Removing Secular Wool From Hindu Eyes: How To Become A Sanghi Without Attending A Shakha
Being a Sanghi does not necessarily mean attending a shakha, though you can do that too; it means becoming conscious of the dangers posed by a biased ecosystem to the Hindu way of life and identity.
Sanghi Who Never Went To A Shakha. Rahul Roushan. Rupa Publications. 2021. Pages 344. Price Rs 395.
There is an interesting video called The Invisible Gorilla that’s barely more than a minute in length. It tells us how we often miss the obvious when we are concentrating on something else.
The instructions at the start of the video, where six players dressed in black or white are playing basketball, ask you to count the number of times a white player passes the ball.
In the middle of the video, a black gorilla walks into the field, thumps his chest and walks out, but more than half the people watching the video fail to notice it. (You can watch the video here)
The ‘Invisible’ Gorilla, which dates back to a 1999 study by two cognitive psychologists, Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, tells us one simple thing: that when we focus very hard on one thing, we are likely to miss the obvious and/or the unexpected.
If we add smokescreens, wilful blindness and deliberate obfuscation to this mix of wrong focus and inattention to what is happening in front of your eyes, it can sometimes become a form of permanent inability to accept the truth. (The Invisible Gorilla is now also a book authored by the same two cognitive psychologists).
For much of the post-independence era, and even in the decades before it which led to Partition, Indian Hindus have been playing the secularism video so often that they have stopped seeing what they should have if they had only been half as attentive.
Over the years, several eye-openers came our way, from numerous communal riots to the ethnic cleansing of Hindus from Bangladesh and Kashmir Valley, to the works of Ram Swarup, Sita Ram Goel and Arun Shourie, but most of us have refused to see the very visible gorilla thumping its chest before us.
We have been refusing to believe what our eyes and ears clearly tell us about the nature of Islam and how it invokes separateness and hatred towards those who don’t share the faith. For those who are sure that there is no such thing as an “Islamist mindset”, I would suggest no better cure than an honest read of Rahul Roushan’s Sanghi Who Never Went To A Shakha.
The word ‘Sanghi’ here is obviously a reference to membership of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is probably the most demonised non-government organisation in the world, thanks to the fact that it opposes the Hinduphobic worldviews of an illiberal Left.
Roushan never joined the RSS or even attended a shakha, though he did have some Sanghi acquaintances, but this book documents how he turned from Congressi Hindu (or even Nehruvian secularist) to someone more aligned to the Sangh’s worldview.
This does not mean he is in complete alignment with the Sangh, but it does mean that he no longer wears blinkers when viewing secularism, Islamism or the intellectual brigandry and bigotry of the Left-liberal.
I discovered the ‘Sanghi’ in Roushan a few years before he wrote the book, but that was only because he chose to reveal his thoughts privately when were working together at Firstpost.com, where he was running a satirical portal called Faking News.
He was also moonlighting for his pet project, OpIndia.com, which is today a major thorn in the side of Left-liberals seeking to perpetuate fake narratives about 'violent' Hindutva and Hinduism. The Left’s ultimate objective is the erasure of Hinduism from India’s national consciousness by severing the head from its religious roots.
The reference to The Invisible Gorilla in the earlier part of this review pertains to the silent acceptance of casual Hinduphobia in general conversations, with Bollywood normalising subtle anti-Hindu propaganda through films like Pk, where the hero Aamir Khan is shown chasing an actor playing Shiva, who is shown cowering under a chair.
The largely Hindu audience invariably laughs, never stopping to ask whether religious icons of any other faith can be shown in such negative light.
Roushan’s Sanghi Who Never Went To A Shakha does not allow any thinking Hindu to accept fake arguments about secularism or choose wilful blindness as an excuse to avoid seeing reality.
The book combines Roushan’s personal journey, from a young lad in Bihar with enough political innocence in him to believe that Nehruvian secularism is real, to a Sanghi who initially bristled when someone labelled him as one and then went on to calmly accept the label as a ‘coming of age’ rite.
Divided into nine chapters, the book traces the genesis of active Hinduphobia in India’s Left-liberal intellectual ecosystem to the Indira Gandhi years, when the Prime Minister sought communist support to burnish her socialist and pro-poor credentials.
The price she paid was to let Nurul Hasan run riot at the Education Ministry, which allowed him to pack academia with Left-liberal academics and historians whose main goal was to normalise Islamic iconoclasm even while painting Hinduism in negative colours, using caste as the defining attribute.
Today, Left-liberals blame the airing of the Ramayana and Mahabharata serials in the 1980s on Doordarshan as the main reason why, despite their propaganda and lies, Hindutva has risen as a political force in India. The causality runs the other way: it was the popularity of Sri Rama-Sri Krishna that made these tele-serials successful.
Roushan believes that the real turning points in Hindu consciousness may not have been the airing of these serials, but two other events – the firing on sadhus calling for a ban on cow slaughter in 1966, and Mulayam Singh Yadav’s decision to fire on Hindu karsevaks demanding the building of a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya in 1990. Both incidents helped paint a vivid picture in Hindu minds that the Indian state did not care about Hindu victims at all.
Even as some Hindus began to realise what was happening, the rise of oil prices in the 1970s gave the petrodollar-rich Saudis, with their extreme brand of Wahhabi Islam, the opportunity to fund mosques and madrassas in India.
Indians Muslims working in Saudi Arabia were also exposed to this same austere form of Islam and many came back radicalised. They became increasingly unwilling to see themselves as sharing the same ancestry as their Hindu brethren.
Roushan, never one to mince words, emphasises that the 'secular' Left-liberal project is about white-washing Islamic depredations and iconoclasm even while denying agency and validity to Hindu aspirations to claim back their age-old heritage.
The author believes that the ultimate aim of the Leftists is to “de-Hinduise” society where “every Hindu festival is stripped of its religious lore and context, and is reduced to just a pagan festival around nature and economy”.
This is best illustrated with the Keralite festival of Onam, where liberals claim that showing King Mahabali bowing to Lord Vishnu is “offensive”; Diwali is now about air pollution and noise, not the victory of good over evil. Any sight of saffron anywhere, even on a sadhu, is “saffronisation.”
Roushan shows how the booming business of fact-checking is often nothing more than a ruse to obfuscate real issues by focusing on busting alleged fake news, even while allowing the fake narrative to pass by unnoticed.
If anything, the Left-liberal ecosystem knows that if you keep enough attention focused on “fake news”, the invisible gorilla of their own fake narratives will pass muster and seep into the average Hindu’s consciousness, thus reinforcing his tendency to be a self-loathing Hindu.
Roushan has done us all a service by reiterating what has been obvious to anyone with an unbiased pair of eyes: the Hinduness of the Hindu has been under attack for nearly 70 years now; we cannot allow this to continue.
Being a Sanghi does not necessarily mean attending a shakha, though you can do that too; it means becoming conscious of the dangers posed by a biased ecosystem to the Hindu way of life and identity. Do read this engaging book on the gradual conversion of Roushan from secular Sanghi.
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