Indonesia is often cited as a country that has not forgotten about its Hindu and Dharmic history, but in the process of making such a sweeping statement, the discrimination that is meted out to Hindus by the Indonesian State is ignored.
Indonesia discriminates against its Hindu minority by manipulating the census.
Often when talking about Hindus facing discrimination, we don’t discuss Indonesia’s role.
Indonesia is known for many things such as being the fourth most populated country in the world after the United States, the most populated Southeast Asian country, the world’s largest Muslim populated country, and a nation known for its supposedly “secular” and democratic values. However, there is a side of Indonesia that not many speak on: the discrimination of Hindus and Hindu-identifying animists in the census.
First, it’s important that we start with the KTP, which stands for Kartu Tanda Penduduk (Resident Identity Card)
It is a mandatory requirement in Indonesia to have this identity card, and there are different versions for non-Indonesian passport holders. For many Indonesian citizens, the card is valid for a lifetime, and the government has managed to make it issued in an electronic ID card.
Among the various basic information this card carries, the KTP card requires identification with one of the six officially recognized religions in Indonesia. This feature is problematic because the country only recognizes six religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam. Despite smaller animist/ancestral faiths continuing to be present in the country, they are discriminated against, denied official recognition, vulnerable to conversion, and often choose to identify as Hindus, so they don’t have to be pressured into converting to Christianity or Islam.
Of the Hindus in Bali and Java who practice mainstream Hinduism, they are severely undercounted in the official census. A Hindu organization called Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia (PHDI) estimated that in 2005, 18 million Hindus lived in the country, but the official Indonesian Census in 2010 stated that only 4 million Hindus live in the country.
In contrast, in 2010, the Indonesian Ministry of Religious Affairs estimated that over 10 million Hindus live in Indonesia. It should also be noted that many Hindus are severely undercounted because many of them identify with being Muslim on the KTP to avoid social persecution and to avoid discriminatory treatment by government officials.
Since the government has been manipulating and undercounting the religious minorities, many are pressured to put Islam on their KTP cards by the locals. Furthermore, regarding the impacts of the undercounting of Hindus, the government likely has been giving lower budgetary allocations than needed to the Hindu community because census data is directly tied to how the government distributes its revenues to various communities.
When we talk about persecution of Hindus, it’s important to make sure we also include Indonesia because the bureaucratic and census discrimination has significant socioeconomic impacts for the minority Hindu and Hindu-identifying animist communities in the country.
A phrase parroted by the millions of self-designated woke is one I, very much so, am bemused by. A parroting that I myself am a veteran of. Often echoed by those who see no purpose for introspection into the terms they are stating, as they are convinced this is but a stamp of the ancient that deserves no place in today’s world of material modernity. I would have argued the same, once.
I now beg to differ. As I delve into the topics of identity and read the narratives of post-modern literature, which beseech us to scream the pangs of decolonisation, I cannot but help to wonder what my grandmothers think.
How do they define their individuality? What do they call their ethnicity? Do they ever ponder the depths of identity politics and wonder where their place lies in all of this?
Their answer is simply put: they do as they were told. Their family and cultural traditions subsisted on what others of their, dare I say it, caste do.
A blasphemous truth. A truth that the elite have spent gnawing away at, as they write their papers on returning to native ways while ignoring the realities of our elders.
With the advent of the Europeans, an inorganic classification on the basis of region and language began in the Indian Subcontinent as well as the introduction of machinery in its agricultural societies.
Amidst the wide diversity present in India, there is a rather underrated diversity of community. Communities not be formed on the basis of a shared tongue, rather a shared occupation. Communities existing not only in a single village but spread across various villages over various regions, speaking as much of a variety of dialects — yet still calling themselves one.
The integrality of the Jati Vyavastha (erroneously referred to as the ‘Caste System’) to Indian civilisation is oftentimes too overlooked.
Dealing with it solely as an unforgivable inheritance from the ancients, the Indian youth and diaspora so actively shy away from discussing its intricacies and implications that they refuse to accept the Jati Vyavastha as the once all-encompassing socio-economic framework of society.
What does it mean to “believe” in caste?
