The controversy arising from the statement made by Tamil Nadu government minister Udhayanidhi Stalin at the ‘End of Sanatan’ conference held in Chennai does not seem to be abating. Uday is the grandson of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister late M. Karunanidhi and son of current Chief Minister MK Stalin. BJP has jumped into this controversy with utmost enthusiasm. Now all the opposition parties are responding to this. This dispute may extend until the upcoming parliamentary elections.
This controversy is seen mainly from two perspectives. Where the BJP and its associated intellectuals believe that Uday Stalin has called for genocide of Hindus by talking about the end of Sanatan. People associated with the BJP say Udhayanidhi has been speaking against Hinduism by comparing Sanatan to diseases like dengue and malaria and talking about eliminating Sanatan. Uday says his statement is related to aspects like casteism and communalism related to Sanatan and he is not talking about any kind of genocide. They are adamant on their point and are ready to answer in court.
I never called for genocide of people who follow Sanatan Dharma. Sanatan Dharma is a principle that divides people in the name of caste and religion. Upholding Sanatan Dharma is upholding humanity and human equality.
I stand by every word I’ve said. I spoke… https://t.co/Q31uVNdZVb
— Udhay (@Udhaystalin) September 2, 2023
When we talk about the political impact of this controversy, Tamil Nadu will be least affected by it because this term is very old in politics there, especially in the tradition of Justice Party and Dravidian movement, it has been called this and all parties know that this is an ideological issue and there is nothing like a call to violence or genocide in it.
But in other states, especially in North India, this can become an emotional issue. Especially because the Sanatan Panth is the most influential sect in Hindu religion. North Indian politics is not familiar with Periyaravadi terminology, so there is more tension there. As DMK is in alliance at national level with Congress, SP, Trinamool Congress, RJD etc., these parties give statements cautiously. The Congress spokesperson has distanced himself from this statement saying that the Congress policy is equality for all religions, while the Trinamool Congress has also expressed disagreement with this statement. BJP knows this is a sensitive issue in North India, so it wants to make it bigger.
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Udhayanidhi Stalin, son of Tamilnadu CM MK Stalin, and a minister in the DMK government, has linked Sanatana Dharma to malaria and dengue… He is of the opinion that it needs to be eradicated and not just countered. In short, he is calling for the genocide of 80% of the population of Bharat, which… pic.twitter.com/4G8TmdheFo
— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) September 2, 2023
My view is that Udayanidhi’s call for the end of Sanatan is not about violence or destruction. It is rather against the beliefs of Hindu religion which are archaic. Like superstition, caste and caste system etc. The end of Sanatan is in a sense a call for reform and revision of Hinduism. This criticism is within the broader scope of Hinduism and should not be seen as an external attack on the Sanatana faith of Hinduism. In this article I will try to look at the whole controversy in the context of Hinduism, Sanatan and the Constitution.
Sanatan as part of Hinduism
To understand the controversy in its entirety, it is necessary to understand the meaning of the words Hindu and Sanatan. But for many years there has been an attempt to use these two words in the same sense and when Sanatan is questioned or criticized, it is therefore presented as a criticism of Hindus. This is a strategic method because through this the majority of Hindus can be united in favor of Sanatan.
Hindu is actually a broad term and Sanatan is one of its many streams. The word Hindu first came into existence as a geographical identity. For example, in the Baburnama, Babur referred to the newly acquired territory as Hindustan and its people as Hindus. Before the arrival of the Mughals, many groups of Muslims lived here and they had ruled over a large part of this place, but this land was the Hindustan of Babur.
The Indian Constitution has also recognized the geographical interpretation of the word Hindu by including Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains in the definition of Hindu (Article 25). It is written in the Explanation to this Article of the Constitution – “The reference to Hindus in sub-clause (b) of clause (2) shall be construed to include a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jain or Buddhist religions and shall include Hindus. The reference to religious institutions will be construed accordingly.”
It is interesting that the thinker Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in his famous book Hindutva has also given almost a similar interpretation of the word Hindu. He has considered all these religions and sects as Hindus whose motherland and holy land is India. In their view, people of religions like Muslims and Christians are not Hindus.
As far as the interpretation of Hindu is concerned, the system of the Constitution also comes to the same conclusion. Of course, the framers of the Constitution may not have thought like Savarkar.
If we take the constitutional or savarkarite interpretation of the word Hindu preferred by the BJP, then what Dravidian leaders say about the Udaya Sanatan Panth should be seen as a debate and controversy within Hinduism.
The broad and geographical definition of Hindus under Article 25 of the Constitution is contained in the original text of the Constitution and has not come from any constitutional amendment. This is the interpretation of the Constituent Assembly, where there were stalwarts like Nehru, Patel, Dr. Ambedkar, Maulana Azad, Syama Prasad Mukherjee, Pattabhisitarammayya.
