In this Hindu atheist v. Ex- Muslim atheist competition, I have always found ex-Muslim atheists more rebellious than the Hindu atheist. They reject their former faith and defame it with passion, whereas Hindu atheists are within the realm of faith and celebrate their religion as more inclusive. If intersectional understanding is applied, then ex-Muslim atheists in India are more oppressed vulnerable to persecution or lynching than their Hindu brethren. Further, Hindu atheists are not condemned, and are rather celebrated, placing them in the position of privilege.
Hinduism, a Dharmic faith, does not have god or gods, goddesses at the center of its day-to-day life. You can be an atheist and still practice the Hindu or Savarna lifestyle. No one objects to that. There have been Hindu Atheist Chief Ministers, the father of Hindutva was an atheist and ‘Proud Hindu.’ In Hindu majority India, atheism is not necessarily looked down upon, and no Hindu kills the other Hindu for being atheist, as long as the atheists do not promote desecration of Hindu religious devotion and symbols. In recent times, the atheistic Dharmic faiths like Navayana Buddhism, Jainism, and agnostic Tibetan Buddhism are tolerated.
Islam and other Abrahamic faiths are monotheistic and have god at the center of their doctrines and day-to-day lives. In older times, denouncing one’s faith in god or changing the religion was considered an act of apostasy and punishable by death. Killing for the crime of apostasy and heresy is an exception not a norm in modern Islamic and Christian societies. That said, atheism is frowned upon in Christian majority societies like Ethiopia and Islamic Kingdoms and Republics like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Afghanistan, and Muslim majority democracies like Indonesia and Malaysia. Unlike India where one can register as a non-believer, one cannot do that in any of the Islamic or Christian majority states in Asia and Africa. This is why the atheists there keep their identity discreet.
Coming back to India, an atheist Hindu can become the head of state, and will be celebrated for his non-belief. On the contrary, an ex-Muslim atheist in India will be excommunicated from a sector immediate community and can be lynched on the streets for his circumcised dick. This is why being an ex-Muslim atheist may seem like a rebellious act, whereas being a Hindu atheist is nothing but a matter of privilege.
And the Sikhs are swallowed (ਤੇ ਸਿੱਖ ਵੀ ਨਿਗਲਿਆ ਗਿਆ) book by Kulbir Singh Kauda is an interesting account of Brahminical appropriation of Indic religious philosophies like Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. All three religions were founded in opposition to the Brahminical framework of Hinduism.
Kauda was a political activist and associated the Shiromani Akali Dal (Mann), a political outfit founded on the principles of Sikh autonomy. As his pseudonym goes, he is quite honest and bitter in the book. The book may not be termed as being academically sound, as experience and anecdotes (not some detailed methodology of data collection and citations of earlier literature) are the basis of making broader generalizations of social processes. This is why parts of it read rhetorical than logical, as they say in Punjabi: ਬਾਬਾ ਜਬਲੀਆਂ ਮਾਰੀ ਜਾਂਦਾ ਹੈ। There is some old school misogyny, like his only critique of Amrita Pritam’s feminism is that she smokes cigarettes and has a different hairstyle. There are parts where I bust out laughing, because of innocent ignorance behind assertions. That said, the book is still worth reading and listening.
Using his experience and understanding of human rationality Kauda lashes out on both Sikhs and larger Indian Hindu state for being superstitious and illogical. Some of his observations about Punjab and Sikh politics are enlightening, especially those on encroachment autonomous Sikh space by Sanghis. He like men and women of his generation is very critical of the modern-day spirituality and describes the stupidities of Babas in detail.
He affirms that on the name of patriotism, both British and modern Indian Republic has reduced the stature of Sikhs to scapegoats for slaughtering in war. Casteism to Capitalism, expansion of Hindu Rashtra, and discrimination of some minorities and appropriation of the others, are all viewed from the eyes of a Sikh Revivalist. For him ownership of land, higher economic status is an important tool to assert political and religious autonomy. He views laws framed by Union of India on land and property as a way to marginalize the social, cultural, religious and linguistic minorities. The prominent journalists like Khushwant Singh, Kuldeep Nayar and Mark Tully wrote the political narrative of Punjab crisis. There was very little personal account in their works, except for some anecdotes here and there. Kauda’s book is a personal account of a political, religious and cultural tragedy and how it impacted the psyche of people in small towns and villages of Punjab.
I started reading this book when I was 15 years old. I didn’t finish it at that time. Last year, I bought the new edition with a hope that I will read it, that did not happen as I had the pleasure of listening to the podcast of the book on Digital Punjabi Radio App. Storytel offers books in English, Kannada, Marathi, Urdu, Bangla and Hindi. Punjabi titles are not yet there. Punjabi audio books are provided by Khabarnama Radio and are available for free on Digital Punjabi Radio app.