Devdutt Pattanaik’s Hindu-Bashing: A Reply

By: B. V.  Shenoy

Devdutt Pattanaik has written an article in the Hindu, as a savant of Hinduism, which is given below following this reply.

Dear Dr. Devdutt ji,

Please permit me to make a few comments on your article, “Holy cow, unholy violence” in the Hindu (where else!) of 6th October.

  • Reg. your option B;

According to Digvijay Singh of the Congress, 23 of the 29 Indian states have ban on cow slaughter for more than half a century, and none of these states has  given the non-Muslim people the “power” you have alluded to. Law has not “allowed them to terrorise and dominate Muslims and liberals”.

In point of fact, in India, the Hindu community has always been attacked, ridiculed, even terrorised by the Congress and the Left and also by the so called liberals, pseudo secular media and  the “intelligentsia”, most of whom are left-leaning, anti-God and anti-Hindu.

  • Your comment that ‘there is no love for cows in the “gow raksha brigade”‘ is rather sweeping and insensitive.

I have lived in rural areas all my life and I find cows well tended and loved as members of the human family.

Your comment about Hindu masculinity and Muslim emasculation is ridiculous, because ban or no ban, the latest census proves that Muslims are far from being emasculated.

Yes, today, Hindus are educationally, socially, culturally, politically and economically, empowered. They are spread all over the world, spreading their wings and also the message that today, India is breaking the glass ceilings, gate-crashing into the exclusive clubs like the nuclear powers, economic super powers etc.

They also have carried forward millennia-old traditions of worshipping Shiva, Kali, Durga, Ganesha and also Krishna.

If you want to pass a snide remark about them as being Hindutvavaadis, it is fine by them.

If you want to mock them as vegetarians, that too is fine.

As a claimant to “panditry” about Hinduism, you should at least know that use of hyperbolic, rhetorical and violent language is not the exclusive preserve of those you derisively call Hindutva people.

The communists had perfected that language long ago, when they called Mahatma Gandhi a lackey of the imperialists and Subhash Bose as the lap dog of the Nazis.

Today, some of the female spokespersons of the Congress party use much more colourful language full of anti-Hindu hyperbole.

While most Hindus have recognised that within India, Hinduism has received a vindictively raw deal at the hands of the Nehruvian dispensation, the overseas Hindus too have seen and realised the truth that Hinduism is being spoken of and written about in the vilest and most derogatory terms, its Gods ridiculed, mocked at and insulted routinely and regularly by the so called white savants who claim to be Sanskrit scholars and Indologists.

As a pandit on Hinduism, you are wrong in saying that only in the 1980’s Hindus saw that the Muslims were being appeased.

You are also wrong about Roop Kanwar sati incident. It was a localised event and has no pan-Indian relevance.

But the Muslim appeasement is several decades old and has an all-India sweep. Please consider the following:

a. During the Mopla Uprising in 1921, Hindus were massacred, raped and looted all over the state of Kerala, but Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of truth and non-violence, who was also “unafraid” of speaking the truth, said that “it is wrong to say that Islam has employed force. No religion in this world has spread through the use of force. No Mussalman, to my knowledge, has ever approved of compulsion.”

b. Nehru went to great lengths to impose the Hindu Code Bill on the Hindus only, but refused to introduce similar reforms for the Muslims, even though Muslim women needed Uniform Civil Code more than their Hindu counterparts.

c.The creation of Pakistan was demanded, agitated for and even violently fought for by the entire population of India’s Muslims and Ambedkar had forcefully argued for a systematic exchange of populations between India and Pakistan.

But, the partition was rushed through by the Congress leaders, particularly Jawaharlal Nehru, because he didn’t want the entire Muslim population shifted to the new-born Land Of the Pure, Pakistan.

And much against the wishes of the majority of the Hindus, Gandhi and Nehru fought for the retention of the Muslims within India, who liked to stay on.

d. About Babri Masjid, our entire secular brigade headed by the Congress clan have been attacking Hindus for the last 25 years, but see what Nirad Chaudhury had to say on the subject:

“That what happened in Ayodhya should not have happened is another matter. But I say that the Muslims do not have the slightest right to complain about the desecration of one mosque. From 1000 A.D. every Hindu temple from Kathiawar to Bihar, from the Himalayas to the Vindhyas has been sacked and ruined. Not one temple was left standing all over northern India……Temples escaped destruction only where Muslim power did not gain access to them for reasons such as dense forests. Otherwise it was a continuous spell of vandalism. No nation with any self-respect will forgive this. They took over our women. And they imposed the Zazia, the tax. Why should we forget and forgive all that? What happened in Ayodhya would not have happened had the Muslims acknowledged this historical argument even once.”

Therefore, Devdutt ji, appeasement of Muslims is a deeply disturbing subject for Hindus and it would no more do if you try to present it as a side show of the secular dispensation that has ruled India post-1980.

The following article was published in “The Hindu” by Devdutt Pattanaik:

Holy cow, unholy violence


The cow has been converted aggressively into a symbol for a religious orthodoxy demanding its place in a secular nation state.

If you love cows and care for them, you have three choices:

Choice A: Build goshalas or cow shelters where the animals can be taken care of. But this is an expensive proposition. There is heavy investment and no returns whatsoever, despite all the talk of the great medicinal value of cow urine and cow dung.

Choice B: Ban beef, stop farmers from selling cows and bulls to butchers, outlaw the culling of cattle, punish cow smugglers, declare all slaughter houses illegal, lynch people who eat beef, and justify all this using complex arguments. This results in a large number of cows (which can no longer give milk) and bulls or oxen (that are too weak to be draught animals), being abandoned to simply wander the streets eating garbage and plastic or just starving to death since Choice A is unavailable. It also destroys industries and creates widespread unemployment.

