Journalist Aarti Jerath, a confused Hindu !

published on September 9, 2013

The present writer has seen a few debates and discussions on a variety of topics where journalist Aarti Jerath has participated and where she has shown a certain sobriety and good judgment. At the NDTV discussion, however, she was badly miscast, for she was being asked to express her personal views on a sensitive topic for which she was ill prepared. Indeed, anchor Vikram Chandra, a sensible anchor, well informed and well educated, also made an error of judgement in labelling his program ‘ Will the 2014 elections be communalised ?’ (Sept. 7. 2013).

This is not even a loaded question, it is simply a boring one. The word ‘communal’ has been overused and misused and Vikram should not have known better. The participants were from left to right Rita Bahuguna of the Congress Party, Tarun Vijay of the BJP, Asaduddin Owaisi of the AIMI , Prakash Sharma of the VHP, Kamal Farooqui from the Samajwadi Party and journalist Aarti Jerath.

Of this group Tarun Vijay and Prakash came out very well, as did Owaisi because he did not hide his partisanship.
He talked loudly in his stentorian voice about the BJP and Hindu Nationalism being identical with Hitler and his National Socialism ! One cannot quite blame him since even noted non Muslim writers on the subject of Hindu Nationalism such as Christophe Jaffrelot have used almost similar arguments against the so called Hindu Right. Owaisi was also echoing the arguments of a fringe group of Muslims (albeit a vocal one and possibly an anti social one). Prakash Sharma of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad placed all his cards on the table and that was that. It was left to Tarun Vijay to explain what the relationship of the Ram Mandir was to BJP politics. He did a fine job, given the vitiated atmosphere of hostility, ignorance and prejudice.

Bahuguna , as expected, parroted the Congress line that the BJP is a ‘communalist’ party trying to raise the Ram Mandir issue for political gain (vote bank politics). Kamal Farooqi, recently dismissed from his party secretaryship for making irresponsible statements about the terrorist Yasmin Bhaktal was a non figure, although he spoke continuously.

It is Aarti Jerath who loudly criticised the Hindus in the group for being confused, while she herself was quite confused. Her responses ranged from schoolgirl laughter (at opponents in the schoolyard !) to the summation of arguments already presented by her main adversary (in her perception) Tarun Vijay. The latter had said clearly and simply that water, food, employment , in short the economic questions, are the most important ones for Indians regardless of caste, religion etc. For Hindus the Ram Mandir was a separate issue, one of personal faith.

This disconcerted Jerath who could not quite relate to Hindu sentiment, although presumably she is herself a Hindu.
On this program at any rate, she showed herself to be what writer and novelist Aashish Taseer described recently as a deracinated Hindu, someone who had been cut off from his/her civilisational roots. Taseer as the reader knows, is the son of journalist Tavleen Singh and now deceased Pakistani official Salmaan Taseer.

His article is a fine examination of the nature of deracination (Roots: What Sanskrit means to me’, Bharata, Aug 29,2013, reprinted from Open Magazine, Aug.17,2013). He makes two important points in this matter:

1. A writer must have a historical sense. Quoting from T.S.Eliot’s Tradition and the Individual Talent he points out that the historical sense is not simply an awareness of incidents as having happened in the past, but an awareness of the continued presence of that past in the present.

Deracinated Hindus or those who have been cut off from their roots do not have this historical sense.

2. Taseer tells us that he himself grew up in a household where they had been cut off from their roots in India’s historical past. He quotes from Anand Coomaraswamy’s The Dance of Shiva :

” It is hard to realize how completely the continuity of Indian life has been severed. A single generation of English education suffices to break the threads of tradition and to create a non descript and superficial being deprived of all roots. . . . “

These observations are generally applicable to many decracinated Hindus. In Jerath’s case it results in a failure to understand why Tarun Vijay could speak about economic issues and yet mention the importance of the Ram Mandir.
Indeed, the polarisation that occurs in such television programs is built around a meaningless antithesis : Mandir or mosque. Temple or mosque.

The Babur Masjid, as pointed out by Tarun Vijay was not a mosque(house of prayer) but the result of conquest. The invader necessarily has to destroy existing monuments or places of worship and build on top of them, in order to demonstrate power and conquest. This has been the universal characteristic of all barbarian invaders. Babur was typical not the exception. Failure to understand this is evidence of the failure of the historical sense amongst deracinated Hindus.

There is also the larger related failure to understand that India is a Hindu country, not by virtue of numbers, but because of civilisational history. In that context it is also a syncretic culture of a variety of ethnicities and religions, precisely because of the Hindu ethos which tolerated that variety. However, this does not entail that Hindus should abandon their historic claim to the Ramajanmasthan (birthplace of Rama).

Nor does it entail the illogical argument (the subtext of the Jerath position) that Hindus should not simultaneously wish for economic prosperity. The great Hindu kings and emperors of the past worked precisely for that prosperity and one which made India amongst the most prosperous countries in the world and clearly the object of invaders and colonists. India was not only Hindu, it was also prosperous. The myth of the otherworldly Hindu is simply that, a myth, and one no doubt encouraged by the colonising power Britain, so that the Occupation could go on unhindered. Deracinated Hindus have internalised this also.

Hence, Ms Jerath, it is both economic well being and the rebuilding of the Ram temple which had been destroyed in 1528 by an invader, it is not one or the other. Owaisi can utter meaningless statements like majoritarian Hindu nationalism and so can a writer like Christophe Jaffrelot. But for a Hindu not to understand the significance of the Ramajanmasthan shows a pathetic condition of amnesia, a lack of historical sense.

(The writer is a political philosopher who taught at a Canadian university).

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