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3. De-Hinduising the freedom movement
The attempt to de-nationalise Hindu consciousness and de- Hinduise the nation began even during the freedom movement with the rise of Nehru as Gandhiji’s political heir. Retrospective analysis of events is a legitimate tool for understanding history. In this light, it would appear that the Indian National Congress hijacked Hindu society’s national resistance movement of the 18th and 19th centuries, which was spearheaded by Hindu nationalists who rallied around the issue of cow slaughter. Sriman Swamy, Subramania Bharati, Veerapandi Kattabomman, Lala Lajpat Rai, Mahatma Gandhi, Lokmanya Tilak, Veer Savarkar, Bhagat Singh and Rajguru were typical of Hindu nationalist leadership and resistance.
A common tactic by the Western world to dilute commitment to ideology in important organisations, to erode nationalism, deaden threat perception or disarm resistance to a looming threat, is to infiltrate these very organisations and groups with their own race or with domestic stooges. Seen in this light, the fact that the Indian National Congress (INC, or simply the Congress) was started by AO Hume and that, soon thereafter, the Congress hijacked the Hindu nationalist resistance movement comes as no surprise. Infiltration, beginning in the late 19th century and continuing into early decades of the 20th century, was a tactic used to penetrate Hindu religious organisations at around the same time because India’s freedom movement began and gained momentum only as a Hindu resistance movement. Swami Vivekananda and Maharishi Aurobindo, carrying forward the struggle initiated by Sriman Swamy, were the most powerful and articulate symbols of Hindu religious resistance to Christian/colonial rule. The penetration and infiltration by foreigners into important political and religious structures needs to be understood in this context – that while the Hindus were using their religion to influence the polity from the standpoint of Hindu interests, these foreigners were engaged in subverting the movement powered by Hindu nationalist aspirations by influencing our religious sub-structures and thus influencing the polity.
The process of de-Hinduising the resistance movement began by de-nationalising the resistance. AO Hume, Annie Besant, CF Andrews, and Madeline Slade or Miraben are important instances of such de-nationalization/de-Hinduisation. Incidentally, Madame Blavatsky (as also Mirra Alfassa, the ‘Mother’ of Auroville Ashram) was a Western occult practitioner and came to India looking for greener pastures. And, lest we forget, Madeline Slade came to India to find Gandhiji after her meeting with Romain Rolland who allegedly described the Mahatma as being ‘another Christ’.4
Annie Besant commanded a huge space in the polity as well as in the religious arena in India in the troubled years of the early 20th century. She was the successor to Madame Helena Blavatsky who, with Henry Olcott, founded the Theosophical Society in Adyar in the then Madras, the intellectual capital of the nation and an important seat of Hindu orthodoxy.5 Blavatsky and Olcott’s early supporters and followers were AO Hume, the founder of the Indian National Congress, Annie Besant (an important functionary in the Indian National Congress and later its President in 1917), Charles Leadbeater (J Krishnamurti’s early mentor), and the upper castes in the Hindu community who had been co-opted into the colonial administration and who later gravitated into the Congress to participate in the freedom movement. Having successfully penetrated and de-nationalised the political and religious arena, these foreigners assiduously promoted Jiddu Krishnamurti, a brahmin iconoclast in whom Annie Besant saw the new Messiah; the theosophical movement headed by Annie Besant projected Krishnamurti as ‘The Rising Star of the East’ and ‘The World Teacher’. De-nationalising and de-Hinduising the freedom movement and Hindu religious spaces had begun in earnest.
Upper class and upper caste Hindus comprised the bulk of J Krishnamurti’s audience in India and, as could only be expected, his so-called ‘teachings’ at this critical moment in the Hindu journey denied the legitimacy of gurus and priests, sacred texts and tradition. Having severed his gullible Hindu acolytes from their roots, he then offered himself for cult worship in the ensuing vacuum. J Krishnamurti, who fancied himself Jesus Christ and Maithreya, was also a virulent critic of the concept of nation and nationalism. Sandeep Pandey, Nirmala Deshpande and Anand Patwardhan (a relative of Achyut Patwardhan, one of Jiddu Krishnamurti’s leading acolytes) are typical products of ‘anti-nation’ Krishnamurti conditioning which currently conceals itself in Gandhian clothing. De-nationalising the freedom movement, deculturising the English-educated Hindus and de-Hinduising important institutions and organisations were all perfectly dovetailed in the troubled years immediately preceding and following Partition when nationalist Hindus alone could have undertaken the herculean task of nation-building.
Not one of the illustrious foreigners mentioned above was content to merge into the mainstream of the organisations they entered ostensibly as devotees; all rose to important positions within these groups—either gaining proximity to the leadership or eventually exercising considerable influence over the leadership. Some eventually rose to become centres of power themselves. One can observe a similar trend of infiltration today by foreigners in the UPA Government, in administration, in important Hindu organisations and even in Hindu religious structures. The process of de-nationalising the Hindu consciousness has been resumed with a vengeance. The first wave of infiltration was the West’s response to a resistance movement that was gathering momentum as a fierce Hindu nationalist movement, and the current infiltration and other moves to de-Hinduise Hindu consciousness is in response to growing Hindu assertion in the Indian polity and public spaces.
Besides our religious and socio-political organisations, the process of de-Hinduising the nation is being accentuated through neo-Islamization of the polity and the ‘secularisation’ of the BJP. Unfortunately, we do not perceive contemporary events in the polity as important steps in a de-Hinduisation continuum because, as a nation, we have failed to scrutinise the first wave of infiltration and unravel its motives. Nehruvian secularism ensured that we did not scrutinise the first infiltration, much less question it or even talk about it. Then, as now, infiltration by foreigners and ‘secularists’ aims at checking growing Hindu political empowerment. Vigorous attempts by all denominations of churches to convert close family members of high profile politicians and socially and culturally important Hindu families is another potent weapon aimed at compromising these politicians and the political parties to which they owe allegiance, even though the parties may remain oblivious of the truth. This effectively silences prominent Hindus on issues arising from the politics of minorityism.