The original phrase carries as much weight as claiming to disbelieve in capitalism. The question of belief does not arise at all. As the duality of rich and poor exists, so does caste. And it will stay.
Such a statement can arise only from a pedestal of privilege. It is deluded, at best; for the one who has never been trampled by the oppression the system has brought and has never had to hide his community name out of embarrassment, of course, he on his high horse will not “believe” in it.
Just because his social entitlement lets him not associate with his caste, who is he to stop others. Others who have been deemed ‘lower’ by the system and will, without hesitating, associate themselves with their caste. For caste is community.
It has taken many years for me to finally understand what my Gurudev, Swami Chinmayananda, once said: “caste is not the problem, it is casteism.”
The ‘upper’ castes have progressed so far that they no longer need the association with their community and demand us all to work together to dismantle every aspect of the Jati Vyavastha, that the generation-long traditions and customs of the castes are to be thrown away to satisfy their academic discourses. But if we are to work for decolonisation, surely these traditions and customs are the purest relics of our native social diversity.
There must be a way of preserving our rites that have been handed down from the times of yore, and being able to identify with those communities of our past without there being a hierarchy of bigotry between us.
Caste has served as community for our ancestors. This is the nuance that is missed. The reason why our grandparents nag us of this term when finding a partner for marriage.
In a new world reaping the fruits of the industrial revolution, this stratification of society on the basis of wealth has given a new, more apparent divide to Indian society. With people now finding identity in the dialect artificially standardised as the language of their region, and with diaspora youth, for whom their racial minority status adds an extra dimension of confusion, the identity that caste brings seems entirely arbitrary. Rightfully so. When race and language can bind communities, what role should occupation play? Why heed to our grandmother then?
My thoughts are everywhere on this topic and if there is one thing I have concluded, it is this: the caste diversity of India is something we can not even begin to fathom.
The interconnections of these communities and the similarity of traditions/rites being upheld by them, regardless of the thousands of miles that spanned between them, is remarkable to say the least. We must become comfortable calling caste a community. It is our duty to find out the practices and customs we once all upheld and I urge you all reading to take a moment and ask your grandparents what they did differently.
If we want to continue these traditions and associate with that same community then who is to stop us? But if we don’t have anything we deem worthy of preserving in today’s age and we wish to form community with our equals in this new socio-economic order, then that too is fine.
What we require though, is nuance. A thought.
पुरणमित्येव न साधु सर्वं न चापि काव्यं नवमित्यवद्यं |सनः परीक्श्तरत भजन्ते मूढः परप्रत्ययेन बुद्दिः ||
All poems are not good only because they are old. All poems are not bad because they are new. Good and wise people examine both and decide whether a poem is good or bad. Only a fool will be blindly led by what others say.
- Malavika Agnimitram, of the Great Poet Kalidasa
South Asian Groups’ Response to Hindu Persecution in the Indian Subcontinent
The heading gives it away. I, a young Hindu, want to know where the groups that propound to care about human rights in South Asia are when it comes to matters of Hindu persecution in the Indian Subcontinent. South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), which is one such prominent organization, has not a single—not a single—tweet discussing Hindu persecution or Hinduphobia in the Indian Subcontinent. That’s a stellar record for an organization that created its twitter account in 2009. Another such (ironically named) organization, Equality Labs, has an arguably much “stellar” record. Why? Because Sharmin Hossain, the Political Director of Equality Labs, has been on the record unjustly saying that “Hinduism cannot be a part of progressive discourse”, and she fallaciously called the sacred Hindu practices of using vibuthi, kumkuma, and mangalsutra/thali as cultural practices rooted in violence. Forget speaking about Hinduphobia or Hindu persecution, why does it seem that some groups that claim to care about human rights in South Asia actively promote anti-Hindu bigotry?
It’s a well-known fact that Hindu persecution is very real and has been happening wholesale in South Asia. In Afghanistan, the situation has reached to such a point that Representative Jim Costa of the 16th Congressional District called it a “genocide” of Hindus and Sikhs and urged that immediate refugee protections be extended to them.
