The Indian English poet Nissim Ezekiel’s poems have fascinated millions of school students across India. The other Ezekiel - Rabbi Ezekiel Isaac Malekar, a scholar of Judaism and the head of the Jewish community in New Delhi, whom I have met a few times at interreligious forums in Varanasi and Delhi has been enriching India with his message of the unity of God and the common destiny of humanity; hence the need for harmony and peace in the society. The recently concluded three-day visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Jewish state Israel, much hyped up as historic and groundbreaking, the first ever made by an Indian premier who lavished praises on the contribution of the Jews in India et al cannot but boost the morale of the Jewish Community in India.
Lyrically lauded by the media as ‘meeting of the East and West’, the coming together of the two ‘sister democracies’ and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself qualifying the co-operation of the two sister democracies as a “marriage made in heaven”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart have inked several agreements in the fields of technology, water and agriculture, all in one ‘democratic sister act’. To top it all it was allegedly the resolute will of the Indian Prime Minister to jointly battle out terrorism from the world that drove him to Israel on the 25th year of India’s diplomatic ties with the Jewish State. However, if it is the bond of democracy that ties India and Israel together to jointly fight against cross-border terrorism, India has to first put its own democratic house in order. A democracy that plays ostrich to the terror let loose in its own courtyard in the name of religion, posing to be a champion of peace and security in the larger world is a sheer farce.
While Indian Prime Minister is over-enthusiastic about the security of the larger world out there, India’s internal security under his regime, that of the minority communities in particular lay in shambles. In the field days of mobocracy, democracy is casualty in current India. Hindustan is being turned into lynchistan where members of the minority communities are being attacked on every passing day by organized militant extremists of the majority community. While the Indian premier is worried about the challenge of terrorism facing the world, the minorities and dalits in India are worried about the challenge of terrorism they face from none else than the Modi Bhakts themselves.
Judaism is the oldest surviving monotheistic religion, arising in the eastern Mediterranean in the second millennium BC. Abraham is traditionally considered to be the first Jew and to have made a covenant with God. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all recognize Abraham as their first prophet and are known as the Abrahamic religions. Prime Minister Narendra Modi can’t ignore the fact that Israel is the Holy Land for not just Jews but Muslims and Christians as well. Jesus Christ was born in Israel and Christianity originated in this Holy Land. The royal red carpet welcome he received on July 4 on the tarmac of Ben Gurion airport when Benjamin Netanyahu setting aside protocol received him with a handshake and a hearty hug and the warmth of love he experienced all through his visit at every stop and strolls, all sprang up from the very sacred soil that once bore the footprints of a God of love who embraces the whole humanity in one endless hug of love in human history.
Prime Minister Modi’s description of India in Israel as ‘a very old civilization that houses 800 million people below the age of 35 years hence the driving force that propels his vision to transform India, its industry, its economy, its way of doing business and its interface with the world etc., puts the onus on him first of all to make every Indian citizen feel secure in their own motherland. While the Indian premier goes round the globe celebrating Indian democracy abroad, back home mobocracy is given sanction to have its field day harassing and murdering members of the minority communities and dalits. A country where minorities are discriminated and targeted for attacks of varied hues cannot bear even a semblance of a democracy.
The many incidents of lynching in the name of cow-protection and beef –Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri in 2015 to Junaid Khan in 2017 – can never fade from the public memory and collective conscience of India. Despite being the world’s largest secular democracy and over 70 years of its political freedom, India has not yet emerged as an effective proponent of human rights. Modi’s India is soaked in scars that refuse to be washed away, of course not in his name. They are permanent stains on Indian democracy that hastens to hit the super power position and leaves no stone unturned in making business friendships.
While I have no quarrel with our dear prime minister’s groundbreaking Israel-visit for the best interest of India and cross-border security, he will do well in making every citizen of India feel secure under his leadership. For this to happen his first priority ought to be the internal security of India where basic human rights are respected, rule of law is upheld and democratic principles of equality, justice and freedom are safeguarded for the welfare of the varied sections of Indians.
Now that the high profile Democratic Sister Act is done out there in Israel, here at home it’s high time that Prime Minister Narendra Modi set afoot a different ‘vigilante’ to protect his minority brethren, dalits, women and children from the growing atrocities being perpetrated on them in the name of religion, gender, caste and vulnerability. ‘Survival of the fittest’ and ‘might is right’ are slogans of the jungles. No 21st century civilized democracy can follow that dictum anymore under any pet agenda.
A few lines by Nissim Ezekiel to remind that violence mar beauty:
I turned a page silently/ And came upon a fine bird
In my bones the marrow stirred
It held a lizard by the head
Which was beautiful, and dead.(Published on 17th July 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 29)