Can India Ever Become Intolerant?
(Forget about Indian society becoming Intolerant, calling Indian society as Tolerant itself is an insult to it. Confusing? ……. Please read further)
Before Bihar elections the whole of India, especially the media (electronic, print and social media) was literally divided into to two camps on the question of Intolerance in India. The topic became fresh again because of the forth coming release of Aamir Khan’s Dangal. The so called intellectuals of India, including Aamir Khan, backed by electronic/print media, expressed their concerns about the ‘growing intolerance’ in India. On the other hand, social media effectively countered this argument.
I would like to take this argument to a different level.
Can Indian society ever become intolerant?
Relationships between two religions must go beyond simply tolerating, to “Mutual Respect”. Sri Rajiv Malhotra explained this concept of “Mutual Respect” very well in his book “Being Different”.
Forget about Indian society, which is predominantly Hindu, becoming intolerant; calling Indian society as tolerant itself is an insult to it. Confusing? Let me explain. Unfortunately, we are in a world, where, tolerating, other religions/faiths itself is considered a great virtue. I would say tolerating someone is an insult to them. Will you be able to stay with someone, if they say, I am tolerating you? Relationships between two religions must go beyond simply tolerating, to “Mutual Respect”. Sri Rajiv Malhotra explained this concept of “Mutual Respect” very well in his book “Being Different”. India, as a culture, for 1000s of years, have been demonstrating respect for other faiths/religions and this is primarily the reason why, inspite of so much diversity, even within Hinduism, we have lived together as a culture for 1000s of years, which never happened anywhere else. So, calling Indian society as tolerant is an insult
Majority of Christian and Muslim denominations believe that only they go to the heaven and the rest end up in eternal hell, just because they are not Christians/Muslims
But why achieving “Religious Tolerance” itself is a great achievement for the rest? The three major religions of the world are Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. (When I say Hinduism, I also mean Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism as the basic tenants of all of them are the same and stems from Dharma). As I have explained before, Hinduism, inherently have respect for other religions. Religious Tolerance is a solution for a problem that Islam and Christianity has. The Holy Scriptures of both Islam and Christianity has the mention of non–believers (In Islam they are called Kafir and Infidel in Christianity), and an obligation to convert them to their religion. Majority of Christian and Muslim denominations believe that only they go to the heaven and the rest end up in eternal hell, just because they are not Christians/Muslims. Because of this belief in exclusivity, religious conversion of non-believers becomes an essential part them. Not only this, these Holy Scriptures are also believed, atleast by a few sections of these religions, to be supporting atrocities, even killing of the non-believers. The terrorist claim of them following true Islam, Right wing Christian justification of acts like Slavery, Inquisition, genocides etc should be looked at with this perspective. This inherent exclusivity coupled with a belief by few sections of Christianity and Islam, that atrocities against non-believers are not just justified but are a must, made the adherents of those faiths think that tolerating each other itself is a great virtue to achieve
Conflict between Islam and Christianity
Islam and Christianity are ‘obligated’ to falsify each other
Christianity believes that Jesus is not just a prophet, but son of the God. Whereas Islam believes that Jesus is NOT son of God but only a prophet, like Prophet Mohammed, and Prophet Mohammed supersedes the teachings of Jesus. So if Christianity accepts that Jesus is a prophet, then Prophet Mohammed’s teachings supersede that of Jesus. And if Islam accepts that Jesus is Son of God, then they have to accept that Jesus’ teachings supersede that of Prophet Mohammed’s as Son of God is superior to a prophet. So, Islam has to falsify Christianity and Christianity has to falsify Islam. The conflict is not just between Islam and Christianity but also between various denominations of Christianity and sects in Islam, which lead/leading to violence even today (Eg. Conflict between Shias and Sunnies). Even Hinduism has different schools of thought like Islam and Christianity, but unlike Christianity and Islam, which have exclusivity claims, Hinduism has pluralism built in to it, based on dharma¹. Also because of this inbuilt pluralism, Hinduism never felt the need to prove that it is better than other religions, which is the most important differentiating factor between Hinduism and Islam/Christianity. The obsession of Christianity/Islam to prove that their religion is superior to others and then convert, lead to extreme violence in the last 2000 years, which resulted in the killing of Crores (1 Crore = 10 Million) of people. In such an environment, tolerating is ofcourse a great thing. But it was never the case in India and so the same toleration becomes an insult.
