In a country where “unity in diversity” is preached, where “secularism” is part of the Constitution, where songs like “Mile Sur Mera Tumhara” are sung to empower unity and brotherhood, where movies like Hum Saath-Saath Hain play a major role in forming the pictures of Indians, are we really united?
Maybe, the recent Pew Research Centre report (based on survey data of 30,000 Indians) can give us the answer.
India is a highly religious country where religion plays a significant role in tying up the pure rope of love in the form of marriages or showing hate in power-driven politics. The survey found that 24% of Hindus and Muslims think that religious diversity harms the nation.
But what kind of harm? Most of the time, the harm is done when there is extremism and lack of tolerance while forgetting about a fine line between freedom of speech and verbal abuse.
According to the survey, religious groups tend to know less about each other’s practices. Being involved in festivals and activities of different communities can be a great way to know each other better and this involves interfaith marriages too. Families involved will know better about each other’s practices. Eventually, the next generation will have a soft corner for both communities, leading to more tolerance and fewer disturbances.
But the survey also shows that 70% of Hindus and Muslims are against inter-religion marriages, which is quite a serious issue after more than 70 years of independence. Even high class and educated Indians consider the same religion as the license to get married to someone.
Well, as if this was not enough, the illogical and vague bill termed “love jihad” to prevent forced conversions to get married was passed recently in many states, due to which some false cases against the young couples have also been filed, which conspicuously results in the fear among people for involving with different community members.
Religion is the basis of identity politics too. Due to the increasing pressure of proving nationalism and the rise of Hindutva Politics, 64% of Hindus think being a Hindu is necessary for being a good Indian.
The results of this survey are horrifying, but to prove loyalty to the nation based on religious identity is horrifying. To claim ourselves secular but make the most crucial decisions based on religion is also horrifying. Obviously, we are not standing still. We are moving for sure. But the question is, are we moving forward or backwards? Are we being united or divided?