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.