By Akhil Kumar:
Internet Hinduism is a term coined by Journalist Sagarika Ghosh who was ambushed on Twitter by right-wing fanatics on almost every post where she mentioned anything to hurt the sentiments of the passionate self-appointed guardians of ‘Virat Bharat’. They are people who surf the internet and social media to propagate Hindutva; the social and cultural nationalism in India. They hunt for posts of ‘pseudo-secularists’ (a term they use to address anyone who disagrees with them, Remember Mamata and the Maoists?) and ‘debate’ about their opinions on various issues, which often develops into spamming the post with a lot of comments and ends with the other person being too irritated to reply. Though this is no news but it definitely needs to be addressed at the earliest as this propaganda seems to have spread like a communicable virus affecting even those who have never analyzed anything with communal prejudices.
One of the most shocking instances where it manifested itself in the ugliest way possible is the one where Meena Kandasamy (a Dalit poet and activist) was attacked by some right wing fanatics for her Twitter post on the beef-eating festival at Osmania University, Hyderabad, on 15 April 2012 and the ensuing clashes between groups of students. She was threatened with various forms of violence, including gang rape and acid attacks; a certain Siddharth Shankar went on to suggest the barbaric idea of raping her on live television. I am not trying to lead the debate in anyone’s favor, but the exact hate speech needed to be reproduced to understand the consequences of the misuse of such movements by hate mongers.
It’s not that they are an uneducated group of sworn hooligans of the RSS or any other nationalist party; many of them who have revealed their identities confess that they are free thinkers who have taken to the internet after being victims of constant media bias. The majority of them who replied to an online survey claim to be graduate, postgraduate and even PhD students. The problem is, as with most other movements, it being hijacked by sly wolves who lurk around to taste blood. Not all of them are Islamophobes, Pakistan haters and Modi worshippers as has been the popular opinion. Some of them try to engage in discussions and propagate a rational approach to Hinduism without being vulgar or hateful. The problem; however is that they are a minority amongst the innumerable hooligans frothing at the mouth with the most horrendous expletives.
I would now like to analyze the concept with a more critical approach, so let me start by sharing a personal experience. I have been similarly ambushed on social media numerous times but what is worth noting is that this action is not exclusive to Hindus. Once I posted an image criticizing the derogatory nature of Surah Nisa, Quran 4:34, I was threatened and the post flooded with comments justifying the verse in every way imaginable. The same happened when I criticized 1 Samuel 15:3(The Bible) apart from the time I quoted “Ravan was nobler than Ram” or the numerous times I suggested we burn a copy of ‘Manusmriti’ each to show mass disapproval. So, stereotyping extremism and hate speech to a particular community is not the wisest of ways to solve the issue and that is why I am not very happy with the media borrowing the term Sagarika used and publicizing it. All kinds of hate speech from any community or individual should be condemned equivocally, yes I am equally outraged by the likes of Yo Yo Honey Singh, Akbaruddin Owaisi and Mohan Bhagwat (those who have begun to dismiss me as another Brahmanical Hindu sympathizer, please read on).
Let us now talk about the effects of Internet Hinduism on the common people and the consequences it might have on our society. The general population in this country is very emotionally driven and that is the fodder on which hate mongers survive. In some decision making processes we tend to go with our emotions rather than logic, especially if it involves religious sentiments; these crusaders of our religion then start gaining sympathy as they cleverly play with people’s sentiments. I will not generalize everyone here but most of them seem to be part of a large network of propagandists the ‘Sangh Pariwar’ relies on to facilitate their HR and PR departments. The term ‘Internet Hindu’ has in fact brought a bad name on even those who have no such agenda in mind, people who just want to debate, discuss and learn. Anyone who tries to question the secularism and criticizes the Left politics is automatically seen with a doubtful eye, much like the protesters in Delhi who were brutally beaten up and termed as anti-social because certain students backed by the BJP and even the government tried to incite the crowd for their own respective interests. This is really dangerous as they will continue shouting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and ‘Vande Mataram’ to manipulate little parts of nationalism in every individual and make them blind to reason and logic.
It questions the whole idea of India being the largest democratic secular nation; how are we secular when we cannot even express our thoughts on religion without being subjected to abuse and hate speech? How are we secular when the majority of us have no tolerance for other religions? How are we secular when we are so busy in stereotyping other communities that we can’t find the time to sit back and understand their views? The ‘Internet Hindu’ reveals a lot about the general Indian psychology and has put a big question mark on our secularism.
I personally feel Indian secularism is a farce, we are essentially a Hindu dominated country; how else do you explain the Owaisis being arrested but Thackerays receiving full state honors? How else do you explain Togadia walking free and Owaisi in jail? In fact, we are fooling ourselves if we believe that those who run this country (not the government for sure) have anything to do with religion and communalism; it is just a matter of class domination. They put different masks at different times to fool the people and gain influence, the Congress does not give a damn about secularism and the BJP feels nothing about religious and cultural pride. It’s all an image building exercise to maintain class domination and keep fooling the common people.
It’s time we wake up and free our minds of all prejudices, it’s time we start thinking for ourselves. It’s very essential to keep debating about everything and we should question everything to expand the horizons of our knowledge. There’s no harm in propagating what we feel is right, we have every right to say what we believe in but we need to stay very alert and watchful lest we should be used and manipulated for personal vested interests.