Survival mantra: Condemn violence, re-invent secularism as our guiding light

It could be true, that inverse relationship between brawn and brain. I haven’t been as alert mentally since I started going to the gym regularly, but today I’m resolving to snap out of that stupor and get back to my blog and my work with total concentration.

I’ve been following the controversy following Home Minister Shinde’s remarks about Hindu terror. And thinking about the intense feeling of discomfort I have about that particular faction of our society. Yechury’s editorial in The Hindustan Times today about zero tolerance reveals the sordid history of the RSS and their commitment to military means to achieve their wins. It also exposes the essential fascism in their ideology. This scares me (despite growing up in a very much Hindu family). Because I was brought up in independent India with the clear understanding that secularism is very much a value we fought for and want to keep fighting for, that this is a deeply ingrained belief.

As I grew up, various incidents influenced me- the 1984 riots, Babri Masjid, Mumbai blasts and the general observations of how citizens in a city as cultured and nuanced as Lucknow got polarized and compromised in the crush of religious fear and machoism. Yet, my belief in secularism as the ideal to aspire towards never wavered.

Today, an urban practitioner in rapidly urbanizing, rapidly growing India- I hear disparate voices all around me. I know that religious identity continues to be the strongest one for many in this country and, while I do not think that is wrong, I am pained by having to accept that secularism no longer seems to be the agreed upon framework of taking this country forward.

The world over, religious fanaticism seems to be overpowering the voices of tolerance. I often wonder, why? Is it cyclical, moving closer and then way from fanaticism, clannishness? Or are we essentially an irrational and violent race and occasionally we get lured into more rational thinking by great people like Gandhi or Martin Luther King who for some reason all seem to happen around the same time?

In my analysis, it all boils down to managing anger. Just like we learn to manage anger and frustration in our personal lives, or should at any rate, collective anger also needs to be managed. When the management tool becomes skewed and leaders would rather incite, and preach retribution and revenge, violence and terrorism appear as very logical alternatives to those in a group. In the absence of reason, no one is able to break the tit for tat and the war goes on…

This is a war on our senses, on our liberties. It is a war that threatens to annihilate the beauty from our lives and marry us all into a culture of violence and retribution, which can only lead to sadness and more anger. It is a vicious cycle. We must break out of it. Secularism is one way to break out of it. Perhaps we must change the way we see secularism- not as a society sans religious affiliations, but as one where each group is tolerant of the faith and the cultural practices of the other strains that co-exist with it, an within that larger fabric of India, Asia, the world.

I would respect that Hindu leader that came out and punished perpetrators of violence from within its folds, same goes for the Islamic leadership. Religious leaders must condemn violence and be unabashed in naming all those who incite it. If they continue to shield murderers, no matter which religion they belong to, they are doing a huge disservice to us all. By luring people into the false cocoon of us-versus-them on hand and by alienating all those of us who refuse to support violence, on the other.

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About ramblinginthecity

I am an architect and urban planner, a writer and an aspiring artist. I love expressing myself and feel strongly that cities should have spaces for everyone--rich, poor, young, old, healthy and sick, happy or depressed--we all need to work towards making our cities liveable and lovable communities.

Posted on January 23, 2013, in Politics & Citizenship and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. The only way to be secular is by being an atheist. Cause you can’t state the obvious without being labelled one or the other ( case in point – uniform civil code). Problem is if you’re an atheist then you’re labeled as amoral.

    • That too. But I disagree. Uniform civil code tries to over write differences. Maybe there are other ways to look at issues. We can be different and tolerant at the same time. No?

      • In order to be acceptance, there need to be a common, minimum standard that is applied across the board (no polygamy, no caste-based discrimination, women’s right to property, freedom to move/buy/sell property anywhere in the country etc). If we try and keep societies together without that, there is going to be friction. For a multicultural society to be peaceful, there needs to be a common vision/goal for individual liberties as well as social standards. Without that there will always be an us-vs-them and a feeling of unfairness. We can talk till the cows come hope about a Utopian concept of tolerance, but in reality the only way out is a compromise/agreement that clearly defines individual and social liberties. If we can’t have that, then it will be better to make separate nation states for each social group and try and behave as good neighbors (which in our region, is quite impossible). The unfortunate part of religion is that it espouses a (intolerant) way of life, which is always going to be in conflict with individuals, groups, societies. We have to have a system that is separate from that, and limits religious fundamentalists from dictating morals/ways of life based on theology. Man made religion. To err is human.

  2. One can only hope that tolerance and respect will win in this great war of religions that has been raging since the beginning of man. Humans always fear that which is different and for some reason instead of learning from it they want to eradicate it. It is my only problem with religion, it always seems to be exclusive of others. Why can’t we each sort it out for ourselves and respect others to do the same. Isn’t there enough to work on to perfect your own beliefs without condemning others for theirs? Great sentiment and article!

    • Thank you. I instantly got responses from very right wing people! Trying to convert me and justifying violence in the name of God. Illogical

      • It is so ridiculous. I guess they think that they are doing what they are supposed to, but how can anyone who claims to believe in God see that tolerance and love have to be paramount to begin any understanding? It baffles me.

  3. Clichés and half-truths abound. India was never meant to be secular it was meant to be a land where all religions are accepted equally and respected. Please see Babasaheb’s vigorous opposition to this in the constituent assembly debates. The problem has started when Muslims through cow slaughter and Christians through conversions wanted to be MORE than EQUAL. They have achieved this through article30. Article 30 was meant to respect India’s linguistic diversity. Instead it got hijacked by these 2 communities.

    Gandhi was not rational at all he was irrational. “They are men of God acting as they see fit according to their scriptures.” He said this first when the Mapillas maascred 3,200 Hindus in Malabar. He said it again when Hindu and Sikh women were auctioned as Kaneez or Llondi in Parchinar

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