BJP’s minority appeasement
BJP president Nitin Gadkari told the party’s national executive that India is secular because Hindus are tolerant. I don’t know whether France is secular because Christians are tolerant or whether Turkey is secular because Muslims are tolerant. And why is China secular?
Well, since the point is about Hindus, let’s stay with it. I think it is more or less accurate to suggest that Hindus are by and large tolerant. They don’t easily turn to violence. Hinduism, as a religion, even doctrinally promotes diversity. Hindus have thousands of Gods – and Goddesses. Many worship nature, rivers, mountains, the sea and the sky. It’s philosophy in general is pacifist- the glorification of wars in some texts, the caste system and the status of women notwithstanding. Compared to monotheistic religions that caused unimaginable bloodshed through human history, no war has been fought for Hinduism, though Hindus may have fought and killed. Let’s therefore concede the point that Hindus are tolerant.
Gadkari’s mandate is to get the BJP back on track, in disarray after two successive election defeats. He could raise a question vital to the success of BJP. Why is BJP not winning the hearts of Hindus? Is it because the majority of Hindus – who constitute 83 percent of the country’s population, are tolerant? The BJP claims itself to be champions of Hindus, but evidently most Hindus are not conceding that status to the party.
The question is relevant, not merely for the BJP, but also for the survival of India, as a country and as an idea. The question is also urgent seeing what we do in our neighborhood, Pakistan. Salman Taseer, the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab governor was shot dead, because he was tolerant. More shocking than the killing has been the expression of joy about the murder. A huge part of the country feels that he deserved to be killed.
Intolerance of both the majority and minority are equally condemnable, but when it comes to the dangers involved, they are not the same. If a majority among the majority turns intolerant, the country fails and the society degenerates – that’s what we see in Pakistan.
Borrowing BJP’s vocabulary, the party has been appeasing only the minority — among the Hindus. BJP must now try to appease the majority among the Hindus. BJP could then rightfully claim to be a Hindu party.