Conserving the Secularist Spirit

Secularism is that India certainly boasts of even though it is not something that we uphold sincerely

The Amarnath Yatra issue is just another slice to the cake of religious fundamentalism: A perfectly peaceful situation blown out of proportion because of vote bank politics. A tradition that has continued unhindered for years has suddenly come under public scrutiny. Popular opinion is against the land transfer; not surprisingly.

Advani’s letter to the prime minister is shocking for a refugee from Sindh. The separatist tone of the letter highlights the hidden agenda behind the controversy. The pilgrimage has been continuing for years assisted largely by Kashmiri Muslims, as reports suggest. The story goes that the shrine was originally discovered by a Muslim shepherd. Till date his descendants receive a portion of the donations. A perfect example of Hindu-Muslim harmony, fuel has hence been added to a fire that didn’t even exist.

The Shri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti has always had control of makeshift huts and other temporary settlements used for the pilgrimage. A formal land transfer is a highly communal measure that isn’t really required.

The past two months has witnessed violence that has been completely uncalled for.This makes one realise how insecure India is. A country where people are, still so terrified in fear of having their voices choked.

Because of the sheer number of religions and people, customs and traditions, differences and colours; everyone seems eager to make sure that they are heard. The one-upmanship attitude calls for that they are not suppressed by another culture, another sect. Every time they smell the slightest hint of being threatened, they fight for themselves. It’s fuelled by fear mixed with a sense of desperation. No one wants their colour to fade away.

A sense of security and trust with those who govern the land is important. Each community should know and feel secure about the fact that no matter how small they may be in number, the government acts keeping in my mind their interests. They should feel confident about the fact that measures taken to benefit one community implies that the state cares and that soon measures will be taken for them too.

However this fear of the people isn’t baseless. Since India’s Independence as well as during the British colonialism, political parties have taken undue advantage of India’s diversity. ‘Divide the people in order to gain support’ seems to be most political parties’ tagline.

One of the biggest mistakes in our history has been the Partition. Secularism and the unifying bond between cultures is as delicate as a piece of glass. Once shattered, the pieces can never be put back together. The millions of pieces can never be one again. If we don’t learn from our history we will be doomed into repeating it.

Vandana Sebastian

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