NEW DELHI — Showing total disregard for the religious minorities in India, prominent Hindu spiritual leader, Shankaracharya of Puri, has recommended that all non-Muslims in India should identify as Hindus, a demand that reflects the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ narrative popularised by right-wing Hindutva extremists.
According to Sabrang, the Shankaracharya called for amendments to Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, which grants citizens freedom to profess, practise and propagate their religion so that all non-Muslim minorities to be declared as Hindus
Shankaracharya says that Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs were part of the “sanatana dharma” (eternal Hindu religion) but were declared by political parties to be minorities to win power and votes. Tribals were declared to be minorities, he claimed, to “erase the identities of Hindus from the country”.
The Shankaracharya pointed to various similarities in the beliefs of Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus. These include their belief in rebirth, belief that the Ganges is a holy river and the cow a sacred animal, belief in the non-destruction of the soul even if the body is destroyed as well as their belief in Om, which is the origin of their faith.
However, Christians were not mentioned at all by the Shankaracharya, but other Hindu extremists have sometimes drawn a distinction between religions that originated in India (such as the four whose similarities he discusses) and those that do not, such as Christianity and Islam.
Many Christians say that India has experienced increasing religious polarisation and nationalism since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, came to power in 2014. Many in the BJP identify with the extremist Hindutva agenda, which seeks to define Indian culture in terms of Hindu values.
Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, wherein exists Varanasi, the constituency of Prime Minister Modi, has the worst record of anti-Christian violence, recording 86 incidences of violence and hate crime against the community in 2019, and 132 incidents in 2018, according to reports.