N. S. Venkataraman
“Is Hindu religion discriminated in India?”
It is strange that in a country where around 80% of the population follows the Hindu religion, many Hindus still feel that their religion is discriminated in various ways by successive governments in India. Although the BJP, described as “the Hindu nationalist party” by the western media, has been in power for more than four years, such a feeling of discrimination persists.
The following few instances highlight this discrimination.
Take-over of Hindu Temples
Several Hindu temples of great importance and history have been taken over by state governments and brought under their administrative control. The income from these temples fills the government treasury. On the other hand, no churches, mosques or gurudwaras have been taken over by the government since these belong to the minority religions, and therefore, it is said, cannot be under government control!
If that is the case, there are some states in India where Hindus are in minority, but the churches and mosques in such states are not taken over by the government.
In Tamil Nadu, the government has laid down its own regulations and appoints priests in the Hindu temples. But the same government never interferes in the appointment of priests or in the qualification required for the priests for churches, mosques and gurudwaras.
The Cow Slaughter Issue
For centuries, the Hindus have worshiped the cow and consider it a holy and sacred animal. Many Hindus are against cow slaughter and feel it should not be permitted. Even when cows are taken to the slaughter houses, we find some Hindus protesting. The media calls them “cow vigilants”. And when they try to stop the cows being taken, they are criticized as law breakers and, at times, arrested. They are labelled as Hindu extremists, the campaign against them gathers strength, so much so that governments try to distance themselves from such protesters.
Is this not an example of discrimination, if we compare it with the slaughter of goats during the Bakri-Id festival? We see neither the media nor any animal activist objecting or complaining.
The latest episode of the Lord Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala is a glaring example.
Sabarimala Temple in Kerala is one of the holiest of the temples in India. This temple of great importance observes some strict regulations, one of which is the restriction on women in a certain age group (10-50 years) to visit the temple. The restriction is not on girl children and elderly women.
This old tradition followed at the Sabarimala Temple of restricting the entry of women belonging to a certain age group was termed by the Supreme Court in its judgment of September 28, 2018 as discriminatory and against gender justice.
All over the world, traditional practices are being followed over centuries. The devotees believe in such practices out of faith, irrespective of the fact whether they are logical and scientifically appropriate for the present times.
- in Sikhism, it is compulsory for the devotees to cover their heads before entering a Gurudwara;
- in Islam, the Muslim women are not allowed to pray in the mosque along with the menfolk;
- Christianity has separate rules for men and women holding positions in the Church. No woman can become a Pope.
It is only the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala visited by lakhs of Hindu devotees which is targeted by the self-proclaimed activists and reformists. There are so many other temples of Lord Ayyappa in India and abroad, where women of all age groups are permitted. This shows that there is no anti-woman sentiments in Lord Ayyappa temples.
It is significant to note that the practice in Lord Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala is not against women as such, but only women of a certain age group, and therefore, cannot be considered as gender injustice. The women are not barred entry for their entire life time. At the same time, women of all age groups are free to visit and pray in any other Lord Ayyappa Temple anywhere else in the world at any time.
Appeasing the Minorities
Wonder whether governments or media would dare to criticize any aspect of the faith of other religions, lest they retaliate violently.
The main reason for the discriminatory approach of several political parties and governments towards the Hindu religion vis-a-vis other religions appears to be vote-bank politics. During elections, it is a well-known fact that the minority communities, by and large, vote for a particular party en bloc as directed by their religious heads. But this does not necessarily happen in the case of the Hindus. Therefore, political parties try to keep the minorities in good humour and ensure not to displease them in any manner.
Conversely, the political parties tend to believe that the Hindu vote gets dissipated as there is no unified leadership amongst the Hindus. Also, there is considerable difference of views among the Hindus, and therefore, there is no specific need to appease those belonging to the Hindu religion.
N. S. Venkataraman is a social activist based in Chennai. He is founder Trustee of Nandini Voice for the Deprived, a non-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of the downtrodden and deprived and support their cause. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.nandinivoice.com