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UPA’s driving wedge between Jains and Hindus

Author: Sandhya Jain
Publication: Niticentral.com
Date: January 7, 2014
URL: http://www.niticentral.com/2014/01/07/upas-driving-wedge-between-jains-and-hindus-176766.html

The lame duck UPA coalition’s sudden move to create an Equal Opportunity Commission on the recommendations of the divisive Sachar Committee and grant minority status to the miniscule Jain community is insidious and illegitimate, and will hopefully not be allowed to become law by alert Opposition parties. Like all major initiatives of the UPA, this too is ill-conceived, has not been presented to the nation for considered debate, and is now being sought to be rammed through Parliament by hyperventilating it as a national imperative.

Since the next Session of Parliament is being called specifically to pass the vote-on-account to permit the Government to function for six months till the next regime has time to present a budget, it would be gross to permit the Congress, that leads the UPA coalition and has been losing public support across the nation in successive assembly elections, to leave the nation with such a pernicious legacy. This is all the more imperative because its main rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has been working assiduously to craft a new language of politics and to appeal to the people as a whole, without resorting to the Congress-crafted grammar of community and caste.

Canny observers have already noted that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which made its debut in Delhi by claiming adherence to a similar non-denominational politics, made special overtures to a notorious community leader before the elections. It is subsequently reaching out to specific communal and caste leaders in many places. The brouhaha over Prashant Bhushan’s inflamatory statement (since retracted) on Kashmir can easily be understood as part of the chemistry of the AAP’s nationwide ambitions.

Coming to the specific issue of the Jain community, Minority Affairs Minister K Rahman Khan has said that Jains will be included under the National Minority Act. This immediately brings to mind the admonition of the then Chief Justice of India, RC Lahoti and Justices DM Dharmadhikari and PK Balasubramanyan, against the practice of listing religious groups as minorities. The Supreme Court Bench in August 2005 rejected a petition to give minority status to the Jain community and urged the National Commission for Minorities to suggest ways to create social conditions so that the list of notified minorities “is gradually reduced and done away with altogether”.

The Bench said that while special treatment for linguistic minorities within a State was understandable, “But if the same concept for minorities on the basis of religion was encouraged, the whole country, which is already under class and social conflicts due to various divisive forces, will further face division on the basis of religious diversities.” Justice Dharmadhikari, who wrote the judgment, said: “Such claims to minority status based on religion would increase in the fond hope of various sections of people getting special protections, privileges and treatment as part of Constitutional guarantees. Encouragement to such fissiparous tendencies would be a serious jolt to the secular structure of constitutional democracy.” Despite this, several State Governments have given minority status to Jains at the urging of influential persons who desired it for their own reasons, rather than on the basis of community needs.

Taking a broad view of India’s civilisational history, we find some logic in the Indian Constitution clubbing Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs as part of the Hindu community as all these communities, though influenced in varying measure by the colonial (and post-colonial) virus of ‘separate religion’, cannot define themselves without reference to the broader Hindu tradition of which they are an intrinsic part. Indeed, the cultural, spiritual and historical strands are so closely interwoven that separation is impossible without serious injury to all.

Bharatavarsha, the land between the mountain and the sea, is a divine creation and the bhumi of the Bharatas, a venerable Rig Vedic tribe. There are three personifications of ‘Bharata’ in Hindu tradition, one each in the first three yugas; they epitomise the civilisational values of the Sanatana Dharma. The Bharata of the Satyuga was the son of Rshabdeva, first among the recognised ancient sages and first Tirthankara. He is also called Adinath and is synonymous with Shiva.

When Rsabhdeva attained enlightenment (kevala jnana), simultaneously the cakra (wheel) appeared in the armoury of his son Bharata and proclaimed him a cakravartin (emperor); and a son was born to Bharata, heir to the Iksvaku dynasty founded by Rsabhdeva. As cakravartin Bharata fasted, meditated, and followed the cakra as it moved of its own accord, subjugating rival kings without violence. He exemplified the virtues of compassion (daya), divine-wisdom (brahma jñana) and penance (tapas).

The Bharata of the Tretayuga was the son of King Dasaratha of Ayodhya; he embodied the virtues of love (prema), devotion (bhakti), and brotherhood (bandhutva). When Bharat learned of his mother’s intrigue against Sri Rama, he vowed to renounce the illegitimately awarded throne and became a symbol of dharma and idealism, second only to Sri Rama.

The Bharata of the Dwaparyuga was the son of Shakuntala and King Dushyant, the greatest king of India, who lent his name to the country. When he felt that none of his nine sons was fit to ascend the throne, he adopted a capable child as future ruler. He personified the values of service (seva), valour (shaurya), and charity (dana).

The ideals exemplified by each of the Bharatas comprise the core values of Hindu (Indian) civilisation to this day. Rsabhdeva’s son Bharata gave us daya, Brahma-jñana and tapas; Dasaratha’s son Bharata gave us prema, bhakti, and bandhutva; and Dushyanta-Shakuntala’s son Bharata gave us seva, shaurya and dana. Hindus impart these nine values to every generation via the jeneu ceremony in which the youth accepting the sacred thread takes nine vows; each vow is represented as a knot that binds the three separate strands of the jeneu.

The material evidence from the earliest period of discovered history shows traces of what later developed into Hindu, Jain and Buddhist tradition in the archaeological discoveries at Indus Valley sites. There are numerous terracotta figurines in the famous kāyotsarga posture in which the ascetic meditates while standing immobile, a yogic technique special to Jain saints. The famous priest-king seal of Mohenjo Daro reflects a form of meditation practiced by certain Buddhist monks to this day.

The literature, scriptures, and history of all native groups in India provide ample evidence of the unity and continuity of civilisational values in all. India has been so generous to communities and groups that entered her land throughout history that the quest for minority status is an abomination that needs to be discarded at the earliest. Those opposing retention of a fairly insignificant Section 377 in the penal code on grounds that it is an archaic colonial legacy, should think deeply about perpetuating more serious divides in the nation. Minority status imports Abrahamic intolerance into an inclusivist tradition. This mischief must be beaten at all costs.


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