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|March 14, 2002||
How many more Gujarats?
The events in Godhra and Ayodhya once again saw a part of our country burning with frenzy and outrage. Will we never learn the lesson of peace and non-violence? We proudly proclaim our land to be the birthplace of non-violence -- the land of Buddha, Mahaveer and Mahatma Gandhi. But do we really deserve to be known as their descendants? Since Independence, time and again, we have torn our country apart in orgies of madness. We have drenched our soil with the blood of our brethren. And yet the lust for blood does not seem to abate.
One would have thought that the violence and bloodletting in the aftermath of Partition would have taught us to live in peace, but both communities seem to be in a contest to outdo the other in bestiality. The slightest provocation, real or imaginary, the most baseless of rumours, and we take to the streets, spill blood, trash the nation and yet the perpetrators call themselves patriots.
Ever since Independence there have been innumerable instances of communal frenzy and the country has been pushed back in its efforts to regain our rightful place among the leading nations of the world. Inane reasons of meat thrown in temples and crackers burst outside masjids during namaaz have lit so many communal bonfires. The Shahbano case, The Satanic Verses, the Aligarhs, the Bhivandis, the Mumbais, the Kanpurs and the Godhras. Cow slaughter, Ram Mandir/Babri Masjid, Ganpati immersion processions passing by mosques, Moharram tazias passing through Hindu localities... any excuse will do for us to become monsters. We are ready to loot, burn, kill, plunder. The puppet masters have to just tug at the right strings and we fall victim to their conspiracies to rule and enslave us, the country be damned.
The British successfully ruled us using the strategy of divide and rule. Since Independence our own politicians have fine-tuned this doctrine and not only divided us on the basis of religion, but have divided us on the lines of our castes and sub-castes. In their lust for power they have subverted the entire democratic machinery. The day these divisions and fragments of our society fall upon each other will be the last of India as a nation.
A nuclear holocaust will pale in comparison to what we are heading for. The only way to survive and thrive is if we live in peace and harmony despite the provocation and differences.
Mahatma Gandhi strove for peace for India and gave up his life in his quest for communal harmony and a casteless, classless society. But like our politicians we have also forgotten all that he taught us. His message of brotherhood is scorned, his philosophy of respect through understanding and acceptance of religious diversities has been forgotten.
Nowadays religious practices and rituals have been turned into public spectacles which seem to be challenges thrown at the other community and religion to react. The intolerance in our society has grown to dangerous levels and our minds have been clouded with religious hatred.
Have we become insensitive to the human tragedy? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. When politicians make all sorts of outrageous comments and resort to blatant lies to hide their nefarious designs, we gullibly accept these. If somebody gets up and tries to throw light on the facts, they are either called pseudo-secular or communal sympathisers depending on whom they are criticising.
The record shows that both communities are equally responsible for falling prey to the fanatical and exploitative elements of society and leadership. We must realise that people who raise the baseless cries of Hindutva Bachao (save Hindutva) and Islam khatre mein hai (Islam is in danger) are often doing it for their own benefit. Some do it for foreign funds, others to wrest power from their opponents, yet others to consolidate their hold as leaders of their communities.
The victims of such brainwashing, those who take to the streets, believing in the venom spewed by these exploiters, generally end up with nothing if they are lucky, but in most cases their lives are destroyed and many a times they themselves get killed.
Yet, with all the examples of the past, we still have not realised the fact that no matter what, we have to learn to live with each other. If we live in peace and harmony we will prosper, if we continue with the strife we will only set off a domino effect in motion which will eventually ensure our total annihilation.
Is India not faced with larger problems? When will we face and address these real problems? Will we forever be destroying the nation and ourselves over Ram & Rahim? Mahatma Gandhi had a favourite tune: Ishwara Allah tero naam, sab ko sanmati de bhagwan -- Ishwar and Allah are two of the many names we know you by, O God, give us the wisdom to understand that you are one.
Tushar Gandhi is the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.
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