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Harmony humiliated as violence erupts

Time to challenge and expose fundamentalist strategy
Security personnel conduct flag march during clashes between those against and those supporting the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in north east Delhi

J. Felix Raj   |   Calcutta   |   Published 10.03.20, 08:36 PM

Looking at the mood of the country and the sad state of affairs, I find myself failing to repeat the words of Christ on the Cross: “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.”

The non-violent protests and repeated representations of peace-loving people to the Government about the rampant persecution, violence and brutal murders of innocent people by divisive and communal forces under the open eyes of the administrators and custodians of law and security have fallen on deaf ears.

The communal forces have been let loose to do what they want and that their challenge threatens the ancient spirit of secular and pluralistic India. While tolerance is a basic tenet of all religions, including Hinduism, intolerance has become the hallmark of fundamentalist “Hindutva” forces that spread venomous hostility towards minorities, Dalits and tribals. Their systematic attacks on minorities have increased alarmingly in the recent years. They are making a mockery of the Rule of Law. The Government is watching disinterestedly. One cannot but doubt the secular credentials of the Government. “Justice delayed is justice denied”.

The world has witnessed too much bloodshed in the name of religious fundamentalism. To cite a few examples: the crusades in Europe, the Inquisition in the Middle Ages, the massacre of the Jains and Buddhists in south India, the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, the destruction of the Babri Masjid, the brutal burning of Rev. Graham Staines and his two minor sons, the cold-blooded murders of Fr. Aruldoss in Odisha and Br. George in Mathura, jihads, holy wars, communal riots, genocide and so on.

“What a disgustingly savage people we are! Politics, progress, socialism, communism, science — where are they before this black, religious savagery?” wrote a deeply disturbed and impatient Nehru in prison in 1935.

It is worth quoting the Mahatma here: “I can never be an enemy of Muslims, no matter what any one or more of them may do to me or mine, even as I can never be an enemy of Englishmen…. My remedy is to deal with the wrong wherever I see it, not to hurt the wrongdoers, even as I would not like to be hurt for the wrongs I do.”

Gandhiji believed that religion in its TRUE spirit builds bridges of solidarity between people of different faiths. He often referred to the religion of humanity “which transcends Hinduism, which changes one’s very nature, which binds one indissolubly to the truth within and whichever purifies”. That was the reason why he was not afraid of religious pluralism or expressions of religious sentiments.

He also knew that the politicisation of religion could lead to unbridgeable tension in a multi-religious society like ours. The fundamentalists and their organisations are conducting a dangerously unholy blend of politics with religion. Hindutva is nothing but a mixture of sacred and secular power in the name of gods which is sectarian and dangerous to national harmony and secular society, and should be checked before it is too late. Otherwise, the worst will happen.

It is not religion; it is not Hinduism or Islam or Christianity that is at fault. It is fundamentalism; it is the perverted execution of religious faith. It is those who use religion for their own parochial, vested interests. They are responsible for the sad, unsecured state of affairs in India. It is the outcome of their inadequate knowledge, their institutionalised perception of religion and their fundamentalist attitudes and practices. It is their selective and literal interpretation of their scriptures.

Religion, as Sri Ramakrishna explained, is like a river leading its followers to the great Ocean of God. When the human relates to the Divine, there flows a process of the human being elevated to the realm of the Divine. ‘To be fully human is to be divine’. No religion preaches hatred. A true religion is transformative having the power to create “a new heaven and a new earth”.

Communal harmony has been lived in its best way by millions of our countrymen for hundreds of years. People belonging to different religions have been living in harmony and peace in villages and towns. But today this harmony is humiliated and violence has erupted even in universities which are temples of secular wisdom because of fundamentalist forces with vested interests.

Our people in general are not comfortable with the ‘Hindutva’ strategy. Its rise and consolidation has sparked off a serious existential and relationship problem in the whole country. Hinduism, with its non-Semitic, non-dogmatic, cultural and religious pluralism, needs to be protected from fundamentalist and self-styled crusaders. Efforts of many secular thinkers and academics in this respect, irrespective of their religious affiliation, must save Hinduism from the clutches of Hindutvawadis who equate Hinduism with ‘Hindutva’, a strategic syncretism.

We need to challenge and strenuously expose the fundamentalist strategy of these communal forces, whose sole aim, as stated in their manifesto is: “India is one country, one people, one religion and one nation”. The Hindutva seeks to devalue minority identities, and erase constitutionally guaranteed rights, in order to institute the ‘Hindutva’ reign.

Accepting the ‘Hindutva’ strategy would mean the abdication of everything the sacrifices made during the freedom movement stood for. The leaders of our country’s freedom struggle proclaimed their commitment to secularism.

For Gandhiji, secularism was the equality of all religions as founded in the doctrine of Sarva Dharma Sambhava. Dr Radhakrishnan phrased this concept aptly: “We hold that no one religion should be given preferential status, or unique distinction, that no one religion should be accorded special privileges in national life, or international relations; for that would be a violation of the basic principles of democracy and contrary to the best interest of religion and government….”

The moment in history has arrived for us to learn from our mistakes of the past and capitalise on what unifies different religious traditions rather than on what divides them. We must enable each other to establish a community of friends, a federation of fraternity and in short, “a paradise on earth”. “Where are you searching for God, when God is in front of you in His various manifestations?” said Swami Vivekananda. “He who serves humanity with love and humility is serving God”.

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