We find a strange phenomenon in the Eastern regions of our country. Our Government regognises the existence of the “Christians” but not of the “Hindus”. The Government has classified all the “non-Christians” as “tribals” as distinct from Hindus (started in 1881 Census, continued by our Government).
What the Politician Says
These protagonists of separatism argue that these “tribals” worship things like trees, stones and serpents. Therefore they are “animists”, and cannot be called as Hindus. Now this is something which, only an ignoramus who does not know the a, b, c, of Hinduism will say. The word “animus” means the principle of life, which is immanent in all creation. Whatever be its form of expression, it is that Inherent Spirit that is worshipped. Do not the Hindus all over the country worship the tree? Tulasi, Bilva, Ashwattha are all sacred to the Hindu.
What Sri Krishna Says
In the Bhgavad-Gita Sri Krishna, while denoting the forms in which the Spirit is more manifest than in others, has pointed to Ashwattha among the trees. He has also spoken of the serpent and various kinds of animals and birds. And so also of mountains and rivers. Sri Krishna closes the series of such manifestations with the declaration:
यद्यद् विभूतिमत्सत्त्वं श्रीमदूर्जितमेव वा ।
तत्त्वदेवावगच्छ त्वं मम तेजोंशसंभवम् ।।
(Every such element as is endowed with glory, brilliance or power, know that to be a manifestation of a Spark of My Divine Effulgence.)
Divine Hand Continues
The worship of Nag, the cobra, is prevalent throughout our country. In the far South there are huge temples of Subrahmanya Swamy, the name given to Nag there. Then, should we term all these devotees and worshippers as “animals” and declare them as non-Hindus?
It was the Englishman who had planted such pernicious theories with a view to dividing and breaking up the Hindu society into as many small factions as possible. But our misfortunate today is that even after the foreigner has left, our own people born and brought up in our society are continuing the same divisive policies.
Work From Heart
It is now up to us to go to these neglected brethren of our society and strive our utmost to better their living conditions. We will have to work out plans by which their primary physical needs and comforts could be satisfied. We will have to open schools, hostels and training courses to equip them to benefit from these schemes. Alongside this physical amelioration love and pride in Hindu Dharma and the spirit of identity with the rest of Hindus have to be rekindled in their minds through the channel of devotion to God. For that, we have to give up false notions of high and low and mingle with those brethren in spirit of equality. We should freely mix with them, eat with them, and sing and chant with them the holy songs of devotion.
Then there is the problem of the wandering habits of the tribals. How can they be given any training or samskars when they do not stay at one place at all for any length of time? No doubt the Government is trying to do something for them. But the Government is after all a machinery. And a machinery cannot change the behavior patterns of people. It is the human touch that can make our tribal brethren take to a settled life. It we could domesticate even the wild animals roaming in the jungles, can we not persuade our own people to take to better and more refined ways of life?
See how the foreign missionaries are working in these areas. What a tremendous amount of effort and perseverance they display! What an amount of trouble they cheerfully undergo! They come from far-off lands and go and settle in the deep jungles. They live there in small houses just like the local people. They mix with them, learn their languages and become one with the local habits and customs. They behave with sweetness and sympathy. Can we not take a leaf out of their experience and do something?
Lessons of the Past
There is one point on which we have to be specially forewarned. And that is the census. Our pervious experience shows that the followers of Islam inflate their numbers and this has had tragic repercussions on our country’s affairs. The Hindus should not remain ignorant of the potency of numbers. They should all, without fail, register themselves with the census. Further all Hindus, to whatever sect, caste, clan, or tribe they may belong, must put down their community as “Hindu” only. Our brethren in the far Eastern region – they may be Naga, Khasi, Jayantia, Mikir, Mizo, etc. – all should designate their community as Hindu only, whatever the differences in their ways of dress, languages, food and local customs. The basic truth about our single social entity should always be borne in mind.
Without such basic unity, our brothers in those regions would also find it difficult to ward off the evil designs of the foreign Christian missions. They should realise that it is due to the their present mutually exclusive divisions into so many “tribes” that they have been reduced into a second class position. The Christians, though in a minority, have been able to assert their influence and establish their hegemony in certain parts of that region.
Rich with Qualities
When we go and mix with those forest-dwelling brothers we shall find that they are a people rich with qualities such as courage, intelligence, industry, honesty, warmth of heart, culture and spiritual refinement. They form some of the finest men of our armed forces. Probably it was only Maharana Pratap who had established close links with them and made them equal partners with the society. The forest-dwellers in those regions, the Bhills, stood shoulder to shoulder with Rajputs generation after generation in the heroic defence of Swadesh and Swadharma.
Let us Make Amends
Nowadays, when some of our people go to them it is only with a view to exploit them. There are some who condemn them as beef eaters and, for that reason, refuse to mingle with them or consider them as Hindus. But have we ever cared to sympathetically understand their conditions? First of all, has any one gone to them and taught them devotion to cow? That they should look upon cow as their mother? No! Then the fault is not with them, but with us. Secondly, they have no sufficient foodstuffs to feed themselves with. As a result, out of sheer necessity, they have taken to beef eating. It is not out of flair or fashion. Here too, the lapse is ours. It is up to us, the rest of the Hindus, to make amends by going to them, educating them, and elevating their living conditions and also their cultural standards.
