Thursday, January 23, 2014

Communalism, the bane of free India

The recent clashes in Kishtwar on the day of Eid are another grim reminder of how our country is still in the grip of communalism. The violence in Kishtwar resulted in two people being killed, around 80 injured, curfews being imposed and the Amarnath Yatra being cancelled for some time. Political statements about the riots were also abundant and Parliament flared up in debate on the issue with Arun Jaitley, objecting to the prohibition from visiting the region, saying that his detention was a “censorship” by the state government. He was in turn rebutted by former Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir Farooq Abdulla who said “Nobody was allowed into Gujarat after the riots,” referring to the post-Godhra clashes that occurred there in 2002.

India has a terrible history of communalism and has seen brutal clashes in the past 100 years. The ones that come immediately to mind are those that followed partition, the anti-Sikh riots in 1984 and those of Gujarat in 2002. All these clashes resulted in tremendous losses of life and also left many homeless.

The minorities have borne the brunt of fundamentalism in recent times. In Karnataka, attacks on the Christian community escalated between 2008 and 2012 when places of worship were vandalised and the clergy assaulted. Coastal Karnataka has also seen violence against the Muslim ‘Beary’ community where young boys and youths were assaulted just for being in the company of Hindu girls. These heinous crimes were committed by fundamentalists on the pretext of protecting their culture and even the police and the state government at the time were mute spectators.

India is a secular country according to the preamble of our Constitution which also states that every citizen is secured the liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. By secular, it means the Government of India will not encourage religion, but will not restrict anyone from practicing and propagating any religion of their choice. India’s history is full of writings praising its religious tolerance. From the times of the Roman Empire itself, historians have recorded how India was peaceful and where people of all faiths could live in harmony. However, this secular fabric is being torn by religious fundamentalists who with their own personal agenda have begun to launder hate of other religious communities in the name of protecting their own.

Religion is supposed to be a personal affair. It is not supposed to be brought out into the streets and it is not meant to be used to justify violence. If religion is itself the cause of creating tensions among people, then one wonders what the purpose of religion itself is. Religion is claimed by its adherents to be a guideline to a righteous life, but the same teachings from the same holy books are used by those who claim to be equally fervent adherents to commit murder and other atrocities on fellow citizens.

Religion must be separated from politics and the government. But unfortunately vote bank politics make parties depend on religion as a tool to infuriate the masses. Communalism will continue in our country only as long as we the people let it. We must not let this dangerous idea go any further.