In Pakistan, the US State Department noted in its 2019 report on the country that Hindus suffer from forced conversions, mob violence, and temple destructions and attacks; the report also highlighted that in 2019 “a large proportion of bonded laborers were low-caste Hindus”. In fact, why look to 2019? Just a few weeks ago, Hindus in the Sindh Province were being denied food rations during a pandemic while two young Hindu girls were abducted by a local politician’s brother. A family member of the abducted girl said in a released video, “Minorities here are facing persecution. They have abducted our daughters. We are not getting justice and are continuously facing atrocities . . . We can’t face this torture”. What this family experiences is far from irregular. According to the National Commission of Justice and Peace and the Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC), more than 1,000 Hindu and Christian girls are abducted and forced to convert to Islam annually in Pakistan. Renowned Dalit journalist, activist, and Sindh politician Surendar Valasai places the number much higher by saying that 1,000 to 1,200 Dalit Hindu girls are forcibly converted to Islam every year alone.
In Bangladesh, where Hindu persecution is rarely discussed, just in the year 2017, a report stated that at least 107 Hindus were killed, 31 were victims of enforced disappearances, 782 Hindus were either forced to leave Bangladesh or aspired to do so, 235 temples and Hindu vigrahas (idols) were destroyed or attacked, 25 Hindu women and children were raped, and 23 were forcibly converted to another religion. That’s just one year. In fact, the situation is so dire for Bangladeshi Hindus that Professor Abul Barakat of Dhaka University noted that “there will be no Hindus left within Bangladesh within 30 years.”
Many of the “South Asian” solidarity and activist groups certainly have time to demonstrate against the CAA, which undeniably gives reprieve to families that have fled such persecution, but they are silent when it comes to Hindu persecution and Hinduphobia in the Indian Subcontinent. Desmond Tutu, a celebrated activist who fought against the apartheid regime in South Africa, once remarked that “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” It seems that many of these “South Asian” organizations that hypocritically and ironically propound to care about human rights have chosen the side of the oppressors when it comes to Hindu persecution in the Indian subcontinent.
In Sanskrit, the word “Kovida” refers to one who is intelligent, wise and philosophically inclined. To appropriately respond to COVID, we each have to become Kovida. How do modern Hindus become intelligent? Is it by going back to University? It is to realise our true nature of who YOU are as a person, a soul.
Now we all may know this, we hear from our parents about the teachings of the Gita, but how much are we practically applying this into our life’s? When we think of the Gita, the first thing that pops into our head is “religion” being “dogmatic in rules” however when we analyse each word spoken in there, we find it has the perfect answers for life. It is a perfect psychological book of the mind.
How can we understand this practically? Let’s take one theme of the Gita: ‘Three modes of material nature’ also known as the ‘three gunas’ Sattva (goodness) Rajas (passion) and Tamas (ignorance). These three qualities are applied to everything we do in our lives such as, the food we eat, the friends we make, what our hobbies are etc. The list is endless. Lord Krishna explains that this is actually the best of all knowledge in the Gita. He uses the words jnanam uttamam which means it is the highest of all knowledge. Why? This is to show that if human beings can understand the psychological nature of the mind then we can overcome any distress that comes to us, such as mental health and COVID-19.
Here are some keywords to describe each guna:
Sattva (goodness) – Happiness, knowledge, selfless, charitable and self-control
Rajas (passion) – unlimited desires, pride, ego, restlessness
Tamas (ignorance) – delusional, violence, harmful and reckless
Now that we understand the three modes, let’s use them in a context and situation in our daily lives. For example, finding a boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse, how do the three modes determine that? All of us have a predominating guna depending on our karma; hence we all make different choices in life. Someone in the mode of passion or rajas he will choose a partner simply because of their looks. He/she will not take into account of the personality. Why is this? Because someone who is in rajas will only think of themselves and what they can gain from the relationship, we see most of the population today are rajas in nature hence most relationships end in divorce. Someone in the mode of goodness will be thinking of the future and not making choices in the moment, because he is self-reflective. He will think carefully what spouse he will want and choose wisely. And finally someone in the mode of ignorance will be delusional in a relationship from start to finish.
