Does ANiS oppose only the Hindu religion?
‘Why does AniS oppose only Hindu Religion?’This question is asked deliberately with the intention of discouraging ANiS activists and spawning prejudice in the minds of people. Not only in Maharashtra but even elsewhere in India all rationalist movements are confronted with the same question with respect to their role in eradicating superstition. ANiS’s activities do involve in critical appraisal of religious practices directly or indirectly. But those who scrupulously follow age- old religious practices firmly believe that what they practice is the true religion and insist that everyone should follow it exactly as they expect. Such people feel threatened by the ANiS’s activities aimed at inculcating a critical attitude in the minds of people. They believe that when the social psyche becomes critical, people may start criticiszing religious practices and religion itself. To avoid this, the orthodox Hindu religionists want to wean away and keep people away from ANiS. That is why they deliberately drum up allegations against ANiS that they “oppose only Hindu religion”.
What is the truth of the matter? It is as follows:
Superstition is really ‘black marketing’ in the business of faith. So what religion these black- marketers, (superstition- mongers) follow should be nobody’s concern; least of all that of ANiS. The Samiti ANiS has always opposed exploitative buvabaji and religious rituals that boost superstition wherever and whenever they occur. ANiS has various methods of its own for dealing with this exploitative trade. Samiti ANiS has fought against many Muslim babas/ buvas and the details of their fight against them over the last 20 twenty years can be found in the Anis Varta Patra magazines published by ANiS. Our organization has also fought against the Christian priests who claim that due to their prayers blind people can see again, the dumb will start speaking and the lame will start walking like normal people. Anis has also opposed the expensive but meaningless rituals of the Jains; and the ritual of dashing heads against the wall of a village temple, in the Phalatan Taluka, practiced by those who call themselves Buddhists. Again all those who accuse ANiS of being anti-Hindu can peruse and verify the details of all these battles in ANiS’s publications and magazine.
It is true that a majority of the struggles against superstitions involve Hindus. But that can’t be helped, since Hindus constitute 82 per cent% of the population of India. Obviously 82 per cent of the struggles that the organisation has fought are against Hindu superstitions; a large majority indeed!
People are provoked if their superstitions are criticized by others belonging to a religion other than their own. Even criticism of superstition of one caste by another caste causes hatred and ill- feeling. Criticism of the thread ceremony of the brahmins, the banning of widow remarriage prevalent amongst the Marathas, the animal sacrifice by the Dhangar community during fairs, etc. by any caste than the one that observes the superstitious custom leads to not only discontent but even to unrest. Since 82% per cent of the population is Hindu, at least that many ANiS activists must be Hindus. Naturally when Hindu activists talk about Muslim superstitions, the Muslims do not like it.
The caste structure is almost exclusively a Hindu socio-religious system. There are roughly to six-and-a-half thousand castes among the Hindus. In fact, the caste seems to be more important than the religion. Each caste has its own rituals and rites, its own customs and practices and its own traditions and mores. They might have been useful and necessary sometime in the past. But right now most of these rituals, customs and traditions are useless and nothing more than superstitions. The religion that is recognized as the Hindu religion today, being much older than other religions, does not have one religious ‘Book’ but a plethora of gods and goddesses and books eulogizing them. In comparison, Christianity is just 2000 years old and has a single ‘Book’ of religion. The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost trinity signify more or less the same identity. Islam is even younger, just 1400 years old and has only one Allah and one Prophet and the Muslims revere only one ‘Book’ of religion. The plethora of Gods and Goddesses, umpteen books of religion and innumerable customs and traditions of the Hindus make it a fertile ground for generating superstitions.
An important fact to be considered here is that in the course of the evolution of Hindu Religion there emerged plenty of eminent social reformers who dared to mercilessly criticize superstitions. The Charvaka and the Lokayat tradition that existed three-and-a-half thousand years ago is a prominent example of this. One can compile a long list of recent Hindu social reformers like Mahatma Phule, Shahu Maharaj, Lokahitavadi, Agarkar, Dr Ambedkar, Savarkar, Prabodhankar Thakare, Gadge Baba and so on and that too just from Maharashtra. These great men, in fact cautioned all humanity, not just one religion, to be humane and vigilant but their teaching inadvertently could largely addresse only the Hindus. Here, it is very pertinent to mention the ruthless examination of religious books undertaken by Vir Damodar Vinayak Savarkar, one of the heroes of the independence movement and more importantly from our view point, eulogized by his followers as the ‘Ruler of Hindu Hearts’. The exposition of the thorough pitiless scrutiny of religious books that he undertook, illustrates the long tradition of Hindu social reformers who endeavored to eradicate superstitions. The progressive Hindu re formative sects like the Prarthana Samaj, maintained that there is only one God and one needs no ritual and or sanction of the religious books to pray to him.
