The realisation that a huge majority of Indians support a bigoted view of religion is obvious from the manner in which teeming millions of them are seen congregating during Kumbh melas and similar such extravagansas elsewhere, and that too at a time when the Covid pandemic is taking a huge toll on everything coming its way and claiming precious lives in their thousands every single day. It’s precisely this narraow, myopic view of religion that its exploitation in politics has, of late, led to the metamorphosis of a tolerant, egalitarian India into a nation where the people are sought to be divided on caste, creed and religious lines rather than being united by the strong bonds of friendship, fraternity, love and harmony that is the essence of religion and religious practices. These are the unmistakable signs that this country shall continue to remain steeped in ignorance for a long time to come.
But India is not alone in this distinction – there are unmistakable similaraties in the pattern of thinking informing the mindset of people of the two countries across the border towards religion and the religious practices! On the other side of the border, the conduct coupled with their own understanding/interpretation of Islam by the protagonists of religion has led to a violent face-off between the govt and a massive chunk of the population owing allegiance to a certain politico/religious outfit which has a huge following in that country. The resort to violence by those who are agitating in support of the conservative, antediluvian religio/political party – Tehreeki Labaik Pakistan (TTP) – whose chief was arrested by the authorities the other day shows how the people of the two countries are so similar, at least in their social and religious moorings.
Which is why the loss of empathy for those espousing a liberal, egalitarian outlook in India is ably matched by intolerance of the people of the neighbouring country which is manifested in such and many other ways including their contempt for those who have come up with what surely comes across as a refreshing and rational approach to Islam. Else such eminent religious thinkers/ scholars like Maulana Javed Ghamidi would not have felt compelled to flee that country to propagate a view of Islam in the security of an alien country that represents its true essence but sadly, that does not go down well with the conservative clergy who are holding such a sway on vast segments of the public consciousness there. That lends sufficient credence to the contention that the peoples of the two countries, though indeed “separated at birth”, are no doubt divided by the national boundaries, but who stand united by the ‘ever- strong’ bond of ignorance, illiteracy, intolerance and a shamelessly regressive mindset. God save these two countries and their peoples from the shadows of darkness.
These and many such events in the past which are now playing themselves out both in India and Pakistan lead to the ineluctable conclusion that the religious/political parties propagating a certain supremacist view of their religious faiths invariably end up working to the detriment of their own societies/countries. Whether it was the Feb-2020 Delhi riots which were instigated by elements owing allegiance to Hindutva ideology – as was the Babri mosque pulled down by them in 1992 – or the TTP who have brought their country to the brink of anarchy, both these parties/organisations are causing immense damage, not to their putative enemies, but to their own countries and their own people. How else does one make sense of the TLP rising in revolt, and for good reason, against a devious act of blasphemy having been committed in distant France whereas its supporters have chosen to resort to acts of violence and thus caused immense damage to their own country. What a shame in the name of loyalty to a particular strand of faith!
The main takeaway from this discourse is that religion as we know how it is approached, understood and practiced in the world of today, there is a strong case for restricting it exclusively to be a personal matter and to be followed in letter and spirit at home and in our daily lives. The human experience of the past several millennia shows that the use/abuse/role of religion as a determinant of the state policies has run out its course in the world of today which stands riven by religious hatred and intolerance like never before. Let religion be accorded its place where it naturally belongs – as an important agency to shape and reform our personal/social lives without extrapolating its extension to the affairs of the State, a scenario that’s fraught!
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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