Posted in NepaliPerspectives.blogspot.com, 4 April 2009
By Birat Simha
As the campaigning for the Indian parliamentary elections heats up, Varun Gandhi, a 28-years old candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has been taken into custody under the National Security Act. His misdeed: making fiery speeches supposedly inciting communal disharmony. That this has happened in the alleged largest functioning democracy in the world is remarkable; that the protagonist is a scion of the Gandhi clan, son of Menaka and the late Sanjay Gandhi and nephew of the Indian Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi, adds another angle to the story.
Freedom of speech is a basic pillar of democracy. What the young Gandhi exercised was this freedom. In the recently concluded American presidential elections, strong words were exchanged among of the candidates. Radio show hosts were criticized for inflammatory and racist remarks. But no one was hustled into prison. The reason, of course, is that none of these remarks threatened the national security of the United States. That Varun Gandhi's remarks may have threatened the national security of India indicates the fragility of the Indian strain of democracy.
India has made spectacular gains recently in the economic sector. It is also a country where at least a quarter of its billion plus population is mired in abject poverty. Social indicators, especially those on health, do not reflect the political lead that India tries to take in the sub-continent. As a more telling illustration, the Gandhi family - that of Jawaharlal Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi (not Mahatma Gandhi) - has become almost the "royal family" of India. That the oldest political party of India, the Congress, is currently headed by a woman of Italian birth says much for the awesome clout of the Gandhi name. Sonia just happened to be the wife of the pilot-turned-politician, the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who in turn may never have had to give up flying if his younger brother, Sanjay Gandhi, had not died in an aircraft mishap. Varun Gandhi is the son of this very same Sanjay.
Varun Gandhi's arrest has its political overtones. The BJP is challenging the Congress to lead the next government of India, which will almost surely be a coalition government. BJP has gained its fame, and has actually ruled India once, as a pro-Hindu party. It is today trying to downplay its Hindu origins to court non-Hindu votes. Varun Gandhi's speeches should not have come as a surprise to anyone. "Theocracy", something that most people believe ended when the Pope lost political power, is alive and well. The numerous Islamic states testify to this, as does the state of Israel. In this state of affairs, Hinduism is unique in that it does not accept converts. So with other religions on a conversion spree, Hindus will gradually have the least adherents. That the BJP should try to downplay its pro-Hindu roots and is almost disowning Varun Gandhi today illustrates this inherent hesitation among Hindus to stand up for Hinduism, that most tolerant of religion which is now facing extinction because of that very tolerance.
Another case in point: about three years ago, Nepal - then the only Hindu kingdom on earth - was declared secular by a motley crew of polticians, without so much as a peep from the people. While the Maoists have been logically blamed for this, the real culprits were the proselytizing grpups from Western donor countries who have made Nepal their conversion laboratory. While its Hindu population, comprising about 65% of the total, remained silent - or perhaps, tolerant! - Nepal lost its Hindu identity with a simple government ordnance.
Therefore, for Varun Gandhi to exercise his right to freedom of speech in the cause of Hindutwa is novel and laudatory. That his country is so insecure that it cannot allow him this freedom is a separate matter. All Hindus, especially those who have remained silent and docile so far, must view this imcident as a young Hindu stalwart's fight for his freedom, his beliefs and his religion!
The time has come for Hindus to stand for their rights and beliefs. This is not an exhortation to violence. Peaceful action is best. The symbol of universal peace, Gautam Buddha, was born a Hindu. Let us not be afraid, however, to fight if that is the only resort left us by our opponents. Let us not forget the Mahabharata and the Bhagvad Geeta when Lord Krishna himself, incarnation of Vishnu, went to battle to defend justice and righteousness.#