Letter 9: Ramayana month, Supreme Court’s COVID fight, sabka saath and What is Hindu rate of growth

Letter 13: Indian state's continuing assault on Hindu festivals, language wars in Tamil Nadu temples, temple demolitions and secularism of Jharkhand assembly Letters from the basement

This podcast covers everything about being a Hindu in secular, socialist India. We publish a new letter here on alternate weeks discussing the intersection of culture and politics in India from a Hindu perspective. If that’s something you are interested in, please subscribe to this podcast. In this letter, continuing assault of Indian state on Hindu festivals, this time it’s Ganesha Chaturthi and Diwali; how the country remembered Malabar Hindu genocide; language battles in Tamil Nadu have reached temples in that state; Jharkhand assembly has established a new ideal for secularism; there is a pandemic of temple demolition; and Assam government comes face to face with illegal infiltrators. Welcome to the basement. Music by jorikbasov from Pixabay Website: https://lettersfrombasement.in/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/frombasement
  1. Letter 13: Indian state's continuing assault on Hindu festivals, language wars in Tamil Nadu temples, temple demolitions and secularism of Jharkhand assembly
  2. Letter 12: Partition horrors remembrance day, Periyarist government's assault on temples in Tamil Nadu, a deep-dive into Malabar Hindu Genocide
  3. Letter 11: August 15, is it really Independence Day for Hindus in India?
  4. Letter 10: Right-wing, left-wing and Hindus in India
  5. Letter 9: The Hindu rate of growth


In this letter, we have the celebration of Ramayanam month in Kerala, Supreme Court of India tries to prevent 3rd wave of COVID in UP but not Kerala, Modi government’s sabka saath policy on full display and a deep dive into what is called the Hindu rate of growth.

Welcome to the basement.

Hindus in Kerala are currently observing the Ramayana masam or Ramayana month. This is a time when Ramayanam is read every day in Hindu houses and the reading of the entire epic is completed by the last day of the month. This is observed every year during Karkidaka masam in the Malayalam calendar. This year Ramayana masam started on 17th July. The Malayalam version of Ramayanam that is read during this month was authored by Thunchath Ezhuthachan who considered the father of modern Malayalam literature. His birth place is in modern day Tirur in Malappuram district of Kerala. It is a reflection of the status of Hindus in today’s Kerala that a statue of Ezhuthachan could not be erected in his place of birth due to opposition from certain groups. I am sure you can guess which are these groups that detest statues and idols.

Moving on, this is also the time when Hindus in northern India undertake what is called the Kanwad yatra. Devotees travel hundreds of kilometres on foot to Haridwar in Uttarakhand to collect holy Ganga water and carry it back on their shoulders to their homes and temples in their villages. But this year, the yatra is not going to happen after our very honourable Supreme Court took up a suo moto case, that is they started a case on their own without any common citizen filing one and they forced the state governments to ban the yatra. The central government, the Modi government too contributed by telling the court that the yatra should not be allowed. On the other hand, when Kerala government removed the COVID lock down restrictions ahead of Bakrid to allow crowds to flood the shops and markets in the state, the Supreme Court did not think it necessary to take up a suo moto case. Mind you, this is at a time when Kerala has the highest number of COVID cases in the country. At the time I am recording this podcast there are One Lakh twenty eight thousand eight hundred and 77 active COVID cases in Kerala. For comparison, there are 1,028 cases in Uttar Pradesh and 649 in Uttarakhand. But the judiciary in our country thinks, it needs to pre-emptively intervene to prevent crowds in Uttar Pradesh during Kanwad yatra but doesn’t need to be bothered about crowds in Kerala during Bakrid shopping.