Here is what Savarkar has said about religious books of all religions:, ‘the man who does not want to become just a telephone of religion and wants to possess a mind and intellect of his own, should overcome his belief in the “‘word”’ and nurture and develop the opinion that despite being respectable ‘“Books”’ and matter for thorough study, the Vedas, the Avesta, the Bible and the Koran are but just man-made tomes and should be studied accordingly. …
Savarkar further espoused that four centuries ago, Europe was similarly enslaved by the unalterable supremacy of religion; but since the time Europe distanced itself from the Bible and adhered to science, it was freed from the shackles of Shruti-Smriti-Puranokta (codes of behaviour, morality, worship etc. stipulated in religious tomes of supernatural origin) and became modern and up-to-date; Europe is now 4000 years ahead of us. It conquered three continents! If the Indian Nation aims to be like Europe, it should close the ‘Book’ of the ancient era, forget the supremacy of Shruti, Smriti and the Puranas, keep them safely away in libraries and enter the age of Science. Those old tomes are relevant only for telling us what happened yesterday. But the science that is objective and experimental alone qualifies as the basis for deciding what is appropriate for today. Modernity contains the essence of all that was useful in past experiences; but the ‘Shruti-Smriti-Puranokt’ cannot have even a speck of modern knowledge. Therefore we ought to be modern and up-to-date. Whether a thing is good or bad, and whether reform is beneficial or not should be answered, here after, only on the basis of one test, i.e. whether it is useful or useless today. One should never ask the question whether some thing has sanction in the scriptures.’
There are religious powers in Maharashtra and in India, which indulge in selfish politics. They consider themselves to be the contractors dealing in what is good for the Hindus. According to them it is their privilege to decide which reforms in the Hindu religion are necessary and which are not necessary. ANiS being a progressive organization and, its activists do not identify themselves with any religion and the caste they come from. They do not talk about religion and are in a sense indifferent to it. Some Hindu organizations, self- styled protectors of Hindu religion take advantage of the indifference shown towards religion by progressive organizations and issue edicts as to which religious issues should be talked about and which are prohibited. They intimidate people into following their edicts without asking any questions. It is a way of declaring their monopoly as the protectors of religion. ANiS need not and does not recognize their monopoly, because ANiS feels that such parochial self- proclaimed protectors and authoritarians have never been the spokesmen of the Hindu religion which is liberal, tolerant and ethical. They are not and will never be the spokesmen of all Hindus. Secondly, most of the activists of ANiS are born to Hindu parents and are Hindus in the sense that they have not converted to any other religion. So they do have the right to talk about the superstitions in Hindu religion. There is no reason why they should surrender this right to the Hindu fundamentalists.
Let us for a moment assume that ANiS works for eradication of superstitions only amongst the Hindus. But the important issues here are, whether the work undertaken by ANiS is good; whether it is desirable and whether it is beneficial to society. ANiS is confident that their work is appropriate, desirable and essential. What is more interesting is that even some religious Hindu themselves agree that this work ought to be done. And yet they ask why we seek to eradicate only Hindu superstitions? The malafide intent in their minds is clearly seen when they ask this question.
Superstition is like the trash and litter in the house. Let us assume for a moment that our nation is a ten- rooms house. So the religion with 82 % per cent population will get eight rooms. Islam with 12 to 13 % population will get one room. The remaining one room will go to the non-Hindu, non-Muslim population. Now, if the ANiS, at its own cost, undertakes cleaning eight out of these ten rooms of the house, the major part of the house will, obviously, be free of garbage. Isn’t it illogical to take the stand that unless the ‘ninth’ room is cleaned first, we will not allow anyone to touch the other eight rooms?. Eradication of superstitions is undoubtedly is in the interest and benefit of the Hindus; and to oppose it is injurious to progress of the Hindu people. Those who oppose ANiS, harbor a ridiculously wrong notion that ‘getting rid of Hindu superstitions will weaken Hindu pride ; while the superstitious Muslims will remain hardened fanatics. The Hindu-Muslim conflict being inescapable in India, hardened and fanatical Muslims would easily defeat the emaciated Hindus whenever skirmishes take place.’ One can only pity those who proffer such flimsy, deceptive arguments. Are these people who oppose the progress of the majority of downtrodden Hindus their friends or foes?
ANiS has vowed to help the majority of Hindus to become self reliant, free thinking, morally strong, modern human beings having a scientific temperament who will be able to compete with the rest of humans living in different parts of our world. Is this good or bad for the Hindus? And by the way since we believe in ‘equality for all’ irrespective of religion, cast or gender there are many non Hindu people from other religions who associate with us and who also want to emulate us to improve and reform their own religions and rid themselves of blind beliefs. It is a win win proposal for all humanity, so shed your apprehensions and join us if you ‘really’ ‘care’ for the welfare of the majority of Hindus.