Sunday, 16 August 2015

Together, We Can

Several markets downing shutters and thousands of mourners paying homage to a hanged criminal, convicted by court as per the law of the land and who was part of the conspiracy that killed 257 of their innocent countrymen in cold blood and injured 713 others in the first ever coordinated terror attack on 12 February 1993 in Mumbai; assistance and shelter provided by local people for two months to captured Pakistani jihadi and his accomplice who attacked a BSF vehicle in Udhampur and who said he was here to kill Hindus for fun; are but a few indicators that do not bode well for us.

As we celebrate 68 years of our Independence, we must pause and ponder whether we are treading along the path to further enriching our hard earned freedom or we are steadily heading towards our impending doom.

Fanaticism is being increasingly carried out across the world in the name of Islam. Our immediate neighbour Pakistan has been, unfortunately, engaged in recruiting and training manpower; arming and giving them logistic support; and pushing them into India for undertaking terror activities.  That we have their sympathizers on our own soil who provide them all possible support in their endeavour is shameful and a cause of grave concern.

This menace is increasing by the day despite our country having a fair record of human rights, minority friendly policies, tolerance for other faiths by the majority community and implementation of the constitution in letter and spirit.

When the country was partitioned on religious lines in 1947, it was thought that India and Pakistan would be Hindu and Muslim majority secular nations respectively. While we opted for and continue to be secular till date; persecution and genocide of minorities started in Pakistan soon after with the result that Hindus and Sikhs who accounted for 24% of the population are now reduced to a mere 1.5%. Moreover, they do not enjoy even basic human rights and do not hold any important or position of power. Their women are raped and converted to Islam forcibly, while men are routinely tortured and executed for crimes they did not commit.

Bangladesh (earlier East Pakistan) has been no different.  From 31% in 1947, the population of Hindus has dwindled to 8% even as their harassment continues unabated at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists, government choosing to turn a blind eye. In fact, Bangladesh is expected to be the next country where there will be no Hindus left. Human rights organisations like Amnesty International are silent spectators of this blatant ethnic cleansing of millions of Hindus and Sikhs in these two countries.

In secular India, however, Muslim population has steadily gone up from 9.8% in 1951 to 14.2% in 2011, with some border states registering a very high increase; Hindu population dwindling from 84.1% to 78.35% in the same period, the sharpest dip of 2.1% coming in 2001-2011 decade itself. Muslim population in India has clearly increased at the cost of Hindus and illegal infiltration from Bangladesh.

Hindus have, ironically, faced persecution in India as well. Kashmir, the lone Muslim majority kingdom to join India in 1947 and proclaimed to be the beacon of our secularism by Nehru, has been in the grip of terrorism for three decades; wherein the minority Hindu Kashmiri Pandits have been “ethnically cleansed” and forced to live in refugee camps within their own country for two and a half decades with no solution to their plight in sight.

This is not to suggest that secularism should be abandoned by us for this is the only path a civilized world can tread on if peace has to prevail. We rightly chose to let faith be a personal matter of the individual and accorded equal status to all beliefs under our laws.

On attaining power after the British left, our new political masters soon began looking for ways and means to somehow cling on to it. Muslims, being the largest minority community, were courted and with clerics obliging; became a “vote bank”; ensuring unchallenged power to both political and religious leaderships. Pioneered by the Congress soon after independence, this form of politics has since prospered and is practiced by all our so called “secular” parties.

This deadly mix of religion and politics has meant that our ordinary Muslim brethren are deliberately misled and kept insulated from modern education, so that absolute power can be enjoyed by their leaders without fear of encountering any obstruction. Medieval personal laws continue to be implemented despite the fact that numerous Islamic countries have harmonized theirs with present times, even as any attempt to frame and enforce a Uniform Civil Code is vehemently opposed. Hate speeches are routinely given by the likes of Owaisi.

This has to stop immediately. Secularism ought to be practiced honestly and all religions treated equally; it cannot be a one way street. Appeasements like Haj subsidy have to be done away with at once. Government sponsored faith specific events like iftar parties must also be dispensed with.

With Muslims increasingly opting for mainstream education, they have begun to understand this politics-religion nexus. The 2014 Lok Sabha elections could well be the watershed moment in our history. Many eminent Muslims joined, while many more of them voted for the BJP, branded an “untouchable Hindu communal” party by our secularists.

That fundamentalism has no end and jihadis are mere sacrificial pawns in the hands of their masters is for all to see in Pakistan which is clearly on the path of self-destruction, since unabated violence now continues against the Muslims themselves, minorities having been gotten rid of.

People have started leaving Islam and embracing Christianity in Africa in large numbers in their quest for peace, while Muslims of Nepal are clamouring for restoration of Hinduism as the state religion in their country’s new constitution alongside the Hindus.

Muslim Intelligentsia must play mentor to their misguided brethren, while Hindus themselves must place nation above all else and stop being “caste vote banks”.

Political leadership, on its part, has to make it clear to all that country and its laws are supreme, above individual and faith. Steps must be taken for the formulation and implementation of a Uniform Civil Code which also addresses controlling our population becoming more and unsustainable. Rule of law should be strictly enforced with zero tolerance, and no special concessions allowed on grounds of religion. It should also deal sternly with Pakistan. 

Media, particularly TV, must also stop glorifying terrorists; while rights activists must talk about the human rights of innocent victims rather than the terror merchants.

We must also try to find out and rectify as to why we lack national character, integrity and honesty; despite the presence of a large number faiths in our country. Why places of worship keep getting richer and god men enjoy luxuries, while the poor and hungry beg outside their gates. Religion ought to promote harmony, not conflict.

Together, we can, provided we look up to late Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam for inspiration, rather than some convict or fanatic.