6th November 2010
Religion to be severed from Politics
And now for a guest post by Ujjwal Banerjee, a member of the Freedom Team of India. Ujjwal was a finalist in the 2007 ‘Lead India’ contest and works in the Akanksha Foundation. This write-up by Ujjwal was published in Towards a Great India, January 2009.
FTI has produced a policy on religious freedom, which is worth examining if you haven't seen it yet.
As usual, I invite readers of this blog to consider leading India to freedom. Join FTI.
History feeds the present and the present feeds the future. Unless we consciously try to understand the present in the light of the past and do it without any bias, we may not be able to get a true picture of where we need to correct ourselves.
Considering the fact that the country is as much familiar to riots in the name of religion as much as kids are familiar with the game of cricket, its a matter of serious thought to understand what keeps our society in a perpetual state of war within. These riots are simply external manifestations of deep rooted hatred that lurks in the minds of people. And each riot gives birth to lakhs of minds which decide to take this negative spirit ahead probably in a different context may be in a different time frame. But it surely emerges.
Riots have happened. Media has covered them enthusiastically with exuberant histrionics and at the end of it all the guilty go scot free. Politicians continue their games. Citizens continue to live with their religious frenzy.
This entire situation throws open two important questions. One, effect of combining religion with politics and second which also is related to the first, the role played by citizens in general in perpetuating this state of affairs.
The communal division in the name of religion has always been soft soil for political groups. As much as it is easy to gain mileage out of this display of a party’s inclination towards a certain religious group, it’s a dirty game which has benefited none.
One, it draws the attention of people away from things which actually should matter to them in terms of good governance and good services and second, it keeps the nation divided.
The other important aspect is the role played by citizens as they use discriminatory attitudes in their interactions in the society. Some of the simple examples like hesitating to rent a space to a person from the minority community, discrimination in enrolment of students, looking at a job seeker with skepticism etc lead to a state where an individual feels victimized and to him the State appears to be conspiring to make him stay in that position of powerlessness.
This kind of attitude leads to marginalization and extreme hatred which gets manifested in different forms. At times such frustrated people might become the most eligible candidates for the extremely dangerous religious teachers or else terrorist groups which are hatching the plan of the next attack in the name of religion.
There are no easy answers to changing from this state where we are in today.
As a society, we should be extremely cautious about the way we understand the differences of birth and how they define our attitudes towards other people. The only understanding which can really help a phenomenally segregated society such as ours is to accept religion as a means to human and societal betterment through pursuit of righteousness.
If we go by that understanding, the politicians would be compelled to explain their policies on core issues of development and we as a society would measure them on the number of children they are able to educate, the jobs they create, the number of hours of electricity they are able to provide etc. Whether they provide party tickets to yoga experts or attend Iftaar parties wearing skull caps, will not be of anyone’s concern.