Never in my 45 years of existence as an Indian Hindu have I felt offended, as deeply and grievously as now! I am a Malayalee, born and brought up in a land where respecting other religions is a way of life. I have rarely seen a person in Kerala whatever maybe their religion or belief system pass by a temple, church, mosque or synagogue and deliberately ignore its presence. A silent prayer, a quick clasping of hands, a cross drawn, a look up to the sky to salute the omnipresent are moments you come across every day.
I was brought up in a household where Hinduism is a way of life and taught that it is a way of life. I studied in convent schools and colleges and never once was asked to convert. Some of my best friends are Muslim and Christian. We pray together (YES, WE DO!), celebrate festivals together, eat together, party together and consider each other family. I probably know more about the Bible than I know of the religious texts of Hinduism and have come across people of other religions who are very learned in the tenets of Hinduism. My father in law, a Christian is a Sanskrit Scholar. The only religious thing I have done religiously in all these years is my annual trip to Sabarimala. On this trip I am almost always accompanied by Christian and Muslim friends every year. At a philosophical level my uncles explained “Tatvamasi” to me and that is my belief system. Personally, I viewed it as the time of the year I kept apart to discipline my mind and body.
I consider myself politically agnostic and could never comprehend the absolutist stands (right vs. left) taken because of adherence to ideologies. In India, I have always felt Hinduism has shown the way that all ideas whether it’s time has come or not can be viewed as just that; an idea, and incorporated into the larger fabric of society. I also don’t believe that Hinduism needs defenders or foot soldiers. It has done pretty well for itself in the last 5000 year s and I very sure it will outlive all of the so called defenders and soldiers.
What has appalled me the last 2 weeks has been the farrago in traditional and social media against Hindus in the wake of the rape of the child in Kashmir and the subsequent events related to it. I hang my head in shame and I am sure the vast majority of Indians do the same on what happened to the child. It does not matter what her religion is, it should not happen to anybody, period! The perpetrators should be given whatever is the highest possible punishment under the law of the land.
I am also bewildered to seen people I am friends with and/or acquainted with, Hindus (they call themselves left/secular/liberal), Christians, Muslims, Communists etc. go hammer and tongs against the Hindu community at large using the most vile of language and the most sacrilegious and blasphemous insinuations. If the intent here ladies and gentlemen is to make the entire community ashamed of the act of some deviant(s), you are doing nothing more than what we all collectively did to the Muslim community by painting them all as terrorists.
In a country of 1.6 billion people where approximately 75% are adherents of Hinduism in its religious form (I am deliberately stating that to make the distinction between culture and religion), use of insulting and irreverent images of their religion will only put them on the defensive. This is not freedom of speech or expression, this is offending and insulting the collective intelligence of a people who under normal circumstances are happy to forgive and forget. Deliberate linkages of this rape to a temple, memes, drawings and other provocative literature showing erect phalluses as trishul, ignorant rants about worshiping Shivlings making Hindus natural born rapists etc. are deeply disrespectful to this land, its culture, its traditions and most importantly, ITS PEOPLE!
YES! I am under SIEGE!