Dismantling Hindu Thought is neither Liberal, nor Pluralistic or Secular
9/11 is famous and infamous for a few events associated with religion. It was on this day in 1893 that Swami Vivekananda famously addressed Americans as “Sisters and Brothers…” at the Chicago World Parliament of Religions conference. His speech called for universal acceptance and an end to fanaticism: “…I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance...”.
The world hadn’t learned much obviously in over 100 years, though a section of Chicago’s Magnificent mile was named after Swami Vivekananda. Fast forward to 2001, and not too far away, New York witnessed a fanatical religious belief-driven jihad attack on 9/11 by radical Islamist terrorists, bringing down the iconic World Trade Center twin towers and killing close to 3000 people. America’s tolerance and universal acceptance was put to test by the world’s lawless forces.
Now, after another 20 years in 2021, there is a Dismantling Global Hindutva conference on 9/11, organized by so-called scholars from South Asian departments from even well-known universities. The simple question to ask — How is this universal acceptance? Dismantling or rejecting an ideology that is based on a value system is no longer pluralistic. It’s just not inclusive anymore. It is not even liberal thinking, as this ancient Hindu poetry suggests:
ayam nijah parO vA ithi gananA laghu chEthasAm
udhAra charithAnAm thu vasudhEva kutumbakam
Either you are with us, or you are with them, is shallow thinking. Liberals, however, think that the world is one family.
That was an intentional close translation that the world can relate to — President Bush made similar remarks soon after 9/11 attacks and drew criticism. It seemingly reflected the narrow (laghu) thought (chEthasAm) of grouping (gananA) this way (ithi), that these are my people (ayam nijah) who need to be safe from “them”, or others (vA parah). However, President Bush said “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”, making a clear distinction it was between the law-abiding and lawless terrorists — somewhat similar to the Arya and Dasyu differences in Vedic age that was highlighted in a previous article. Bottomline, any “us” vs. “them” should be limited to lawful and lawless, and not happily extended to valid identities or ideologies we don’t agree with.
And the second line in the poetry is very clear about who qualifies as liberal — they have broad-minded conduct (udhAra charithAnAm) or a generous accommodating heart, and they embrace the thought of universal acceptance, that the world or nature (vasudha) as a whole is indeed one family (Eva kutumbakam). It doesn’t mean there are no differences or a natural food-chain, but it is inclusive and accepts nature with the laws of nature — anything that is operating within a dharmic or a value system is included. Going by this, liberals do not exclude nor hate to the extent of dismantling or destroying any ideology based on a value system. By this yardstick, the organizers of this dismantling conference do not qualify as liberals, and definitely qualify as shallow thinkers.
On the other hand, Hindutva proponents see vasudhEva kutumbakam as their vision and mission — hence, they are liberal-minded, and portraying them as right-wing is simply wrong characterization. This inclusiveness also makes Hindutva or Hindu-ness as truly secular.
These shallow-thinking pseudo-liberal, pseudo-secular organizers of the conference lack inquiry and act as sepoys promoting fake colonial and missionary narratives in the name of academic freedom. Many are faculty from South Asian or Indology departments from popular American universities, and have long been trashed for academic hinduphobia by Rajiv Malhotra and others, . They dabble with Hindutva, offering their own definition, declaring it as not secular, and that it is different from Hindu religion. They try to portray as if they are not against Hindu religion or Hinduism, but will call it Brahminism whenever it is convenient to push their divisive caste agenda, and by excluding and dividing, they are pseudo-secular and non-pluralistic.
Let’s remember, Hindutva as a term that spawned during colonial rule in India, with the colonial divisive narratives fueling Hindu-Muslim and other conflict, missionaries amplifying socioeconomic issues and wrongly attributing them to Hindu religion and encouraging forced conversions into their “my way or no way” ideologies. Hindu-ness or truly secular universal acceptance of different faiths, based on the Vedic or Hindu thought pervaded the subcontinent prior to any invasion by proselytizing religions, though it was not called Hindutva or secular at the time. So, if the shallow-thinkers and their ideological sponsors from proselytizing religions, left-leaning communists, Marxists and others really want to dismantle Hindutva, the only way is for them to stop their divisive rhetoric with the agenda of forcing their ideologies upon Hindus. When that happens, what they view now as Global Hindutva will naturally dismantle, as a reactive ideology that will go away when no longer necessary. In scientific parlance, every shallow-thinking action has an equal and opposite reaction from the broad-minded! When they stop their actions and embrace universal acceptance, Hindu thought and Hindu-ness would prevail, without proselytizing anyone into an exclusive God franchise or force-fitting socioeconomic or political models.
In the absence of any regulation on religion, media and academia, however, the extreme agenda of these shallow-thinkers gets just reactive noise with no tangible deterrence. At a minimum, well-meaning universities should shutdown these South Asian departments or risk becoming incredulous.
Alas! America is still confused, unable to tell what is universally acceptable, who is truly a liberal, and is simply unable to regulate extreme-left or extreme-right ideological agendas driven by money and hate. For American values of democracy, individual freedom and equality to sustain for a long time, Americans must stop searching for the middle-ground, but rather be dharmic by being on the left, middle or right depending on the issue — whatever brings larger societal benefit for humanity. They should distinguish between the law-abiding hard-working citizens and the lawless in disguise pushing hate-driven ideologies, the Vedic equivalent of Arya and Dasyu. As my professor once remarked, “Free does not mean Unregulated” — religion, media and academic freedoms must have some sensible regulation, so we don’t end up dismantling humanity once and for all, in my opinion.