Let me explain the inherent intolerance towards other religions/communities/faiths/races in Christianity and Islam with a couple of examples
Native American Genocide
As per David E. Stannard, the author of American Holocaust, the total number of Native Americans that were killed by Europeans is close to 10 Crores.
here is the unique subject of this book, the total extermination of many American Indian peoples and the near-extermination of others, in numbers that eventually totalled close to 10,00,00,0002
There are different estimates ranging from 4 Crores to 20 Crores. But the point I am trying to make here is that these killings were authorized by Church. See the below from “Being Different”
In 1452, forty years before Columbus’s historic voyage, Pope Nicholas V issued to King Alfonso V of Portugal the ‘bull’ (i.e., an edict with the legal authority of the Vatican) known as Romanus Pontifex, in which he declared war against all non-Christians throughout the world and specifically sanctioned and promoted the conquest, colonization and exploitation of non-Christian nations and their territories. Since non-Christians were considered less than human (and hence lacking souls), even wholesale genocide was not considered wrong. In this edict, the Pope directed Portugal’s king to ‘invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue’ all those who the King’s men saw as ‘pagans … and other enemies of Christ’. The Pope’s directive was to ‘reduce their persons to perpetual slavery, and to apply and appropriate … [their] possessions, and goods, and to convert them …’ This doctrine was subsequently reinforced by a later Pope in order to legitimize Columbus’s conquests. European nations upheld and implemented the doctrine as the legal and moral basis for colonialism (Davenport 1917: 20-26). When Columbus first arrived on Guanahani Island, he performed a ceremony in order to take possession of the natives’ land for the king and queen of Spain. Pope Alexander IV issued a new bull, Inter caetera, of 3 May 1493, reinforcing this doctrine of discovery. Like the judgments of the US Supreme Court, these papal bulls stand to this day despite the attempts of the North-American Indians who have been agitating against them and trying to have them repealed3
The following picture depicts the cruelty of Europeans towards Native Americans
“[The Spaniards] took babies from their mothers’ breasts, grabbing them by the feet and smashing their heads against rocks. . . . They built a long gibbet, low enough for the toes to touch the ground and prevent strangling, and hanged thirteen [natives] at a time in honor of Christ, Our Saviour and the twelve Apostles. . . . Then, straw was wrapped around their torn bodies and they were burned alive4.”
It is to be noted that even today USA Celebrates “Columbus Day” honouring Columbus, whose arrival in the Americas resulted in the killing of so many crores of Native Americans. Also he is still being considered as ‘discoverer’ rather than a ‘conqueror’ as per Doctrine of Christian Discovery, according to which whatever lands the Christian invaders invade becomes their ‘discoveries’ and hence their ‘properties’
African Slave Trade
3 – 6 Crore Africans were killed because of slave trade, as per American Holocaust – The Conquest of the New World by David E. Stannard
“there also were the unique horrors of the African slave trade, during the course of which atleast 3,00,00,000 – and possibly as many as 4,00,00,000 – 6,00,00,000 Africans were killed most of them in the prime of their lives” – Page 151 of American Holocaust
Slavery was justified using the Biblical story of Noah and his sons, according to which there was a great flood after which the descendants of Noah and his wife, the only human survivors, populated the earth. Noah’s three sons were Ham, Shem and Japheth. Genesis explains that Ham laughed at Noah’s nudity, and as punishment for violating his honour, Noah cursed Ham’s descendants to live in servitude to the descendants of the other two sons (Genesis 9:22-27). Hence, Ham embodies the ‘bad’ or ‘impure’ lineage.
