Religions need to talk to each other

Ironical that border skirmishes happen with Pakistan and Indian soldiers get killed a day or two before Eid. Coincidence or carefully planned (?) to raise Hindu anger in India and possible induce mob reprisals against Indian Muslims in the holy period. Luckily for us, political maturity has prevailed and Eid will pass off as it should in peace. The gulf however between the two communities is growing. As in the stock market, perception counts more than the facts. If citizens start anticipating a domestic communal backlash when Pakistan commits atrocities on India, the polarization has begun and no one will feel safe anymore. The unfortunate fact in India is that there is very little inter-faith communication at the highest religious levels even though we all know that religious leaders are far more powerful in moving large numbers of people, that the policracy. This harks back to the beginnings of our State in Western liberal thought, where religion is a “personal” matter. Nothing could be further from the truth in India. Religion counts and dictates our personal and public life. Why not then require religious leaders to talk to each other, become friends and negotiate with each other, much the same as is done in international diplomacy. Personal relations at the highest levels fills fissures; moderates rabid opinion and can be highly productive. Look at the disservice done to Sikhism by the Congress playing politics by trying to undermine the credibility of Punjab’s home grown Akali Party by financing Bhinderenwale (a Sikh fundamentalist) in the 1980s. The result was a proud religion was converted into a minority. I arrived in New Delhi railway station on the day after Indira Gandhi was assassinated by  Sikh bodyguards for defiling the Golden Temple in Amritsar (for Sikhs the holiest of Gurdwaras). The entire station platform was full of Sikhs sitting on the ground listlessly (as opposed to swaggering about as they usually do) with fear and despondency etched deep. Outside burnt bodies of Sikhs “garlanded” by goons with petrol fueled car tyres. Empty streets….scared Sikh parents at home….. with houses looted nearby. The Godhra massacre would be no different, with the Sikhs replaced by yet another “minority’ community-Muslims. Unfortunately, we no longer have a Gandhi who can credibly inject sanity against mob violence. The times are not right for that. But what about a “million Gandhis”, everywhere, adding their Lilliputian might against the beast of fundamentalism. Say no to fundamentalism. Respect yourself by respecting others. Don’t debase religion  through competition and strife. The way to God cannot be through rape, loot, murder and mayhem. Indians are generally secular beings. We need to convince our politicians about that. They still play “cards” with religions. Lets stop this public gambling with our dreams.    

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