December 22, 2011
Margshirsh Krushna Dwadashi/Trayodashi , Kaliyug Varsha 5113
The recent controversy surrounding the banning of the Bhagwad Gita in Russia is an extension of various attempts in recent years to paint the Hindu religion in poor light.
That said, things ought to be put in perspective here: it needs to be clarified that the present controversy is merely the fallout of a confrontation between the Russian Orthodox Church and Isckon. That the former should resort to seeking a ban, that too, on the grounds of the Gita preaching religious extremism, only exposes the illiteracy or the vindictiveness of the concerned Church.
It’s akin to me having a problem with a Church being constructed in my locality and so I file a case seeking a ban on the Bible. Gita preaches tolerance, reason and moral discernment. A society or individual who has a problem with these could be suffering from an acute personality disorder.
Thankfully, as facts coming out of Russia suggest, the Russian society which has always been warm towards India, per se does not entertain those sentiments. In fact, it is believed that the case against the Gita might fall through at the next hearing.
The present episode, notwithstanding, what is inexplicably baffling is the general dearth of pride that an Indian government shows in reacting to such instances of sacrilege.
Remember India’s most famous painter in recent years made a career out of mocking Hindu gods and Goddesses. A fashion designer in Australia recently had her lingerie creation adorned with Goddess Laxmi. These instances continue to happen because the Indian establishment shows little pride or initiative in safeguarding the sentiments, leave alone the interests, of India’s majority population.
For instance, in the present episode, ISKCON devotees in Russia had written in November to the Prime Minister’s Office, asking that the government use high-level ministerial visits to Moscow, ahead of Manmohan Singh’s own trip, to ensure the Gita was not banned. A less indifferent PM would have had no reason not to take this up with the Russian authorities. If we couldn’t have done this with a friendly nation, I’m sure we can never do it with a Pakistan or China.
What is no less amazing is the silence of India’s normally vocal intellectual class. And hence I would take this discussion a step further here: has the Hindu identity become an ambiguous one with no single binding element to evince a common sense of belonging among the different blocks?
If so, it’s time to consider a makeover for the religion. That makeover could start with nomenclature. Let the Hindu merely be called a Bharatiya, a name that emanates from the name of the land which is home to more than 100 million Hindus.
In hindsight, a more judicious naming of both ‘India’ and ‘Hindu’ could have addressed many of the recurring problems that the country and the religion keep confronting.