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Destroy The Walls

Destroy The Walls

On September 3, 2018 the newspapers carried very disturbing news that can further polarize the people of India. A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) training manual, meant for orienting its workers and office bearers to its ideology and views on key issues, has identified “Maoism” and “forced conversion” as internal challenges. It says that Maoists, also called Naxals, are "reportedly conspiring to conduct joint strikes with the support of terrorist outfits active in north-eastern states". It has alleged that the Maoists are getting support from China and Pakistan. The document also claims that a conspiracy to change the demography of the country has been going on for several years in the guise of "Jihadi" and "Masihi". It is an apparent reference to the alleged proselytising works of some Muslims and Christian groups. The document says that forced conversion disturbs the atmosphere of brotherhood and social cohesion and accuses some political parties of either "promoting" conversions or extending "mute support".

On the same day Matters India reported a soothing and inspiring incident from the flood hit Kerala. Fr. Joseph (Sanu) Puthussery on August 31 visited the Juma Masjid at Vechoor in Kottayam district during Juma (Friday prayers) and delivered a thanksgiving speech at the masjid prayer hall. According to the news report, St. Antony’s Church at Achinakom in Kottayam district had sheltered 580 people who were rendered homeless by the devastating flood. As the Church did not have the food items and water for the people in the relief camp, Fr. Joseph went to the Masjid and requested the Maulavi for help. The Muslim brethren supplied essential articles like food materials, water and medicine for several days.

On Friday 31st August, when Fr. Joseph went to thank the Maulavi and the Muslim brethren, the Maulavi invited the priest to the prayer hall inside the mosque and offered him the platform from which the Maulavi used to speak. What Fr. Joseph spoke to the Muslim brethren should be heard and meditated by all religious leaders in India. The following words came from his heart. “The floods snatched away many valuables from people; it also washed away many social ills. We have just witnessed a historical deluge. It has robbed us of many things, but what it has removed mainly are walls that separated us, the pride in our hearts. It has taken from us the sense of self-sufficiency. The devastating floods have now given us an opportunity to destroy the walls and build the bridges of togetherness. This bond should not end with a deluge. We should pass the values we rediscovered through this calamity to the next generation.”

What we are witnessing today in India is a clash between two ideas or visions of India: one vision envisaged in the preamble of Indian Constitution and another vision described by the Guruji of RSS, M S Golwalker in his book, “We or Our Nationhood Defined”. One is secular, democratic and inclusive and the other is theocratic, fascist and exclusive. The unfolding of the first was witnessed in facing the murderous flood in Kerala when all people, forgetting their religion, class and political affiliations, came together to save the lives of thousands of human beings. What Fr. Joseph spoke in the mosque on 31st August after the Friday prayers is a reiteration of the idea of India dreamt by our freedom fighters and the members of the constituent assembly.  The unfolding of the idea of India entertained by the Sangh Parivar is reflected in the hate speeches against the minorities, lynching of the innocent Muslims under the pretext of cow protection and the harassment and arrest of human rights activists, branding them as “Urban Naxalites”. The same mindset is mirrored in the training guidebook of the BJP.

According to the book of MS Golwalker, “We or Our Nationhood Defined”, Muslims, Christians and Communists are the internal enemies of the nation. BJP, being the political wing of RSS to realize the vision of Hindu Rashtra by capturing political power, is wedded to the establishment of a Hindu Rashtra. Since the BJP failed to fulfil most of the promises made to the people during the 2014 Lok Sabha election, it does not have much to project before the people as its achievements in terms of development when it faces the people again in 2019.

Some recent surveys have indicated that Modi’s popularity is on the downhill. For example ‘Mood of the Nation’ survey conducted by India Today and Aaj Tak, shows that there is a great distance between the mann ki baat of the rulers and the mann ki baat of the people. According to the survey 60% of the respondents have said that the situation of unemployment has worsened; 70% are of the view that price-rise has increased; 48% said that corruption has increased; according to 73% demonetization was a failure.  The crisis in the farm sector has worsened. The opponents of the government are of the view that the government has suppressed the cases of corruption by influencing the investigation agencies. In his Independence Day speech, Modi recounted the achievements of his government during the last four years, but kept mum on many vital issues affecting the lives of the people. (Ref. Chuppi par cheekthi chintaayem {Screaming Thoughts on Silence} by Yogendera Yadav in Hindi newspaper, Patrika, August 24, 2018)

The recent police raid on the human rights activists in six states and arrest of five of them is seen by many analysts as an attempt by the government to divert the attention of the people from the real issues affecting the nation. According to Arundati Roy (# MeTooUrbanNaxal), the investigation of Karnataka police into the killing of journalist cum social activist, Gauri Lankesh, has led to the arrest of several members of Hindutva organizations like Sanatan Sansta. The investigation has exposed a terror network that is involved in planning and equipping cadres for killing persons whom they perceive as the enemies of Hinduism. The raid and arrest of the human rights activists has taken the media focus away from these extremist groups.

All these developments clearly indicate that the BJP is going to focus on the communal and divisive issues in the forthcoming Lok Sabha election. The raid and arrest of five human rights activists is aimed at highlighting the threat from “Urban Naxals”. The people of India may expect in the days to come attacks on the Muslims and Christians under the pretext of preventing "Jihadi" and "Masihi" elements.

Against this backdrop what could be the response of the civil society? The Kerala model of tackling a devastating flood has presented to the whole of India how people can transcend the boundaries of religion, caste and ideology and focus on human issues. The people of Kerala have to continue this spirit of oneness in the mammoth task of reconstruction. In this process they shall evolve a secular spirituality that goes beyond the religions. The secular spirituality will enable people to see God in the human beings. When the flood waters gushed to the temples, mosques and churches the gods remained helpless. When the dirt and slush accumulated in these abodes of gods, human beings appeared to clean them. Nobody asked the religion or caste of the volunteers who were cleaning the dirt.  Hindus, Muslims and Christians together cleansed and purified abodes of gods. They together fed and took care of lakhs of people sheltered in the relief camps.

A secular spirituality, focusing on humanness and the God living in human beings, could be the appropriate response to Hindutva vision of India.  It can surely destroy the walls of division and build bridges of togetherness. Five principles propounded in an article published in The Indian Express, “Five Sutras for 2018” by Dr. Karan Singh on September 3 could be the foundation of Secular Spirituality.

·       Ishavasyam Sarvam Yatkinchy Jagatyam Jagat: This whole cosmos is illuminated by the same divine power.

·       Ishwara Sarbutanam Hriddeshe Tishati: The divine power resides in the heart of all beings.

·       Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam: The human race is a single family.

·       Ekam Sadvipraha Bahudha Vadanti: The truth is one; the wise call it by many names.

·       Bahujana Sukhaya, Bhaujana Hitaya Cha: The welfare of the many, the happiness of the many.

(jacobpt48@gmail.com)

(Published on 10th September 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 37)