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.
Religions need to talk to each other
Published by Sanjeev Ahluwalia
Sanjeev S. Ahluwalia is currently Advisor, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi and an independent consultant with core skills in economic regulation, institutional development, decentralization, public sector performance management and governance. He is also an Honorary Member of the CIRC Management Committee. He was a Senior Specialist with the Africa Poverty Reduction and Economic Management network of the World Bank for over seven years, 2005-2013. He has over a decade of experience at the national level in the Ministry of Finance, Government of India as Joint Secretary, Disinvestment from 2002 to 2005 and earlier in the Department of Economic Affairs in commercial debt management and Asian Development Bank financed projects and trade development with East Asia in the Ministry of Commerce. He was also the first Secretary of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission from 1999 to 2000. He worked in TERI as a Senior Fellow from 1995 to 1998 in the areas of governance and regulation of the electricity sector and institutional development for renewable energy growth. Previously he served the Government of Uttar Pradesh, India in various capacities at the District and State level from 1980 onwards as a member of the Indian Administrative Service. His last job was as Secretary Finance (Expenditure management) Government of UP from 2001 to 2002. He has a Masters in Economic Policy Management from Columbia University, New York; a post graduate Diploma in Financial Management from the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University and a Masters in History from St. Stephens College, Delhi. View all posts by Sanjeev Ahluwalia