Mischievous narratives on Sanatana Dharma

Mischievous narratives on Sanatana Dharma
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The word 'Hindu' has been a source of confusion which our political-judicial-constitutional mechanisms severely failed to address. However, it is...

The word 'Hindu' has been a source of confusion which our political-judicial-constitutional mechanisms severely failed to address. However, it is better to call our national identity as Sanatana Dharma consisting of a huge conglomerate of traditions dynamically interacting with each other. This cultural national identity has an immense scope to absorb alien religions, too, so long as they behave as traditions.

Residents of this land who have alienated themselves from this national attribute of the country are thus 'minorities' in the proper sense. Such people are citizens of the country deserving all protection but are not nationals in the defining sense of our nationhood.

The great thing is that culturally and socially, integration has happened at many levels between the 'traditionalised' alien religions and the indigenous Sanatani traditions which come under the broad rubric of 'Hinduism' (including its branches such as Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and any number of Sampradayas and Paramparas).

Unfortunately, at both a political and religious level (the evangelists and the madrasas), there has been a tremendous resistance to the idea of integration. This view talks about a 'composite' Indian culture and yet consistently seeks a 'minority' status denying the majority its due claim in the nation.

There needs to be a serious political-academic thinking on this subject as an improper understanding of our country is only going to be severely disruptive in the future. As Abhas Chatterjee explains, all over the world inhabitants of a country classify all its citizens into two categories: nationals and minorities. It is only in India that there is a wrong notion of having two classes of a majority and a minority within the class of nationals. Thus, concerned Sanatanis are not fighting individuals but ideologists which alienate people from the original culture of the land having the most important characteristic of an 'indifference to differences' and which transcends the standard discourses of tolerances and mutual respects.

Tribals part of the large whole

Descriptions of tribals as truly 'indigenous' people of India are wholly divisive narratives separating them from 'mainstream' Hinduism. The neologism Adivasi (adi, original; vasi, inhabitant) of the 19th century is a pure colonial construct which became the most successful disinformation campaign of modern times. In settler colonies (America, New Zealand, Australia), 'aboriginal' made sense to distinguish the European settlers from the natives. However, in non-settler colonies like India, the term 'aboriginal' in intellectual narratives now pits the majority dominant Hinduism (originally foreign invaders) against the 'original' inhabitants (now minorities).

The majority, by implication, are simply the pre-European colonizers of the tribal minorities. Koenraad Elst writes that going by the historical definition, tribals are Indian pagans (or Hindus) simply because they are not prophetic-monotheists. The examples of many 'tribal gods' in the country (Sammakka-Sarakka in Telangana, Jagannath Puri cult) clearly unite the equally pagan Hindus and the 'tribal' communities into one large whole.

They have many elements in common: by distant common roots; by the integration of tribal elements in the Sanskritic civilization; and by the adoption of elements from the Vedic-Puranic Tradition in the tribal Traditions. As one scholar rues, anthropologists spent about 100 years attempting to get rid of a pernicious and incoherent concept like 'tribe' only to see it sneak back in, via Indology and other social sciences, into the Indian Constitution, Indian legislation, and their administration.

– Dr Pingali Gopal, Hanamkonda


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