The start of our Independence saw the tragic partition of our country, all due to greed for power, by our stalwart politicians, the communal riots which erupted in its aftermath was a manmade holocaust of unprecedented proportions. Men, women and children were slaughtered, maimed for life and burnt alive. Girl Childs to aged women were brutalized and raped, all in the name of religion.
Religion, the practice of which is guaranteed by our Constitution, has made the country strong over thousands of years. It is only about 500 years back that our country saw the influx of any religion other than Hinduism. Jain’s and Buddhist relate to a different belief only and have been existent over last two millenniums. The country saw a cultural diversity with the advent of Muslim invaders and Christian occupation. But it is to the credit of our society that the new religions got assimilated easily and has now become an irreversible part of it.
This is where secularism stopped in and all religions were treated as equal in our constitution. However the word secular has undergone a sea change for our politicians and these so called secular leaders have harmed the society extremely. Under their regime it became a fashion to be irreligious and there was the advent of two separate streams of politicians of course both serving their own cause. It is being used as a drawing power for votes, to be garnered during elections. One group indulges in derogatory statements against religious personalities and scriptures while the other group has swung to the extremes of religious fundamentalism. The fashionable sector has become more permissive and being apathetic to religion has been losing the qualities derived from morality.
Secularism is one of the base factors of National Integration. It is this tolerance of all faiths and religions which is keeping our country together. But for how long? The present definition of secularism has been turned around to being critical of Hindu fundamentalism and turning a blind eye to Islamic fundamentalism. If fundamentalism is wrong then it should be equally so for all religions. The offshoot of this tolerance has resulted in the growth of terrorist activities in the name of religion.
The recent spurt in terrorism is due to this blind tolerance, all for the purpose of regaining the lost vote bank. The activities should have been nipped in the bud but no! We have created a Goliath which seems to be eating away at the fabric of national integration, shredding it is surprising that over the last one and a half decades of this mass displacement and mayhem, forced on the Hindu community, not a single Prime Minister of our country has bothered to go to Kashmir and take strict steps to stem the rot. The right to live and practice one’s faith and livelihood is a guarantee under our constitution and successive governments have failed to ensure even this Could it remain so if this had affected the Muslims. We shall not talk about minority rights as Kashmiri Hindus are minority in the state.
A comparison with the Gujarat situation gives an explicit example of the differences in attitudes. Godhra tragedy last year in February (2002) is a case in point. It cannot be denied that whatever happened in the aftermath was ideally unmoral or immoral and can never be condoned, but why has not the same level of outcry and reaction resulted from the discrimination and upheavals faced in Kashmir. Just because, the sufferers in Gujarat are mostly Muslims and in Kashmir – Hindus. Is this the new definition of secularism?
The levels of degradation and brutality witnessed in both the states have raised pertinent questions on the inefficacy of religions and its negative effects on the society. Religion is now being treated as an instrument of politics to be wielded by so-called religious leaders and politicians for their selfish interests. The mafia and anti-national elements are also very much into the act. These elements who are supplied money and arms from across the border, by our neighbors, are hand in glove with the so-called protectors of fundamentalism. The result is that fanaticism is being fanned into an inferno. What happened at Godhra is a result of this nexus.
It is unfortunate that the advent of 21stCentury and the new-millennium has been a witness to this indelible piece of history. Citizens of the country, who had been living like brothers for decades have suddenly turned blood thirsty and are after each others life. Houses were burnt, rail carriages full of passengers were doused with petrol and set on fire, living human beings were burnt alive and women, even pregnant ones were stabled and raped. This is a blot on humanity and the insanity of the incidents is too overwhelming to be recollected.
Religion teaches us fraternity, brotherhood, love and conform respect for fellow human beings, teaches us to protect nature and tolerance of all beliefs, faiths and religions. We have forgotten all our teachings, forsaken all values and developed intolerance of any belief, not in conformity with ours.
What is needed today is the need for upholding our constitution strictly, even if it means the imposition of Emergency. The barbarism resorted to by unsocial and anti-national elements need to be put down on a firm footing. The urgent need for upright politicians and officers, who are not afraid to call the spade a spade, persons who are not hypocrites and are really dedicated to the cause of a prosperous nation, is being felt the most. Amongst a sea of inhumane persons, they will stand out and ensure that our Constitution is respected and the ideals incorporated, with secularism as top priority, are upheld in deeds and not words.
Communal harmony will bring lasting peace and the nation can not ahead with the agenda needed to uplift the lives of the poor, to have their needs attended to and their voices heard, above the cacophony of rhetoric, a truly egalitarian society.