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Religious Fundamentalism: Enemy of Humanity

Jacob Peenikaparambil Jacob Peenikaparambil
06 May 2024

Every Indian in their right mind, including some members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was shocked at the hate speech and blatant lies told by the Prime Minister of India at a political rally in Banswara in Rajasthan. He said that the Congress manifesto promises that the wealth of Indians, including the mangal sutra of women, will be confiscated and will be given to "infiltrators" and "those who have many children", meaning Muslims.

PM Modi repeated the same lies in other places, adding new lies. The latest item added to his vocabulary of lies is that Congress wants to change the Constitution, and it will loot the OBC quota and give it to Muslims". PM Modi's two acolytes, Yogi Adityanath and Amit Shah, compete with each other to manufacture new lies. While Amit Shah asked voters if Rahul Gandhi wanted to run the country based on the Sharia (Muslim personal laws), Adityanath went a step further and accused the Congress of promising to allow gau-kashi (cow slaughter). While Amit Shah made the accusation at a rally in Guna, Madhya Pradesh, Adityanath's cow slaughter allegation was made at a rally in Uttar Pradesh's Sambhal on Friday, April 26.

The deliberate misinterpretation of the Congress manifesto in the form of blatant lies is not a mere unethical and immoral strategy to woo the votes of the majority community. It is a complete fallout of the Hindutva fundamentalist ideology of the BJP-RSS combine with the nation's ideals. An ideology based on exclusion, discrimination, hatred, revenge and extermination can stoop to any low and resort to any method to capture power and remain in control.

Since 2014, the people of India, especially the minorities, have seen and experienced the unfolding of discrimination and hatred through hate speeches and atrocities like the lynching of innocent Muslims by cow vigilantes, attacks on Christians and Christian institutions and bulldozing houses and establishments belonging to the minorities. All these are ingredients of a process to convert India into a Hindu Rastra as envisioned by the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu fundamentalist organisation.

By its very nature, Hinduism is a liberal faith with a lot of freedom for its adherents concerning beliefs and practices. A quote from Shashi Tharoor's book, "Why I Am A Hindu", testifies to the liberal nature of Hinduism. "There is no Hindu Pope, no Hindu Vatican, no Hindu catechism, not even a Hindu Sunday. As a Hindu I follow a faith that offers a veritable smorgasbord of options to the worshipper of divinities to adore and to pray to, of rituals to observe (or not), of customs and practices to honour (or not), of fasts to keep (or not). As a Hindu I subscribe to a creed that is free of the restrictive dogmas of holy writ, one that refuses to be shackled to the limitations of a single volume of holy revelation". But "Hindutva", as presented by the Sangh Parivar, is a highly fundamentalist version of Hinduism.

In the words of Shashi Tharoor, "Hindutva is an assault on Hinduism". "Hinduism, with its openness, its respect for variety, its acceptance of all other faiths, is one religion which has always been able to assert itself without threatening others. But this is not the Hindutva that destroyed the Babri Masjid, nor that spewed in hate-filled diatribes by communal politicians", writes Tharoor in his book, "The Hindu Way, An Introduction to Hinduism".

All religious fundamentalists consider their religion to be superior to other faiths and to be the guardians of the whole truth. They often consider other religions a threat to themselves. For example, according to one of the ideologues of Hindutva, M S Golwalkar, Muslims, Christians, and Communists are internal threats to Hindu nationalism. Muslims and Christians have only two options to remain in a Hindu Rashtra, either to become Hindus or to remain in India without any rights and privileges, including citizenship rights.

Another aggressive expression of Hindutva fundamentalism is imposing vegetarianism on all sections of people. For example, BJP governments in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have banned the supply of eggs as part of midday meals in schools. For the poor people in India, eggs are an essential source of nutrients, and the Hindutva fundamentalists deny it to them. It is a lie propagated by the Hindutva right wing that the majority of Hindus are vegetarians. According to the National Family Health Survey, an overwhelming 83.4% of men and 70.6% of women in the 15-49 age group have non-vegetarian food daily, weekly, or occasionally. Still, the BJP governments are bent upon imposing vegetarianism on all people of India.

A year ago, the sale of meat during Ram Navami was banned in some parts of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. Recently, PM Modi made a big election issue of RJD leader Tejaswi Yadav eating fish during Ram Navami.