In most accounts, the dark-skinned people were identified as the descendants of Ham and classified as barbaric, uncivilized and immoral5
The Bible was thus used to supply a theological justification for oppressing some races or lineages on account of their purported moral degradation. This identification became the basis for many pro-slavery theological arguments. The founder of the Protestant movement, Martin Luther, stated that Ham and his descendants were possessed by Satan and bitter hatred and associated them with idolatry and rebellion. As recently as 1964, US Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia tried to block the Civil Rights Act by reading the story of Noah into the US Congressional record, declaring: ‘Noah saw fit to discriminate against Ham’s descendants,’ and therefore, presumably, so should we6
The below pictures show the cruelty of slave masters towards slaves
As a mode of punishment, a slave is whipped with such inhuman severity, as to lacerate and mangle his or her flesh in the most shocking manner, leaving permanent scars and ridges; then, hurting substances such as salt pickle, lime juice, hot brine, turpentine, bird pepper would be rubbed into his or her open wounds. Sometimes the slave is bound hand and foot so as to feel the pain to the fullest and also not able to relieve him or herself in any way 7
Several books were written justifying slavery using the Biblical myth of Noah like
- Slavery as It Relates to the Negro or the African Race by Priest, Josiah – Best Seller
- The Prophetic Families, the Negro: His Origin; Destiny and Status (T. Taylor 1895)
- Bible Defence of Slavery: Or the Origin, Fortunes, and History of the Negro Race by Priest, Josiah
There were several such books that were best sellers
Also note that these are in addition to Pagan killings, Inquisition in Europe and genocide of native population in countries like Australia and New Zealand
When it comes to Islam we often hear the claim of Terrorists that they are following the true message of Islam. Several thousand Hindu temples were destructed by Islamic invaders, which was well documented in several books including “Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them” by Sita Ram Goel and Arun Shourie
“The first volume includes a list of 2,000 mosques that it is claimed were built on Hindu temples, which, it is asserted, is based primarily on the books of Muslim historians of the period or inscriptions found on mosques. The second volume excerpts from medieval histories and chronicles and from inscriptions concerning the destruction of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist temples. The authors claim that the material presented in the book as “the tip of an iceberg” – in Wikipedia about Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them8
“There is elaborate literary evidence from the Islamic sources which glorify the crimes committed by the Muslims in India. Crimes such as the desecration of the Hindu idols, looting of the temples, killing devotees and raping have been well documented by the Muslim historians themselves. They have done so because according to them these Muslim rulers, by doing such deeds were following the tenets of Islam and Sunnah of the prophet Mohammed” – Stephen Knapp9
“the Muslim persecution of Hindus in India is nothing new. Over a period of 800 years, millions of Hindus were slaughtered by Muslims as infidels or converted by the sword” – Fox News10
“…………important testimonies by Muslim ch
roniclers suggests that, over 13 centuries and a territory as vast as the Subcontinent, Muslim Holy Warriors easily killed more Hindus than the 6 million of the Holocaust. Ferishtha lists several occasions when the Bahmani sultans in central India (1347-1528) killed a hundred thousand Hindus, which they set as a minimum goal whenever they felt like “punishing” the Hindus; ……… The biggest slaughters took place during the raids of Mahmud Ghaznavi (ca. 1000 CE); during the actual conquest of North Indi
a by Mohammed Ghori and his lieutenants (1192 ff.); and under the Delhi Sultanate (1206-1526)11”
“…………the mountain range Hindu Koh, “Indian mountain”, was renamed Hindu Kush, “Hindu-killer”, when one cold night in the reign of Timur Lenk (1398-99), a
hundred thousand Hindu slaves died there while on transport to Central Asia11”
Please see below a few pictures of Farmans issued by Aurangzeb that depict the inherent intolerance of Islam towards other religions, Hinduism in particular
General Order for the Destruction of Temples. (9th April 1669)
“The Lord Cherisher of the Faith learnt that in the provinces of Thatta, Multan and especially at Benaras, the Brahmin misbelievers used to teach their false books in their established schools, and their admirers and students, both Hindu and Muslim, used to come from great distances to these misguided men in order to acquire their vile learning. His Majesty, eager to establish Islam, issued orders to the governors of all the provinces to demolish the schools and temples of the infidels, and, with the utmost urgency, put down the teaching and the public practice of the religion of these unbelievers12”.
