In the last week our country has gone through so much. Fear. Distrust. Massacre. Violence. Hatred. Religious intolerance. Once again, the government of the day has taken it’s citizens for granted. Again, they’ve attempted to feed us a slew of lies. We’ve watched as several celebrities – actors and sports persons and sadly, bloggers, have sat on their hands, continued with business as usual or not spoken out to keep safe. The question that I kept asking myself is : where is the India I knew?
And then, we’ve watched young men and women rise to become heroes. To use their voices to speak up for people of other faiths. They’ve taken to the streets, defying orders and putting their lives at risk. We’ve seen some celebrities taking up this wave and speaking out against the latest Act passed in Parliament that is clearly a move against India’s largest religious minority.
It’s with deep sadness that I’ve been reading hate-filled tweets and barely veiled threats and then watched with horror as innocents have been gunned down or thrashed mercilessly. Their crime? To protest against injustice and religious intolerance.
But none of this has been really been a surprise. I’ve watched the rise of religious fundamentalism in all religions across the country. I’m not sure if assertion of their faith by the minorities has led to the majority feeling threatened. Or has there been a deep seated bigotry all along in many that has been fanned and given licence by the present government? I have no answer.
Where Is The India I Knew?
Some years ago, I was interviewed by an American blogger who was curious about how I live my Christian faith in India, which is largely Hindu. I revisited that post today, and I’m wondering if I can still say what I did with the same level of confidence.
My father and his brother served in the Indian Army and faced no problem because of their religion. My husband, brothers and I have never faced any discrimination in our various careers. We, therefore, see no need to immigrate or confine our social interaction to Christians.
I am proud to be an Indian Christian – and have never felt that my faith or beliefs have been threatened by Indians of other religious beliefs. I have been deeply influenced by the tolerance and inclusiveness of the Indian culture. My husband practices Vipassana which is Buddhist in origin. I love listening to Indian bhajans and would someday like to read the Hindu Scriptures. (One of my first gifts to my husband was the Bhagvad Gita.)I am more open to meditative and reflective practices than to the traditional rote prayers. I believe that we can learn a lot from our ancient Indian tradition and culture.
My Dad grew up in Hyderabad and had many Hindu and Muslim friends. In fact, my Dad was one of an Amar-Akbar-Anthony type group in school – Shankar-Nawab-Reggie. The three of them knew each other’s families and continued to keep in touch until their old age. Religious differences were never an issue. I can still see them in my mind’s eye teasing each other and laughing their hearts out. My Mum grew up in Secunderabad, then primarily a British Cantonment, and had plenty of Hindu and Parsi friends.
With Dad in the Army, my brothers and I moved around different parts of India. Religion never played a part in all our interactions with the many Army personnel and their families. We’ve visited a variety of religious shrines including the several temples in Ayodhya. Likewise, so many of my friends from other religions visited Churches and enjoyed the celebration of Christmas.
If anything, we were happy with the differences, the many festivals, the sheer variety of beliefs. I always try to learn more about these beliefs and understand both the cultural and historical aspect of various religions.
As part of his job, my Dad was one of the main organizers of the Maha Kumbh Mela in 1977 in Prayaraj (Allahabad). This was at the height of India’s Emergency and he spared no effort to make sure it went off without a hitch. On the most auspicious of days, my parents took us to watch the pilgrims take their holy dip. I remember my Mum was so moved by faith of the lakhs of people, that she too wanted to take a dip in at the banks of the Triveni Sangham. The lessons we learned from watching people, from walking through the Kumbh village and taking in the sight of the various Sadhus is something I’ll never forget.
Should I Be Fearful That I Belong To A Religious Minority?
However, observing the recent happenings in our country, it’s finally dawned on me that I am part of a religious minority. Should I start to be careful about what I say? Shall I have to be more guarded in my interactions?
But no. This is not the time for cowardly silence. This is the time to speak up for the rights of religious freedom for every one. It’s the time to reclaim the India I knew. The country where humanity triumphed over religion. The land for which our forefathers fought wrested back freedom from the colonists.
This is not the time, dear reader, for us to look at our religious differences. We as a nation should have moved beyond that. It’s time for to band together to fight the forces of darkness – poverty, lack of education, violence against women, superstition…. It is time for us to re-light the flame of unity, brotherhood and peace.
Are you with me?
For though my faith is not yours and your faith is not mine, if we each are free to light our own flame, together we can banish some of the darkness of the world.Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
This is truly heart-breaking, Corinne.
Throughout history, as soon as people are sorted into ‘groups’ based on any feature: race, religion, gender, the walls start to go up. We are seeing the early warnings here in the Western Hemisphere and it scares me so much. Keep being a voice of calm and inclusion. You ware doing a great work!
Yes, we never seem to learn from history, do we?
Thanks for stopping by, Diane.
Maybe it is a global problem as viewed here in the USA with similar overtones? I wish you a Merry Christmas and safety in your beliefs and steadfastness in your values!
It is a global problem, Haralee and isn’t that so sad.
Thank you for your wishes. Wishing you all that’s good this holiday season.
Rebecca Forstadt Olkowski
Diversity is such a gift and should be revered rather than repelled. Thank you for lending insight into what is happening in India. It’s alarming that the same type of thing is happening all over the world. I am certainly with you wishing the world peace and happiness.
Rebecca Forstadt Olkowski recently posted..Practical Solutions for Problems Baby Boomers Face with Aging
Diversity was something we prided ourselves on, Rebecca. Yes, it’s true, the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism is on the rise across the world.
We can only hope and pray for more understanding and peace.
Mahati ramya adivishnu
The last quote sums it up all. Iam not following the recent act by Indian government but I completely agree that we never discriminated people by religion when I grew up. I had both Muslim and Christian friends and I have studied in a Christian missionary school and also followed their processes for Christmas.
I definitely agree with you. What is happening right now is really sad and looking it all I’m worried where the country is heading. Even I’ve so far never faced any form of discrimination but now I’m not so sure anymore.
Reema D’souza recently posted..The magic of Christmas Markets
The current situation saddens and scares me. This is certainly not the India we knew. And I dont know where we are heading!
Don’t we all have an Amar-Akbar-Anthony group Corinne? You are right, I’ve heard similar responses from my friends from other religions. Some feel it’s better to move to the place where their religion is the majority, whereas others feel there must be a way to work this out.
Reading this, I’m reminded of the lovely school days where as Kids we hardly knew much about religion. During middle school and high school when we came to know about the different forms each worship, we honored them and enjoyed learning about it. There was never once a your God or my God. We all held up well like family. I still have my group of AAA girls intact and we still celebrate each other’s festivals as our own.
No one has the right to put terrible thoughts into the minds of children or any human being on the basis of religion. That’s a wrong thing to do.