Sunday, November 01, 2015

Vox populi when religion takes over the secular public space

Voting and democracy require responsible voters and responsible politicians.  The old country and the adopted country alike seem to be regressing in these! :(

The patchwork quilt that India has been ever since it was created as an independent country by the departing White supremacists, forging an "Indian" identity has been a difficult task.  Religions, languages, castes, history, and everything else together presented one huge challenge.  In such a situation, perhaps the worst development ever was the Indian voters electing to power a party and its leaders who always flexed their Hindu muscles.

The open "Hindutva" in the secular public space has put religious minorities on the alert.  The cold-blooded murders of thinkers who wrote against religion, especially Hinduism--even though they were not from the "other" religions--has not only made the minorities worry about their place in the country's quilt, but has also catalyzed the intellectuals to returning the government bestowed honors.

The latest to speak about all these is one of my favorite musicians right from my younger days in the old country:
Sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan on Sunday said writers and artistes, who returned their awards “are not mad” but pained at the situation in the country, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi should rein in people responsible for it
An honoree himself, the Ustad is "watching the situation":
They are also concerned with the present situation, therefore they are returning their awards. We have freedom of expression. It seems that there is something wrong somewhere.
Meanwhile, the founder of one of India's most visible companies behind the IT revolution there, Narayana Murthy, whose name could not be any clearer that it is Hindu, is worried:
A country can only make economic progress when there is no strife, no fear, and when the majority community stops oppressing the minority community. It doesn't matter which govt is in power,
Businesses usually do not care about human rights and morals as long as they can make profits.  But, they begin to shift uneasily in their seats when they sense that the business climate is being negatively affected.
Narayana Murthy is the lone voice from Corporate India who has expressed his concern over rising intolerance in the country.
On Friday, Moody’s Analytics, a research arm of the Moody’s group, had advised Prime Minister Narendra Modi to keep party members in check, or risk losing the government’s domestic and global credibility.
Meanwhile, from across India's borders comes this commentary:
Prime Minister Modi has failed to discourage and punish extremists and guard India's great democratic values. ...Pakistan does not have a success story to teach India how to grapple with religious intolerance. Nonetheless, India can still learn from Pakistan where we experimented with mixing religion and politics. And, in a nutshell, it sucks! People do have the right to believe that their religion is awesome but that awesomeness should not come at the cost of someone else's freedoms. India will remain a great model for the rest of the world as long as it stays a democratic, pluralistic and secular society. With no religion, should India, or any other country, trade precious values like democracy, tolerance and individual freedoms.
But, hey, unlike Pakistan's military dictatorship under Zia ul-Haq which led that country's transformation into a theocracy, it was India's voters who elected Modi and his toadies.  I think this makes India's ugly turn even worse.  However, it is not late to get back on to the secular track.  There is hope that the majority Hindu will act on the understanding that "Vaishnav people are those who":
Feel the pain of others, Help those who are in misery.


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