hindu India. But they think of Saudi Arabia and Iran as Muslim nations.
Rightfully so. Our governments are neither Christian nor Hindu. They extend equal rights to all their citizens. I’m talking of the US, Britain, and India.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are exactly the opposite. They are aggressively Muslim. Saudi Arabia’s constitution is the Quoran. Iran calls itself an Islamic Republic. No non-Muslim can become a Saudi or Iranian citizen.
This is the stark choice Modi will face. You want India to be a Hindu state like Saudi Arabia is a Muslim state? The consequences would be shattering.
Let’s examine what a Hindu state could be. The BJP has no idea. Nor does Modi. Will a Hindu India revive suttee, or widow self-immolation on her husband’s funeral pyre? A Hindu custom going down the centuries? Will Hindu widows be expected to shave their heads, shed their jewellery, wear only white clothes, and chant Ram Ram the rest of their lives? Will a Hindu India be governed by the Laws of Manu? The oldest Hindu legal text written 2000 years ago? Manu’s laws say: no freedom for a woman. Be under your father before marriage. Under your husband after marriage. And under your sons if your husband dies.
“A woman should never enjoy her own will,” Manu’s actual words. But these are the exact rules that Saudi Arabia prescribes for its own Muslim women. No going out without a male escort. Unless it’s your husband, father, brother, or son. Nobody else.
Will Modi’s Hindu India enforce Manu’s laws? The laws uphold India’s caste system, dividing people into Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras.
If Modi becomes PM of this Hindu India, will he hand Mayavati a jhaadu (broom) to obey Manu’s caste rules for Dalits? By that logic, Manu’s caste rules may compel Modi to graze goats because his OBC caste category may prescribe goat-grazing as his assigned duty in society.
Will a Hindu India set up Lord Shiva’s lingam at every street corner? To fill Hindu women with tears of joy?
Visualise another situation. Iran or Saudi Arabia put to death any individual who quits Islam. For the crime of apostasy. In a Hindu state, if a Hindu girl Rampyari marries a Muslim boy and converts to Islam, will she be punished? If the Muslim groom wants to become Hindu, will he be allowed to do so? If he is allowed, which caste will he be assigned to? Resolving a thousand issues like this will be like untying a hundred thousand knots from lumps of thread. The trouble with a glory-seeking Modi is that he nurses grand ideas but he’s too bird-brained to focus on them.
For instance, he’ll dwell on India as a Hindu state while trying on a purple jacket. But then his eyes will spot Uzbekistan on a world map and he’ll jet off there.
And give its ruler a treat by hugging him. India becoming a Hindu state is an impossibility. Time and progress cannot be put back. Just as toothpaste cannot be squeezed back into the tube it emerged from.