Riots, Religion, Politics

January 26th, 2007

Today is 26th January. It is India’s 58th Republic Day. It is the 58th time that we as a nation have come together to celebrate the forming of a republic which is governed by a constitution that states:

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into
a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;

But just a week ago, Bangalore, one of the 6 largest cities in India, witnessed riots under the guise of religion. Is this our definition of secular?

We are a country of countless races, cultures, languages and religions. Yes, even though a majority of us are Hindus, and a significant number of us are Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Jains, we have such a variety of religious beliefs in our country, it is almost impossible to determine who or what all we worship.

But we are not a secular country. The state is not separate from religion. Our politicians use religion any which way they will, for whatever benefit. Is the hanging of Saddam Hussein, really relevant to Muslims in India? Whether I believe in capital punishment or not, whether I believe that the War in Iraq is right or not (not – in case you’re wondering), it is absolutely clear that he was a mass-murderer. It is not about religion or faith or belief. So why should political parties gain mileage from this?

But it doesn’t end there, does it? The riots were repeated in greater intensity two days later, when a bunch of right wing extremist Hindu fundamentalists, spurred on by some political big-wig or the other, got together to do their own burning, beating and rioting. A 11 year old boy was killed when police opened fire after a cop was stabbed.

This is all far from secular in my opinion. Secularity means: I will not tell you what to believe in, and you will not tell me what I should believe in either. It means that I should not have to stop at any major intersect in the city and see huge banners advocating some particular religion.

If I should choose to go to a temple or a mosque or a church or any other place of worship, it should be my choice. It should not be allowed to be pushed in my face. That is truly secular. I hope that at some point, when I celebrate Republic Day, I will not feel that somehow, somewhere, we have let the people who wrote our constitution down.

Categories: bangalore, india, politics, religion, republic day, riots | 1 Comment

The Crisis of Identity and Destination

January 3rd, 2007

As it always does, the new year has come around again. This year began, like many years have begun in the past, with no one actually sure when the year came around. So, we did the “Happy New Year” bit twice. Once straight up, and once with a count-down (although I am pretty sure the New Year had actually come and gone!). The party was at a friend’s place. I am sure that if we had gone to one of the more fancy, ‘organised’, parties, we might have had a DJ or MC counting down for us. That would still have been no guarantee that the time would have been correct.

But now is the time for reflection. In short, the time has come to deal with the crisis of identity and destination once again. More plainly: Who am I and Where am I going?

My wife asks me every new year if I have made any resolutions. I steadfastly answer that I have not, and nor am I planning to. This for some reason seems to infuriate her. But I am not trying to be difficult. It just seems a pointless waste of time for me to make resolutions, when there are such bigger questions to ask. Are we alone in the Universe? Is the kettle boiling? Has George Bush made up a mind (since he doesn’t have one of his own)? And most importantly, what am I going to eat for dinner?

You may think I am being flippant, and rightly so. I am being flippant. The last year has taught me one thing: Whatever you expect to happen may or may not happen, but you can be sure that things you didn’t even realise might happen, do happen.

A year ago, today, my life was very different. My wife and I were in jobs different from the ones we are in right now; today she is on the verge of quitting, and I am disenchanted with my boss. Good friends we had, good friends we lost. People we thought we could rely on weren’t there, and the people we didn’t realise were there, suddenly came through. Old friends reconnected, some after so many years, that meeting them again was an adventure in itself.

Whatever the new year brings for me, I can be sure of one thing – keeping on my feet is going to be no less difficult than in the past, just different, in ways I can hardly fathom.

Categories: family, personal | No Comments