By Suhani Rampal:
Religion? What is religion? Does any law define what it is? Apparently, even a priest would find it hard to define what religion is. Religion is just another name given to the different forms in which God is worshipped. In other words, like a dictionary would define it, it is a set of beliefs, a cultural system of behaviours and practices, mythologies, world views, sacred texts, holy places, ethics, and societal organisation that link humanity to what an anthropologist has called “an order of existence”.
Now, why do people need an order of existence, a set of beliefs that suit their needs and distinguish them from others? It is a fact that Man was not born through his own volition or at his own behest. Hence, he does not have the right to determine the purpose of his life. That right belongs to his Creator. One of the Creator’s countless gifts to him is that every particle of the universe has been pressed into his service. This shows that man’s Creator is indeed a great benefactor. It is only natural that one’s heart should be inclined towards one’s benefactor. To respect and love the Benefactor is the natural religion.
So, the fact that man respects his creator and is keen to serve might make sense now. But does the societal demarcation make sense on the basis of religion? Or does the caste or the Varna system make more sense? Does the inter-relation between politics and religion make sense? Does the ban on entry for certain genders or castes into the temples of their own creators make sense? Does the conversion into another religion make sense because the society may not let you live or because the other religion seems more ‘lucrative’?
Since birth, every child in India is told which god to follow and what religion they belong to. It is not a choice. It is hierarchical as well as hereditary. It may not sound funny to many but it sure does tickle my bones that a religion that a person is supposed to follow for an average of 60 years of their life is in most cases not chosen by them. Not just religion, but their castes come attached with their birth as well. It is apparently shameful but so true that the parents of many of these kids, at least once in their lifetime, do tell their kids to not be friends with somebody from another religion or caste. Man, the creation of God, is discriminated against (and the situation at times gets worse) on the basis of exactly which god he follows. Then why are kids taught since nursery that god is one and everyone is equal?
To be fair, the Indian Constitution gives some rights to its citizens for enjoying the freedom of religion. As a secular nation, every citizen of India has the right to freedom of religion, i.e., the right to follow any religion of their choice from among the many that are there in India. According to this fundamental right, every citizen has the opportunity to practice and spread their religion peacefully. And if any incidence of religious intolerance occurs in India, it is the duty of the Indian government to curb these incidences and take strict action against them. Right to freedom of religion is well described in the Articles 25, 26, 27 and 28 of the Indian Constitution. Indian society has nurtured different cultures from times immemorial and has been home to a majority of the world’s religions and having such a historical lineage, the freedom of religion here holds great importance. Though important, it is not an absolute right and is subject to various restrictions based on public order, morality etc.
Even after such strong provisions in the Constitution, why do students like Rohith Vemula commit suicide? Why did his family members have to convert to Buddhism seeing the ruckus that was created after his death? Dalits are tired of being Dalits because even after so many years of Independence, they are still not considered equal. Though it is utterly ironic to see the Jats in the country longing for ‘backwardness’ when the world wants to go forward.
Talking of politics and religion and its ugly inter-relation, a politician is the representative of the general people of India and it is his/her responsibility to think of the well-being of everyone at large. But their role has often been shameful since Independence. The entire division of India and Pakistan during Independence is the greatest example in the history wherein a country was brutally butchered into two only to satisfy some political needs and people became enemies of each other because their Gods weren’t the same.
I fail to understand what progress the nation has made if there still is a complete ban on beef in various parts of the country in the name of religion. What will banning beef solve? Would banning pork solve something too? Will the economy be better or will it be worse? Would world problems like poverty, illiteracy, terrorism, global warming be even remotely solved if such bans are in place? Will the number of people dying reduce or the huge rise in the population stop? Why aren’t alcohol or tobacco banned entirely? The youngsters in Punjab are apparently the worst hit in terms of drug abuse. Why aren’t more people focussing on stopping that? If India truly claims to be secular, why is one religion favoured over another?
Even the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, once said, “I have been long pledged to serve the cow but how can my religion also be the religion of the rest of the Indians? It will mean coercion against those Indians who are not Hindus.”
The shoes that we wear, the jackets that we flaunt, the cosmetics that we endorse are all made with parts taken from animals like cows or buffaloes. There are hundreds of medicines which use various glands of the cow that people consume to survive in times of need. Cows are brutally handled in villages, being used as cart-pullers. Is that not cow-slaughter taking place slowly? Where do god and his preachers go then?
Why don’t political party memos have only one agenda, that of the well-being of the nation as a whole? Why is it more of a business and not selfless social work? These political parties should focus on making India what it should have been after so many years of Independence but cannot be due to ‘corruption’ and the various kinds of ‘Raj’.
Well, in the end, I’d conclude by saying that religion teaches us honesty, truthfulness, tolerance, simplicity, kindness and love for all. A religious person is closer to God, often showing no malice towards anyone. Religion has great importance in our social life for people need someone to pin their beliefs and hopes on. A religion, therefore, should never be made a topic of political interest and communal harmony must be maintained. But religion, sometimes being falsely interpreted, may cause harm to people in the form of superstition. It sometimes breeds religious fanaticism and religious intolerance and hence can take people away from the path of truth and God.