Continuing with the wonders of our judiciary. Recently, Justice NV Ramana, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, noted that the number of pending cases in Indian courts is projected to be around 45 million cases, that is 4.5 crores cases. If you think that this is too many pending cases and this inefficiency of our judiciary is denying justice to crores of fellow Indians, you know with justice delayed is justice denied and all that, if you think that way, according to Justice Ramana you are being uncharitable and making an overstatement. What to say when this is the attitude of the highest official in our judicial system. I’ll refrain from saying anything more on this. Judges in our country are known to be oversensitive and prone invoke contempt proceedings at the slightest provocation. So, better to be careful not to trigger them unless you have lots of resources and influence like a Prashant Bhushan. In that case, you can do whatever you want and get away with a token 1 rupee fine.

Government of India headed by Shri Narendra Modi recently filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court declaring that the welfare schemes, like the scholarships, loans, subsidies, etc, which are given exclusively for non-Hindu religious groups are not against principle of equality and are not discriminatory against Hindus. Now, whether this statement is correct or not, whether this kind of religion-based welfarism by a secular state is correct or not, that itself is a very interesting topic deserving of an in-depth examination. I’ll probably cover that in one of the future episodes of this podcast. But I am not going to get to that today. What I want to talk about today is the principles behind this affidavit, or lack of it. If you do not know, minority exclusive welfare schemes were started for the first time at the Central government level during Dr Manmohan Singh’s time as prime minister. This was done as a response to the Sachar commission report on socio-economic status of Muslims in India. At that time, the only state government in the country to reject this religion based welfarism was the Gujarat government with Shri Modi as the Chief Minister. The Gujarat government contested this so-called minority appeasement all the way till the Supreme Court. Like I said earlier, leave aside for the moment whether such schemes are discriminatory or not. But think about the mindset of opposing a particular policy as chief minister but justifying it after becoming the prime minister. This kind of double faced, forked tongue attitude is unfortunately the most fundamental feature of politics in India today. Something that permeates across party lines and ideologies. Especially on issues related to Hindus.

Staying on the topic of religion based welfarism, in response to the same Sachar Commission report, the government of Kerala also started its own scholarship schemes for students from non-Hindu religions. But in a bizarre decision allocated 80% of the scholarships to Muslims and 20% to students from other non-Hindu religions. For record, Muslims account for only around 60% of non-Hindu population in Kerala and Christians are about 40%. After Kerala high court recently passed an order against this 80-20 distribution of scholarships, the state government has now decided to distribute them in proportion to the population.

In this week’s deep dive, what’s Hindu rate of growth, what’s the problem with that phrase and what’s the ideology that gave birth to that terminology.

When you hear Hindu rate of growth, what comes to your mind. What do you think it is? The rate at which Hindu population is growing? The rate at which income of Hindus is growing? May be the rate of increase in literacy among Hindus, wealth of Hindus? The answer is none of the above. In fact, this phrase is used to describe something that has nothing to do with Hindus, as people or as a faith. This phrase, Hindu Rate of Growth, was coined in the 1970s by a guy named Raj Krishna who was an economist and a professor at Delhi School of economics. The purpose of this phrase was to describe the low economic growth in India immediately following our independence in 1947 and till the economic reforms were started under PV Narasimha Rao’s government in the 1990s. During this period, for 4 decades, our economy grew at some 3 to 4 percent rate relegating crores of Indians to poverty. For comparison, during the same time, the economy of South Korea which became independent a year after us, grew at some 8-10 percent. And by the 1990s, the average individual income in south Korea was 20 times higher than in India even though both the countries started at almost the same level in the 1940s. So you can imagine the kind of economic mismanagement in our country during the 1st 4 decades of our independence. Things became so bad towards the end of 1980s that our government had to mortgage country’s gold to avoid bankruptcy.

It is now generally accepted that the reason for this economic mess was the socialism and centralized planning that started under our 1st prime minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru and continued with greater intensity by the subsequent Congress party governments, especially the one under his daughter, Indira Gandhi. The licence-permit-quota Raj under these governments successfully scared away private enterprises, destroyed wealth and employment opportunities for crores of youth in the country.

