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Saturday, 14 November 2015

Tipu Sultan, Nepal and Intolerance Debate

As a child, I had watched The Sword of Tipu Sultan, since then Tipu Sultan had been a hero of national independence struggle for me. My opinion was reinforced by school history textbooks as I studied about the heroic battles fought by Hyder Ali and Tipu against the British, the Marathas and the Nizam of Hyderabad, in alliance with the French. He was a brilliant strategist as well as a tragic hero, betrayed by destiny, surrounded by enemies and fighting to death. 

It was only a few years ago that I became aware of Tipu's religious persecutions, conversions and genocides in Coorg, Kerala, Melkote and Mangalore. There are some scholars who justify these atrocities as politically expedient. It is understood that since the dawn of human history, war has been an instrument of state policy, there have been harsh punishments for minor crimes or suspected spies have been tortured. I also read that Tipu was a good administrator, an innovator, a patron of Sringeri Math. Those are commendable qualities. So, the reality exists in shades of grey.

But rape, forced religious conversion, enslavement or brutal slaughter of the innocent as parts of a terror strategy should be condemned. Excellence of intellect can never counteract crimes against humanity. It is for the people of Karnataka to decide if they want to celebrate Tipu Sultan as their hero. For me, his tyranny and bigotry overshadow his genius and tragedy. 

Nepal has been demonised in the Indian discourse. The liberal double standards that have been the hallmark of the left have equally affected the right. They want Nepal to change its constitution that establishes citizenship by descent and multi-ethnic provinces. They say that citizenship by descent discriminates against Madhesi women married to Indians and multi-ethnic provinces deny the right to self-determination of the Madhesis and Tharus. I support both the provisions so that Nepal can retain its national sovereignty and demographic composition. I also wish there are safeguards in Assam against Bangladeshi immigrants, there is no plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir or Nagaland and there are no reservations based on religious faith in education or public services. Same principles should apply to both India and Nepal, as they belong to the same civilisation. The right to retain one's ancestral religion in Nepal, criticised by evangelical organisations, should be adopted by India also.

The rightists think that Nepal has some kind of affinity to China. I don't know if they believe that the Northeastern India has any such affinity, but that kind of sentiment has been often expressed to Northeasterners living in Delhi. The reality is that the ruling class in Nepal are Sanskritic Hindus of the Indo-Aryan family and the rest of the population is also Hindu-Buddhist. Similarly, in the Northeast, most people residing in the Brahmaputra and Barak valleys are Hindus and in the Himalayas are Buddhists. These people want to preserve their demographic composition against immigration from the Gangetic plains that have very high population density. They have no connection with the Han Chinese living far beyond the Tibetan plateau. Of course, China has taken advantage of the misdeeds of the Indian government by instigating whoever is in power in Nepal or supporting ethnic insurgencies in the Northeast. But the reason is the callousness and high-handedness of the Indian government.

Indira Gandhi had ordered the aerial bombardment of Mizo villages to crush a rebellion due to famine. The Mizos then sought the help of the Chinese. Assam has been a victim of Bangladeshi immigration leading to demographic transformation, but Indira Gandhi wanted to retain them as a Congress vote-bank. So, the Assamese had to agitate against the Indian state and that led to a violent insurgency. Rajiv Gandhi blockaded the Indo-Nepal border and similar situation seems to be emerging at present. Whom would the Gorkhas turn to? China is ready with a huge capital to invest anywhere without reference to the domestic political affairs of a country. Why should Nepal be blamed for seeking help from China?

I hope that since the Bihar elections are over, Narendra Modi, Sushma Swaraj and Ajit Doval would be accommodating towards the Gorkha ruling elite. We need a Hindu-Buddhist civilisational unity, not bickering on ethnic issues. The rightists should not align with the leftists to demean an independent, brave and resilient people, the Gorkhas that too for principles that are detrimental to India.

The cow stands accused. It is a symbol of intolerance for the Nehruvian liberal leftist secular elite. It is a food habit. It is not cow, but beef. Jha says that a Vedic rishi ate beef and Bhargava says beef is an Ayurvedic medicine. Karan Thapar asks Shashi Tharoor if as a vegetarian, he minds others eating beef. No, not at all, we have a right to food. A couple of JNU students wanted to organise a beef and pork festival, saying that the Dalits and the Muslims have right to protein.

The freedom of expression has been curtailed according to the same elite. Three rationalists have been killed in the last couple of years. The superstition of cow worship is responsible for these deaths. Nothing should be sacred in India. It is intolerance. Even the Guardian and the BBC think so. Modi is a cow worshipping, vegetarian bigot and must be boycotted because he was elected by only a little more than one-third of a cow worshipping population. If the entire opposition is united, the Modi juggernaut can be stopped forever. Delhi and Bihar are pertinent examples.

I don't think cow is food, she is a sacred animal. Cow gives milk, which our children drink and from which we make curd, cream, butter, buttermilk, cheese and ghee. Cow urine is an antiseptic Ayurvedic medicine and dung is a fuel as well as a fertilizer. Bulls plough the fields and draw the carts. When they die, they are skinned to acquire leather, some may even eat the flesh. Why should we kill such a being? It is not that beef is derived from dead cows, it comes from slaughtering millions of cows, bulls and their calves. It is cruel to kill sentient beings with brain and nervous system because such beings can experience pain, pleasure, fear and love. But more so, if we extract so much from a species throughout their existence. Therefore, a consensus was reached among the Hindus thousands of years ago that the cow is sacred and the killing of its species is prohibited. Other animals like horse, elephant, dog, etc. were also not killed for food as they also served the human species in so many other ways.

In recent times, scientists have discovered many health and environmental hazards of eating red meat, especially the holy cow. Indirectly, it also negatively impacts sustainable economic development. It quite progressive and fashionable in the West to be a vegan, who does not consume any animal products including meat, fish, egg, milk, honey, wool or leather. It may not be practical to ban all animal products, but we can start by reducing consumption and prohibiting torture and mindless slaughter. Some animals like cow, horse, dog, etc. must be provided legal right to life and against torture. Such measures would reduce global warming and many diseases. There must be intolerance towards cruelty to animals, environmental degradation, health hazards and unsustainable economic development.

The three rationalists were killed in Congress-ruled states, two when Congress was ruling at the centre. How is Narendra Modi responsible for such brutal acts of intolerance? His only act of omission has been not checking the hate speech of some members of his party. But the secular elite has also been hateful towards Modi, it ran a witch-hunt against him for a decade and when the legal system exonerated him and the electorate elected him as the Prime Minister of India, the elite wants to delegitimise his government. I am sure the war on Modi would continue till 2019. There must be tolerance towards the hate campaign so long it remains within the legal framework. The Modi government has taken strong position against the foreign funding of this campaign and other movements to stop India's development and incite communal and caste conflicts. We must be intolerant towards such activities.

There is growing concern about the electoral defeats of BJP in Delhi and Bihar. Both are political setbacks for the Prime Minister, but the losses are due to bad campaign strategy and local voting equations, not any disappointment with the government. Modi's popularity is at an all-time high. However, if the problems are not resolved, 2019 may turn into a defeat like 2004. The people need some direct benefits from the government. While the responsibility for election strategy lies with Amit Shah, that for economic incentives lies with Arun Jaitley. Both should take into account the local aspirations of the people and take corrective measures. The troika should not alienate senior BJP personalities and work out a consensus. It should also stop the hate-makers from speaking in public. The message should be that our civilisation, in the words of the Prime Minister, goes beyond tolerance to acceptance.

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