Stories of Secularism

This is a phenomena that has been going on for ages but got stronger more recently that is stories of secularism and religious harmony in India.

I keep getting to read stories how a muslim girl can recite “Gita”, the sacred textbook of Hindus , more recently a muslim boy who was well versed in hymns of a Hindu god, and the best one so far was when a national daily newspaper tweeted about Islamic artist creating lord Ganesha idols for a festival and the man in the picture replied to the newspaper letting them know he was Sikh, and the paper continued to ignore that story and deleted his tweet to make a more pressing point for secularism.

Growing up I saw loads of bollywood movies, and usually in the movies from 80s and 90s there will always be a stereotypical man from the minority community, who is doubted for his patriotism or is not treated well owing to the social prejudices, but eventually turns out to be a savior, going out of the way to help others thus establishing they are good people and how wrong the prejudices were. More recently there was a tea commercial(linked) where the neighbors agree to go to a Islamic women’s house, enchanted by the aroma of tea. Though the message was intended on how tea bonds us all , what left a sour taste in my mouth was when the neighbors asks if they can come in for tea, the lady had this huge smile like a kid who walks in a new school and is invited to play, for being included in a world he so far thinks he does not belong. Why do we start with the assumption that they are not as much part of the community or society and a tea invitation is a sign of acceptance. Why do we keep deja vu-ing the same feeling on our minorities, or are we not in some way already saying that it's the norm to be wary of them, and that it will take efforts to break these barriers.

I understand our filmmakers had the noble thought of driving the notion to masses of how misguided our prejudices are, but somewhere in their overzealous enthusiasm, or could be my cynicism , it seems as if the onus of being forgiving, understanding , humane lies on the minorities. Being a Hindu I am assumed to be loving, patriotic. I can live with the prejudice but very rarely is it portrayed that in times of need, the marginalized minority character refuses to help out of spite or just out of self respect. I see myself as a reasonable human being but if someone is rude or condescending to me, they cease to be part of my world. I will just ignore them and move on with my life. I am an Indian and I stay in USA, where I am an immigrant and thus a minority. The color of my skin makes it easy to guess where I come from, and more importantly that I do not belong here. Though USA is a cultural potpourri, and I have met people who have been nice and welcoming, definitely I had share of people who were not happy with the fact that I was an immigrant, workin here or plainly I was different. I have not tried to preach them with what my society stands for or how much India has contributed to the global platform or invited them to taste the yummy Indian curry. I am indifferent to them and winning their acceptance is not any of my life’s priorities.

Why do we not have such realistic portrayals where the smug people get a taste of their own medicine. Why is there a need to say, that we can still bond despite differences, coz the assumption lies that we are apart.

More atrocious is the fact that why all these messages of secularism are either when minorities embrace the majority faith Hinduism or Hindus embrace muslims as an equal whose house they can go to drink tea. This is rodomonte of secularism where we are secular as long as minorities abide by the majority faith, fight the discrimination and prejudice with perseverance and a smile we can stay secular. As per some unfounded claims few hundred years ago Hindus converted to Islam, hence in present date their successor were forcefully converted to Hinduism. Why can’t we Hindus see some of our brethren practicing other religion in a secular country that we love to boast about. Why the onus of secularism lies not on us but the others. Why can’t every religion share the responsibility of keeping the harmony.

The very fact that Hindus fawn upon the existence of islamic idol makers, but will never try to learn verses of other religions in the country is a dire warning. Restrictions on firecrackers owing to environmental impact is seen as an infringement of religious liberty and every Hindu counters it by talking abt the number of goats killed during Eid. First of all one wrong does not justify the other, and non vegetarian food is a predominant diet of a lot of people across all religions in India. Though I do not condone animal killing but the fact is, without any festivities the animals are still consumed in a regular diet. A sweatshop during Eid does a lot of business just like sweetshops during Diwali.

But do we really need to pollute the environment, endanger kids (working in fire crackers factory) for liberty to practice religion. That is an entirely different conversation. We raise issues when leaders of Islamic faith decide to use “Hindustan Zindabad” than “Jai Hind”. The intent was to sing praise of the country and the latter just used an urdu phrase than one rhyming with Hindu chant and we are not happy coz we are hung up with the way message is encapsulated than the intent of the final message which is my country is great. Should we not be celebrating the diversity in which our country is praised rather than being divisive on how to praise the country. We are dividing ourselves because of how we decided to salute our country. We deride Rahul Gandhi for wearing a skull cap and then praise muslims for accepting hinduism.

The meaning of secularism is that every individual has the right to practice their freedom of religion. Never does it mention that they have to adopt others, but the intent was we all can practice what we believe, no matter how different yet live in harmony. This has been happening from centuries and just like elements of nature, different cultures seep in one another taking from all and creating a new culture. This is the beautiful way culture evolves, taking a little from all . Alas, we have ushered in an era where we have decided to patrol the direction of amalgamation. Humans have tried to control the way nature works for centuries and never learnt the lesson…

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chirpychutku

chirpychutku

An Indian, grumbling and abjectly failing against the rise of Fascism. Will keep talking against extremism, until the day it is no more relevant