Both extreme wings have attempted to define our cultural identity and both versions are unacceptable. We must assert a new narrative, taking the best from our traditions, and adding enlightened, liberal values to build a new, visionary cultural identity that is better suited to current challenges.
There are two representations, loudly expressed, in our national discourse, of the Hindu community. Our secularist compatriots on the Left take every opportunity to represent it with negative images of the community’s history and cultural practices. Our traditional compatriots represent the Hindus as a people yearning for a distant past. Neither representation is accurate for a sizable majority of Hindus, yet they, through passive assent, have allowed these elements to hijack their identity.
The secularist camp comprised of a small number of Marxist elites who have had a significant hand in the creation of the current situation mainly through their influence upon one of our large national parties. It has been practicing negationism (the historical revisionism of denial of Hindu triumphs and of violence committed against them by invaders) since Independence and has cleverly manipulated the majority by engaging in minoritarianism (yielding disproportionate power to minorities usually for political advantage).
The Marx-inspired, anti-religious, secularist worldview, distinct from the secularism named in the preamble to our Constitution, has been predominant in our nation since Independence. This worldview has hijacked the “secularism” label itself - corrupting it to mean anti-religion - as distinct from the original ideas of government agnosticism on religion and of religious equality. To distinguish this corruption from the original, I will refer to it as Marxist-secularism here onwards.
Despite its atheistic foundations, this worldview in recent times has adopted the tactic of siding with minority religions against the majority, gleefully celebrating any damage it can do to its religious compatriots. This worldview depends on denial and falsehood to survive and propagate. It has been in favour with most of our governments in power over the past 70 years, who have been therefore complicit in the damage done to the Hindu community’s cultural identity. In this modern, online world where information is freely available, people can increasingly see through these deceptions and witness the disrespect of the majority’s traditional culture and beliefs for themselves.
The traditionalist camp consists of a spectrum of views - with the far right the most adamant and ready for violence - and the not-so-far right exhibiting passive-aggressive behaviour (not to the extent of violence), broad ignorance in many areas, ill-considered tactics and the express wish to roll back the clock to pre-invasion times. An alternative voice must be presented, based on acknowledged deep virtues of our traditions and culture - empathy and respect for all, principled action, importance of duty and drive for self-improvement, as well as justice and fairness, tempered with accurate knowledge of history, and above all, pragmatism.
Why is the lack of control over your cultural identity a concern, you may ask? Your cultural identity is that which gives you a sense of belonging to your community, its common history, traditions and practices. To understand what it means to a community to have this damage, it is instructive to look at extreme attempts at identity erasure in other places.
One example is Canada, where past governments implemented various methods, including the practice of sending the young children of the native peoples to residential schools, where attempts were made to erase their cultural identities and to remake them in the Anglo-Saxon Christian mold. The current result is that the rates of suicide among the native youth is 5-7 times that of the rest of the population. The rates of incarceration are much higher as well: native men make up more than 22% of the prison population, and native women more than 34% (natives make up about 4% of Canada’s total population). When you have a weak cultural identity, you also have a disadvantage when dealing with people with a relatively stronger identity and sense of belonging. As our nation grows in international stature, we find that virtually all of our rival nation states have a stronger cultural identity.in
Practicing Hindus who are fully respectful of their faith, history and traditions, but also forward-looking with a sober, moderate view find the tactics and vision of both the Marxist-secularists and the traditionalists unacceptable. Marxist-secularists paint our identities through negative stereotypes and outright lies, while traditionalists paint us in their ideal of an ancient society from centuries ago. The Hindu section of the silent majority must reject both attempts at hijacking its identity and must begin to assert its own. It has a worldview to present that is sorely lacking in our national discourse, one that could bring pragmatism, compassion and a bold optimism that has been absent from our recent forefathers.
In the present circumstances, some of our cultural identity has become conflated with political party affiliation, but this is a very pale and weak proxy. There is no value to this conflation; on the contrary it interferes with the healthy development of our cultural identity to its fullest. The two must be uncoupled and our full cultural and civilizational worldview asserted.
Since the weapon most favoured by the Marxist-secularist - misinformation, informs much of our current understanding, we have a lot of work to do to re-examine our thinking, calling into question our basic knowledge and assumptions. The perspectives of our prominent historians, our school curricula, our written historical accounts, our fiction works and movies are infected with their mischief. To counter this, we must become obsessive and vigilant about the quality of our facts. We must seek out high quality sources for facts and data, including but not limited to Koenraad Elst and Rajiv Malhotra, who conduct careful research, compile reliable information for our use and are not afraid to challenge the Marxist-secularist establishment in academia and the mainstream press.
Another adversary is apathy, which you will readily recognize among your friends and colleagues. If you prod them on the topic of cultural identity you will elicit responses like “this doesn’t really matter” and “who cares?” along with a regurgitation of falsehoods planted by the Marxist-secularists. This apathy is understandable in the backdrop of our history -- it reduces a larger community threat down to an individual’s own microcosm to process and address. It has been employed successfully for individual survival by our forefathers over many hundreds of years of violent invasions, but which at its worst has also resulted in active collaboration with our enemies and oppressors, which has further damaged our communities. As we lift our nation out of economic poverty and ignorance, and begin to regain our voice and confidence, we must remind our compatriots that the time has arrived where we must reassert our collective courage and the strength of our convictions.
This battle for cultural identity of the Hindu segment of our population is not the only such battle. There are others being waged amongst our compatriots in other segments as well. The aspirations of the silent majority expressed here are not exclusively those of the Hindu segment. We must find common cause with like-minded, progressive compatriots from our minority communities, and work together to direct this nation towards a model society for the world, where communities can coexist, and where community interests and grievances can be addressed and resolved peacefully.
This new worldview must address the existential threats to our nation, society and our constituent communities as well as grievances between our communities. It must address time-bomb issues that appear minor now, but have the potential to threaten our future generations. Some examples are: the practice of families building dynasties out of Parliamentary seats, the practice of providing exceptions to communities to the Uniform Civil Code, the practice of blind block-voting. Perform the mental exercise of extrapolating these issues forward in time to understand their risks, and if you can imagine significantly increased disharmony or conflict, these issues must be addressed early.
To summarize, our cultural identity has been hijacked on the national stage by adversaries who seek to paint us in the worst possible light, who deny both our most glorious triumphs and the severity of the atrocities committed against us in history. It has also been hijacked by our provisional friends who, mostly out of ignorance, paint us into a caricature not recognizable to us. As our nation lifts itself out of poverty and ignorance, our communities find new strength and vitality, we must assert ourselves and rebuild an identity for ourselves, one built upon a deep understanding of our culture heritage, which is truly representative of our values and can play a constructive role in building a nation that becomes the role model for the world.