While Nehru’s and Indira’s and Congress party’s ineptitude and mismanagement was responsible for destroying India’s economy, who did our secular, progressive economists blame? The Hindus of our country and the Hindu world view. They blamed the Hindu belief in concepts like renunciation and Karma. And this is nothing but an intellectual fraud because the truth is we Hindus not only believe in things like tyaga, daanam and karma, we also worship Lakshmi Devi as the goddess of wealth. We are a civilization that places pursuit of prosperity, Artha, as one of the 4 high ideals, that are worth pursuing during a human life, the Purusharthas. There are special rituals during our festivals to drive away poverty from our houses and to welcome Lakshmi Devi. If anything socialism, which glorifies poverty, is an anathema to the Hindu way of life.

Arun Shourie very correctly called out this intellectual dishonesty of the Nehruvian ecosystem in an article in 2007. He wrote, and I quote:

It has almost become routine to slight Hindu sentiments — our smart-set do not even notice the slights they administer. Recall the jibe of decades: ‘the Hindu rate of growth’. When, because of those very socialist policies that their kind had swallowed and imposed on the country, our growth was held down to 3-4 per cent, it was dubbed — with much glee — as ‘the Hindu rate of growth’. Today, we are growing at 9 per cent. And, if you are to believe the nonsense in Sachar’s report, the minorities are not growing at all. So, who is responsible for this higher rate of growth? The Hindus! How come no one calls this higher rate of growth ‘the Hindu rate of growth’? Simple: dubbing the low rate as the Hindu one established you to be secular; not acknowledging the higher one as the Hindu rate establishes you to be secular!

End of quote. That is the thing. If you put down Hindus, if you disparage the Hindu way of life, you get elevated to the high status of a secular, liberal intellectual. But if you espouse the cause of the Hindus, you will be dubbed a reactionary, a communal bigot and worse. This trend that stated during Nehru’s time, continues to this day, as you may have realized from the quick-run through the news that I narrated at the beginning of this episode. Only the number of colors in the flag of the ruling party has changed, their attitude towards Hindus remains the same.

Image credits

  1. By Horasis – https://www.flickr.com/photos/horasis/4588799854/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45317421
  2. By Raja Ravi Varma – [1], [2], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12864157
  3. By Ankushsamant – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21128056
  4. By Uploadalt – Own work, photographed at the British Museum, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12232664
  5. By Vibhorjain – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21660684
  6. By Rjwarrier – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=83570725
  7. By FOX 52 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62443728
  8. World Bank national accounts data, and OECD National Accounts data files.
  9. https://www.valmiki.iitk.ac.in/
  10. https://www.hindu-blog.com/2008/06/ramayana-masam-reading-of-epic-ramayan.html
  11. https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/india/kanwar-yatra-cancelled-in-uttar-pradesh-7187711.html
  12. https://www.indiatvnews.com/news/india/kanwar-yatra-cancelled-2021-uttarakhand-covid-lockdown-715425
  13. https://zeenews.india.com/hindi/india/uttarakhand-government-decides-to-cancel-kanwar-yatra-2021-over-coronavirus-pandemic/941515
  14. https://www.zoomnews.in/hi/news-detail/rajasthan-government-said-that-now-devotees-should-not-go-to-other-states-by-taking-kavad-yatra.html
  15. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/kerala/sc-raps-kerala-govt-easing-covid-19-curbs-bakrid-high-tpr-7413239/
  16. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/extremely-alarming-sc-pulls-kerala-govt-lockdown-relaxation-bakrid-152641
  17. https://www.freepressjournal.in/mumbai/bakri-eid-2020-35-trucks-full-of-goats-and-chickens-worth-rs-10-crore-stopped-at-maharashtra-gujarat-border-says-report
  18. https://www.livemint.com/Opinion/Rr0ruQhIKQmRma1K5CipIJ/Hindu-rate-of-growth.html

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