Their agenda being fluid, and ideology kaleidoscopic, the Hindu Right is ever in need of new poster boys to extol their culture and hide ignorance and inferiority complexes. The newest trophy that they have been flaunting this past one week is Novak Djokovic, his avowed loyalty to the Serbian Orthodox Church notwithstanding. Make no mistake, Novak is not a Hindu, just that Lord Sreenathji’s painting adorns his living room wall is enough to send internet loonies into raptures.
Novak’s predilections for yoga, meditation and veganism are widely known. He has spoken about meditating with Buddhist monks at the Wimbledon. But the ‘lucky’ spotting of the painting in which Srinathji (Krishna, aged 7) is seen frolicking with gopis (maids), has turned him into an instant Hindutva icon by association.
The rise of Novak coincides with the fall of Donald Trump as the mascot of Hindu Right. The latter’s anti-immigration, anti-Islamic tirades periodically give orgasms to the Right, but his tough, uncompromising stand on trade and goof-ups on Kashmir have acted as major dampeners. What better time to go crazy after the ‘thin man’ than the week following his triumph at the Wimbledon?
It is the same week in which Trump has claimed that Modi has requested him to mediate in Kashmir. It is quite likely that amid all this craziness, neither Djokovic, not Trump have any inkling that they have won and lost millions of fans (not that they would care). Most of these fans do not give two hoots to either tennis or US politics. But then…
Hindutva followers’ euphoric present is caught between a self-acknowledged, embarrassing medieval past and an uncertain, underwhelming future. A Rightist government is flirting with socialist policies. Educated youth dwell in the darkness of caste. The fate of Ram Temple rests with the Supreme Court.
Article 370 is too tricky to repeal. Internet Hindus face an acute identity crisis. Immigration remains relevant, but NRC is on sticky ground. Mother Cow is venerable, but news items related to bloodthirsty mobs lynching in her name do shock them. Are these incidents really happening? Yoga is a source of pride, but why is the world calling it a secular activity? How to reconcile all these contradictions in the universe of twitter and facebook? In the absence of a proper ‘Manifesto for the Right’, they desperately look for icons to act as distractions from the humdrum reality.
Of course, the Internet Hindus have Modi, who remains their biggest icon. While Vajpayee carried germs of Nehruvian consensus, Advani, the once infallible Mr Right, caught the Jinnah bug late in his life. Although they have built his colossal statue, the Right cannot wish away the fact that Patel had banned RSS in the aftermath of Gandhi’s assassination. His economic, social and political outlook was quite different from his contemporary votaries of Hindutva.
Although Right might now champion his cause, the political ideology of Subhash Chandra Bose was a cross between Marxian socialism and Fascism. Shastri was a Gandhian, as was JP, and Gandhi himself remains a target. PV Narasimha Rao ushered in the era of liberalisation and played a stellar role in razing down the Structure was perhaps the only genuine Right-wing PM we have ever had, but even is tainted with the slime of corruption. They would have loved to appropriate Bhagat Singh, but his atheism and socialist leanings cannot be wished away.
APJ Abdul Kalam admired Gita and built the Bomb and missiles. He could have been a perfect pin-up role model, but for his name! Tulsi Gabbard, the Representative from Hawaii, is everything that Bobby Jindal could never be – a proud, practising Hindu. The severe drought of authentic heroes as well as compelling political logic forces them to cast longing eyes at BR Ambedkar. But Babasaheb converted to Buddhism in his last days. That does not matter because Buddha himself was conferred the status of Ninth Vishnu Avatar. Bibi Netanyahu of Israel is perhaps the last hero standing, along with our own PM. Rims can be filled over the Israel-fixation of our Internet Hindus – Mossad, forward defence, take-no-prisoners, no-compromise and what not!
Is there is Slabodon Milosevic connection behind this newfound Hindutva craze for Novak? I very much doubt that as it would require some vigour and application.
The word ‘Hindu’ itself was used by foreigners to describe people living beyond Indus. After centuries of political, moral and intellectual servitude, we have been drained of all our ‘ego’. We swear by Western ideals of liberty, equality, justice and fraternity and have jettisoned our own tradition of sympathy generated by tolerance, compassion and empathy.
Over the years, we have come to crave Western recognition and uncritically embrace the reflected glory thrust upon us by likes of William Jones, Schopenhauer and Max Mueller. It takes a Romain Rolland to celebrate Ramkrishna Paramhansa, and a Prof Hardy to put a stamp on Ramanujan’s genius.
Globalisation, economic growth and dividends of overall peace have enabled a minor Hindu renaissance in the past two decades. It has also enhanced our confidence somewhat and has engendered a search for new assertive identity. This is reflected in recent decisive mandates in favour of the BJP, the Ram Temple Movement and the vehement confidence to openly call out Islamic bigotry and radicalism which gets manifested in forms of love jihad, aversion to Vande Mataram and sympathy for Pakistan.
Our educated elite has grown up with the Western callousness that prints the images of our gods and goddesses on their doormats, slippers, shoes and bathroom tiles. One can almost be forgiven for feeling proud of and more bhakti for Krishna for managing to enter Novak’s home and heart.
In this age of social media and instant heroes, who have the time or energy to read Golwalkar, Savarkar or Deen Dayal Upadhyaya? Icons are easier to steal and appropriate, and convenient to dump if they turn rogue or go bonkers.
Hence, Novak today, tomorrow might be Che Guevara if they discover any fake picture of him wearing Hare Rama kurtas.
Abhinav Pancholi, IRS, Kolkata. The author is an avid sports lover with a passion for literature.
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