Sunday, June 26, 2022

Religion and Politics – A disruptive combination


India has been witnessing an avalanche of criticisms and diplomatic deadlocks and attempts to downsize its democratic credentials from inside the country and from international platforms.  All began with a TV debate and of course the insidiousness that the discussion was loaded with was terrible. The controversies began with the TV debate in which the BJP spokesperson is alleged to have made unkind remarks on the prophet. Discontent with the level of a volcanic eruption has been brewing since the Gyanvapi survey started. There is no doubt that nobody in a democratic setup should be forced to hold his tongue when a decent expression of views is mandated. Now, whoever began to break the decorum showering derogatory remarks on the opponent’s religious beliefs should be held responsible for the backlash that as a country India had to face in the wake of the controversies. The entire debate was evidently an accentuation on the divisive and the polemical essence with which the religions could be exhibited. The radicalized arrogance of a particular section of the believers flooding to the streets with sloganeering and stone-pelting with children placed in the front and holding populous cities to ransom is a dangerous trend. We need to count this as a new normal and the country is sure to become susceptible across its landscape to such violent flare-ups purely endorsed by religions which try to establish hegemony through intimidation and upsetting tendencies. This needs to be seen as a well calibrated trend taking place to make its presence felt and also a challenge to the precariousness that India’s democracy is. Religions with a genuine cultural background both in essence and practice need not to raise their fists intending to forcefully establish their credibility. They get noticed naturally, essentially with an urgency to bring about peace and serenity in a world of chaotic, destabilizing and hurtful transgressions.

The most challenging task is to identify the real face of religions that keep dictating moral values to their believers and the hypocrisy with which they function. It was not peace that the Semitic religions entered into the galis and mohallas of countries across the globe. There was always bloodshed and violence and ruthless intimidations and slaughtering of native beliefs. Instantaneous violence in the name of fabricated victimhood in a country like India can throw it into a slanderous ditch from which it would never be able to come out. And they, including the liberals and azadi seekers in India maintain a radio silence on atrocities committed on minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh and to take an example from India, we can easily read into the plight of the Kashmiri pandits. The real trauma is, nobody, not even the trained secular fire-fighters of minority protection, blow their whistle against the persecution of the pundits in the Muslim majority state in India. Attacking someone’s religious beliefs is condemnable. But it should be the same for all. One side is getting severely aggrieved and the other side is dictated to maintain calm, is a double standard. Religions with the history of invasion and infringement and a lack of moral backing, always excited to ill-treat a non-believer, with principles that endorse criminal coercion and interference, definitely lack the moral binding to beat their breast in victimhood. Efforts to correct the historic wrongs should be treated as the right of those who lost their antiquity to brutality. Pressing their voices to impress and appease a well attuned vote bank is what India has been witnessing for decades. This was the reason why the country went on choosing a party that tilted for the majority emotions and an eye-opener to those who blindfolded a major part of the country’s population deliberately concealing its past. Now, the parties that once celebrated favouritism to their chosen vote bank with a hard-nosed political insensitivity in a democratic setup are the backbenchers choking to hold their breath while assiduously focusing to substantiate their views; sometimes even at the cost of defaming the country abroad. This is tragic. Losers win their battle by decently losing it. But mountainous political indecency was the reason that a major section of the voters in India pushed the country to take its saffron turn.         

Now, the question is who should be blamed for the hullabaloo that the streets of India are infested with. The reverberating discontent in the majority and the minority sides is due to an unpardonable, unholy hobnobbing between religions and political parties, which is capable of overthrowing the idea of secularism that we have been proudly drum-beating for years. Nupur Sharma got tightly sandwiched between the hypocrisy of religion and politics in India. The hysteria and violence in the name of religious beliefs, deliberately attempting to destabilize the unity that India is established on; needs to be condemned and the fiasco that such agitations throw this country into, should be rated as an effort to play into the hands of its enemies. Attempts to humiliate a country which has housed religious multiplicity for centuries – panting, but bravely barricading the onslaughts of terror and its subsequent subjugation should not be overlooked. Elements of dissatisfaction and the mindset that keeps burning the wounds again and again would rather deepen the crisis. India for no reason should succumb to the political low that the parties and the religions would drag it through. The BJP with great suffocation might have rated its spokesperson and office bearer as fringe elements. This was a shock for maximum of its rank and file which used to enjoy badmouthing in the TV debates and now is wedged and clueless and unprepared to identify the makeover that the party’s central leadership has given it. Imagine the level of animosity that the maulavis, dharmgurus and spokespersons of different parties meet their followers in the channels with. Maximum parties are unwilling to stop their ‘vocal cords’ from vibrating against their opponents. 

Undoubtedly, India’s diplomatic tenacity would help it come out of the deadlock internationally, but the wound and the scar that the warring tongues of religion and politics have been etching on the amiability of its existence, would remain unhealed. I think it is time for the leaders in politics and religious bodies to maintain restraint without precipitating the heat further so as to avoid a devastating wildfire. Bigots frequently jump into action when a country’s defencelessness swings between vehemence and divisiveness which indeed is an entrapment that we have chosen to bury ourselves in. This needs a congenial conversation, a course correction, and the initiatives in this direction need appreciation and acceptance. While one party takes its strategic leaning to the majority, the minority is favoured with the same spirit by another party. This trend of separation and discordance by the parties after intruding into the religions have, undoubtedly been shaking the ground of harmonious coexistence. Ideological clash between monotheism and polytheism and its retaliating effects seen in the streets in the form of mob violence, would determinately weaken a nation. Choosing neither side, a large number of people in the west are turning agnostics. Forcefully hammering one religious faith on people, however pure and holy that is, would bring repercussions and nobody for that matter, would like to remain submissive to the dry principles that calls for bloodshed and beheading in the name of faith. In India the trend is pertinently gaining momentum and the fashion is to criticize everything that India culturally represents in the pretext of criticizing the government. When religion and politics come together, they make a disruptive combination.

(Author is freelance journalist and social worker based in Kerala. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at [email protected])

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