Friday, September 12, 2008

Religion and Secularism

Respected journalists like Mr Kuldip Nayyar should not be writing irresponsibly as in the case of this article. How can he wonder why Orissa government has not been dismissed by the central government? Does this not go against the very spirit of democracy? Why should the central government act against a legitimately elected popular state government?
There are problems every where, economic, communal, political etc. The only thing we can we proud of today is our robust democratic set up, which has survived all onslaughts. Efforts indeed should continue to strengthen the process and make sure all our voices are heard. People who ardently support ‘secularism’ (as they themselves define!!) should remember that as religious communities, Hindus are fighting retain their own identity amidst the extremist Islam and well funded strategic ‘harvesting of souls’ of Christianity. ‘Secularism’ would have mattered to all Indic-religions be it Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism, Animism etc had it been a level playing field, which it is not. Let mongers of ‘secularism’ figure out that it is definitely not intellectually fashionable to call for secularism, while ignoring how sadly people practicing ancient Indian religions are being treated in their own country, no vote banks, no subsidies on pilgrimage, no money flowing from abroad, no muscle power, no bargaining power but a helpless and discontented set of people. The fire that burns deep within is what had led to the Ram Janma Bhoomi Movement, now the Amarnath Movement and violent spin-offs of the same discontent is the violence in Orissa; the more educated but equally discontented set of people end up commenting on the internet, just like me. After all, every article echoing ‘secular’ ideas attract hundreds and thousands of such comments. In short there is discontentment every where. If there has to be communal peace, concerns of the larger population should be addressed before blowing the bugle of ‘secularism’. There cannot be peace without people practicing Indic religions finding a political voice addressing their concern. It is a pity that such a fragile space is occupied by hate mongers like Praveen Togadia and likes.

How else would any community feel when their people are killed mercilessly by some mentally unsound group of people trying to establish a medieval Caliphate that no longer exist that make their women wear tonnes and tonnes of clothing but feeds them feebly?

How else would any society feel when their people are killed by instruments of missionaries for having questioned their practice of conversion?

How else would the society feel, when a distant European nation (Italy) summons the diplomatic attaché to lodge a protest the violence against ‘Christians’? What right do they have? Just because a women born in Italy is pulling the political strings in India does not give Italy the right to question us. Besides are not Christians in India, Indians firsts and their religious identity comes a distant second? Why should their religion become their primary identity? What right has Italy to bestow Indian Christians a primary identity of their religion?

What else how any society feels when Hindus are persecuted everywhere in the very subcontinent, in Bangladesh, in Pakistan and now even in Nepal where as minorities in India are a pampered lot?

How else should those Sindhi and Punjabi refugees and more recently Kashmiri pundits feel who were forced to abandon their homes and everything they had but their lives to start afresh else where as paupers? Is it that their fight and their sacrifices are not of any value today?

Then there is an old pope, a holy man, may his soul rest in peace, who comes to India and declares that they need to harvest more Hindu souls to please his Abrahamic god, which is unable to bless people who believe in other forms of god!!

Then the missionaries point out that caste system in India is a bane and they need to convert everyone to create a homogeneous society. But paradoxically a Dalit after conversion becomes a Dalit Christian not just a ‘Christian’, so he goes to different church and gets his son-daughter married to other Dalit Christians and what else gets a Dalit Christian cemetery to wait for the judgement day. How did his social status improve by conversion?

Then there are tribal population. They are told that when they convert to Christianity and they wear the crucifix, no wild animals will attach them, no disease will harm them. Being gullible they do convert, but will their live improve significantly? No. The conversions just effective tear the tribal fabric of society. After all tribal societies are more favourable to women than is the main stream society; they don’t stifle their infant daughters or burn their daughter-in-laws. They live in harmony with the forests, an eco-friendly way of life, unlike us in the main stream society. Their indigenous knowledge base is far more exhaustive than what we perceive. These conversions are resulting in nothing but destruction of a balanced society, making enemies of brothers. Adding fuel to the fire is the well greased funding of such missionaries who in the name of hospitals, education indulge in conversions?

How should a society respond to such challenges? How should a multi cultural and multi religious society deal with the onslaught of mono-cultural Abrahamic religions?
How should we make sure that our religious space is well guarded? And we still have the liberty to remain as multi-cultural as possible? If we are to remain secular, we should be allowed to remain as multi-cultural as we have been through ages, worshiping hundreds of gods and believing that we can worship any of the millions of gods in any of the millions of ways but still be able to attain salvation, unlike the secularists who seem to support sections promoting a ‘one-god, one-way of worship and that is my way’ kind of religions.

In this light the reaction to Godhra, Mumbai riots, Amarnath Movement, Orissa violence are all different expression to the same feeling of insecurity, discontent. The need of the hour is a sane but brilliant voice to address such grievance. In the early 20th century, decades of imperialistic contempt for Indic religions and social fabric had translated into feelings of insecurity and inferiority, leading to similar social milieu. Back then Swami Vivekananda, a brilliant man grew to be the voice of the majority, motivated the society and instilled a sense of pride that they so much lacked. That is what we need today, Swami Vivekananda ver. 0.2; a brilliant voice, who cannot only convince the world that we are good just the way we are, but instils in us a sense of pride, and be our voice. A person much beyond the considerations of political equations and vote banks who understands the seething discontentment and is capable of channel the discontentment into something constructive

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