Writing in the 1980s about ethnic conflict in his home country, Sri Lankan anthropologist SJ Tambiah described the Sinhalese as a “majority with a minority complex”. The Sinhalese constituted more than 70% of the population, they controlled the politics of the country and dominated the bureaucracy and the army, their religion, Buddhism, was the official faith of the country, their language, Sinhalese, enjoyed a status official superior to other languages and yet, despite all this, the Sinhalese were plagued by a general feeling of victimhood.
They felt threatened by the Tamil minority, complaining that Tamils were better educated because they were favored when the island was under British colonial rule, that they were assertive because they had the support of the India (a much larger and militarily more powerful country than Sri Lanka). Lanka), and that if their aggressiveness was left unchecked, the Tamils would overwhelm the Sinhalese in their one and only homeland.
I remembered Tambiah’s formulation of Sri Lanka when I read a newspaper article about a meeting in the town of Udupi between some citizens and the Swami of Pejawar Matha. The town and district of Udupi has in recent years become Karnataka’s laboratory for hard-core Hindutva. This is the town where a local college, encouraged by a Bharatiya Janata party MP, imposed the hijab ban that did not exist before, sparking a statewide and nationwide controversy with deeply damaging consequences for community peace. The Pejawar Matha is one of the eight religious institutions that collectively run the famous and much visited Krishna Temple in Udupi.
Ban Muslim traders
After successfully enforcing a ban on hijab – thus depriving many young girls of their right to education – the hardliners of Hindutva in Udupi had obtained a docile administration to ban Muslim traders from participating in fairs associated with Hindu temples or festivals, although they had done so for many years before. for the benefit of thousands of customers of all faiths or without religion.
Knowing that they could get no help from the state government, or even possibly from the courts, a group of citizens, which included Muslims, called the leader of the Pejawar Matha in desperation and asked him to intervene against the ban on Muslim traders. and, thus, help promote community harmony. The swami told them that Hindu society “had suffered a lot in the past”. Then a newspaper quoted him as saying, “When a section or group continually faces injustice, its frustration and anger pour out. Hindu society is fed up with injustice.
Note that the swami began with an invocation of history, the assertion that Hindu society “had suffered much in the past”. I guess the reference here is to the Muslim kings who ruled over much of what is now India in medieval times. Such references are, of course, ubiquitous in Hindutva rhetoric, as evidenced by the speeches made in Uttar Pradesh in recent months by the Prime Minister, the Union Home Minister and the Minister in head of state.
Working-class Muslims living in Lucknow or Udupi in 2022 do not have the slightest connection to these Muslim rulers of the past; yet the accident of a common religion is used to intimidate and humiliate them.
Making Indian Muslims today feel guilty for what the Mughals or even Tipu Sultan may (or may not) have done centuries ago is a pernicious practice. Note however that the Pejawar Swami himself passed almost smoothly to the present when speaking of Hindus”face permanently injustice”. From whom and how? In demographic terms, the Hindus are even more dominant in India than the Sinhalese have ever been in Sri Lanka. Their hegemony over the political process and the administration of law and order is almost total.
Muslims in Karnataka are totally powerless – politically, economically, socially and culturally. They are under-represented in the legislature, civil service and police, judiciary and professions. Their economic situation is precarious. Moreover, a party committed to Hindu supremacy is in power both in Karnataka and in the whole of India.
And yet, the Pejawar Swami can portray Hindus as victims of discrimination and injustice. When the head of an ancient, well endowed, highly respected and extremely influential religious order speaks in this way, we know that we are dealing with a majority with a minority complex.
In the way they To feel, Hindus under Hindutva risk becoming a majority with a minority complex, plagued by a sense of paranoia and persecution. However, in the way they law, Hindus under Hindutva risk becoming a majority with a majority complex. Using the power of their numbers, they ruthlessly impose their will on those who are not Hindus by controlling the state, the administration, the media and even allegedly sections of the judiciary.
The most recent examples of this brutal majoritarianism are the attempts by Hindutva groups to ban the hijab, halal meat and azaan, although of course the process of subjugation and humiliation of Indian Muslims is also taking place. many other forms.
There are two distinct, yet interrelated, dimensions to the Hindutva attack on Indian Muslims. The first dimension is political, the devilishly successful attempt to create a winning ‘Hindu’ vote bank, by bringing a significant portion of Dalits and OBCs inside the Hindutva tent. Given that in most states around 80% of the electorate are Hindus, if the BJP can get around 60% of them to vote for him on this Hindu first and Muslim excluding board , it is at home and dry. (This is where the BJP has only one major political party to oppose it. In states where multiple parties have active stakes, even 50% of the Hindu vote would be enough for the BJP to win.)
The second dimension of Hindutva‘the attack on minorities is ideologicalthe belief that Hindus are the only true authentic and reliable citizens of this land, and that Indian Muslims (and, to some extent, Indian Christians too) are somehow rendered inauthentic and unreliable because (according to the formulation notorious of VD Savarkar) their punyabhumi (holy place of worship) is located outside their pitrabhumi (homeland). This sense of being the sole true owners of the land prompts Hindutva activists to continually provoke and taunt Indian Muslims about their dress, cuisine, customs, economic livelihood, etc
During a recent public address in Mysuru, the courageous and much admired Kannada writer, Devanour Mahadeva, bought halal meat in defiance of a ban imposed by Hindutva thugs. In doing so, he said, “Hate is the energy drink of the right.” It was a brilliantly succinct description, to which I may be permitted to provide an addendum. It’s that the hatred in this energy drink is mixed with paranoia. For Hindus under the influence of Hindutva have become both terribly anxious and consumed by an irrational hatred towards their fellow Muslims.
In the short term, the practice of this ideology will seriously hurt Indian Muslims (as it already is). In the long run, however, it will haunt and hurt Hindus as well. The Sinhalese stigmatization of Tamils in Sri Lanka, the Sunni stigmatization of Hindus, Christians, Ahmadiyyas and Shiites in Pakistan, and the Buddhist stigmatization of Rohingyas in Myanmar are all cautionary in this regard.
These three countries would all have been much better off today if they had not become so captive to an ideology of religious majoritarianism. For hatred and paranoia are not the means by which peaceful and prosperous societies are nurtured or built.
Ramachandra Guha’s new book, Rebels against the Raj, is now in store. His email address is [email protected]
This article first appeared in The Telegraph.