Hindutva fundamentalism, coupled with majoritarian politics, was the root cause of the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 and the resultant communal riots in several parts of India. The root cause of the Gujarat riots in 2002, in which more than 1000 people were massacred, was a concoction of Hindu fundamentalism and majoritarian politics.

A common characteristic of all religious fundamentalists is that they justify the use of violence for the sake of their religious beliefs. In other words, inhumanity is a hallmark of all fundamentalists. Religious fundamentalists who are extremists like Al-Qaeda, Mujahideen and ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) are not born all of a sudden. A process can be observed in their transformation. It starts with prejudice against people of other faiths or people who do not endorse their religious views or beliefs within their own faiths. This prejudice gradually leads to hatred, and hatred culminates in violence, including murder.

Fundamentalists adopt a process of brainwashing people to increase their subscribers. Dhruv Rathee, whose videos have become viral these days with millions of viewers, in one of his latest videos, "How Millions of Indians were BRAINWASHED? - The WhatsApp Mafia", explains four stages of brainwashing of Hindus in India who finally become blind devotees of Narendra Modi. He calls these four stages "four departments". WhatsApp mafia does this job through the WhatsApp university. He compares the work of the WhatsApp mafia in India to the brainwashing process adopted by Hitler in Germany against the Jews and Zia-ul-Haq against Hindus, Christians, and Shia Muslims as bugbears to brainwash Sunni Muslims.

The first department, as he explains, is creating "pride" in India's ancient history and culture through exaggerated claims, such as that India was a scientific country in the Vedic times with many scientific inventions to its credit. The second department is "victimisation and self-pity". Foreign invasions and rule by Islamic rulers and the British for centuries destroyed the country along with its greatness and identity. According to Dhruv Rathee, this is the breaking point in brainwashing. The third department says that the Hindus are in "danger" because of the Muslims and Christians and the appeasement policies followed by the opposition parties. At this stage, the target population is bombarded with a lot of misinformation like love jihad, corona jihad, population jihad, illegal conversion, etc. Muslims and Christians are demonised further. The opposition parties and even foreign agencies are drawn in as accomplices. Hence, the Hindus are at risk and in great danger. PM Modi's use of the expressions "infiltrators" and "those who have many children" are taken from the dictionary of the WhatsApp mafia. The fourth department presents Narendra Modi as the solution. The saviour cult is created at this stage - Modiji is the answer to "Who will save us?" by almost referring to him as an avatar.

As a consequence of this large-scale brainwashing by the "WhatsApp mafia" promoted by the IT cell of the BJP with the support of the Godi Media, a large number of Hindus have become Modi devotees. They are determined to vote only for Modi, even in the face of severe price rises, unemployment, corruption, etc. The Modi devotees are not all concerned about the deprivations and sufferings of millions of Indians. They justify continued violence in Manipur, lynching innocent people by cow vigilantes, the massive scam involving the Electoral Bonds scheme, and soaring economic inequality wherein the top 1% of India's population has 23% of national income and 40% of the nation's assets etc.

Religious fundamentalists in different religions use different methods to brainwash people. For most of them, rituals, dogmas, and religious laws are more important than the values taught by their respective religions, such as love, compassion, forgiveness, justice, etc. Secondly, they are opposed to science, scientific approach and critical thinking. For the sake of rituals and blind beliefs, they may resort to spreading hatred and violence against those who disagree with them.

As religious fundamentalism is an enemy of humanity and a threat to peace and harmony in the world, it is to be countered. History is a witness to the fact that fundamentalism has been a cause for intra-religious and inter-religious conflict. Genuine followers of all religions have to oppose fundamentalism within their own faiths by questioning irrationality and blind faith and promoting critical thinking. Article 51 A (8) of the Indian Constitution enjoins all Indian citizens to "develop scientific temper, humanism and spirit of enquiry and reform".

To defeat fundamentalism, people of all religions have to realise that humanity is the greatest religion. It is appropriate to quote what Pandit Chaturvedi says in the Hindi movie Dharam. "Dharm keval Sadhana nahi hai; kartavya aur karm bhi hai; bhed bhav ko tyagna hai dharm; ekta aur sadbhavana hai dharm; manavata hai dharm" (Religion is not mere rituals; it is duty and responsibility; rejecting discrimination is religion; unity and harmony is religion; humanity is religion).

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