This interpretation means that whether it is Arya Samaji or Sanatan, Dvaita or Advaita or Vishishtadveta, Shaiva, Shakta, Vaishnava or Smarta, Lingayat or Ravidassia, or Arjaka, Sikh or Jain or Buddhist, all according to the constitution, will be known by the Hindu identity . Uniform civil law will apply to them. It does not matter that someone has taken an oath that he does not believe in Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh and Ram and Krishna, the constitution can still consider him a Hindu. Similarly, a person can be a Hindu even after rejecting Sanatan and following Arya Samajism.
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Riddle of Sanatan and Hindu
The basic meaning of Sanatan is a ritualistic Hindu, whose main source of belief is the texts that came after the Vedas. It is not possible to have any universally accepted definition of Sanatan because there is neither any single religious text nor any single Guru of Sanatan. There is no universally accepted deity. Those who believe in it have faith in various texts written after Vedas like Puranas, Upanishads, Ramayana, Mahabharata etc. and take their religiosity and rituals from there.
In this respect, Hindus differ from Christians or Muslims, whose source of religiosity is the Bible and the Koran, respectively. There is a diversity in Sanatana’s systems and interpretations due to taking so many texts as sources, which often devolves into anarchy. Undoubtedly, Sanatan is considered eternal and stable, but we have seen the Sanatan Panth change in many ways in the last 250 years. Practices like Sati have been banned. The practice of polygamy has ceased. Widow remarriage has started taking place and people of all castes have started going to most of the temples.
The word Sanatan was widely used for the first time in connection with the challenge of the Arya Samaj. Later, people with Sanatani identity came forward to protest against the efforts to reform Hinduism and the Hindu Code Bill etc. Arya Samaj rejects many post-Vedic religious compositions as Jaal texts or spurious texts, while for Sanatanis they are texts of religious significance. The Arya Samaj forbids idol worship and differs from the Sanatani on this point as well.
If we look at historical examples, the birth of a new religion or the rise and expansion of different sects within a religion often takes a violent form. When Christianity or Islam came into being, it developed by clashing with the existing religions at the time. In this sequence, the story of violence is part of the stories related to these religions. When the wave of modernity came in Christianity and Protestantism and Calvinism came to the fore, the church tried violently to stop them. The violence between the Shia and Sunni sects of Islam has not stopped until now. Similarly, Buddhists and Jains also had to face violence in India. In the 12th century, when the rituals and discriminatory traditions of the then dominant Hindu religion were challenged under the leadership of Basavanna, there was a violent reaction.
But this does not always happen. In the new era, when the Sanatan was challenged by the Arya Samaj, the dispute never became violent. When the Sikh sect separated from the Hindu mainstream, it did not have to face violence from the Hindu mainstream. That is, there are various violent and non-violent forms of interactions and interactions between religions.
The Dravidian movement has challenged the casteism, discrimination and hypocrisy of Sanatani Hindutva. But despite the aggressive slogans, this work has generally taken place within the framework of the law and the constitution. If seen in this context, it will be easy to understand the call for the end of Sanatan. Similarly, when Baba Saheb left Hinduism and embraced Buddhism in Nagpur in 1956, 22 vows were recited. Liberation from Hinduism is spoken of here, but it does not mean that they wish for the end of the Hindus.
If a leader in the tradition of Periyar, Annadurai and Karunanidhi does not speak of the end of Sanatan, what will he do? The Dravidian movement has emerged out of this ideological struggle.
It can be said that the language used by Udhayanidhi is wrong and gives rise to violence. If this matter reaches the court, it may be known how the court views such allegations. But the meaning of a word or a sentence should only be understood in its context, under what circumstances it is said and who says it. This can be understood from the English film 12 Angry Men (1957) or its Hindi remake Ek Ruka Hua Faisla. In this one character angrily says to another character – I will kill you. But it is explained to him that he actually has no intention of killing anyone. It’s just that he’s very angry.
Similarly, when the BJP talks about Congress-free India, it does not mean massacring Congressmen, it means destroying or greatly weakening Congress’s policies and ideology by defeating them in elections. Similarly, the slogan “Garibi Hatao” does not mean eradicating the poor. Eradicating polio means eradicating the disease. Likewise, eradicating immobility does not mean eradicating the people who practice immobility.
Finally, the Dravidian movement is flourishing in Tamil Nadu, but along with it, temples are also flourishing. Since the formation of the Dravidian Party government for the first time in 1967, two parties have ruled according to Dravidian ideology. But meanwhile, Hindu temples are also inhabited there. In the state that has the largest number of temples in India, and where the majority of the population counts as Hindu in the census, Dravidian ideology is also widespread. Udhayanidhi Stalin’s mother Durga Stalin herself follows Hindu traditions and can often be seen in temples.
(Click here to read the article in English)
(Dilip Mandal is a former editor-in-chief of India Today Hindi magazine and has written books on media and sociology. His handle is @Profdilipmandal. Views are personal.)
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