India is a land of plural identities. We have so many religions, so many identities, so many languages, and so many cultures in our country. This actually makes one proud of his or her country. But are we living in a state of self-denial when we say that India is a democracy which treats its citizens fairly and equally? Are we just fooling ourselves into believing that our democracy is a pillar stone which has strong fundamentals?
The answer to the above questions is an unfortunate yes. We, as a democracy, have still not matured; even after 61 years of independence. And the proof of this fact lies in the terror that is haunting people across the country: the terror of being targeted by fundamentalist forces which are hell-bent on ruining our secular fabric.
These fundamentalist forces include not only the Muslim terrorist groups but also the Hindu fundamentalist organizations. Majority Communalism and minority terrorism feed off each other. And this fact is evident in the grave situation that our country finds itself into right now. Since independence, we have been following a policy of dividing secular Indians into majority and minorities. In order to secure votes by playing cheap vote bank politics, our politicians have repeatedly played the minority card. At the time of elections, they announce big plans for the minorities but conveniently forget them after the elections get over. In the end, condition of minorities, especially the Muslims, remains same: without reforms. But these mere announcements don’t stop here only. They give ammo to Hindu fundamentalist organizations in the form of minority appeasement. They use this fact to incite hatred amongst the majority population. Hence, in the end, Muslims only get announcements and discontentment and Hindu organizations get easy targets.
Terrorism stems exactly from here. Disgruntled Muslim youths are an easy target for terrorist groups which follow the agenda of hatred and nothing else. The state apathy drives some of the angry Muslims towards terrorism and provides ammo to Hindu organizations that then attack mosques and churches; killing people and inciting hatred. This bloodshed and further lack of justice agitates the minorities even more. In this rather unfortunate way, communalism and terrorism survive hand in hand. Communalism needs terrorism to survive and vice versa.
When VHP and Bajrang Dal attack churches in Orissa and Karnataka, they aren’t being very different from Indian Mujahideen and SIMI that are behind the bomb blasts in our cities. In both the cases, the one getting killed is the common man: in the name of religion and God. The sheer apathy of the state governments is brutally evident. The nun who was burnt alive in an orphanage in Orissa is not very different from those anonymous persons who got killed in Delhi blasts. Both are the victims of hatred. Both are the victims of organizations who claim to represent their religions and believe that the “others” have no right to live.
Of course, several Christian organizations have been indulging in forceful conversions or paying bribes to convert in Orissa and southern states. But instead of banning them and controlling the fundamentalists, the government is committed to throwing the baby out with the water. They are just sitting pretty. Same is the case with the bomb blast accused. Politicians think that if they show ‘softness’ on terrorists, they will get Muslim votes. In this horrific way, they equate every Muslim with being anti-national. They don’t know the fact that an average Indian Muslim is a patriot at heart and he wants those terrorists to be punished just in the way that an average Hindu wants to see perpetrators of hate crimes against minorities punished. But tell this to politicians, especially our Home Ministry who is sitting over the mercy petition of Afzal Guru, the prime accused in Parliament attack.
It’s right time that we wake up from our deep slumber. Some fundamentalist groups, which mean a handful of people, are hijacking our religions and telling us that the ‘others’ should be brutally killed. We have to tell them to stop. We have to make them realize that despite its imperfections, we have full faith in the Indian democracy. We have to tell our politicians and human rights groups not to support these fundamentalists but us: the secular majority that cuts across all religions. Only then, we will live in peace without fearing for our lives.