Perfunctory Insight into the Mind of an Indian Liberal
A very apt question graces the walls of MITHILA, a space on the eminent question-and-answer website Quora, “Why do some evidently communal, anti-Hindu people from India introduce themselves as Indian liberals?” I am of the opinion that the word ‘style’ ought to replace ‘introduce’; however, the question much interested me, and I proffered the results of a perfunctory mental inquiry into the causes that must form the answer of the question. Nevertheless, I must caution that, redolent of that of learned men though my prose may appear, it must be regarded as an opinion as subjective as it may get, and I must not be deemed immune to the very human character into which I may, purely by fortune, offer a seemingly dispassionate insight. Because one is so allured in our world by the prospects of presenting the other’s very existence as a threat to society, I must hasten to add, though it should be superfluous for a reader of probity, that while referring to religions and their votaries, I am not referring to all of them, but certainly so sizeable a number, or certainly so potent and vocal a faction, as to potentially sway the judgment of the rest.
He who abides by a liberal demeanour must, to a degree, be commiserated with. His position is unenviable in the dreadful thoroughfares of society. The sole victual that nourishes his liberal thoughts is a firm conviction that, should society abide by his principles, or in some manner resemble them, it would reach much the nearer to paradise, never though it may merge with it. This may well be true of the young, for it is common to espouse the noblest virtues in absence of personal financial responsibility. Alternatively, one may be more cynical, or realistic, consistent with one’s persuasion, that such liberal demeanour is not actuated by an affinity for society, but by the ardent desire to appear a messiah. For all our enlightenment and secularization, the prospect of appearing an avatāra refuses to cease appealing, if only for a transient period of life, to us all.
But, regardless of the nature of this actuation, standing athwart the realization of his vision, is the orthodoxy of religion. He who abides by the first principles of his liberal conviction would be consistent; he would deplore the orthodoxy of all religions, regardless of the threat to his life. For religions, so often premised on unreason as they are, offer a desperate, at first violent and later pleading, resistance, to the tide of reason.
But he for whom fame alone is the end, and not a fame earned through merit (whereby he may be in a position to do good) but mere eloquence of his affection (which is likely to inflame his innate narcissism if it has not manifested already), will invariably value himself and his comfort first. To him, it is easier to secure influence with animadversions against a religion, which despite all its ills, is more amenable to reform, even if its votaries may be numerous; than with those against that religion whose ills its votaries guard with the most zealous militancy, even if they may be the fewer. The former will earn him plaudits, and in due course, persuade a few elements of the orthodoxy to his view. The latter will cost him his life; none shall lament his loss, and he shall fade into obscurity. To a narcissist, this is veritable hell.
His adventure against the former may be far the more rewarding, were the better part of that religion’s votaries but meek bumpkins, unable to see through his pretend sophistication. The worst its excitable faction could do is curse him either in private or, today, on social media, and very few of them if any would risk offending his person. For them he cares not, and may even harbour an orgulous contempt. This is helped by the fact that, were the two aforesaid religions to enjoy a precarious relationship — one certainly of mutual suspicion if not pristine antipathy — and the latter religion happened to extirpate a vocal proponent of the former’s rights, most of the former’s votaries would express verbal indignation for a few weeks and soon forget that exponent of their own rights. The indifference, the general pusillanimity of them, is of great aid to the liberal in his enterprise.
The votaries of the latter, however, do not entertain the liberal’s enterprise. “Be at liberty to create your paradise elsewhere; do not sully our practices with your inferior touch”, they tell him. When he expresses his avuncular concern for them with the ever gainful pretext of their numerical inferiority in society, owing to which they must be ‘protected’ from ‘majoritarian tyranny’, it is not out of condescension, but out of a deep-seated fear of his fate otherwise. He is a slave to them, and they harbour not the faintest respect for him. For, he has likely been born into a family of the adherents of the former religion, and they view his liberalism as his self-effacing, self-loathing eschewal of his identity. His existence, therefore, is pitiable and miserable. He cannot face his own without a deep ignominy gnawing at him, and he can never hope to persuade those he professes to ‘protect’ to his progressive views.
Unless, of course, he finds his likes in abundance, and conveniently in positions of power; a power which is fated to be so used as to satiate their insatiable avarice. Then, his existence is not miserable, for he can much profit from the friendship of those likes, which is inevitable. If blessed with eloquence, and the fine art of shedding tears and presenting a learned, concerned countenance, he may even sustain solely on lecture tours and mediocre but superficially compelling books. Much the same may be said of his friends. After all, they are all obsequious to mediocrity, and, discerning that their opulence rests secure only by the defence of their ecosystem, they must defend one another, mostly through calumny, from the inevitable tide of incisive critiques. Then, the said liberal need not even face his own; he could rest secure in a manor in the elite demesnes of any city he may elect, preferably the national capital. He need not then be concerned with the burdens of a conscience.
This, to my mind, is a satisfying explanation of why an evidently communal creature, inasmuch as he is prejudiced against Hinduism alone, styles himself a liberal. And that such an appellation should be regarded as valid, is testimony both to the intellectual torpor of a much wounded society, and to the antipathy of the state against Hinduism. The Hindus, therefore, are not wholly mistaken in regarding the Indian state as designedly anti-Hindu. If Hinduism has survived, despite such mediocrity, apathy and antipathy, it is owing to the perseverance of its followers, and the influence of such organizations as the RSS.