It is wrong to say that our social system was at the root of their neglecting. In olden times when the Panchayat system was the basic unit of society, these forest-dwellers had an honored place in it. We find it mentioned in the description of the political system even as early as during the reign of Sri Rama.
Spirit of Karmayogin
The absence of contact and affinity with these brothers and sisters for the last several centuries has been the chief cause for their present neglected and backward conditions. They have been deprived of the education, which the others in society have availed themselves of. And in the absence of suitable technical and other training they have remained behind in their capacity to produce and prosper.
And we have to carry this education to the remotest corners of our country, to those for whom dharma has been reduced to a mere bundle of crude superstitious rites, to those who never had the opportunity to learn and live dharma – in far-off villages, in the hills and in the dense forests. We must expect hardships, troubles and tribulations in this work and often we may feel that it has been a thankless task. But, without expecting immediate results or miracles to happen, we must face the hard facts and with infinite patience plod on to success in the true spirit of a Karmayogin.
Many workers appear to take a delight in blaming others for all ills. Some may put the blame on the political perversities, others on the aggressive activities of the Christians or Muslims and such other faiths. Let our workers keep their minds free from such tendencies and work for our people and our Dharma in the right spirit, lend a helping hand to all our brethren who need help and strive to relieve distress wherever we see it. In this service no distinction should be made between man and man. We have to serve all, be he a Christian or a Muslim or a human being of any other persuasion; for, calamities, distress and misfortunes make no such distinction but afflict all alike. And in serving to relieve the sufferings of man let it not be in a spirit of condescension or mere compassion but as devoted worship of the Lord abiding in the heart of all beings, in the true spirit of our dharma of surrendering our all in the humble service of Him who is Father, Mother, Brother, Friend and Everything to us all.
And may our actions succeed in bringing out the Glory and Effulgence of our Sanatana-Eternal¬-Dharma.
Questions & Answers
Q: How should we bring home our cultural ideas to the Girijans and such others?
A: Only from an equal plane can this be done, and not from a high pedestal. First of all, they should be made to feel that they are our equals and brothers. Let them feel our genuine love and affection. Then only will they respond to our call and be receptive.
In fact, in the past, there were arrangements for maintaining cultural contact with them. The Goswamis of that province were people specially meant to mix with the tribals and educate and raise their cultural standards. In Assam these people belong to the panth of Acharya Shankara Deva, a disciple of Chaitanya. Once I met a few of them. They said, “How can we mix with such an uncultured lot?” However, after some discussion with them, they agreed to sit together with these people and have meals. The tribal leaders came and they could never imagine that such a thing could happen. Still they were grouping themselves at a distance. I told them that we were all brothers and made two tribal leaders sit by my either side for meals. They were simply dumbfounded. The trouble is, we keep aloof from them and complain that they are so bad and all that.
Of late they never like to contact the Government officials. Do you know why? There is a certain group of Nagas who tie their hair as knot in the forehead like a projecting horn. They consider it as beautiful, it gives a certain respectability and so on. An officer, who was appointed to look after these people, came to Assam. The tribal leaders came to meet him. But he was least imaginative. He caught hold of one of the their leaders, caught his knot of hair, shook him and said, “Cut it off. You must be a modern man.” The Naga leaders were taken aback. Why could he not deal with them with some common sense and imagination? Why not respect their sentiments? They never afterwards liked to associate with Government officials.
(With President of Wadaar, a backward community, organisation, Bombay.)
Q: The educational standards are very low in our community. The matriculates are employed as either clerks or as watchman in offices and factories. The more educated get some higher jobs. But their earnings will be much less than those who earn by physical labor. We are appealing to the Government to lower the educational qualifications required for government employment with respect to our community.
A: Education is, no doubt, essential. But if by physical labor, earnings is more, then even the matriculates should take to such work. Education and physical labor should not come in conflict with each other. It is only when these two are combined that prosperity ensues.
It is also not desirable to demand lowering of educational qualifications for employment. On the contrary, such sections of our people as are educationally backward should take the initiative to raise their standards. If the minimum marks required is 35% this year, you should demand that it be raised to 40% after a couple of years. It is through such self-efforts that a backward section can raise itself up. Otherwise, the children in such sections will never be able to cherish higher ambitions in life. They will for ever be deprived of high positions which require greater intelligence and capacity. And people with low intelligence will also bring down the level in whatever sphere they work. The life of so many, including his own, will then be in jeopardy. The same rule applies to doctors, engineers and technicians. In the present scientific and technological age, especially, it is essential that we increase our efficiency and capacity. Hence, it is necessary to see that our children imbibe the right ambitions and increase their capacities and educational standards. I urge that you should insist on this aspect.
The Questioner: I must confess that this is altogether a new viewpoint. So far, no one put forward this aspect before us. I feel it is the only right attitude.
Q: Some in our society feel that they are discriminated against in religious and social affairs by being denied yajnopavita, gotra, etc. what do you suggest as the way out?
A: They can be given yajnopavita and gotra. If they do not know the gotra they can be given the gotra of the priest. That was being done in olden days and is sanctioned by the Shastras. In the Shastras, it is also said that all those who do not come under any gotra belong to Kashyapa gotra, because all are supposed to have been born from Kashyapa. They should be given equal rights and footings in the matter of religious rites, in temple worship, in the study of Vedas, and in general, in all our social and religious affairs. This is the only right solution for all the problems of casteism found nowadays in our Hindu society. This I have submitted to all the Shankaracharyas, as also other Acharyas I have met.