India - The Nation at Cross-roads

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.

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by Dr Euegene D`Souza, Mumbai
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Comment on this article

  • Dharmesh, Mumbai

    Sat, Dec 20 2008

    We have ministers ilke Antulay, Abu Asmi we have Mullas like Imam Bukhari, We have Dalals (agents) like Amar Singh, We have traitors like Mulayam, Digvijay, We have illegal migrants from Bangladesh and Pakistan and still when something goes wrong everyone blames Itelligence agencies we are putting even austriches to shame. What is there that we alerady do not know? -

  • gurubaliga, Bantwal/New Delhi

    Sun, Sep 28 2008

    Enough is enough. Let's stop these debates. I one by one thought about all my Christian friends. And I felt, what the hell, they are my genuine friends. Conversions or no conversions, I stand by them in this troubled time and reconfirm my friendship to each one of them.

  • a.v.a, BLORE

    Sun, Sep 28 2008

    Yes the root cause of all problems are the politicians yet we have facists parties like the BJP, SHIVSENA, VHP, RSS etc involved in politics. We have to bring in a legislation to ban such ideologies from entering into politics. Hatred is because each of us is become too selfish and therefore none trusts the other, culminating from few reason - because of the limited resourses due to over population. Intolerence of diverstiy, beleif that religious philosophy can lead you to god, only GOODNESS will lead you to god.

  • Rajesh, barbados

    Sat, Sep 27 2008

    Dear writer, are we or at least you still living centuries behind? Do untouchables still exist in India? Are you trying to say it is the current reason for all issues in India or is that what happened in India in the past!! Good to know chauvinism happens in India. In fact I have come across reading about it happening in other part of the world, Good to know it from you. However, it was good/worth reading. Krip Punja in fact, it makes a little more sense.

  • Gerald Dsouza, chikmagalur

    Sat, Sep 27 2008

    If Saint Thomas has come to India to convert,then where did Gautama Budhu go to convert Budhism

  • R.T.Shetty, Doha

    Sat, Sep 27 2008

    Political will and people power can neutrilise ay fantic situations. We need to abolish mentioning of cast in every records, abolish lingustic based states and rearrange them , legal system need to be strong justice need to be done on fast courts with time period.Punishments for offences against humanity and peace shall be punished heavily. Education needs to be given importence and equal opportunites based on merit. We can make India strong.

  • kailas, Bangalore

    Fri, Sep 26 2008

    All said and discussed, India is India. Sonia is heading the Congress and can even become PM.Can you think of this in USA. In its long 300 year history, they had only one Catholic President. All over the world reglion and minority is preached and practiced. But in India, the political people and the press is using to its advantage. The common man is highly uneducated who does not understand this.

  • Rajshekar, mangalore

    Fri, Sep 26 2008

    Mr Raghunandan Herle, Mumbai Your supporting Raj thackeray and you want to setup a base for them.. if ur not from mumbai then u will come to know when he chases you out of mumbai...if you are so aginst the christian institutes than dont send your kids there ...

  • Krip Punja, LA, USA

    Sat, Sep 27 2008

    Every group, be it minority or majority feels like it is righteous and others are being unfair in judging them. Despite religious affiliations, the minority and majority of this country are of the same race and share the same space. So, it is reasonable to conclude that they think alike unless their religions espouse otherwise.

     I cannot speak for muslims, but I have not in my entire life growing up a Hindu have encountered religious preachings putting down other religions or proposing violence against other groups - be it at a temple or an ashram. So where then is the origin of one group's violence against the other? The problem is with perceptions of one another. Minorities consider the majority to be aggressive and intent of eliminating them.

    The mojority community bears a perception that they are giving too much away to the minorities as if it is theirs to give - in a secular state all are equal. Here are a few of the Hindu perceptions of muslims in India: 1) India is the only country that gives a subsidy to muslims to attend Haj. Hindus get no such subsidy to go their holiest of places. 2) India has had muslim presidents - name one muslim country where we can imagine a Hindu president 3) Maharastra has had a muslim Chief Minister. Can we imagine a Hindu CM in Kashmir? 4) Churches and mosques get special subsidies - temples get none from the govt. 5) There have been several terrorist attacks all over India unfortunately propogated by some misguided muslims - yet we hear the Nammaaz everyday on loudspeakers, and peace loving muslims are not targeted by the majority. But we don't hear from leading Muslim religious leaders condemning these actions. 6) Muslim schools can teach Islam and Christian schools can teach Christianity, but no school is allowed to teach Hinduism. 7) Uniform Civil Code does not apply in its entirity to Muslims as it does to Hindus. 8) Abdul Rehman Antulay was trustee of Siddhi Vinayak Temple - can you imagine Lalloo or Yadav being made trustees of a renowned church or mosque? The most complelling perception Hindus have of Indian muslims is that they appear to be muslims first and Indians later.

    The perceptions of Christians is much more positive for obvious reasons, but one where they are going after the weakest and most vulnerable in a quest to meet their goal of bringing new members into their fold - although these actions don't necessarily have a political ambition behind it, it is viewed as morally repugnant.

    The perceptions I listed above may or may not be justified, but they remain. Muslims and Christians harbour their perceptions of the majority class too - once again justified or otherwise. Leaders who lead by being unifying forces are the most effective way of combating extreme actions behind false perceptions. Unfortunately, the easiest path to leadership is with inflamatory speeches and divisive actions which feeds false perceptions. We need leaders of the calibre.

  • girish rakesh, Mumbai

    Fri, Sep 26 2008

    This article just talks of reaction. Not about root cause. "For every action, there will be equal and opposite reaction".. If you think conversion taking adavantages of weakness is not wrong, then reaction from otherside is also not wrong. It is just which side you belong. Problem arises when you disturb the livelyhood, culture and beliefs of the people.

  • Raghunandan Herle, Mumbai

    Fri, Sep 26 2008

    We should invite Raj Thackeray and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sene to Mangalore to set up their base here and share their expertise. We should set up a target to have atleast 100 such organizations (or have we already exceeded this?) so that there could be a bundh everyday and all so called working people could have a permanent holiday.

    Meanwhile a new issue that may interest you and that could be a subject for some more debates/bundhs or a new sene. ie.The issue of not allowing school kids to wear flowers, plastic bindis or glass bangles to school(read christian schools).

  • Purushottama, Byndoor

    Fri, Sep 26 2008

    It is said when one points an accusing finger at somebody three fingers point in his own direction. While violence in any form is condemnable - to say that if one party is elected it is democratic if other party is elected then it is due to fanatism and divisive - then one must be presumed as accusing the voters who voted them also as being fanatic, divisive etc. etc.! With such a bent of mind can we still claim that we believe in democracy? Can the so called fanatics parties keep their herd in place all the time unless the glue to stick them is provided by their opponents?

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