The controversy surrounding the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project has finally brought the “Dravidian rationality” out of the closet. For decades MK’s views on Hinduism were confined to a largely apathetic population – the Tamil Hindus. But today’s coalition politics and power struggle in the centre has ensured that the core “Hindu-Nation” is exposed to his rhetoric. From a general observation one may come across some of the following being discussed in the mainstream media: profit/loss estimates of the project, ecological concerns, “Hindu sentiments” and, of course, Ram.
The BJP, who I once sympathised with, was looking exactly for this kind of an opportunity on account of a possible midterm election. It masqueraded itself, as usual, as the "moderate Hindu" whose sentiments were hurt by comments made by Karunanidhi. But there are, somewhat to my surprise, some "moderate Tamil-Hindus" who were enraged by his comments, or so they try to pretend. This crowd comprises mostly of young men in their early 20s who are on their way to joining the elite pack of half-baked, self-proclaimed critics of Tamil politics - mostly belonging to the upper castes. They have, for years, tried to sound clever and witty simply by pointing to the hypocrisy of Dravidian parties, especially MK and his minority politics.
One of the questions that appear regularly is "would he have the guts to say the same about prophet Mohammed or Jesus Christ?" For many the question is a panacea for all anti-Hindu rhetoric and criticisms alike. But the question can only mean one of the two: either they have a problem with accepting them all as fictional characters -- at least to the extent their supernatural abilities are concerned -- or they agree that Ram is a creation of fiction and they want MK to take the next step (which he can clearly choose not to). To criticise him for not being so forthright about Islam or the Bible is only a deviation.
Note: in order to disengage the polemics around 'what Hinduism actually is', I shall propose that the word Hinduism used henceforth be understood as 'social Hinduism' -- one that exists as more than an abstract entity and provides a systemic structure that is identified as culture, tradition, ethos and even "Indian sentiment." One that is at the core of the caste system.
It doesn't take a sharp mind to see through the "rationality" propaganda of the Dravidian parties. Nevertheless, it has to be admitted that underneath all the hypocrisy and sleazy politics there is some rationale in their criticisms. To question just the hypocrisy is to lose focus, quite deliberately, of the larger, critical issue: are you batting for casteist, sexist, oppressive mythical figures just because you're sick of minority politics?
Yes, "Hinduism is not even a religion"; "Hinduism has some of the most ancient, liberal, intellectual doctrines"; "Hinduism does not force anyone to do anything" and a list of other things that I myself had said several times before to cut it some, no, a lot of slack. But who was I bullshitting? Why should I turn a blind eye to all the social inequities that it has been directly responsible for? Whose face was I trying to save?
Majority of Hindus in India, I presume, are just as racist, just as homophobic, just as patriarchal, just as moralistic and just as reactionary as the Christian right wing of America and far worse in some cases. Only that "moderate Hindu's" attitudes don't emerge as often in mainstream media.
Rediff through Orkut, there's no scarcity of "moderate Hindus" who proclaim that the Ramayana happened a hundred thousand years ago and the Mahabharata a few thousand years later. Do they know how old the wheel is? The "moderate Hindu" appears to be more creationist than Christians and Muslims. For he/she believes that humans were not only "created" but with a divine, innate social, hierarchical position (how one attains the rank being immaterial at this juncture).
Even if you leave these issues aside, the ever prominent inhuman subjugation of "lower caste" people stares at you right in the face. The "moderate Hindu" is so oblivious to the atrocities committed in the name of caste, past and present, that his/her only defence is "Hindus never tried to convert non-Hindus." (Assumption: is it just a coincidence that most of these "moderate Hindus" either belong to the "upper castes" or never experienced casteism?)
The contemporary "moderate Hindu" is a right wing nationalist who has inundated himself/herself with essentialist notions. His/her shelter against minority/caste politics is not rationality but pseudo-intellectual jingoism.
It is unfortunate that the Indian voter has to choose between Italian bootlickers and "cultural" fascists. But it's even more unfortunate that this dilemma clouds his/her judgment on more socially relevant issues that are clearly disconnected from electoral politics.
Personal statement: My loathing for Islam and Christianity have come across several times, quite conspicuously, in my posts and podcasts -- it remains the same. However, the same cannot be said about my views on Hinduism: it's been more apologetic than I would have liked. It was probably due to the "clouding" in my judgment or simply a residual effect -- the fact that I shared the 'Hindu' identity till a year ago. At this point, I think, the distinction between 'social Hinduism' and "actual Hinduism" is more than irrelevant, for the former is what forms the social reality of the present (except, may be, in elite metaphysical and theological discussions). Keeping that in mind, I would like to state that I now loathe Hinduism just as much as, if not more than, the other religions.
It goes without saying that I have been, in the past, what I have censured in this post in several instances. One can see this either as a transition informed by literature and reflexivity or simply a recent systemic bias.