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HVK Archives: Setting the record straight - a letter

Setting the record straight - a letter - Sunday

Syed Shahabuddin ()
1-7 December 1996

Title : Setting the record straight
Author : Syed Shahabuddin
Publication : Sunday
Date : December 1-7, 1996

I appreciate much in Vir Sanghvi's Demeaning Hinduism
(20-26 October). But it is based on a narcissistic as-
sumption about Hinduism being the world's greatest reli-
gion and . Hindus being a tolerant, peace-loving people.
While I have no desire to convince you to, the contrary,
I must say that logically undefinability absence of
scriptural dogmas -may not always be a virtue. Over the
ages, this has enabled Hinduism to absorb other religions
and created the ground for the social hegemony of a
particular class under the banner of universality of the
Dharma. As you may be aware even under the Constitution,
a Hindu has been defined negatively - one who is not a
Muslim, Christian, or Zoroastrian or Jew. Even this
definition is being increasingly challenged by the Sikhs
and the Jains who would like their religion to be placed
outside the circle of assimilation.

Historically, you ignore the violent conflicts between
Shaivism and Vaishnavism, between the Buddhists and the
Hindus between the Jains and the Hindus and in this
century between the Hindus and the Muslims, for which
both share the blame.

In our age and time there are efforts towards semitisa-
tion, as Karan Singh and before him Morarji Desai pointed
out, Hindus have been "progressing" towards adoption of a
set of dogmas to define Hinduism, the establishment of a
Church (Sant Sansad), its own set of 'Mad Mullahs' (the
assorted sadhus, sants and Shankaracharyas who have been
fielded by the sangh parivar, including the VHP) and a
'hysterical clergy' who have not only laid down the law
in Ayodhya but even written a new Constitution for the
country! If imitation is the best form of flattery,
surely the neo-Hindus are suffering not from a superiori-
ty complex, as you seem to be, but from a deep-seated
inferiority complex!

Personally speaking, I believe that every conscious
individual has the right to choose his religion (not
necessarily the one he is born into-for that was not
a choice) and freely profess, practise and preach it,
without showing any disrespect to any other religion and,
what is more important, without discriminating against
the followers of the others, in his personal or social
life or in his functional role as a wielder of the power
and authority of the state, be he a beat constable or a

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