Striking similarity between the two cults is blurred demarcation between religiosity and sin
Syed Ali Mujtaba | Clarion India
THE open call for genocide of Muslims by some self-styled Hindu religious leaders at a recent so-called ‘dharam sansad’ (religious parliament) at Haridwar has stirred a hornet’s nest. Of the sharp reactions pouring in from various quarters, many are those accusing the government of complicity with the culprits.
An oft-repeated question in this context is: “if the government is not shielding the culprits, how come they are roaming free ten days after making the offensive remarks which is a direct assault on the national integrity and constitutional democracy.”
What’s all the more intriguing is the episode has opened a debate over the question whether the Hindutva ideology is closer to Thuggee or Hinduism, yet neither Hindus religious nor the government which claims to uphold the sublime values of Hindu philosophy seems to be unperturbed.
The debate is a logical conclusion of the recent developments where religiosity seems to have merged with all sorts of sins, both moral and ethical, that too, committed in the name of religion. The twin aspects of the murderous cult were quite evident from the ‘Dharam Sansad’ at Haridwar. The Hindutva gathering gave a clear indication that the cult of Thuggee has assumed a new avatar in India.
It needs to be reiterated that Thuggee was a mysterious criminal cult that survived for nearly six centuries till the early nineteenth century in India. It was Col. William Sleeman, the British officer, who is credited to wipe out the Thuggee criminals from India. The British police officer through intelligence gathering, systematic arrest, and punishment put an end to this murderous cult that operated in large parts of India.
Nonetheless, the Thuggee cult members played a huge role in shaping the religious outlook of India for centuries. The members of this ancient cult justified murder and loot by building a grand narrative that their ideas are synonym with Hinduism. As a result, the practice of Thagee continued to thrive in India glorifying murder and loot having sanctions from the Hindu religion.
In one such “Hindutva versus Hinduism” debate, protagonists of Hinduism called Hindutva an affront to their tolerant and pluralistic religious ethos while the votaries of Hindutva asserted that their version of Hinduism is the core religious philosophy of the Hindus. However, when confronted with the questions whether they are closer to the practitioners of Thuggee a pall of scorn descended on their faces.
Now that the “Dharam Sansad’ at Haridwar has proved this vital point a comparison can be drawn between the Hindutva with thuggery. The latest version of Hindutva has striking similarities with thuggery. The tone and tenor of the Dharam Sansad’ makes crystal clear that the Hindutva forces are, in fact, thuggery in the name of Hinduism, an antithesis of Sanatan Dharma belief system.
This comparison assumes importance when we see shades of Thuggee practices, which are almost invisible in India, in full bloom at the ‘Dharam Sansad’. The utterances of the Hindutva figures are comparable with Thuggee which points to the complex nature of the new avatar of Hindutva with serious implications for the future of India.
Thuggee was an organised cult which flourished in India nearly a century and a half ago. This seems to be resurrected now with some conspicuous features for the last few years. Therefore, a comparison between Thuggee and Hindutva to assess the nature and direction of change that India is making in contemporary times is the need of the hour.
What stands out is that the Hindutva is becoming more ambitious under the incumbent truling dispensation and a reincarnated version of the Thuggee cult is emerging under the grand umbrella of Hindutva.
Going by the similarities between Hindutva and Thuggee, the destructive cultish nature and its manipulation of faith and murderous tendencies of thugee make the Hindutva the modern-day inheritors of the Thuggee tradition.
In the case of the Thuggee cult most, all its members were worshippers of Bhawanee, an avatar of the Goddess Kali. In the case of Hindutva, they are the followers of the grand narrative of current religious discourse centered on Lord Ram and Ayodhya.
Members of the Thuggee cult believed they were worshipping a deity to help maintain a worldly balance between the good and the evil and each of the murders they committed was to prevent Kali’s arrival, considered an apocalyptical event for humankind. A similar vision is seen in the image of the Hindutva forces that openly profess that they are on some kind of ‘civilising mission’ to ‘protect Mother India’ and ‘Save Hinduism,’ even if it means to ‘destroy Hinduism’ to save it!
The real motive behind the Thuggee cult was the economic benefits it entailed from the loot and murder, making use of religious cloak to cover its sins. It was common among the Thuggee members to generously donate their ill-gotten wealth to the temples and religious establishments as a part of their religious obligation, at the same time filling their own coffers by material wealth. This is exactly what’s done by the Hindutva brigade and looks like a complete replication of the Thuggee practices especially since the BJP has come to power in 2014 under the leadership of Narendra Modi.
Ironically, just like the Thuggee, where the religious symbol of Kali was used to justify their horrendous practices, the Hindutva forces are using popular deities like Lord Ram and others to carry out the loot and murder in the name of religion. In the case of Hindutva, the loot consists of massive public funds that are diverted to religious activities and also to a small band of corporate chieftains who in return fund them during the time of elections.
It can be argued that the Thuggees had no public support while the Hindutva forces enjoy much popular support. The fact is Thuggees were not suspected of being murderous or criminals and their public image was that of worshippers of Kali.
Similarly, the Hindutva members are passed off as respectable tax-paying citizens and hence are excused for their acts omissions and commissions. However, the fact remains that in the Hindutva brigade, murderous and loot tendencies have infiltrated deep and are operating in the society wearing the mask of religion. The main goal of the Thuggee members was loot and murder and the same is true of Hindutva forces.
The interesting fact is Thuggee cult had close connection and complicity with the village chiefs and landlords who protected them; same is the case with Hindutva that finds protection from the government and the corporate circles.
Another interesting similarity is the trademark of Thuggee followers was yellow scarves to strangle their victims, the Hindutva brigade use the saffron-tinged yellow scarf to display their identity.
This brings us to the question how a human can kill another and precisely this question brings both Thuggee and Hindutva on the same platform. This is because killing is at the heart of the matter and both justify this on the grounds of religious sanctions.
The follower of thugee is believed to have killed some 50,000 plus people in 1830 alone, which is a chilling record unmatched butchery by a religious cult. Similarly, the Hindutva forces by engineering innumerable communal riots have indulged in mass murder of Muslims that remains unaccounted and its trail of destruction is unparalleled in the world.
It is not to deny the fact that the link between Hindutva and Thuggee is tenuous but the fact is both murderous forces have held India hostage under the religious traditions. It could be seen that just like the victims of the Thuggee were ordinary people, the victims of Hindutva’s machination are ordinary Muslim folks.
The development at the ‘Dharam Sansad’ at Haridwar makes many ponder over the fact that while the Thuggee system was finished by the colonial rulers, who will take on the similar challenge posed by the Hindutva extremists. This is a far more daunting task because the modern-day Thuggee operators have captured the power at the highest level in India. The Indian state, the police, the judiciary all have become tacit supporters of modern-day Thuggee practices. In such a case, who will bell the cat?
As a result, many may agree that wiping out the modern-day Thuggee practices is almost impossible. It will be a real test of the ingenuity of the common Indians that can wipe out the modern-day Thuggee practices from our country.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. The views expressed here author’s personal. He can be contacted at [email protected])