A Draft Policy for Hindu Liberation

The following draft policy statement for Hindu liberation was written by Hindu-heritage Co-Counselors with support from Azi Khalili, the International Liberation Reference Person for South, Central, and West Asian-Heritage People.

WHO WE ARE

Hindus, like all other human beings, are by nature loving, cooperative, powerful, smart, creative, and peaceful.

The term “Hindu” was originally coined by visitors to the South Asian subcontinent and referred to people who lived around the Indus River. Multiple ethnic and linguistic groups in that area, who had diverse spiritual practices, called themselves Hindu or were called that by others.

Hinduism is the third largest religion globally, after Christianity and Islam. There are more than one billion Hindus; we are fifteen percent of the world’s population. Early diasporas, and migrations in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, have resulted in nearly eight million Hindus living outside South Asia, on almost every other continent.

Our full liberation as Hindus is connected to and in support of the full liberation of Dalits, Muslims, women, and all other groups.

HINDU BELIEFS

Many Hindus believe in the oneness of all beings (humans, animals, and other life forms) and that each person has divinity within and is able to achieve spiritual liberation without intermediaries. Hindu Gods, avatars, and mythological heroes take many forms. They are sometimes humans, sometimes animals, and of various gender and sexual identities.

Some unifying strands in Hinduism are beliefs about karma (a spiritual principle of action, consequence, and balance), moksha (liberation from the cycle of birth and rebirth), dharma (duty or a right way of living), ahimsa (nonviolence), and the connection of body, mind, and spirit.

DIVERSITY IN HINDUISM

There is no single narrative, text, governing body, way of practicing, or religious order that defines Hinduism but rather a vast diversity of practices, beliefs, and religious texts. To be Hindu, we do not need to convert to Hinduism or reject other faiths. How we practice or experience Hinduism is informed by our linguistic and ethnic heritages and our regions, migration histories, castes or clans, and personal spirituality. Hinduism is often integrated into our lives as culture rather than purely as religion.

COLLECTIVE LIBERATION AND SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION

Historically, Hindu rulers in South Asia gave refuge to people, such as Zoroastrians and Jews, who were fleeing persecution. For centuries Hindus lived side by side with other religious groups. Muslim rulers of the subcontinent, such as Akbar, respected Hindu traditions and participated in Hindu celebrations.

Revolutionaries have emerged from Hinduism, drawing on their faith to achieve social transformation. Many Hindus, past and present, see individual liberation as connected to collective liberation and social transformation.

COLONIZATION AND RACISM

Starting in the 1600s, European countries colonized South Asian countries, using violence and the threat of violence to take resources and labor. To keep accumulating power and resource, they pitted groups against each other.

When the British were forced out of India in 1947, a mostly Hindu nation of India and a mostly Muslim nation of Pakistan were created based on colonial divisions. (In 1971, after fighting for its independence, East Pakistan became Bangladesh.) This traumatic event, known as the Partition, created one of the largest mass migrations in world history. Millions were displaced, and many were killed.

During their rule, the British demonized Hindu practices as a way to justify their colonial presence and their assertions of moral and racial superiority. Hindus were seen as “uncivilized” and “savage,” and they internalized this oppression. A desire among Hindus to prove their worth has led to fundamentalist forms of Hinduism that are intolerant, violent, chauvinistic, and dangerous.

Also, colonialism on the South Asian subcontinent and racism in the global North have led to assimilation. Those of us raised in Christian-dominant nations have been told that we would “go to hell” for our beliefs and have been urged to convert. This has made us practice in secret or reject our religious heritage. On the other hand, in the global North, Hindu spirituality and yoga culture have been made exotic and commodified, and Hindu practices have been appropriated by non-Hindu people. This has flattened or erased our diversity and acted as an extension of colonization and racism.

Hindus are in both oppressed and oppressor roles. We are oppressed, often by racism, in Christian-dominated nations and experience internalized oppression from colonization. And we are used as middle agents to perpetuate the oppression of other constituencies.

THE CASTE SYSTEM

The caste system is systemic. All South Asians, regardless of their location or religious heritage, have been affected by casteism and internalized caste oppression.

The caste system is a rigid centuries-old hierarchical system of oppression that includes entrenched and violent forms of inequality and domination. It has no biological basis. It is a social-class construct that begins at birth, ends at death, and has no social mobility within it.

For thousands of years, Dalits and other groups targeted for destruction by the caste system have endured poverty, illiteracy, ostracism, and all forms of violence, including rape. Caste discrimination has included separating children in schools, believing that someone of a certain caste might “pollute” the food of others, denying access to jobs, and restricting the places someone can visit. Even though the discrimination is outlawed (at least in India), it is still rampant both institutionally and interpersonally.

Political parties have used Hinduism to justify the state-sponsored oppression of Dalits and other non-dominant-caste people and also of Adivasis (Indigenous people), Muslims, Sikhs, women, and others. In feudal and now capitalist economies, caste and class hierarchies have been interwoven.

Caste privilege allows dominant-caste Hindus (for example, Brahmins, Vaishyas, and Kshatriyas) to “ignore” caste and dismiss the importance of addressing it.

Discharging caste-related hurts and committing to ending the caste system are key steps toward Hindu liberation.

MALE DOMINATION AND SEXISM

Hinduism contains many manifestations of female divinity and has many female spiritual leaders. Also, Hindu women have been at the forefront of feminist movements and other powerful resistance movements in South Asia.

At the same time, Hinduism, like all other religions, contains ideas and practices that are rooted in sexism and male domination. For centuries, many Hindu rituals have only been taught to and performed by men. Women’s “purity” is a central theme in many religious Hindu texts, and if that “purity” is in question women can be banished. Menstruating girls and women are sometimes segregated and not allowed to participate in religious ceremonies. Widows are often segregated and mistreated out of a belief that they are cursed.

WORK THAT HINDUS CAN DO

As Hindus we can discharge on the following:

  • Our life stories as Hindus and our earliest memories of being Hindu
  • What we love about being Hindu, and what’s been hard
  • The effect on our lives of war, colonization, the Partition, racism, and assimilation
  • Male domination and sexism among Hindus
  • Caste
  • Our own caste background and the effects of casteism on our families and identities
  • Concepts like “purity” and “pollution” and how they relate to our sense of self worth, humanness, and connection with others
  • Feelings of inferiority and superiority in relation to other castes
  • The biases we have absorbed
  • Anti-Muslim oppressor patterns
  • Steps we can take to eliminate caste oppression
  • Recruiting and welcoming Dalits and South Asian Muslims into RC

WORK THAT ALLIES CAN DO

Humans are inherently curious about everything. Allies can take initiative in getting information about Hindus, including by talking to us about our personal relationship to Hinduism. And they can discharge on the following:

  • What comes up when they hear the words Hindu and Hinduism
  • What they love about Hindus
  • Their own religious background
  • Their country’s role in colonization
  • Feelings of superiority or fascination with regard to Hinduism
  • Early memories of Hindus and caste
  • How they have been affected by the Hindu religious and cultural practices used by non-Hindu people
  • The Hindus in their RC Communities and wide-world lives and the steps they can take to support their re-emergence

Our liberation as Hindus is assured. Our numbers in Co-Counseling are increasing, and we will fight against our distresses and move toward liberation, with our allies on our side.

(Present Time 192, July 2018)


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00