This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

This Is Why It’s Not Fair To Refer To All Indians As ‘Hindus’

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By Chandrashekar B:

Recently many right wing fringe elements and prominent politicians associated with the BJP have been professing their views on Indians’ religious identity. A central minister says, “All Indians are Hindus”, and later retracts saying that she meant ‘Hindi’ and not ‘Hindu’. A deputy CM of the ruling party, who is a Christian, also says the same before adding, “I’m a Christian Hindu”. Not that their views are anything that is totally unexpected of them, but is there any substance in this view? Are all Indians Hindus? Well, the answer is both yes and no!

Picture Credits: Allen Brewer
Picture Credits: Allen Brewer

Let’s look back at the origin of the word ‘Hindu’. The word ‘Hindu’ is derived through Persian from the Sanskrit word ‘Sindhu’. People living on the other side of the Sindhu (present Indus) river were called ‘Sindhus’ by the ancient Persians, which eventually became ‘Hindus’ because the Persians pronounced ‘S’ as ‘H’. Hence the word ‘Hindu’ initially started as a geographical term. There is no mention of the word ‘Hindu’ in any old Indian scriptures because there was no need to contrast the religion, as there was no other religion prevalent in the land. Even after Buddhism and Jainism stemmed out of this country, and even after the entry of Muslim rulers, ‘Hinduism’ was not a popular term. It was the Europeans who popularized the word ‘Hindu’ , associating with religion that we call as ‘Hinduism’ today.

So, when we get into the etymological meaning of ‘Hindu’, yes, everyone living in India is a Hindu.

Another interesting aspect that these people put forward is that the followers of different faiths in India were originally Hindus, who were later converted to their respective religions. Even if we believe that India once remained an all-Hindu nation. It even embraced Buddhism and Jainism as a liberal offshoot of Hinduism. When Afghans entered India a thousand years ago, they brought their religion with them and so did the Europeans a few centuries back. All non-Hindus in India are converts is a view that is shared even by some of the most liberal of our politicians, including Jawaharlal Nehru in his book Discovery of India.

Great! Does that mean we can call all our citizens as Hindus?

Words go through something called ‘semantic drift’, where the word evolves to mean a point in the modern society that is radically different from the original usage. ‘Hindu’ is such a word. There are various factors that lead to this semantic drift including sociocultural forces, linguistic forces, psychological forces etc. When a new meaning is established, it wouldn’t be fair to use the word at its original face value. Now we use the word Hindu to denote a person following ‘Hinduism’ and that is the right way to use it even if it originated referring to people living beyond a geographical boundary.

It would be puerile to say Hindu is a person with a certain way of life and quote the Supreme Court judgement of 1995 that ruled ‘Hindutva as a way of life or a state of mind and not to be equated with Hindu fundamentalism’ because of two reasons. One, some legal experts still opine that the Supreme Court’s verdict in this facet is flawed. Two, practically speaking, in our contemporary society, Hinduism is a religion, and in a way, all religions are just a ‘way of life’.

Many people are also of the belief that the followers of Christianity and Islam in India were originally Hindus, centuries back. Even if that were the case, now that they have associated themselves with a different faith, it wouldn’t be right in expecting them to agree to be labelled as Hindus. Imposing a single identity with a term that has any religious shade will lead only to discomfort, and more importantly, hatred.

When Narendra Modi took office, he promised that he would be an accommodating PM and would take every one along. At least till a few days back, only people who were not in the policy making level used to voice such controversial views. Now this has taken a turn where ministers and CMs are following suit, which is really dangerous for a multi-religious nation like India.

You must be to comment.
  1. balayogi

    you guys propelled and prisoned by leftist ideology and constantly resorting to and enjoying Modi bashing, BJP bashing, Hindu bashing, Male bashing and Upper caste bashing must be funded by some vested interest group which will come to light soon. However, even while doing this I would suggest that you do your home work with a little more efforts rather than merely churning out some pieces from googling and peppering it with catchy and ready made victim hood pronouncing and leftist propaganda promoting vocabulary,phrases and idioms. Here are some more facts about the word HINDU itself, besides no one can label Hinduism as this or that , it is a way of life meant to either enhance the progress or give pleasure to the body and mind and /or produce enlightenment of the soul. ‘HINDU” DOES NOT COME FROM ”SINDHU”

    How many times have you explained that the name of your religion is a
    concoction invented by the Persians who called the people who lived
    beyond the Sindhu River ”Hindus,” mispronouncing the ”S”?
    Recant.
    A. Krishna Kumar of Hyderabad, India, explains. ”This [Sindhu/Hindu]
    view is untenable since Indians at that time enviably ranked highest
    in the world in terms of civilization and wealth would not have been
    without a name. They were not the unknown aborigines waiting to be
    discovered, identified and Christened by foreigners.”
    He cites a more solid argument from the book Self-Government in India
    by N. B. Pavgee, published in 1912. The author tells of an old Swami
    and Sanskrit scholar Mangal Nathji, who found an ancient Puran known
    as Brihannaradi in the Sham village, Hoshiarpur, Punjab. It
    contained the verse:
    HIMALAYAM SAMARABHYA YAVAT BINDUSAROVARAM
    HINDUSTHANAMITI QYATAM HI ANTARAKSHARAYOGATAH
    Kumar translates it as:
    ”The country lying between the Himalayan mountain and Bindu Sarovara
    (Cape Comorin sea) is known as Hindusthan by combination of the first
    letter ‘hi’ of ‘Himalaya’ and the last compound letter ‘ndu’ of the
    word ‘Bindu.”’

    also read
    http://www.b-i-f.com/Hindu.pdf

    and this one too
    http://indianrealist.com/2008/12/25/how-old-is-the-word-hindu-2/

    1. Amrit

      Hi,

      It is admirable that you at least backed up what you said by a few links. However, interesting to note that the links are not credible, peer-reviewed sources but even at a glance very apparently Hindutva-motivated sources. Thus they cannot be taken at face value. One of them is just someone’s blog!

      But what can be taken at face value? Perhaps the Indian Constitution? In 1955, the Hindu Code Bill set out to define what a Hindu is:
      “Anyone who does not consider himself or herself a Christian, Muslim or Parsi.”

      This is how Hinduism is OFFICIALLY described in law!

      Now to the final query- if Hinduism is a name given by Persians, what did a people so ancient and civilised as our ancestors call themselves before Hindu?

      Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya- jatis and castes.

      And then there were the others- which the Hindu Code Bill conveniently also labels as Hindu. As Dr. Ambedkar said in his brilliant work- Annihilation of Caste- our ancestors were just a bunch of rigidly enforced jatis and in-groups before interaction with the Abrahamic religions forced them to define themselves more broadly and inclusively, with all the artefacts of religion that Christianity or Islam possessed.

      On the article you shared by Murlidhar Pahoja, it really contains so many inaccuracies and intellectual dishonesties that it deserves not even a refutation- detailed or crisp.

  2. sathya

    It is a good article with listing of many facts. But references are must for this type of article!
    It will be purely misguiding, if the facts are false.

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By Taylor Guerrero

By Chiranshu Sihag

By ananya rajawat

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below