Gay: adj. pleasant, festive

Gay: adj. Homosexual

A couple of centuries ago, to be called gay could have been a compliment. By the end of 1990s, however, it had attained a connotation to homosexuality and later came to be used as a pejorative. This is just one of the many cases in which word meanings have evolved (drastically) with time. At the same time, it has to be understood that a word can have different meanings for different people and in different contexts. For e.g some people genuinely believe that “Islam” is a religion of peace and that the word itself means “peace”. While the true origin of the word means “subjugation”, if its meaning were to change as drastically as that of ‘gay’ & come to mean ‘peace’, it would be a welcome metamorphosis indeed.

The Indic philosophers, perhaps were wise to this, and therefore did not impose constraints on definitions of God and, as it evolved into later on, on the religion called Hinduism. Given the intrinsic respect for plurality in its very basis, I find it surprising that there is fight for a singular definition of its political mobilisation avatar viz. Hindutva. I believe that having originated out of Hinduism, Hindutva itself is pluralistic in its definition and therefore can mean different things for different people..

 So, while the thinkers and intellectuals identifying with the label of Hindutva may find it offensive to be called fundamentalist, (when they find it an affirmation of a liberal philosophy), they have to be cognisant of the fact that genuine bigotry, xenophobia and hatred towards other peoples, do ride piggyback on Hindutva as a means of expression of their hatred.

When people (Muslims or otherwise) defend Islam as a religion of peace, I prefer the pithy reply, “Please tell that to those using violence in the name of Islam and not me, for, I do not identify with it.” In the same way, the burden of disowning, calling out and shaming the bigots who march in the name of Hindtuva, also falls with those identifying themselves with Hindutva. But, such burden is not limited to religious alone.

If words like “liberal” and “secular” have become curse words for many, it is because, hypocrisy, duality and bias (bigotry in many cases), too obvious to ignore, have become rampant amongst those claiming to be secular or liberal. Intellectual consistency dictates that just as the burden of disowning bigotry was put on Hindutva movement, the same burden also lies with those identifying with liberal movements (or for that matter any such movements).

Or we could just ignore this and go back to calling each other names, using labels as curses, obviating the need for any intellectual effort and critical thought on either side.

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