Let’s use another example, finding a job. For most people today understanding what their purpose in life is difficult. At times we all feel lost in our thoughts and imagination. Using the three gunas can allow us to introspect where we are and what we need to do. For example, a rajas person will only want to find a job that makes a lot of money. He may dislike his job completely but as long as he is making big money he thinks he is happy. We hear ‘money doesn’t buy you happiness’ happiness through money will be short-lived. Someone in the mode of goodness, because he is self-reflective in nature, he will understand how he can utilise all the talents he has for a higher purpose, as well as career.
Lord Krishna explains one should get to goodness through spiritual practice and transcend mode of goodness to the transcendental platform. Then our lives will be perfected.
As you can see, I used only two examples how the 3 gunas effect our daily lives. But you can use them for every situation too. The Gita has everything we need to know on how we should live. During this pandemic, please go into the Gita and find the gems you need to fulfil your life to the fullest.
India: Community and Faith based Organizations at the Forefront of the Battle Against Coronavirus Pandemic
India responded swiftly and decisively to the Coronavirus pandemic and had instituted an unprecedented nationwide lock down on March 24 2020. As of Apr 27 there were less than 21,000 active cases and less than 900 deaths due to Covid-19. These numbers are significantly less than most other countries which did not act as swiftly and comprehensively, suggesting that the lock down has been effective at controlling the spread of the infection.
The lock down in India has entailed a closure of all non-essential businesses, complete seizure of rail and air transport and also most road transportation. While the state machinery has done its part, the lock down would not have been as successful without extensive participation of a large number of community organization. In this article we highlight a few among the larger efforts for large scale distribution of food and other relief items by faith-based organizations. These efforts are in start contrast with the unfortunate incidences of religious bias in distribution of charity in Pakistan.
Our team has compiled efforts by four major NGOs – Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) inspired Seva Bharati, Art of Living Foundation inspired International Association for Human Values, International Society for Krishna Consciousness inspired Akshay Patra and BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha. They are serving grocery kits and prepared food; running community kitchens, sanitization projects and blood donation camps; distributing medicines, masks, cleaning and animal care supplies; providing accommodation to needy, helping senior citizens and serving law enforcement officers. This list is far from complete and we encourage our readers to provide information on other organizations.
Among these organizations, RSS is probably the largest with over 342k+ volunteers working at 67k+ locations in India providing 25+ different services to millions of people. As of this writing(May 2), RSS has distributed over 3,17,12,767 meal packets and 44,54,555 masks.
Following are a few snapshots of the relief efforts by these organizations:
Assam: RSS volunteers distributed food materials to 14,513 families, in 410 villages. 756 volunteers are working day & night to provide food materials to the poor & needy families. Twitter source: @friendsofrss
In collaboration with Surat Municipal Corporation, RSS volunteers prepared grocery kits for distribution to lockdown affected needy families across the City. Twitter source:@friendsofrss
RSS volunteers engaged in disinfecting services across towns. Twitter source:@friendsofrss
RSS volunteers delivering medicines from Chemist shop to patients in need. Twitter source:@friendsofrss
RSS volunteers are preparing food for distribution in one of the community kitchen. Twitter source:@friendsofrss
RSS Kerala branch activities. Twitter source:@friendsofrss
RSS volunteers serving animals at forsake tourist places. Twitter source:@friendsofrss
Activities of RSS volunteers serving Mumbai city. Twitter source:@friendsofrss
In collaboration with RSS, women are making face masks for distribution to needy people in Kasravad, Madhya Pradesh. Twitter source:@friendsofrss
RSS volunteers distributed grocery kits to needy families. Twitter source:@friendsofrss
IAHV/Art of living efforts as of 19th April, 2020. Twitter source:@ArtofLiving @iahv
CUTTACK, ODISHA: Art of Living volunteers in Sri Sri University packed and distributed the 70 tons of relief materials received from iahv to the underprivileged in the area. Twitter source:@ArtofLiving @iahv
The AkshayaPatra Foundation, which supplies mid-day meals to students, is now supplying food items to families impacted by the lockdown.
Akshaypatra in collaboration of embassy group distributing grocery kits. Twitter source: @Akshaya_Patra
Twitter source: @IskconInc
BAPS Community Services During the Coronavirus Lockdown, Atladara. Twitter source: @baps
BAPS Community Services During the Coronavirus Lockdown, Atladara. Twitter source: @baps