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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Reforming the Hindus -1

In Indian society one is surrounded by false values right from birth irrespective of religious background. Rare People try to change the notion of modernism and put reforms in this plural democratic nation. Today, the language of secularism and equality is different from ground realities.

Despite faith based flaws of Abhrahmic religion, it considers all humans equal. While Hindu considers and see people in  hierarchical manner. Leave this old theoretical aspect of religion and culture aside. Look into Hindu Law (not obsolete and biased Manu Smriti) through insight of an excellent article of Ramchandra Guha :

Those who want to explore the details of these changes are directed to Mulla's massive Principles of Hindu Law (now in its 18th edition), or to the works of the leading authority on the subject, Professor J.D.M. Derrett. For our purposes, it is enough to summarise the major changes as follows; (1) For the first time, the widow and daughter were awarded the same share of property as the son; (2) for the first time, women were allowed to divorce a cruel or negligent husband; (3) for the first time, the husband was prohibited from taking a second wife; (4) for the first time, a man and woman of different castes could be married under Hindu law; (5) for the first time, a Hindu couple could adopt a child of a different caste.

BJP is termed as Brahmin Bania party in public and it has gained popularity with economic reforms and growing Hindu nationalism. It always jumps on proving the role of Hindus as reform supporting and secular. That is indeed true but not because of them for sure. Now, our RSS and BJP supporter guys should be asking for the constructive role of their party in the Hindu law reforms. I will tell that also ( same source as before) :

In the vanguard of the opposition was the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). In a single year, 1949, the RSS organised as many as 79 meetings in Delhi where effigies of Nehru and Ambedkar were burnt, and where the new Bill was denounced as an attack on Hindu culture and tradition.

A major leader of the movement against the new Bill was a certain Swami Karpatri. In speeches in Delhi and elsewhere, he challenged Ambedkar to a public debate on the new Code. To the Law Minister's claim that the Shastras did not really favour polygamy, Swami Karpatri quoted Yagnavalkya: "If the wife is a habitual drunkard, a confirmed invalid, a cunning, a barren or a spendthrift woman, if she is bitter-tongued, if she has got only daughters and no son, if she hates her husband, (then) the husband can marry a second wife even while the first is living." The Swami supplied the precise citation for this injunction: the third verse of the third chapter of the third section of Yagnavalkya's Smriti on marriage. He did not however tell us whether the injunction also allowed the wife to take another husband if the existing one was a drunkard, bitter-tongued, a spendthrift, etc.

Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and B.R. Ambedkar are the reformers who pushed the limits of high caste and class oriented Hindus towards reforms. There was opposition from upper caste leaders of  congress but that were brushed aside by charismatic and soft dictatorial nature of Jawaharlal Nehru. Again quoting the same article:

These three great reformers were Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and B.R. Ambedkar. Gandhi and Nehru, working together, helped Hindus make their peace with modern ideas of democracy and secularism. Gandhi and Ambedkar, working by contrasting methods and in opposition to one another, made Hindus recognise the evils and horrors of the system of untouchability. Nehru and Ambedkar, working sometimes together, sometimes separately, forced Hindus to grant, in law if not always in practice, equal rights to their women.

I will like to express one more blow on the defenders of new Hindutva forces. Like any other religion, they also shed their brains in the matter of faith (as defenders of Islamic forces shouted on the ban of the veil in France). Around 1987, BJP insisted, that if a widow volunteers to burn herself on her husband’s pyre, her choice should be respected. Look in the Hindu article for details.

It is most difficult to enact resides where our old, entrenched interest have grown deep, stubborn roots. The strength of any culture will always be reason and flexibility, not dogma and posturing. That had helped in past and will guide Hindus in the future also. Hindus don't have to be brilliant to see this but must be committed towards equality of gender and cast, seeing the initiative through. And upcoming this requires massive popular will. The inability to argue out issues without being tagged with labels has allowed a cobweb of ad ideas to persist in our approach to democratic discussion.  Don't know what I will be tagged as after this post. :)


  1. superbly said.
    that's very true....
    infact in the land where "shastraarth" was a usual practise, this should come as an eye opener to us.
    Why are we not asking them the reason / basis of our faiths,when we forbid to cross the road if a cat crosses the road, or a special day for not purchasing any metals and oil (saturday). Even if we look back at past, we wouldn't find any relevance of days "Ravivar, Somvar ......Shaanivar etc."where in the land the system was from ekam to purnima / amasvasya (again a horrible day by mythology, even when LORD RAMA returned to ayodhya on same day).
    Only why is the question we must ask ourselves.
    only then are we worthy enough to prove our so called legacies.

  2. but don't you see that this post totally concerns on one part of the problem though rather a major one, if we consider the affected party

  3. Much sorry for the late response Rehgujar. Was much busy, :(

    Thanks for your comment yaar. The era of Shashtraarth had gone long by. The core reformers like Shankarcharya, Dayanand and Vivevkanad were opposed firecely by all these Hindu people in their time. I am not talking about western minded reformers here.

    Every religion has lot of bad aspects and people follow it religiosly. We have to ask questions again and again so that falsehood can be unveiled. Truth can stand bareness and test of time or reason.

    I don't understand about one part of problem. This post was dedicated to opposition of reofrming acts by those who shouts the name of Hindu for political gains.

  4. Reforming Hinduism is not easy because it is a combination of many different beliefs. The reforms that are necessary would depend on where you live.

    I think that the simple reform that we could undertake is to teach Hindus about their own religion and the history in a fact based manner. The government is unwilling to do it because of the fear of repercussions.

  5. Hari, take the case of Honour Killing prevailed all across India in all religions. What is the stance taken by BJP and RSS, absolute noting. Yes, the reforms are needed where we live but there are always some common problems.

    To teach Hindu his history withslight critical over view raises eye brows of all nationalists. When the elite practices discrimination in the daily lifes, the social order below will follow that only. Bottom up civil consciousness on caste discrimination is upsent in our country.

    And yes, the government is unwilling to do it because of the fear of repercussions.



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