Choice C: Build local slaughterhouses near farms so that commercially unviable cattle can be humanely culled nearby, without their having to endure great suffering while being transported in horrible conditions to distant slaughterhouses.

This controversial suggestion was made by none other than N.S. Ramaswamy, founder-director of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, and noted animal rights activist.

Guess which is the preferred option of the rising multitude of go-raksha vigilantes? Not A, as it is too expensive and tedious, and involves too much work. Not C, because we are conditioned to believe that violence can do no good.

So it is Option B, which has the advantage in that it gives people power.

It allows them to terrorise and dominate Muslims and liberals.

It gives them global attention and makes them the focus of a controversy-hungry media.

It is this rather than cow protection that the go-rakshaks really seek.

There is no love for cows in the go-raksha brigade — an idea systematically and meticulously unravelled in the essay ‘Why is the Cow a Political Animal?’ by Sopan Joshi, a Research Fellow at the Gandhi Peace Foundation, published in Yahoo! in May this year.

It is all about power, a yearning to dominate.

So, all the talk about the economic reasons for saving cows, and the importance of cow milk, cow urine and cow dung are just a rationalisation for that one single goal: to dominate and reclaim masculinity, following the perceived emasculation by the Muslims, the British and now the liberals.

New form of Hinduism:

A new form of Hinduism is emerging around the world: one that is tired of being seen as passive and tolerant, like a suffering docile wife.

It wants to be aggressive, violent. So it prefers Durga and Kali to the demure Gauri; Shiva as Rudra and Virabhadra and Bhairava rather than as the guileless Bholenath or the august Dakshinamurthy; and the Krishna of the Mahabharat to the affectionate Bhagavata Krishna.

It visualises Ram without Sita. It wants its Ganesh to lose that pot belly and sport a six-pack ab.

All this while insisting, with violence if necessary, on the values of vegetarianism and seva and ‘giving up the ego’, which is the principle of ‘sanatana dharma’ — not just a religion but a way of life.

This new form of Hinduism is what we call Hindutva.

We can call it a sampradaya, a movement within the vast ocean of Hinduism that has many such movements, traditions, forces and counterforces.

Hindutva sampradaya, like all sampradayas in history, insists it is the true voice of Hinduism.

Like all sampradayas, it rejects all alternative readings of Hinduism.

And so, when you direct them to an article, ‘The Hindu View on Food and Drink’ by S. Ganesh and Hari Ravikumar, which draws attention to the fact that while Vedic scriptures do value the cow, they have no problem with the consumption of bulls and oxen and barren cows, members of the Hindutva brigade will question the credentials of the authors and their Hinduness, invariably in language that is hyperbolic, rhetorical and violent.

There is no room for discussion or nuance here.

The only language is force and bullying.

Where is this coming from?

It comes from institutionalised paranoia: a belief that innocent Hindi-speaking rural Bharat needs rescuing from an evil English-speaking India that favours Nehru, from the liberals who equate Hinduism only with casteism, and from Euro-American scholars who insist Shiva is a ‘phallic’ god.

And, to be fair, there is a modicum of truth in their argument.  In his book Rearming Hinduism, Vamsee Juluri expresses outrage at the way Hinduism is being projected in the U.S.

That outrage and anguish is genuine, and can be felt in the NRI community that has increasingly become more and more vocal, even aggressive.

When ‘liberals’ deny this outrage and anguish, it seems to consolidate the paranoia of the Hindutva sampradaya.

When the liberal press dismisses the book by Sita Ram Goel, Hindu Temples — What Happened to Them, as right-wing propaganda, and gleefully declares that the Hindu memory of Muslim kings destroying thousands of Hindu temple is just not true on the basis of Richard Eaton’s Temple Desecration and Muslim States in Medieval India, you start wondering if the scientific and historical method is simply designed to mock all things that a traditional Hindu simply assumes to be true.

When the banning of radical literature does not meet with the same outrage as the banning of Wendy Doniger’s Hindus: An Alternative History, a section of the population starts feeling that they are alone, isolated and rejected, by the people who claim to be fair and just and liberal.

How do you strike back at those who simply invalidate your memories and beliefs by constantly quoting science and facts?

You simply create your own narrative and dismiss theirs.

And this is what is happening in the beef-eating discourse.

It is a symbolic attack on the ‘educated Indian’ who did not stand up for Hinduism in the international arena.

And the Muslims, sadly, are the tragic collateral damage.In the 1980s, we saw how the then Congress government tried to appease the Muslim orthodoxy in the Shah Bano case by diluting even a Supreme Court judgment that gave maintenance rights to divorced Muslim women, but did not bother to appease the Hindutva sampradaya in the Roop Kanwar sati case when the court declared sati a crime and not a religious act. In these cases, women were simply symbols in a fight where religious orthodoxy was demanding its place in a secular nation state.

Now, it is the turn of the cow to be that symbol.

When the secular nation state tilts in favour of one religion and seems to be persecuting another, there is bound to be a backlash.

And that is what we are facing now: a karma-phala (karmic fruit) of karmic-bija (karmic seed) sown by the Congress on the one hand, when it unashamedly appeased Muslim religious orthodoxy, and the liberals on the other, who endorsed their secular and rational and atheistic credentials by repeatedly projecting Hinduism as only a violent and oppressive force.

Let us ponder on our contribution to the rising tide of ahimsa terrorism, while the still starving ‘rescued’ cow wades through garbage in Indian towns and villages, eating plastic.

(Devdutt Pattanaik writes and lectures on the relevance of mythology in modern times at this website)

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