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Apr 23, 2019

Religious Tolerance And Politics

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By Vijay D'Souza, U.K. [ Published Date: November 15, 2004 ]

Indian constitution has laid down some fundamental rights akin to any democracy in the world. It says all citizens are equal and have rights of freedom, cultural & educational rights, right to religious freedom, right against exploitation and right to constitutional remedies. Under right to freedom one is free to speak and express, assemble peacefully & without arms, to form associations & unions and free to move throughout India and practise any profession or to carry out any occupation, trade or business.

In spite of this our political world is caught in an argument as if to prove whose belief is beneficial to society. Our religious freedom has come down to a state where itís not the question of right to believe but the right to think who is right. In any contemporary settings our rights should have provided an atmosphere which allows to live in peace and without threat to ones existence. I think thatís true for all generations past and present and the ones yet to come. My religious beliefs are for me to practise without anybodyís interference. No one should bother me in doing so and I should not enforce it onto others without my fellow beings willingness to embrace it. 

However, we see a lot of overlapping between religion and politics. Partly owing to our ignorance and mostly due to the despotic nature of our political system. Iíd be rather careful here not to blame it on any political partiesí or leaders. I believe our self imposed unresponsive attitude is to blame for the emergence or extinction of any ideologies adhering to our political system. In India our political parties would tell you which of them are friendlier to any particular religion. In developed world, however, people infer it from policies. The greed for power has so engulfed our country that even citizens who scorn and rue at the system favour those who have no administration skills. Besides, our political system is so proficient in brainwashing with propaganda that we listen to political leaders for both intellectual and spiritual enlightenment.

You would rather believe a person from your own religion and by the time you realised that your representative is a liability you would have lost 10- 15 years of progress, peace and harmony. We all are prone to make errors in judgement. However, do we really care about the outcome of our actions? Or take any concrete steps to make amends. Neither these leaders have any loyalty to the cause nor have we any time to sit and contemplate the state of affairs. Come elections and we are all expected to sit and listen to the ranting of rabble-rousers. Be it misinterpretation of populous religion as nationalism or absence of meaningful policy as secularism, as long as no one understands what it means, it is fine. They will poison your mind so much that you will see your neighbour belonging to a different religion as foreigner. Our media is just too busy analysing alliances and discussing strategies of political parties than question their motives and create awareness. How many newspapers or news channels question political parties about their past promises and achievements.

Recently I read lot of nonsense being fed into the hearts and minds of our people about western or developed political systems and institutions favouring Christianity over others. To be fair not many people care about religion anymore in this part and they prefer people from diverse backgrounds to join them in nation building. They oppose religious interference into politics and try to hold communities together. For example, considered to be one of the closest friends and counsellors of Pope John Paul II, Rocco Buttiglione, Italy's choice as the European Union's commissioner for justice, freedom and security had to stand down for his views on homosexuality as sin. MEPs (member of European parliament) demanded that he be stripped of his portfolio. Remember how French rallied behind to elect President Jacques Chirac who seems to be losing to extreme right National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2002. Not only that, even honesty matters more in the public life of political figures. Recently, a married father-of-four shadow arts minister Boris Johnson was sacked and dismissed as party vice-chairman of  Conservative party in Britain for lying about claims of an affair. The charisma of the sacked minister and the poor ratings of the party itself did not affect the decision. Could India yet see such a day?

In the last general election people made a big hue and cry about the origin of Congress president. It was however, not unprecedented to have foreign born premiers. …amon de Valera , a leader of Ireland's struggle for independence from Britain and thrice Irish Prime Minister was born in New York though to an Irish mother. Chaim Herzog, sixth President of the State of Israel was born in Belfast, Ireland and had served as an intelligence officer in British army. Though constitution did not allow Czechoslovakia born Madeleine Albright and German-born Henry Kissinger going for the top job, their origin didnít prevent them from being Secretaries of State of USA. Wonder what the situation would be if Sonia Gandhi was born to Indian parents who had allegiance to a foreign country. Would that have exposed the bigotry of our leaders probing origin than competence?

Recent events show the degree of faith our leaders have in law of the land and their respect for it. How else could you describe the motive of former minister and senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi to meet the Shankaracharya in prison in connection with the murder of his former accountant Sankara Raman?  Why should former defence minister George Fernandez call on him at the prison on behalf of the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA)? Couldnít they have restrained and waited for the outcome of interrogation? Why do political leaders go on rallies (yatraís) and hold the country for ransom to prove their innocence of any crime or otherwise? Is this how we let our leaders make a mockery of our constitution and country?

We all live in a democracy the actual state of which we do not want to realise. We help grow a system where time and again itís the politician who decides whether or not to trigger communal violence. Excluding in some cases, in the past most of violence caused by so called ďcommunal intoleranceĒ is resultant of the doctrine preached by either arrogant or politically motivated groups. They do not care for the well being of society. People do not revolt unless it deeply affects their way of life. Itís our representatives who provoke and wield power in disruptive way so that they remain in charge. In such a scenario youíd rather be well off being more pragmatic than a foolhardy blindly following ideology. Bear in mind itís your decision to stay put which helps these people to spread destructive influence. By the time its next general election your unresponsiveness could cost you your whole world.

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James Fernandes, India :
"Why should the former defence minister George Fernandes call on him at the prison on behalf of the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA)?"

For the same reason,I guess, "Did you feed me when I was hungry? Did you clothe me when I was naked? Did you visit me when I was hospitalized, or imprisoned?"
Mark Quadros, India :
The contents of the article does not seem to have any relevance to the title.

Contrary to what is made out to be, India is a best example to the world about the living religious tolerance otherwise, in which country in the World you can have a Muslim Presedint and Sikh Prime Minister in a predominently Hindu country and both these dignitaries have been accepted as undisputed leaders of impeccable integrity ?

Can in your country of residence (UK) a Catholic can ever become a Chancellor ?

Democracy necessarily means expression of free opinion. As a practicing Roman Catholic, I still feel there was no need for the Tamil Nadu Government to arrest the Kanchi Seer in the night and that too on the eve of Diwali a festival important for Hindus.
Bert Naik, Australia :
Sonia Gandhi's case cannot be compared to the other personalities mentioned by Vijay D'Souza.

* Eamon de Valera was ethnic Irish, regardless of where he was born, and became a leader in the home country of his ethnic origins, Ireland.
* Chaim Herzog was Jewish. 90% os all Jews living in Israel are recent migrants (or the migrants' children)
* Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger were not the only people of such origin in US
* Sonia Gandhi appears to be the only Italian migrant to India (if you exclude a few religious).

Let us not keep inventing arguments to somehow prove that Sonia Gandhi deserves full aceptance by a billion Indians.
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