As the debate on Internet Hindus rages on Twitter it is important to set a few records straight. Sagarika Ghose, Ashok Malik and now some anonymous author on INI’s Broadmind have written about them in pejorative manner. Everybody has the right to express their opinions but an anonymous post is not even worth the piece of paper it is printed on. One of the biggest criticisms of the Internet Hindus is that they hide behind veil of anonymity and the author has inadvertently walked himself into the same bandwagon.May be the ‘victim’ is still recovering from the emotional trauma of the internet troll attack and anonymity is indeed therapeutic. Nevertheless we must focus on the message and its inadequacies because not everyone has the conviction to stand up and address the audience.

I am not going to get into defining Internet Hindus and defending their perceived intellectual inadequacy, lack of professional accomplishments and labels such as bigots with a sense of victimhood and inferiority complex because much has already been written about who they could be. These are merely epithets given by those who have run into them. Statistics conclusively demonstrate Internet Hindus to be highly educated, professionally successful, young and upwardly mobile.

The Internet Hindus are often derided for their tendency to offend both on the internet and real world. The lament is that Hindus must be tolerant. It does not behoove them to mirror Semitic religions. If as a Nation we are debating M F Hussain’s right to artistic freedom or Wendy Doniger’s right to make aspersions on Hindu culture and offend the sensibilities of many then why not extend the same argument to those who are claiming the right to get offended ? This duplicity should be abhorred. It is pertinent to note that this does not translate into support for vandals or cultural warriors who resort to physical threats. But to suggest that Hindus must remain tolerant even under worst kind of attacks on their faith is ridiculous to say the least. Infact it is the inconsistency of so called liberals to hold the society to equal standards when it came to different communities is responsible for this angst among Hindus. I would urge the readers of this post to see this outstanding debate on “Faith vs Freedom” for more on the issue.

I am not the least surprised that those who speak vehemently against intolerance of Internet Hindu’s maintain radio silence on Salman Rushdie or Tasleema Nasreen. Those spewing venom on Internet Hindus are also not averse to engaging “secular liberal” Asaduddin Owaisi, whose party Majlis-e Ittihad al-Muslimin (MIM) was responsible for assaulting a woman who had dared to question the dogmas of Islam. I hope they have adequately instructed Owaisi to pay heed to Vajpayee’s advice of “Kitaab ka jawab kitaab se do”.

Internet Hindu’s are also lampooned for being crude, disgraceful and lacking intellectual rigor to engage in meaningful public debate without putting emotion over reasoning. Let me take the crude and disgraceful part first. This perhaps refers to use of profanities and unpalatable parallels to make a point. But most people including leading doyens of media – TV journalists and editors, who are perceived to be opinion makers, are guilty of it. Haven’t we seen the illustrious Sagarika Ghose abuse Tweeple with impunity? Guttersnipe is her favorite phrase and if you probe further you could be showered with the choicest of abuses. But she is a self vowed liberal and therefore above any scrutiny. So why just single out the Internet Hindus ?

There is no denying the fact that there is a concerted effort to define what constitutes the Right in India. The economic right which has assumed the intellectual mantle to define alternate (to the Congress’s socialist agenda) policies and governance agenda wants the Right to emerge as a Liberal Nationalist movement. For them anything to do with Hindu Right is taboo. Presumably they have been subsumed by left’s contempt for anything native, anything Hindu. The Right in India like Right anywhere else is and will remain a broad coalition of religious nationalists, social conservatives, economic right-wingers, libertarians and security hawks. To imagine a Right devoid of any of these elements would be foolhardy. The purists haven’t survived and will not survive.

The conservative movement is in its infancy in India. Any attempt to exclude any of its constituents would weaken the broader coalition. To take on the mighty machinery of Left Liberal intellectuals and Congress, we need the cheerleaders as much as the policy wonks. Let us not forget the NDA did not return to power despite ushering in reforms and delivering good governance only because it disappointed its core constituency on fundamental issues it rose to power on. The economic Right must realize that its reluctance to recognize the Hindu Right would damage its prospects for a shot at power more than anything else. If Vajpayee’s “rajdharma” has to be relived then building consensus and accommodation is imperative.

Let us hope better sense prevails. There is a long way to go.

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Amit Malviya

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