CAN INDIA AFFORD RELIGION?

Religious India tramples individual rights repeatedly:
1. Taslima Nasreen is browbeaten in a supposedly civilized, free country.
2. MF Hussain is driven out of India.
3. Aaja Nachle (a new Hindi movie) is banned by a number of Indian states.
4. The movie, ‘Da Vinci Code’ was banned in several Indian states.
5. The Shiv Sena attack Valentine’s Day celebrations, as well as Orkut, the Indian social networking site.

Actually, all these are the mischief of the religious, though the purist will claim that the Dalit protectors who banned Aaja Nachle are atheists. Ah, that’s the catch! Atheists can subscribe to a form of belief that can only be called religion. Look at the BSP brand of belief: is it any less orthodox, rigid, or irrational than religion?
India is one of the biggest acts in the global stage. It pretends to be democratic and free, while it has been instrumental in oppressing the individual for decades in the name of ‘public interest’ or ‘protecting religious sentiments’. It bans books. It allows women to be beaten and stripped in public, as in Assam recently. It bans sex determination, but witnesses female feticide calmly. It celebrates religious festivals, but does not allow freedom of expression if it is perceived to be against a religion.

Religions are taking India to the level of a parody of a modern nation. It looks more like a medieval circus, where women are chased by some men, while the rest are clapping and cheering in thirst of real blood. Ultimately, all the vitriol of religion’s protectors seems to find a just conclusion in the act of stripping females naked or gang-raping them.

Purely in social terms, India will have to pay a heavy price for its religiosity. Its society is doomed to be in turmoil forever, with one wound after the other ripped up by the passage of time. I fear that this society will perhaps be irretrievably torn apart.

The contradictions of having a society that embraces Western-style civil liberties and economic freedoms along with an avowed betrothal to a rag tag of communists, environmentalists, social scientists, feminists, Islamists, and casteists will be exposed periodically. The educated class will perk up at each instance of atrocity and tut-tut about how things are going from bad to worse.
The answer to why things are going from bad to worse lies in our continually giving short shrift to individual rights. There simply cannot be collective rights anymore. In a multi-religious society like India, religion is merely the most glaring example of a collective.

20 responses to “CAN INDIA AFFORD RELIGION?

  1. //India will have to pay a heavy price for its religiosity. Its society is doomed to be in turmoil forever, with one wound after the other ripped up by the passage of time.// You are absolutely right. The fanatics of BJP are well known but if look at our History we find the roots of this intolerance are deeply embedded in the vote bank politics.
    When a group of Muslim intellectuals met Rajiv Gandhi to ask him not to overturn the Supreme Court’s verdict in favour of a Muslim divorcee in the Shahbano case he confessed he could not do anything because the Muslim Personal Law Board would be offended.
    CBI filed an affidavit in a court in New Delhi claiming that a witness in the 1984-riots case involving former Union Minister Jagdish Tytler was ‘untraceable’. The witness, Jasbir Singh, told CNN-IBN- “The CBI did not contact me at all.”
    And now the spearhead of India’s liberal ideals the Left Front have dispatched a hapless poet and writer out of Kolkata.

  2. So far as I know, Rambodoc, the best guarantee of liberty is a secular government. Religions just don’t do a very good job of reconciling themselves to liberty when they have control of the state.

  3. Dang. How depressing. When I hear of abuses such as you have written in this post, I thank my lucky stars not to live in a place such that enables same. Just completed a reply on med-events to a beleagured South African who describes the basket case that is Africa.
    I agree with Paul – religion should be kept out of the governance mix. Sorry I’m ignorant of the great, large land that is India… is there not a basic bill of rights or the like? There are some things that should be beyond argument, basic human rights…..

  4. Jackie,

    There are bills of right and freedom from persecution is assured by the Indian constitution.

    What is being higlighted here is how the law or the government is being hijacked in the name of religion and religious groups are taking matters in their own hand.

    The most deplorable part is that a party vowing allegiance to communism has succumbed to the religious zealots.

    As the writer points out India cannot afford it.

