Saturday, September 20, 2014
Hindu Reformers Ushered In Societal Reforms Without Creating Bad Blood
On the 152 birth anniversary of a social reformer Ayyankaly[क], PM Narendra Modi gave out a secret behind uninterrupted continuation of Sanskriti which has stood firm for several thousands of years in a world that has witnessed death of rest of the civilizations. Among many, one of the reasons behind continuity of the Sanskriti, he said, was a continued flow of Hindu reformers throughout all the ages. It is not to say that in Hinduism the reformers were welcomed with open arms by the high and mighty of the society or that they did not face resistance. They did face opposition but unlike other societies of the world, Hinduism reacted differently. Here, both sides, the society’s high and mighty and the rebels, both, behaved in ways far different than the normal reaction we are accustomed to see elsewhere in the world.
Mahatama Ayyankaly faught against the discrimination his society was subjected to owing to their ‘lower’ caste status. He rebelled against demeaning traditions and life that denied self-esteem.
The oppressed are easy prey to the sense of victimhood and revenge. But in India, they resisted the easy option and even in asking for justice, even in fighting, they remained clear in their objective that the fight was not with people but with the ideas that cause injustice. Therefore even in the thick of the fight they did not make the higher castes as their enemies. This is unique. They did not seek revenge in tit-for-tat style which is common knee-jerk reaction. They sought justice based on Hinduism’s idea of seeing God in every individual. Remember, Mahatma Gandhi called lower castes as ‘Hari-Jan’ meaning, ‘Godly people’ or ‘People of God’. Reformer saint-poet Narsinh Mehta, too called them similarly using different word ‘Vaishnav-Jan’.
The oppressor does not like to give up authority. He will harbor ill-will towards the beneficiaries of reforms. He would never like to be penalized for generations for the discrimination his ancestors may or may not have committed towards ‘oppressed’. However in India, the ‘oppressor’ higher caste Hindus have agreed to a constitution that is heavily against them. It prevents them from jobs and school admissions even if they are pre-eminently qualified. Higher caste Hindus, do not see this as ‘punishment’ but as a necessary sacrifice for betterment of deprived ‘lower-caste’, thus not breeding any jealousy or animosity towards beneficiaries of the positive-discrimination.
Hindus are blessed by three factors. One, arrival of bold reformers within the faith at regular intervals, two, their quality and third, their technic. The ‘Oppressor’ and ‘oppressed’ were inspired by the Hindu ideal of seeking own evolution into higher-self. Therefore, the seekers of justice came from both the divide. The reformers sprang not only from ‘oppressed’ but also from the ‘oppressor’ class. They came from ‘higher castes’ as well as from ‘lower’ castes. In their fight, they never made enemies in the opposite camp. Even in their fiercest resistance, Hindu reformers fought in a responsible manner; they never incited the ‘oppressed’ to seek blood. And under severest criticism, Hindu Shankaracharyas and other Acharyas did not pass any death sentences, fatwas or imprisonments for Hindu equivalents of Copernicuses, and Ibn Sinas. Hindu equivalents of ‘Protestants’, ‘Shias’, ‘Esmailies’ and ‘bourgeois’ and ‘proletariats’ never did face massacre, guillotine, burning at stake, or confiscation of properties.
Reformers, social and religious, in the territories west of India, branded those who opposed them, variously as heretics, heathens, idolaters, murtadad, kafir, reactionary, bourgeois etc. Fear of holding contrarian opinion meant severe punishments. That fear prevented many would be reformers from reforming their societies. As freedom of thought is a cornerstone of Hinduism, reformers could continuously help shape Hindu societies whenever need arose. Hindus have realized since ancient times that the change is the only constant in the universe. Everything is in constant state of change. Change is a universal law. Without reforms, the society suffers agonies of traditions and rituals that are irrelevant to the current era. Every society need reformers. However, they are hard to come by under the threats of being branded heretic or apostate. Reformers need to be bold. In Hinduism, they have empowered oppressed, have restored their place in the society without ever making them rivals and enemies. And in long Hindu history, they are never sought to be obliterated, white-washed, purged or their work impugned.
[क] On 8 Sept, 2014. http://www.narendramodi.in/pm-attends-152nd-birth-anniversary-celebrations-of-mahatma-ayyankali-at-delhi/