Be an Indian First!

Posted on August 24, 2010 in Society

By Shraddha Sankhe:

Just as I started typing this, I felt Maureen Dowd of New York Times and me were thinking alike-albeit at different moments. I want to mention the classic story of Harper Lee-‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and how it has honestly captured what we see in our society each day. This could be the fourth time (including  my other writings) that I am I quoting, “A Black neighbor is acceptable but not a Black son-in-law”, but look at the reasons I keep getting to quote this. Worse, most who read the book felt little remorse and carried on their selfish lives as if nothing happened

Well, really, what has happened? The Kashmiris want autonomy, Maoists want a government and the floods are killing whatever was left of our neighbors Pakistan. The situation is grim. And I’m still stuck on a word that was mentioned in the Indian Constitution-Secularism. Do we need to talk about it? Well, if you know Sanskrit terms-‘Sarpa drishti’ and ‘Garud drishti’–you’d know. Much importance lies in realizing what is around us before it makes itself apparent. As for those two ‘drishtis’–search for them online. You’d be enlightened, I’m sure.

“India is my country. All Indians are my brothers and sisters.
I love my country. I am proud of its rich and varied heritage.
I shall always strive to be worthy of it.
I shall give my parents, teachers and all elders, respect, and treat everyone with courtesy.
To my country and my people, I pledge my devotion.
In their well being and prosperity alone, lies my happiness.”

Do these words ring a bell? Well, for the ones who got out of school and got patriotic only when India won a Cricket match or at most on January 26th and August 15th – this is the Indian Pledge. Were we more patriotic when we were in school? Yes? Perhaps. But we’re discussing and I am dissecting the second line. Do you know why “rich and varied heritage” does not include the words, ‘culture’, ‘religion’, ‘castes’? Because, my dear brothers and sisters, we’re Indians. And we are expected to practice our religion and all faiths in seven easy words– “Behind the doors and between four walls”

Not until the 1800s did Indians then feel that religion and the nation were any different.  The British made religion and its real meaning a little more apparent to Indians-after which Uniform Civil Code came into existence. The Indian Constitution expects the Government and the Religions of India to be indifferent and unrelated to each other. Dharmanirapekshavada (indifference to religion) is the philosophy of Secularism in India. Yes, we are secular. But conditions apply*.

These conditions include separate set of rules for inheritance, marriage and divorce for religions. Ironically, the Uniform Civil Code was formulated to unite religions and certain rules for a greater purpose of peace, harmony and nationalism. So much secularism that religions have separate set of rules!

Be it Obama going out of his way to endorse the Mosque on the site of Ground Zero or Sikhs being threatened to convert to Islam in the Kashmir Valley, Secularism is what is getting an elbow of indifference. I’d like to know, as a society, how secular are we? Everyone today, is scared of opining on anything related to some one else’s religion. “You’d not want controversy, right? So stop commenting on religions”. I don’t understand what has made some Indians so latent? And it is beyond me why, commenting on and influencing ideologies of religions is left to either politicians or extremists.

Is your housing society restricted to people of one religion? Is the public park in your area having any religious symbol/idol? Did you recite a particular religion’s prayer in your school? Have you been told to not speak to some one because he belongs to another religion?

Well this is much on a personal level. To me religion is in the heart and in the house. I do not practice religion outside these spheres. I am a Hindu who prefers the beautiful festivals indoors. Our national leader, Lokmanya Tilak did manage to get all Hindus united for the Ganesh festival. But on a larger view, we need the much spoken about and least practiced religious indifference to maintain the calm in the 21st century. Some one who did not want to be named expressed his view rather cautiously, “Why do religions have processions? Why do they need to be public? Can’t we as citizens organize our religious meetings and celebrations in a committee hall or an enclosed place? We could do without loudspeakers too. So no one hurt and nothing is imposed upon”. Point taken.

What is your idea of culture? My professor asked me this and got me thinking. Culture to each one of us is a reflection of ourselves. What is your idea of Indian culture? This question could get rave answers. After all, nothing excites us as much describing the philosophical magnanimity of our country. While these questions were flowered on us, students, the professor bombarded another question. “Why do you see all weddings on TV as Hindu or Sikh weddings? Do you ever see a Christian or a Muslim getting married onscreen unless the characters categorically demand so?” Point taken again. There are a million questions I’d rather leave unanswered. My country folks, who’re reading this-I’m sure I’ve got you thinking. Media has a role. And trust me, media could change a lot of  notions and ideas. And unsettle the base of many ideals too.

When a Democracy functions on religion and caste —based politics, it is time to realize that some thing is not going right. As a society, what worries me most is another riot to kill the ideals our national leaders contracted during the freedom struggle. India is independent. And people are hungry. Why would you care about religions then? Well, my dear Indian, faith moves mountains. If we really see a secular Sun shining on India, half the insincere politics could be curbed. Harmony in the society can’t be traded for our personal faith, right?

After all, as a society we want strength, not power. That’s the first step to kinship in being an Indian, first.

Remember this? All Indians are our brothers and sisters.

The writer is an Intern at Youth Ki Awaaz and blogs at