Demolition of the temple of Viswanath (Banaras) August 1669 A.D.
It was reported that, “according to the Emperor’s command, his officers had demolished the temple of Viswanath at Kashi”. (Maasiri-‘ Alamgiri, 88)12
Aurangzeb orders cart-loads of idols brought from Jodhpur to be cast under the steps of Jama Masjid. (May 1679)12
Now that we understand the inherent intolerance towards other religions/faiths/races in Islam and Christianity, let us see what Hinduism/Sanathana Dharma has to offer in this regard
As per dharma, Brahman (NOT Chaturmukha Brahma) is everywhere and in everything, both living and non living, i.e. Brahman is all pervading and omnipotent, because of this, Indian’s never had problem in seeing divinity in literally everything including tress, rocks and ofcouse human beings. So discriminating some one based on religion or colour of skin or race or jati or caste cannot be dharmic. It doesn’t mean that there are no differences. In vyavaharika realm, differences do exist. But differences don’t mean one is superior to other. Sri Rajiv Malhotra explains this concept beautifully in his book “Being Different”. I do agree that for a certain period of time a certain section of population in our country were discriminated based on their birth, which every human being should condemn. But this discrimination never lead to killings as in the case of other cultures. Also the moment we got independent, steps were taken to eradicate that discrimination and now everyone can see things getting better.
Even if you look at the Hindu society historically, its pluralistic nature and respect for other religions will be evident. Please look into the below
- Bharath is perhaps the only country where Jews were never persecuted. This is what a Jewish genealogical journalAvotaynu says an Indian Jewish group – “Welcomed by the local Hindu population, the Bene Israel (one of the 4 Jewish groups in India) flourished for 2,400 years in a tolerant land that has never known anti-Semitism, and were successful in all aspects of the socio-economic and cultural life of the people of the region13”
“The story of the Jews in India has on the whole been a happy one where Jews dwelt in complete security and have been accorded an honourable place in the social structure of the land. India, predominantly a Hindu country of more than a billion people has approximately 130 million Moslems, 25 million Christians and less than 5000 Jews. She has been a generous mother14”
- Around 10th century AD we gave shelter to Parsis who fled Persia (Modern day Iran), to escape the persecution by Islamic invaders. Inspite of them being a very small minority, Hindus never converted them and they still live as Parsis to date and follow their religion Zoroastrianism.
- Then came Tibetan Buddhists. In 1959 we gave shelter to around 1,00,000 Tibetan Buddhists
These facts provide the historical evidence to the fact that Hindus respected all other faiths and welcomed them when they are in need of a safe place. This has happened only because of the pluralistic nature of Hindu Dharma, which is completely opposite to the exclusivity claims of Christianity and Islam.
Hopefully the other major religions also will mature to this state of respecting other religions in the time to come, which will end conflicts in the name of religion. Finally, forget about Indian society becoming Intolerant, calling Indian society as Tolerant itself is an insult to it.
Disclaimer: I would like to thank Sri Rajiv Malhotra and Sri S Gurumurthy from whose writings and talks I picked up the basic idea of this article
FaceBook: Ranjith Vadiyala
- एकं सद्विप्रा बहुधा वदन्ति – This Mantra from Rigveda is the basis for pluralism in Sanathana Dharma, which means ‘Truth is one, the wise call it by different names’. This prevented any exclusivity claims in Sanathana Dharma
- “American Holocaust – The Conquest of the New World” by David E. Stannard – Oxford University Press – Page 151
- Being Different by Rajiv Malhotra – Page 403
- http://imgur.com/gallery/uDzqr (Accessed on 8th April 2016 at 5.03 AM) AND American Holocaust
- Being Different – by Rajiv Malhotra Page – 208
- Being Different – by Rajiv Malhotra Page – 208 & 209
- http://answersafrica.com/8-most-horrific-and-inhuman-black-slaves-punishment-in-the-history-of-slavery.html (Accessed on 10th April 2016 at 2.27 AM)
- http://www.aurangzeb.info/ (Last accessed on 5th July 2016)
- http://www.jewsofindia.org/who_are_we.html (Accessed on 9th April 2016 at 2.02 AM)