There is no doubt at all that hate crimes are on the rise. A casual glance at any newspaper, current events webpage or television would confirm that. Mob violence, intolerance and religious fanaticism are running rampant in this country, disturbing the idyllic fields of modernity and development that the government wants us to believe we live in.
There is no doubt that politicians orchestrate and feed off of the mass outrage and indignation generated by such hateful acts. This exploitation, however, is nothing more than a severe case of corruption: those in high offices abusing their posts and profiting at the expense of the nation. What is far more disconcerting is the fact that many of the perpetrators of these violent acts fail to realise the hypocritical political waters in which they are angrily swirling. The bulk of them genuinely believes in the soundness of violently asserting their religious superiority. Religious coexistence in India is now more strained and precarious than ever.
The ruling party is not helping to defuse this crisis in the slightest; they don’t even attempt to provide the illusion of doing so. While many would use this as a launching pad into a rant criticising the Centre and blaming them for the intolerance, violence, and blind fanaticism that have swept the nation, I will not. While I do believe that the Centre’s response has been inadequate and insufficient, I do not think it fair to place all the blame on one head.
I believe that the crisis has less to do with sporadic outbreaks of hatred and violence, as it has to do with the entire treatment of religion in India. Religion is considered essential, irreplaceable, and vital to the growth and development of the nation. In India, religion is not something that can be laughed at or dismissed; it is seen as your primary characteristic. This applies to followers of all religions in India. Your faith is supposed to be an identifying element in the complex mix of who you are and what is expected to be mirrored in your choice of spouse and friends.
The Indian habit of marrying within communities not only reflects this problem but offers us a bit of insight into its roots. Our obsession with intra-faith marriages is nothing less than a ranking of our religion over the feelings and desires of our children. ‘Love Jihad’, as it is called, is merely a symptom of this larger problem. So what if a Muslim boy marries a non-Muslim girl? So what if a non-Christian boy marries a Christian girl? Rather than trying to keep our communities intact through internal marriages, we should take a step back, allow the youth to make their decision, and hope they make a wise choice.
True secularism lies not in ‘tolerating’ religions other than one’s own. It definitely doesn’t lie in pandering equally to all religions. According to me, it lies in delegating a secondary role to religion. Rather than immediately questioning the faith of an individual, look first at their character. You are not your religion. It may be a part of your personality, but it is by no means all of it. Encouraging inter-faith marriages is the first step towards a prejudice-free India.
A child who can look up to his Muslim father and his Hindu mother with equal respect and gratefulness, will not grow up to be a man that hacks the elderly to death on the basis of their faith.
Tolerance is maintaining an arm’s length.
Don’t just tolerate, embrace.