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Religion, Communalism or Liberalism: What suits India?

Religion, Communalism or Liberalism: What suits India?

Dr. Javed Jamil

I have been reading the articles appearing in Indian Express on the question of Muslims and the different views regarding their position in the current Indian scenario. The Indian polity seems to have the domination of two kinds of leaders. On the one hand there are people who have manifest communal leanings, some being soft and others hardliners. Casteism is also in the same mode, but is normally not as rabid in India as communalism. The communal elements are there in almost all political parties though certain parties are considered outright communal in nature. The parties like Shiv Sena and BJP are well-known political compensations with clear tilt towards Hindu communalism. There are certain Muslim parties also like Muslim League and Majlis Ittehad Muslimeen, which practice reactive communalism. While RSS and BJP thrive not only on promoting Hindu interest but also an outright rabid anti-Muslim propaganda, parties like MIM mainly thrive on combating the anti-Muslim propaganda and advancing some Muslim interests. Then there are liberalists which again are there in almost all political parties. Congress and Communist parties have had the dominance of liberal elements.

As the debate started with Sonia Gandhi’s fear that Congress is perceived as a Muslim party, it will be worthwhile to discuss here in particular the nature of Congress. Congress has had, throughout the history, a mixture of religious, communal and liberal elements. Gandhi and Maulana Azad represented the religious class without any communal bias. For them religion was of paramount importance but it was more a matter of principles rather than identity. Gandhi was a devout Hindu and Azad a devout Muslim. Both had deep knowledge of their religions, and still they cared for the humanity at large. Both were ready to understand the problems of all the religious communities in India and were ready to give them what they needed. They would take care not to antagonise other communities through their words and actions. Then there was Sardar Patel who had shades of soft Hindu communalism. He had a certain affinity for his community but still took care not to unduly antagonise Muslims. With Gandhi, Nehru and Azad around, he preferred to keep his preferences in check. It can be argued that perhaps he had no other option if he wanted to be a part of the ruling polity. Jawahar Lal Nehru was a soft liberalist, not fond of religion, but was again able to keep his anti-religion or non-religious views up to himself. He advocated total separation of religion and politics but did not let it become an open refutation of religion.

During last few decades, unfortunately Congress has had no Gandhis or Azads, not even their downsized versions. There is hardly any Congress leader, Hindu or Muslim, who is known for his religious knowledge and piety. But there are hard-line versions of both Patel and Nehru. Narsimha Rao was certainly more a BJP-man than a congressman and can very well be described as the first Prime Minister of BJP. His role in the demolition of the Babri Mosque is now too well known. I had a chance to meet Shiv Raj Patil, former Home Minister in Narsimnha Rao’s government, and I found him a man with blatantly biased views against Islam and Muslims. Gandhi-Nehru family has largely remained soft liberal on the footsteps of Jawahar. But there have been many in the Congress (Hindus as well as Muslims) who became liberal hardliners giving no importance to religion at all. They believe that religion has nothing to do with public life including politics, and often fail to differentiate between religious identity and religious values.

The country today – in fact the whole world—neither needs communalists nor liberalists. The country needs the followers of Gandhis and Azads. Soft liners like Nehru can be acceptable but not the hard-line liberalists who have no respect for religion as a social force nor the communalists who spread hatred against other communities. Liberalists argue that they are believers in scientific spirit, and in a world of science there can be no room for religion except as purely a private affair. The truth is that liberalism is a product of economic fundamentalism and has little to do with scientific spirit. Liberalists believe in absolute freedom of choice, which is the master plan of the forces of economics aimed at commercialisation of human susceptibilities. Science, particularly medical sciences clearly prove that the freedom of choice is a dangerous concept which leads to huge loss of lives throughout the world. Both mortality and morbidity related to the freedom in eating, drinking and sexual behaviour are huge, with more than 70 million people dying as a result of the problems created by practices like drinking, gambling, promiscuity and other sexual perversions. Religion on the other hand is almost on the same plane as medical sciences with most religions effectively banning or restricting these dangerous practices. Medical sciences are unequivocal in telling the mankind that the safest option for the survival of human species in a safe and healthy environment with equal benefit to men, women and children, is through a well-established marriage system between males and females. Liberalists of course have other ideas. In the name of distorted and unhealthy notions of freedom and equality, they are not only condoning the death of millions of humans and humans-in-making but are also endangering the very survival of human species through promotion of gay marriages. The Burqa argument to prove that it represents male chauvinism is nothing but the propaganda of the liberals on one side and Hindu communalists on the other. The feminism today has nothing to do with the safety and security of women. Feminism is a market-driven movement, which aims to turn all human beings including women into commercial beings. It is the market-driven agenda, which makes them campaign for a ban on early marriage but not on sex below the legal age of marriage and for a ban on polygamy but not on promiscuity. The human rights have nothing to say against 5o million annual abortions worldwide because it would hit the interests of the market, which thrives on the presence of as many women as possible away from the family system and in the clutches of the market outside homes. To remind these burqa-haters, burqas are being put on in much greater numbers by well-educated Muslim women in the Western world than in Pakistan or Northern India.

Thanks to both the enemies and friends of religion, religion has not remained what it should have been. Instead of religious values, godliness, piety and social values, religious people have become more concerned about the identity and are often more interested in showing other religions in worst colours rather than showing their religion in the best. There is absolutely no harm in anyone thinking his religion or ideology as the best. If he does not believe this, why will he stay in that religion? The problem comes when he shows more interest in spreading myths and hatred against other religions and their followers. This has to be stopped at all costs if the religion has to play the role it must play. Communalism has nothing to do with religion; it is the product of politics rather than religion. Politics tries to misuse every possible sentiment for their ends, and in a country where religious sentiments are strong, politicians would not miss any opportunity to misuse religion.

India needs religion – in its pristine form. India cannot afford a polity without religion. Religion resides in every sphere of India’s existence. The overwhelming majority of Indians believe in religion. They may have different methods of worship but they all believe in God. They all are firm believers in the family system and the devotion and loyalty that goes along with family. Unfortunately, religion has ceased to play the social role it must play. The polity is controlled by the forces for whom nothing matters but money and power. In order to further their interests, they are promoting a kind of liberalism, which hardly few Indians relish. Yet, anyone countering the liberalists is dismissed with contempt by the media controlled by the forces of economics.

But religion will not resurrect itself unless all the communities resurrect their faith in the social and moral dimensions of religion. They will have to abandon communalism. The devouts of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Sikihism, Jainism, and any other religion that exists here, will have to learn to live together, to abandon mistrust in one another, to care for the genuine demands of all and to give rights to all to live their lives in accordance with their culture. Above all, they have to learn that religion calls for service to the whole mankind, and not merely one’s own community. The parties like BJP, Muslim League and Akali Dal can still function. They can continue to fight for the genuine demands of specific communities but they will have to abandon forever hatred for other communities. Muslims must not expect any Hindu leader, Rahul Gandhi or Yogi, to visit mosques and Dargahs and Hindus must not expect a Muslim leader to attend Pujas. If they are true Hindus or true Muslims, they must pray only the way they love best. But all Muslims and all Hindus must ensure, not simply hope, that anyone thriving on hate propaganda is sidelined.

* Dr Javed Jamil is author of more than a dozen books including “Muslim Vision of Secular India: Destination & Road-map”, “The Devil of Economic Fundamentalism”, “The Essence of the Divine Verses”, “The Killer Sex”, “Islam means Peace” and “Rediscovering the Universe”.
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