I need to look back in time a bit at the super hit Bollywood movie 3 Idiots in which the entire story of the movie is shown as being narrated by one of the protagonists, Farhan Qureshi. He is born into a Muslim family and moments after his birth, he is shown lying in the cradle and wailing while his father and relatives are all around him. At that moment, his father decides that he is going to be an engineer when he grows up. From the moment I was born, I started belonging to a certain religion, caste and sub caste. I am supposed to go to temples, marry a Hindu woman and there is an endless list of things that associates me to the religion and it is this association that connects me to the society. Seems I was safer in my mother’s womb.
The society we live in is fraught with divisions and divided mindsets. Divisions based on religions, caste, color, we just keep inventing new ways to create new divides. Money or wealth has been a major dividing factor for thousands of years but we have managed to create innovative divides with that as well. If it was the affluent, upper middle class, middle class, lower middle class and below poverty line in the 20th century, the divide is becoming broader as haves and have-nots in the 21st century. The problem is actually not with the divides or boundaries but the conflicts they are triggering. Be it with religion, caste, color or money, one-upmanship creeps in everywhere. We are craving for domination, even among our own kind. The biggest business tycoon in India built the biggest house in the country right in the middle of one of the poorest slums in the most thriving city. Is this because being the most intelligent beings on the planet, our domination over other species is complete but our need to dominate isn’t subsiding? Is this why it is mentioned that the Gods forbade knowledge and intelligence to be passed on to us?
These divides are at work, at every moment of our lives. When those 7 Hindu pilgrims were killed on their way to a renowned Himalayan temple, fingers quickly turned to Muslims. Why? Is it because it happened in a region where Muslim population is in dominance? The attack on pilgrims has been attributed to an act of terror by the separatists. It is universally accepted that anyone who indulges in acts of terror does not have any association with any religion because all religions forbid violence and taking lives of fellow beings. All Muslims visit Mecca so they understand the importance of visiting a holy shrine, regardless of religion. I do not and will never believe that a true Muslim would have ordered an attack on the pilgrims. Every act of terrorism has political and/or religious reasons behind them. People’s lives are sacrificed and gets termed as collateral damage to further the wicked and vicious agenda. Terrorism is subjugation and domination through violence and it cannot survive without motive and adequate support.
There is something unique about India that everyone needs to remember at all times. When Christianity and Islam spread to other parts of the world, they were adopted by either nomads with no religion or by nature worshipers. But when these religions came to India, they were adopted by Hindus who were already part of a religious and social structure. Hindus chose to break away from both to welcome and adopt new ideas. Every culture in the world has been welcomed with open arms in India. They have all integrated into Indian society and this has given rise to India’s spectacular religious tolerance and diversity. So when certain Hindus start hate mongering and spewing venom against other religions in the name of protecting Hinduism, let them remember that there are no aliens in India. In the tree of religious tolerance and diversity, all of us have roots in nature worship, the trunk is made of Hinduism and branches are of different religions.
If what is happening now is the rise of Hindu fascism in the name of creating a Hindu Rashtra, it is never going to succeed. During the partition of India in 1947, even when a separate country was carved out for Muslims, not all Muslims in India migrated to Pakistan. Many chose to stay back and they were protected from being massacred or forcefully migrated by none other than Hindus. Social media is rife with attempts to divide people in the name of language and geography. Every state in India has it’s own language, culture, food, clothes and even in the way how people look. We all exist together as a country by choice, not by force. There is simply no point in trying to divide the people into north and south Indians. Hindi is the most popular language of the country rather than being the national language and people learn to speak Hindi by choice and circumstances not by coercion. No attempts to change the food habits of people by force is going to succeed. There is a reason why Indians do not rise up in protest together. Through thousands of years, we have endured so much violence, we decided to adapt to changes and become tolerant rather than become resistant. But we did stand up together, when the head of colonialism turned ugly. We will have to shed our inhibitions and divides and stand together again to lead the country to a glorious future.