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

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