Terrorists in saffron by Swami Agnivesh

Hinduism, through which divine light first dawned on the Earth, is being poisoned to death. Wearing the mask of Ram bhakti, vested interests are misusing and exploiting Hindu religious sentiments. If this trend is allowed to continue it is doubtful if, a few years from now, Hinduism would be recognisable from other violent and vicious ideologies like fascism and colonialism.

Hindutva is Hinduism's internal enemy. In its origin and spirit, Hindutva is an atheistical ideology. It derives its inspiration not from Ram, Shiva or Krishna, but from Hitler and Mussolini. Hindutva is pseudo-Hinduism. It can triumph only by hijacking and degrading our religion.

The stormtroopers of Hindutva, of course, want to look like Hindus. It is like terrorists wearing army uniforms while attacking an army camp. Hindutva is essentially religious terrorism. Its language and strategies belong to the world of terrorism, not religion or spirituality. Bullying helpless people, murdering innocent women and children, intimidating dissent, committing rape, arson and loot are what we expect from terrorists, not from religious people.

Hijackers are thieves who pretend to be owners. They take charge of something, not because they care for it, but because they want to exchange it for money. A plane, for example, is hijacked not because the hijackers love the plane. They will happily abandon the hijacked plane, when their mercenary goal is attained. That was what the Hindutva camp did four years ago. All hijackers plan their strategies carefully. The same is true of the hijackers of Hinduism. Let us look at some of them.

One, no religion can be hijacked without taking religious icons hostage. Ideologues of Hindutva have made Lord Ram a hostage to communalism. In this process they degrade Lord Ram, who has stood for millennia as a shining embodiment of justice, into a caricature of cruelty and aggression. Millions among us were fooled into believing that Lord Ram was sulking like a child because a temple was not built for him where the Babri Masjid stood. The Hindutva version of Lord Ram resembles Ravana. Only Ravana can rejoice over words of aggression and strategies of deceit like what the Sangh Parivar unleashed in Ayodhya. Hindutva has insulted and caricatured Lord Ram more than any other external enemy of Hinduism. We must not allow this to go on one day more.

Two, turning gods into hostages demands that symbols associated with them be taken over, modified and misused. Temple and trishul are two instances of this. There is no mention of temples in the Vedas, clearly indicating that in the Vedic vision God does not live in structures of stone and lime, but in the hearts and minds of people.

The Hindutva war dance for building a temple for Lord Ram is due to its communal eagerness to take possession of Lord Ram. By building a temple for Lord Ram ^ especially in an aggressive and pseudo-heroic way ^ the likes of Pravin Togadia, Ashok Singhal and Giriraj Kishore can project themselves as Ram's landlords. Ram, then, becomes their tenant.

That is an attractive prospect because the landlords of Ram can claim greater religious authority than any other orthodox religious leader. As of today, Togadia and Singhal conduct themselves as greater religious authorities than all the Shankaracharyas put together.

Yet another example is the hijacking of saffron: our cherished colour of spirituality. Saffron is a symbol of the spirit of renunciation. Hindutva has degraded saffron into the colour of murder and rape. Worse than pseudo-Gandhians who cheapened khadi, sadhus who sold themselves to the Hindutva camp have fouled saffron and destroyed its symbolic meaning and sanctity.

Three, yet another aspect of Hindutva's hijacking strategy is the studied neglect of Hindu scriptures. The real proof that a person or group is genuinely interested in Hinduism is the eagerness to understand our scriptures and to uphold its spiritual mandate. The Hindutva camp is marked by its total indifference to Hindu scriptures. They do not respond to issues according to the light of the Vedas, Upanishads or the gentle teachings of the Puranas and Bhagavatam.

Take the case of Narendra Modi. It was not according to the spirit of Lord Ram, Lord Shiva or Lord Krishna, but according to the theory of Isaac Newton that he responded to Godhra riots. L.K. Advani, not to be left behind, recently explained his anxiety about alleged numerical growth of minorities with a reference, not to Lord Ram on whose name he rode to power, but to French philosopher Augustus Comte. Hitler's Mein Kampf was the source of Guru Golwalker's inspiration.

Four, corrupting the culture of Hinduism is a key element in Hindutva strategy. This is a serious thing, because more than any other religion, Hinduism is a way of life. It is a distinct culture, marked by politeness, hospitality, an intricate web of courtesies, values and relationships. The sound and fury of Hindutva are in stark contrast to all this. A young father, who is aware of this cultural degradation inflicted upon us by Hindutva, said the other day that whenever Togadia appeared speaking on the screen, he switched off the TV. He did not want his three-year-old daughter to see his performance and begin to speak like him!

And there is this ardent devotee of the Vedanta in Chennai who said the other day, `If the Singhals and Togadias are the custodians of Hinduism, it is time I converted to some other faith.' But that is not the solution. Rather than run away from a burning house, let us put out the fire. We are obliged to shout from the rooftops: Hinduism is a way of life and within that way of life there is no room for communal riots, rape and roguish behaviour. Mercifully, today there are growing signs that more and more Hindus are waking up to this grave danger. The Hindu voice of protest against Hindutva has been rising ever since the massive atrocities in Gujarat.

Whatever else Hindutva is, it is not Hinduism. Communalism and religious fundamentalism are signs of sickness; they flourish when religions decay and fall into the lap of vested interests. Saving a religious tradition from the corrupting stranglehold of communalists is a greater and more urgent need than defending a religion from its alleged external enemies.

Hinduism stayed safe and steady despite every imaginable threat from outsiders. But this is the first time it is facing an organised and determined attack from within. When enemies put on the masks of saviours, there is need to wake up and resist them.