This week I begin with an apology for hurting the religious sentiments of millions of pious Hindus. I did this by posting a picture of Yogi Adityanath on Twitter that showed him drinking cow’s urine straight from a cow. I did not know that the picture was fake and withdrew it as soon as I found out, but by then I was under virulent attack from Hindus who believed I had deliberately insulted Hinduism.
Their hate tweets charged me with having insulted the Hindu religion out of ‘hatred’ for Yogi Adityanath. It is true that I have expressed publicly my unhappiness with the Yogi being chosen to lead our most populous state, but this is because I disapprove generally of priests in politics. I also disapprove of some of the things that the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh has said but having never met him cannot be charged with hating him. In any case to all those Hindus who have taken offence I offer my sincerest apologies.
What explanation do I have for causing the inadvertent offence? Only that I was under the mistaken impression that cow’s urine was considered so sacred by believing Hindus that I saw the picture as intriguing rather than offensive. I know that cow’s urine (gomutra) is used in religious ceremonies and drunk as a tonic. I know people who market it in bottles for commercial gain and its medicinal properties. So I found the picture credible. While visiting Yogi Adityanath’s gaushala in Gorakhpur recently I saw people reverently lining up to collect cow dung from the Yogi’s cows. When I asked what they were taking it for they explained that it was used for making idols of Gauri and Ganesh for worship. So I assumed that there was something extra holy about the Yogi’s cows. Once more I apologise to those who took offence.
Now I would like to express my gratitude to those of you who took enough umbrage to send me those hate-filled tweets. Your tweets have taught me more about the current mood in India than any research I could have conducted on my own. For some time now I have been pondering over why so many angry Hindus have suddenly manifested themselves on social media, television and on our highways, without being able to understand the reasons why. Now I understand them a bit better.
In the vanguard of those who abused and threatened me were people who described themselves in their Twitter handles as Hindu nationalists and supporters of the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. What intrigued me was that their support seems to be more for religious rather than political reasons. Many of the handles from which the hate tweets originated had Hindu gods and religious symbols in them and although some listed secular interests in cricket, golf and travel, most said they were ‘proud Hindus’ interested only in nationalism.
Many admitted that they had nothing but contempt and hatred for Muslims.
Some posted a picture of a man in Arab robes collecting camel urine in a glass and taunted me for being the sort of person who objected to cow’s urine as a holy beverage but approved of camel urine. Their hatred was not just for Muslims but for Christians as well, so I was taunted for being too scared to criticise Christians for using wine in their religious ceremonies as symbolic of the ‘blood of God’.
More than Muslims and Christians, they admitted to a hatred of Pakistan and ‘presstitutes’ like me who have grown ‘senile’ in the ‘ivory tower’ of Lutyens’ Delhi. Their hatred for journalists who may or may not reside in this despised quarter of India’s capital city knows no bounds. It is based entirely on the impression that every political journalist who lives in ‘Lootyens’ is a supporter of the detested Dynasty and the Congress party.
What I found both fascinating and very scary was the extent of their hatred for those who subscribe to faiths that are not Indian in their origin. It was as if they believed that Muslims and Christians have less right to live in India than they do. Both their heroes — the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh — have repeated their belief in ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’. This is not understood.
This should worry them even more than it worries me. As someone who has often in this column denounced the fake secularism of the Congress party, I now find myself in a very peculiar position. I have said before that I understand Hindu rage created by decades of that fake secularism and support totally an Indian renaissance founded on a truly Indian idea. But, never has there been a renaissance founded on hatred. Our neo-nationalists need a more inclusive approach or there is no hope.