  5. Ottayan, thanks for the insight. Politics being highjacked by religion…..hmmmf…. I can name a country doing the very same thing. I guess it comes down to enforcement of existing rights/laws.
    Oh, say, USA founders made it soooo clear that relgious persecution should not occur. You can take these issues all the way to the Supreme Court, but it still goes on, although not in the egregious manner described in this blog.
    Don’t get me started on communism. The fight against it is my raison d’etre. Sounds good on paper, but will never work, or has never worked in practise.
    As a young country, with much to learn, USA I believe, will eventually go the way of their older brothers in Europe – to a more secular society.
    Thanks

  6. Jackie: in fact, the original post was going to be “Can the US and India afford religion?” with a mention of the role of religion in the current US Presidential election candidates and their positions.
    I deleted that part. India is a separate bed of nails!
    🙂

    Paul,
    I agree.

    Ottayan,
    Thanks for the comment.

    Prerna,
    You too! I am surprised you agree, though! Aren’t you religious?
    🙂

  7. I suppose the definition of “religion” in this post is narrower than what I have in mind. A religion is an all or nothing collection of ideas. Some of these are common across all religions – for e.g., “you will not steal from another”. These are not earth-shaking ideas that could have occurred only to super-natural beings. Others are downright ridiculous – for e.g. “god created you and me” – with no logical or evidential support.

    By my definition, communism is as much a religion as Christianity or Hinduism is. It has as many infallible gods as other religions do. The communists are as authoritarian and bone-headed as the Iranian Mullahs, rejecting any attempt to reform their ideas, when confronted with evidence. That the communists hounded Taslima out of Kolkota is, therefore, hardly surprising.

    Progress will desert nations that hold on to discredited and anachronistic religions – be it the U.S. with its creationist or India with its socialist fantasies.

  8. This issue is extremely complicated and politics is an important part of it all. Being a democracy and with a sizeable section of our populace being illiterate means that political parties like to sensationalize certain issues for their own political ends.
    Also I read a very interesting article today, which said the the Buddha govt, played up the Taslima Nasreen issue to divert attention from Nandigram. I believe this.

  9. Religion is the opiate of the masses – Lenin.

  10. Talking about individual rights …read this article
    http://www.indiaglitz.com/channels/tamil/article/35033.html

  11. I am one of those confused persons who are neither here nor there. I don’t pray but when I am in dire straits I wan’t to go by other people’s beliefs and wish I am wrong.
    One thing I am sure about is that religion has no place in politics and vice versa. Religion is a very personal issue. Govt has no business to interfere, propagate or abuse religion.

  12. Well said, Doc.

    I’d like to quote your entire post on my blog.

  13. Marc: thanks.
    Prerna: Search long and hard!
    Geetha: Vanakkam! I read about Khusboo’s continued travails.
    Nita: All current topics may be complex, but we have the luxury of looking at principles without fear or favor, and hence can be judgmental and decisive.
    Lakshmi: Thanks.

  14. It’s that sacred river thing…isn’t it…you can’t thwart a Hindu’s content…

  15. Rambodoc:

    Came across the interesting bit of news that the Sikh community is blaming Anil Ambani for a SMS-text joke about Sikhs. Just hope that Mr Bagga is not a reader of your blog! 😉

    Secondly I highly recommend the book The Mighty and the Almighty by Madeleine Albright. The problem is not of individual rights alone, but that a new model for politics is needed and including the religious masses, nobody is doing much about it. The link is to the book review (hah, shall I mention it is _my_ review?)

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mighty-Almighty-Reflections-Faith-Affairs/dp/0330445847/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1196849377&sr=8-1

  16. Shefaly,
    I believe you have mentioned it before. 🙂 And I have read your review.
    If you read my post on Anil, you would have realised that the issue being commented upon is precisely that.

  17. ” The educated class will perk up at each instance of atrocity and tut-tut about how things are going from bad to worse.

    Well if theres a silver lining , it is that the educated class is increasing in number as the years roll by. Maybe there will soon come an age of maximum enlightenment.

  18. Those who feels pride in our unity in diversity should also pay for it…We pay by respecting sentiments of every religion..which will naturally curb freedom of speech and eventually we get in a state like we are 2day…

    Showing respect to other religion is after all a civilized way of living..The only problem is Tolerance…If their is zero Tolerance then problem startsss..

  19. Who says we must pay that price with our own freedom?

  20. @rambo
    Freedom too has came with a price…(wid the birth of pakistan and carnage of ppl on both sides..) it seems any good happening has some dark past or future implications..

    I can only feel the problem is with Tolerance in current state of affairs..It wud had been better if we were a nation of Single religion or without any religion…

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