Beneath all the sparkle and glitz of 21st century India is another story; an ominous tale of how the leaders of the 1.3 billion-person nation do not want to turn the nation back a century but instead wish to turn it back hundreds of centuries.
In a package about Hindutva; an ideology seeking to establish the primacy of Hinduism in every aspect of Indian life. Which, according to a fascinating package of articles from Reuters, means rewriting Indian history and killing any opponents who get in the way. And which, in the Reuters universe, means Muslims, who comprise 14 percent of India’s population.
However, this approach ignores Christians and Sikhs, both of whom claim millions of adherents who’ve been in India for many centuries (or in the case of the Malabar Christians, since the time of St. Thomas the apostle). For a sample:
NEW DELHI -- During the first week of January last year, a group of Indian scholars gathered in a white bungalow on a leafy boulevard in central New Delhi. The focus of their discussion: how to rewrite the history of the nation…
Minutes of the meeting, reviewed by Reuters, and interviews with committee members set out its aims: to use evidence such as archaeological finds and DNA to prove that today’s Hindus are directly descended from the land’s first inhabitants many thousands of years ago, and make the case that ancient Hindu scriptures are fact not myth.
So what this means is that the Hindu god Ganesh –- a deity with a human body and an elephant head –- was a real person. Or that the divine prince Rama, described in the Indian epic Ramayana, is a historical figure who rescued his wife, Sita, from the demon king Ravana with the help of an army of monkeys.
Interviews with members of the 14-person committee and ministers in Modi’s government suggest the ambitions of Hindu nationalists extend beyond holding political power in this nation of 1.3 billion people - a kaleidoscope of religions. They want ultimately to shape the national identity to match their religious views, that India is a nation of and for Hindus.
In doing so, they are challenging a more multicultural narrative that has dominated since the time of British rule, that modern-day India is a tapestry born of migrations, invasions and conversions. That view is rooted in demographic fact. While the majority of Indians are Hindus, Muslims and people of other faiths account for some 240 million, or a fifth, of the populace.
This is bound to badly impact the Muslims, who are the largest of India’s religious minorities. A sidebar tells how the Hindu disgust over anyone who slaughters cows affects Muslims, who dominate India’s meat and tannery industries.
Plus, it has turned lethal. Hindu gangs will kill anyone who appears to be transporting cows or cow hides. India is one of the world’s top producers of leather, so you can see why a crackdown on slaughtering sacred cows is decimating that industry.
What India’s Hindus are doing to Muslims today is what they were doing to Christians yesterday and I’m amazed this piece doesn’t even allude to the difficulties faced by the latter.
For starters, you can read about the attack on a Pentecostal community in the state of Bihar and the torture of one of the Christians there or how India is rising in the ranks of countries that persecute Christians. Open Doors now ranks it as 11th worst place in the world to be a Christian. This Indian publication says that Sikhs are being persecuted along with Christians.
It seems that anything that gets in the way of the Hindu nationalists is toast these days.
Let me be clear: I applaud Reuters for its spotlight on persecution of India’s Muslims, as bad as that is. But why ignore other religious groups, who were targeted way before the current government decided to take on the more numerous Muslims?
India’s Christians are expecting things to get worse. A few weeks ago, someone sent me a copy of an “edict,” said to be written by the ruling nationalist party. It outlined plans to gang-rape Christian girls, figure out ways to poison Christians, kill their leaders and ruin them economically by forcing all Christians to use bar codes in order to do any commerce. The missionaries who contacted me said they got it off of WhatsApp, so I can’t confirm its veracity.
But local Christians very much believe it’s true because they’re living out some of the threats described in the document. Their community has been in India for 2,000 years and has credited the Apostle Thomas as chiefly responsible for establishing Christianity in the south.
One other note: What India is doing with its history: Staking the Hindu religious heritage as the determinant for what actually happened in the past, is similar to Muslim revisionism as to the history of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, originally a Jewish site. History is a weapon in the hands of the strong. I do wonder why so many people capitulate when faced with the sheer work of ferreting out and researching the truth.
One weapon against falsifying history is good journalism, as reporters have a way of writing down what’s actually happening in a given place in news articles that can be archived for centuries. Sadly, none were around when India was populated by people from central Asia 3,000-4,000 years ago. As for those who are around now, when reporting on the new post-truth society being pushed by the Hindus, it's vital to include all religious groups oppressed by today's rulers, not just one.