Politics and Religion: Two sides of the same coin?

Come elections and the country is abuzz with the news of religious uproar. Every political party is busy collecting votes by provoking the religious sentiments of the people. Some call out to their specific ‘clan mates’ others preach ‘unity in diversity’. In both the cases the motto is the same. Vote Bank. There was a time when the ministers moved from place to place making false promises of improving the existing conditions. Today, the major issues have taken a back seat. Now, they play on the religious sentiments of the people, inspired by the “divide and rule” policy of the British. Again this question comes to mind is, are we really free? Not going very far, lets take the example of the infamous Varun Gandhi incident. His anti-Muslim speech intended to incite hatred within Hindus against the former had been strongly criticized by people all around but did it serve its purpose? It sure did. Varun Gandhi shot to fame overnight. The likes of Bala Saheb Thackray came to support him, the party he represented came to the limelight and above all their opposition got a reason to condemn them. But have we thought about what was going on in the minds of the general public when these political big shots were playing their game? Probably not. They never did.

One cannot help thinking if all of it is not just a publicity gimmick adopted by the politicos to stay in the news. What else could we call the step taken by a certain leader to eradicate English language from their party yet encourage computer education, (where, ironically the representative of that party can speak properly in no other language but English) or the call of caste unity (especially to the Brahmans) by another political leader who initially advocated the misery of the schedule caste. Or the party disintegration in West Bengal which also saw the coming together of politicians from various opposing parties. All of it during the general elections can only be seen as one big race to be in the news over others no matter how ridiculous they look. One cries the anti-Muslim war, the other abuses him and plays on it to get the Muslim votes. Religion has become a mode of winning votes.

One cannot forget the 26/11 incident. The country was deep in misery for the people who were stuck in the terrorist attacks and those who died. Everyone was praying for them irrespective of their religion, but our politicians were busy mud slinging on each other. Ministers from the opposing parties came to the attack sites only to reprimand the ruling party and advertising themselves under the veil of phoney sympathies. As for the ruling party, it was busy defending itself against the blame, often by issuing controversial statements. At a time when the parties were expected to unite together as a country and fight the outside attackers they were busy playing the blame game in the Parliament House. The only sufferer in this entire scenario was the ‘common man’ trapped in these politics, crying hoarse to be saved. And then we question as to why don’t the youths vote? They have lost faith in the Indian politics. The ministers are no more public representatives but strictly self-representatives. Being called a politician has almost equalled itself to an abuse. And we can only ask how long and far will it go before we see some hope?

How long are we going to condemn each other on the basis of religion which has now become a tool in the hands of the politicians who use it at their will to raise a furore. Maharashtra, Bihar, Orissa, Kashmir. Is it ever going to stop? The answer is a loud and clear “NO”. To expect politicians to change is like expecting the tiger to turn vegetarian: not in a million years. But what we can change is our attitude. We are blessed with a country which boasts of diversity to its very soul. We must learn to celebrate it. A canvas looks more beautiful with a splash of several colours than just one.

Ekta Rai

[Image courtesy: http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/files/2009/04/varun.jpg]