For the love of God

For the love of God

I have always thought religion is a private affair and not flung in anyone’s face. It is between you and your God and if it does not trespass on your neighbor’s freedoms and rights, so be it, you find your comfort zone and revel in it. Whether it is ritual or song, faith or festival, enjoy yourself. Which is why I am loath to understand who these people are that have found it incumbent upon themselves to go about the place exploiting poverty. No one is so naïve as to see these startup conversions in India of Christians and Muslims to Hinduism as anything more in-depth than bribing truckloads of villagers with a free lunch and a currency note to vote for a specific political party. Same difference. There is no great or profound revelation here or some incandescent awakening. Which is exactly what makes it so tawdry. I imagine that poverty in its extreme form when you have absolutely nothing makes religion a luxury. And if someone mouths shibboleths with the lure of calories then, oh let’s just fill our rumbling stomachs and worry about piety’s many garbs later. The frightening absence of sincerity in the whole procedure is hardly edifying to the vast majority of Hindus who have not engaged in this practice of shepherding people into their fold until now. I just find it cruel to those it is being imposed upon and unfair on me as a Hindu because I would not force you because of your financial weakness to bend or break. We would have to be extremely gullible to conclude that each Muslim (they do not even have the option too convert) or Christian has changed internally and actually embraced Hinduism in their hearts because they had an epiphany. So, why are these zealots from the Hindutva fringe groups being allowed to mount their monstrous campaign? Haven’t we, through the past sixty odd years, witnessed incidents where these very people have righteously condemned the conversion of Hindus to other faiths? Do I forget the Graham Staines gruesome murder along with his sons in a station wagon by a Bajrang Dal activist, Dara Singh who accused Staines of preaching Christianity in Odisha? And did we not once have some hordes of hooligans burn churches and desecrate houses of worship. Have we not culled out many a day to fight the “good” fight in Babri Masjid, do the ghosts of Godhra not haunt our banquets so many years later, have we forgotten the riots of Ahmedabad and Mumbai, a litany of human stupidity that stains the pages of our post-independence history. Even today, 44 years later Bhiwandi conjures up images of chilling violence. But, enough of the past and the pointless regurgitation of facts and stats, all of which amount to a whistle in the wind and only pad media copy. The over-riding feature is that this is the return match. In their minds the shrill Hindu elements are spurred by a desire to get their own back for the slights of the past. Back to Mahmud of Ghazni if they can. Because hypocrisy comes in the package deal of 21st century India even the more liberal middleclass Hindu feels a tiny little thrill of achievement: Ah, now it is our turn to bat. That it is happening in Prime Minister Modi’s state only makes it that much more riveting. The premier’s Manmohan Singh-like silence adds malice and mystique to the mix. It gets more volatile by the minute. Forgotten in this religious roar are the common enemies of our nation: Disease, poverty, homelessness, unemployment, hunger and other such jolly stuff. The refusal to accept this premise of pressing “like” to the ugliness and not factor it into whatever remedial options are available is a grave threat to the writhing, shriveled sloughed off skin of our secularism. Hindus are being told to recall the Mughal Empire, revisit the Mongols, remember the bloody battles as they dominated India for 700 years, shake history rudely awake and relive it through today’s prism. Why not just directly tear at the fabric of the nation’s unity and stop with the pretense? Half-truths are always insidious. Of course, you start with the tribals. They are easy picking. And then you keep talking about how it’s time to get even and you move up the social ladder to the unemployed, the frustrated, the millions of marginalized Indians in their many not so wondrous forms, until you insidiously enter the drawing rooms of the privileged whose canapés and conversations are already shifting tectonically toward instant “wisdom”…after all they did it to us for centuries so though we don’t like it, we can sort of understand it. And before you know it, the far right joins you when dinner is served. It is just a start for now, the first little cracks in the iceberg. If we don’t do something to stop warming to the idea and tolerate it in that casual fashion of the brute majority we could find the future floating away.
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