Minority complex plagues India’s Hindus: Guha

Gandhi’s biographer says countries that make religious beliefs central to their national identity do not prosper


HAMMAD SARFRAZ November 05, 2020
KARACHI:

India’s Hindu majority under the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party suffers from a minority complex. According to Ramachandra Guha, a well-known historian and Mohandas K. Gandhi’s biographer, all aspects of public life in India are dominated by the Hindu majority, but the community continues to claim that they get the short end of the stick.

“Hindus dominate everything in India: politics, economics, culture, and society. And yet they speak and act as if they are hounded and persecuted,” the scholar said, warning that countries that make religious beliefs central to their national identity do not prosper.

In December 2019, Guha was among thousands detained for opposition to the contentious citizenship law, which convulsed much of India. The historian was talking to a reporter in Bengaluru that afternoon during the protest, when police officers wielding bamboo sticks gripped him and forced him into a van full of detainees.

The RSS believes in demonizing minorities. They believe in establishing a Hindu Rashtra. They believe that Hindus were always perfect

Ramachandra Guha, Historian of modern India, biographer of Gandhi

Guha, who is known as a prominent historian of modern India, said the country’s founding father would have openly opposed the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) introduced by the ruling Hindu nationalist government. 

Gandhi, he said, would have protested against the CAA, which accelerates the pathway to citizenship for all communities but excludes Muslims. The writer believes Gandhi would have never supported a law that discriminates on the basis of religion.

“The CAA is a spiteful act aimed to discriminate against Muslims. It is immoral and illogical, and should not be there,” said Guha, who was detained briefly for protesting against the law last year.

Quoting Friedrich Schiller, a German poet and philosopher, Guha said: “The first law of decency is to preserve the liberty of others.” In India, he said, there is a special responsibility on the Hindu majority to preserve the decency of minorities in the country.  The writer cautioned that majority communalism is dangerous for India. 

Israel, he said, is widely quoted as a successful example of majoritarian democracy. “If we have to learn anything from Israel, which is protected by US money and arms, it shouldn’t be majoritarianism or how to beat the Muslims. Let’s learn the independence of the judiciary and press from them,” the author of India after Gandhi said.

Talking about the current situation in India, Guha said: “It is a bleak period in our history.” He said the Covid-19 pandemic has intensified the conflicts and schisms in the country. “The demonization of India’s minorities has intensified during the pandemic,” he said.

The CAA is a spiteful act aimed to discriminate against Muslims. It is immoral and illogical, and should not be there

Ramachandra Guha, Historian of modern India, biographer of Gandhi

During the discussion with Deccan Herald’s online opinion editor, Aarthi Ramachandran, which lasted more than an hour, Guha spoke candidly about a wide variety of issues. On the state of India’s democracy, he said the country is on a slippery slope to authoritarianism.

“It is not just bad politically, morally and socially, but also economically,” the scholar cautioned. 

Referring to Gandhi’s ideology, Guha said, he would have opposed the centralization of power in the hands of the state that is now visible in India.On the reawakening of the Hindu right wing, he said, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s ideological fountainhead, has always opposed everything India’s founding father stood for. 

“The RSS believes in demonizing minorities. They believe in establishing a Hindu Rashtra. They believe that Hindus were always perfect and that India is destined to become a Vishwa Guru or a leader in innovation and knowledge. But look at the state of our schools and hospitals,” the writer quipped.

Responding to a question about limited tolerance for dissent in India, Guha said, “It is a very dangerous sign.”

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