Yes, India is diverse. Diverse in all aspects; be it culture, religion, language or geography, but it is not united. There has never been a cohesive cultural identity.
The truth is that till the advent of the British rule, India never saw itself as a nation. Each sect, principality, religion, caste etc. were different from each other, but under the tyranny of the British and subsequent struggle for independence, they were woven into one thread of a single unified nation. But lets not forget the carnage of the partition, constantly reminding us of how petty differences and power politics of leaders tore apart a country into two and the communal turmoil that was unleashed in the subcontinent.
66 years to independence and India has come a long way, we have somewhat managed to reconcile and cast aside our differences, if not completely forget them and have developed a feeling of oneness, a unified identity of an Indian.
The secularism of our nation is often threatened by strong communal forces and the religious zeal of parties like BJP, RSS and VHP, who believe that India is essentially a nation of ‘Hindus’. They believe that the state should protect the Hindu traditions, beliefs, customs and foster Hindu nationalism, in contrast to Congress’s pluralism. These ideas play a dominant role in the way people vote, for example, BJP voters are mostly people who advocate Hindu nationalism.
But simply believing in an ideology has done no harm to anyone, the problem arises when an intolerable and violent attitude develops towards other religious factions like Muslims, Christians and other minority communities resulting in conflicts, further escalating into riots.
It has been almost a decade since the Godhra riots in Gujrat and only a few months since the communal terror that struck Muzzafarnagar, it can surely happen in the future too. And the stakes are higher as the ‘Sangh parivar’Â is continually garnering communal hatred in the minds of the people and opening the festering wounds of partition creating distrust between communities. Wrong notions, falsified facts, misinterpretation of the past, stereotypes and prejudices have created a havoc, a mayhem often presided by politicians for their vote banks.
‘Hindu fascism’ has totally gripped the nation, their aggressive ways of propaganda, believing in their supremacy and intolerance towards other religions can incite mob mentality among people. The ramifications of seething hatred among people for their fellow citizens often takes the shape of gruesome and violent communal riots. But if you look closer, at the reality, they are not a manifestation of brewing tension erupting in spontaneous acts of violence. They are premeditated acts perpetrated to instill fear and exterminate the minorities, expunging the ‘unwanted‘. As a result, people belonging to the minority communities live in constant fear of being attacked, killed, looted and raped with no way to justice. Innocent people who have no part in the conflict unfortunately bear the brunt of the savage attacks. Their equivalent Muslim communal forces are not far behind and doing their best sowing seeds of hostility and cultivating enmity. Constant clashes and rivalry between communal forces is tearing apart the unity of this country. People who oppose communalism are condemned and threatened.
Rising communalism has infiltrated our state apparatus and has a propensity to percolate to everyday lives of ordinary citizens. It will have a profound impact on our lives, the society and future generations. Hatred today will foster more fights tomorrow. People turning to militancy where every small quarrel or dispute would magnify itself into large battles. Where are we heading? A road to self destruction. A future of maimed and grief stricken people with no solace.
Fighting it will be tough but not impossible. Keeping religion a private matter, away from public sphere, can solve the problem to a great degree. We need to give the multitude of people a forum to voice their opinions and crucially change people’s mindset; at schools, homes and social media platforms that they discard such crude ideas of nationality and strive for a unified nation.