Kerala: There Can Be A Hindu-Christian Dialogue Or Deal, But One-Sided Concessions Are Not On

  • There is a strong case for a Hindu-Christian dialogue, but none for any one-sided offer of benefits to one side that may not have broader Hindu acceptance or sanction.
  • R JagannathanTuesday, April 25, 2023 5:31 am IST
    PM Modi on Kerala visit.
    PM Modi on Kerala visit.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Kerala yesterday (24 April) focused a lot on wooing the Christian community to back the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) electorally in the state.

    He should be aware of the price he is paying on behalf of Hindus, since the demands seem one-sided. They may come at the cost of Hindu interests.

    According to a Times of India news report, Narendra Modi met with eight bishops from various denominations, and the two big issues they raised were the alleged attacks on Christians, and extending reservations to Dalit Christians.

    The other issues raised, which were also of predominant Christian community interest, were about providing housing to fishermen, restoration of reservations in Parliament for Anglo-Indians and better deals for rubber farmers.

    One does not know whether Modi raised issues that Hindus may have with Christian conversion agendas or the hate speeches against them by some evangelical sects. There have also been some reported attacks on temples.

    Without such a two-way discussion of issues between communities, this interaction with church leaders will be nothing more than another form of appeasement politics. 

    The larger question is whether this kind of one-sided concession, if given, will make any Abrahamic sect think and act differently about a party that is supposedly “Hindu nationalist” in character.

    There is no evidence whatsoever that the thousands of crores spent on minority education and scholarships, and special privileges for Muslims and other minorities, has reduced the volume of invectives used against the BJP or the Sangh Parivar.

    If anything, hate politics against the Sangh has only increased in many parts of north and south India after Modi came to power.

    More importantly, Modi should have specifically asked church leaders what they are doing to address the kind of negativity they create against Hindus, indirectly if not directly, both in India and abroad.

    More so, when the vast majority of countries in the world are Christian or Muslim, where both communities have the ability to bring international pressure on India for anything that they seek or demand in this country.

    If the Christian community, given its resources, cannot speak positively of Hindus in India and abroad, they are part of the problem, not the solution.

    The same logic applies to Muslims who have no love lost for the BJP.

    The first thing both the church and the mosque must agree to is that all issues relating to their treatment in India must be aired only in Indian fora, including Indian courts.

    If they use foreign powers to extract concessions from India, they are essentially getting it by imposing costs on Hindus in India and abroad.

    This is what happened with the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, where a vocal section of aggressive Muslims, helped by “Left-liberal” intellectuals, effectively forced the Modi government to abandon persecuted Hindus and other minorities in three neighbouring countries.

    There is also no space for Hindus in some of the Christian-majority states of the North-East. Hindus are neither treated as minorities with special rights, nor allowed to freely practise their religion.

    In fact, many Christian politicians and religious figures in these states are decidedly anti-Hindu (read here, here, here).

    As for giving reservation benefits to Dalits, we have not heard a single statement from church leaders that Christianity is as guilty of perpetuating caste as Hinduism allegedly does.

    Without such an unambiguous statement, what we end up with is Hindus being stuck with the guilt for caste, while Christians get special privileges as compensation for it. 

    The real truth is that varna and jati evolved in the Indian sub-continent for reasons peculiar to our historical experiences. If any Hindu text extolled discrimination against any jati, it was about codifying existing practices based on power equations in a particular period.

    The fact that Christians and Muslims, despite having no scriptural references to caste, practise casteism suggests that this practice, including its negative connotations, was something that grew on this soil irrespective of religion. 

    Unlike Christian and Islamic codes, which are specifically scripture-based, Hinduism did not evolve only or primarily through scripture. It grew culturally through the adoption or rejection of specific regional traditions, practices and rituals.

    Our scriptures are the messages left behind by evolved philosophers and compilers of tradition and wisdom through the ages.

    The short point is that we should not be engaging in any one-sided conversation with Christians and Muslims where the concessions are all in only one direction.

    There is a strong case for a Hindu-Christian dialogue, but none for any one-sided offer of benefits to one side that may not have broader Hindu acceptance or sanction.

    The mistakes made by Mahatma Gandhi should not be repeated. Gandhi thought he could offer concessions on behalf of Hindus to Muslims when he had no such right to do so.

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