The question of whether India is tolerant or intolerant has been headlined in news in recent times, particularly with heated debates on particular TV channels, though not having much effect on rural India. At the same time there is need to examine where do we really stand with the type of diversity we have in India.
Public in India would be unaware that during the Herat Security Dialogue held in Afghanistan in October 2015, former Foreign Minister Salman Khursheed addressing the audience as Chief Guest said that it is only in India that you can find a Hindu Hindu, a Muslim Hindu, a Christian Hindu, a Sikh Hindu, a Buddhist Hindu, a Jain Hindu and so on. Can there be better description of secularism?
Another Indian speaker Dr Ali Akbar Shah of Delhi University addressing the audience in fluent Pashto said that all Muslim countries should learn from India where Islam has the best mix of what the invader kings brought and what was preached by sages like Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, adding there is need to revive the true spirit of Islam and while everyone knows what has gone wrong, we need to act to set it right.
What is relevant here is that while Dr Ali Akbar Shah would teach the same in Delhi University, Salman Khurshid would refrain from doing so in India least the political party he belongs to sacks him.
Lack of political consensus has been the bane of India always.
Critical examination of any of the several communal riots that have occurred in India would reveal the start point start point invariably is politician (s); for vote-banks, without the slightest concern about the adverse affects to national interests. Events like the Godhra riots were not only initiated but communal fires were fanned (first abroad) for political purposes.
All Indians need to read the article ‘Godhra: True Story’ by Nicole Elfi (link: http://www.jaia-bharati.org/nicole-elfi/ni-godhra-ang.htm) as to what exactly happened on ground.
The fact remains is that leave aside China and Pakistan, no one wants a strong India. With major TV houses based abroad it is easy to orchestrate public perceptions. The two prominent journalists who perpetuated the falsehood abroad about the Godhra riots on behest of another political party, obviously on handsome payment, carry on in the same vein today. Slimy politicians continue to inflame passions for political mileage, be it Malda, Hyderabad or anywhere else.
British Historian Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975) once said, “It is already becoming clear that a chapter which has a western beginning will have to have an Indian ending if it is not to end in the self-destruction of the human race …… At this supremely dangerous moment in history the only way of salvation for mankind is the Indian way.”
Two issues are noteworthy in Toynbee’s statement. First, the world has become far more dangerous than when he said decades back “at this supremely dangerous moment”. Second, when he spoke of “the only way of salvation for mankind is the Indian way”, he meant the accommodating nature of Indians; the Indian way. It is the same what Salman Khurshid and Dr Akbar Ali Shah spoke about in Afghanistan last year.
Unfortunately, political parties aided by media not only instigate communal tensions but distort happenings on ground, as we see happening in Malda today. That the IB would know exactly what has happened in Malda is without doubt but should their findings be made public, debate will be deflected to whether it is biased or not. 2016 will likely see many more Malda type incidents with elections due in many States. There is spurt in sensationalizing communalism in wake of elections, three examples being the so called “attack on Christians” before last Delhi elections, “intolerance” debate before the Bihar elections, and recent suicide of youth not given admission in a university being painted as communal.
What then is the reality of India? Not very different from what Toynbee, Salman Khursheed and Akbar Ali Shah said. If that was not so, youth by the thousand would have joined insurgents and radical terrorist groups.
One can quote thousands of examples but just the following three are being mentioned:
From the time of the discovery of the Amarnath Cave, thousands of people making the annual pilgrimage perhaps do not know that all the priests chanting the prayers, performing puja and distributing prasad are all Muslims.
The Moin-ul-Islam madrassa, on outskirts of Agra, teaches girls and boys of both Hindu and Muslim community Sanskrit and Arabic languages.
Have you come across the flag of any other country than India being proudly displayed at Holy Mecca?
One may say that under the cover of democracy nothing can be done and everyone can speak what he / she wants. But then there are thousands of ways one exert pressure on the politicians (irrespective of which political party) to not incite communalism.
How can one tolerate a Member Parliament saying Muslim officers in the Armed Forces be probed in the wake of the Pathankot terrorist raid? Does she realize that her statement is an attempt to drive a wedge in the most secular organization in the country – the Armed Forces?
There is no way she would even know that the Indian Army follows a concept of ‘Sarv Dharam Sthal’ (All Religions Place); where all ranks from all religions pray under one roof, which no political party has dared to promote in civil areas because of vote-bank politics:
The question, therefore, is where do we go from here? There is no reason why the politicians and journalists who incite communal passions cannot be acted upon, directly or indirectly. This should actually happen on fast track basis in order to correct this grievous malady.
There is no reason that the media, specially TV channels are permitted to stoke fires of hatred. And let us not talk of freedom of press when rallies by military veterans and their continuing protests at Jantar Mantar are completely blacked out on obvious behest of the government.
In addition, we need to seriously look at our education system. Why are ethics and nationalism not part of the CBSE syllabus and left to sundry NGOs running sporadic camps for children? Why can’t we introduce NCC in all schools and colleges?
Isn’t it a shame that 14 universities in Germany are teaching Sanskrit and when Sanskrit is acknowledged globally as mother of all languages and NASA acknowledges Sanskrit as the best for computer programming, we look askance at it?
In April 2012, CBSE made Chinese a foreign language subject for middle school students in 500 schools, with plans to promote study of Chinese in 11,500 middle schools, so why not Sanskrit at least at equal level?
Post the jolt East India Company received with the 1857 Mutiny, the British requisitioned the services of German Indologist Max Muller to educate officers of the ICS cadre when this service was introduced. Muller later went on record to say, “If I am asked which nation had been advanced in the modern world in respect of education and culture, then I would say it was India”.
What are we teaching our children (the citizens and leaders of tomorrow) about our culture and heritage? American thinker Thoreau stated, “In the great teachings of Vedas, there is no touch of sectarianism. It is of all ages, climes and nationalities and is the road for attainment of the Great Knowledge.”
Voltaire reiterated their importance by saying, “The Veda was the most precious gift for which the West had ever been indebted to the East”.
Why then can we not remove the misperception within India that Vedas relate only to Hindu religion, and once having done so, gift this knowledge to our children and youth?
Above are issues the Government and the public at large need to seriously examine if India’s stature is to grow at the required pace.