Sep 26, 2008
Over the years the Indian nation is undergoing the trauma internal conflicts and communal clashes. Religious, linguistic, regional and cultural minorities have been under a siege from the fanatic and parochial elements who pose as the champions of their religion, language or culture. By such recurring activities of the radical groups the foundation of the nation that was built on the principle of unity in diversity is shaken to the core.
Day in and day out we are treated to the distressing news of minorities being attacked; their places of worship, residences and business establishments are being burnt and destroyed. People belonging to other regions have been harassed. They are deprived from appearing for competitive exams in other cities and those who carry on their trade or petty business have been termed as ‘outsiders’ sending the message of insecurity among them. The radical elements, putting on the garb of ‘moral police’ have vandalized paintings of artists on the pretext of safeguarding their deities and culture being ridiculed. Linguistic chauvinists have been threatening the shop-keepers to put up hoardings as per their diktat and even did not hesitate to humiliate the iconic film family, the Bachchans alleging that the matriarch of the family had insulted the language of the region.
All these developments are manifestations of a society that is increasingly becoming intolerant and obscurantist. The misinformation and attack on religious and linguistic minorities by indoctrinated and misguided fanatical elements from the majority groups is both unfortunate and unwarranted.
There is a need for introspection among the right thinking members of the majority community as to why people, especially belonging to the lowest castes and untouchables have got themselves converted to those religions which have been considered to be egalitarian. Through the history it could be observed that many of those who had been marginalized and those who had been denied basic civil and human rights as well as forbidden to worship the deities of the upper castes had embraced the religions that gave them dignity and promised to better their economic and social conditions.
The situation has changed since the independence of the country from the colonial rule. The constitution of India and social legislation including the reservation policy of the government has enabled the scheduled castes and tribes and the former untouchables to get better education, gainful employment and social mobility. Hence, these sections of the population need not depend on the missionaries to achieve their socio-economic goals.
The schools and colleges, hospitals, orphanages, old age homes and other institutions run by the minorities, especially Christians cater to the needs of all irrespective of their religious affinity. Christians constitute two percent of the entire population. They are known to be peace-loving community and they lack political ambition. Then how they are a threat to the majority community?
In Maharashtra, especially in Mumbai, the regional chauvinism has been manifested by harassment of north Indians, especially from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Terming these immigrants as ‘they’ as against ‘we’ has been a clever ploy to divide the people and gain political mileage. In both the cases-attack on religious minorities and harassment of ‘outsiders’, the hidden agenda of the perpetrators is neither religious nor regional, but purely political.
Working on the human psychology, it is easier to consolidate the majority community behind a political party by pointing out ‘common enemies’-religious minorities at the wider level and ‘outsiders’ at the regional level. This experiment was successfully conducted in the last election in Gujarat.
By pointing out the threat from the minorities to their religious faith, spreading misinformation regarding conversion activities and attacking the minorities, radical groups affiliated to certain political parties project themselves as the ‘defenders’ of the majority religion and hence, win them over emotionally and create a larger vote bank that would enable them to capture political power either at the state level as in Gujarat or at the national level.
It is easier to create imaginary ‘enemies’ of and ‘threat’ to the majority religion in order to promote their political interests rather than taking up issues like temple reconstruction, which had failed to create majority vote banks earlier. In this case religion is sought to be used as a cementing factor for the majority community.
The above analysis also holds good when political parties try to create ‘minority vote banks’ by using religion and pointing out threat to the minorities from majority religious groups.
This model has also been applied at the regional level. In Maharashtra, the recent developments terming the north Indians as ‘outsiders’, including the Bachchan family have been a calculated move to politically consolidate ‘we’, the regional people or the ‘sons of the soil’ behind certain regional political parties. By instilling a fear among the local people from the ‘outsiders’ regarding the possible threat to their livelihood, these political parties have been trying to consolidate the linguistic majority as a vote bank. In this case the regional language is being used as a common factor to bind the linguistic majority. It is easier to make news and be in the limelight by attacking the shops, vandalizing cinema theatres and film posters in defense of the language than winning over the people through constructive work.
While posing as the defenders of the faith or champions of regional language, the fringe and misguided elements in the respective political dispositions do incalculable harm to the fair name of the Indian nation that has been hailed as the land of Lord Ram as well as Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, the apostles of peace and tolerance. For the sake of narrow political ends, these people do not hesitate to attack people, destroy their institutions and damage their property with utter disregard to the law of the land.
This new trend of fanaticism and jingoism is eating into the vitals of Indian democracy. Fear psychosis is being created among the minorities who do not know when they will become the next targets of fanatic frenzy. As the nation is taking strides in economic growth and tries to find a place in global community of nations, its internal strength is dissipated by such elements with narrow agenda and divisive programmes.
The Indian nation is at cross-roads. It is a nation on the verge of being torn apart by fanatic and divisive forces. These forces, if not checked in time might assume authoritarian fascist menace that would prove to be disastrous to liberal ideas, democratic ways of life and communal harmony in India. It is the responsibility of the people with liberal ideas, national outlook and faith in democracy to choose the road of peace, tolerance, spirit of brotherhood, rule of law and social and economic progress.