I am a Hindu by birth. I am a Hindu by my beliefs. But I am not a religious lunatic. My beliefs & my faith are very personal to me. And I don’t wear my religion on my sleeves and I am a strong believer of secularism. And I believe we can co-exist. Before writing this post, I had thought about whether to do this or not - for a long time because I feel I am going to be ‘profiled’(1) soon by who ever reads my blog. But I am what I am – so beat it!
Do we have agendas in our life? It is quite possible that we have goals in life ranging from who you want to be 10 years from now to how can I secure my next meal? Can we call our personal goals in life as agenda? What differentiates somebody’s goal from an agenda?
I see a lot of secularists around me in my day to day life; or rather people who call themselves secular, media who call themselves secular, organizations that call themselves secular. Off-late, I am getting a feeling that many of the so called secularists think that being secular means being the one who ‘dares’ to bash up the majority. Being that ‘smart-ass’ who only sees problems with anything and everything the other does and adding that typical twist in the tale. The permanent “devil’s advocate”. To be more specific, in the Indian Context (Kerala in particular), secularism has reached an all time low which means that any Tom, Dick & Harry who can talk loud and shout on how they think Hindus in India are proponents of in-house extremism (read as terrorism) – They are secular! What a Shame!
And on the other side, there are a bunch of maniacs who believes that ‘Indian culture’ has to be safe in their hands & the solution for that is to send every non-Hindu back to their original roots. While it is true that many religions, faiths that came to India thousands of years ago have chosen to stay with us and we embraced them as family and we co-existed for all these years. We are still known to be one of the most resilient & civilized communities ever known to man kind. I (a south Indian) might have many things common to my Muslim/Christian neighbor than a Hindu in the North or Eastern India. And this is the most talked about 'unity in diversity' of India. The culture or the ‘way of life’ as you call it - that everyone chose to adopt & live with
I condemn and do not subscribe to any kind of aggravation in the name of faith or belief that amounts to intentionally or unintentionally overstepping on anybody else’s beliefs or faith. Some do it covertly and some others in the open. The guys who do it covertly are the more polished ones that create support in terms of money, media and education. And they know how to be politically correct to ensure that they stay within the boundaries of the law of the land, but still push through it. 61 years into Independence, I am wondering if it is time to re-write a few sections of our constitution.
Do we still need caste/religion based reservations? Is it really helping the real needful? Or has it got to a rotten state, only to be another money minting business in the hands of religious leaders and vote bank politicians? We left casteism & untouchability two generations behind us – and it looks like we are getting our children ready to really go back in time there. A lot of examples to quote here starting from the 7th standard textbook controversy(2), compulsory teaching of subjects not prescribed by the state department (e.g. moral science for non followers) in minority controlled schools, racial profiling in similar schools in the pretext of uniform codes that amounts to banning the use/wearing of any commonly accepted religious symbols of other beliefs to school – e.g. head scarf, bindi et all. These activities have really started undermining the resilience and is really testing the patience of the so called majority.
As far as I understand from my modest upbringing, Hinduism consists of a very loosely coupled set of beliefs and is more a way-of-life than a religion with a four wall boundary & a binary approach (us vs. them). I don’t remember my parents or anyone else telling me when I grew up that I would be penalized for not going to a religious place once a week or once a month by denying me a place for burial or revoking the heaven for me when I die. It is more of a faith that deeply intertwined into our day to day lives and I believe a lot of other religions have also adopted a large part of this 'way-of-life' being a part of the Indian culture – vidyarambham – is a classic example.
Given this background, I strongly believe that the real people who help maintain the secularism in Kerala is this set of majority and not really the Congress or the Communists or the Janata party or any other Political party who proclaims themselves as the custodians of secularism. We see their secularism in colors of orange & green & blue & yellow flags flying high during the elections. I feel sick in my stomach when I read about secularism in election manifestos that has a Rashid or an Abdul contesting from Malappuram, a Chaco or Mathew contesting from Kottayam and a Narayanan or a Sekharan contesting from Kollam – irrespective of which ever party they claim allegiance to. It doesn’t come to me as a surprise that the common man has distanced himself from the politics and found solace in self proclaimed swamis and vicars and mullas who don’t give a damn about society or national integrity or co-existence but just to fill up their pockets, spreading religious hatred and sucking up to their promoters sitting out of Vatican or Pakistan or Gujarat.
With all due respect to the blogger community, there are many bloggers out there who talk about these issues from a text book stand point, from the constitution, quoting IPC sections and other academic stand points. And I don’t know how many of them face it in reality. I am really starting to get worried about the society into which my daughter will grow up to, in the next 15 - 20 years – (beyond which I expect that she will acquire the maturity to handle issues on her own). She is a half Hindu through me & half Christian through her mother (a living example of Jeevan). I am seriously worried about the crisis that she might face in a severely polarized society that is even intolerant to ‘Jeevan, the Casteless’ in a textbook(2), constantly subjected to provocation by each other and the related smearing by the lousy “secularists”.
And that makes me rethink on my plans to return back, invest or do anything worthwhile in this piece of land called Kerala – It may be much better to stay in the city to be a Bangalorean & ruminate the past & nostalgic memories of my village & homeland.
(1)An interesting trend that I see off-late (especially on the web media) is profiling. It has to be either us or them – always binary. If you are not a communist, then you are a capitalist; if you are not a believer, then you are a communist; if you don’t agree with what I say, then you are one among them. And the latest among that nowadays is that if I don’t massage the minority’s bottom for anything and everything and condemn the majority, then I am not secular – which indirectly means I am a ‘Hindu extremist’ – I totally fail to understand this crude and narrow point of view that ‘if I don’t agree with you then you are one among them’.
(2) There was a large controversy that was caused by a chapter introduced in the 7th Standard Social Science text book of Kerala syllabus - The Chapter name can be roughly translated as 'Jeevan, The Casteless'. The chapter progresses through an admission interview of a child named Jeevan whose parents are from different religions and the related topics - underlying the fact that which religion you belong to is secondary, but thought provoking to children to start looking above race, creed & religion to humanity. Read more about it here in one of my older posts.