Sunday, November 01, 2015

Intolerance

Vasu Reddy from Chicago
vasureddy@aol.com

Secular state is a concept of secularism where the state or nation is officially neutral in the matters of religion.  Being a secular state is a claim to treat all religions equally.  India today is the largest democracy that is also a secular state (there are a number of countries that are listed as secular states including USA and China).  It sounds politically correct for India’s diversity, and in fact most of India and Indians are secular in their living.  From very small villages to mega metropolis, Indians of different faith, color and language live well together.

As with most societies Indians also have a preference of being a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian.  Indians also associate the meat eating habit with their caste, the society has religion and then also caste added into their living.  The Indian society with its own religion, caste, sub-caste and whatever societal nuances, have seldom had communal issues based on food habits.  For a fact my own home where my mother is a vegetarian, and my father and grandparents were not.  Following their example my sister is a vegetarian as my brothers are not.  There was never a problem for anyone in the family with food habits and everyone respected the personal preference.

My home was not an anomaly in my town.  There were many families around us, where people lived together and had different food habits.  Our friends, families, relatives, and the town folks; no one looked at each other with issues related to food habits.

There was respect for everyone, and what they practiced; religion, prayer, food, language, clothes, caste, creed and whatsoever people wanted to live within their own preference was never a factor in living together was never a factor of belonging to one town; and secular it was.

Politics and social media, television and internet, and access to communications over the past couple of decades have had a great influence on people and their thought process.  The more we are able to communicate and connect with each other, we have somehow been focused on intolerance as people.  Perhaps because of the constant coverage of communal disharmony and religious intolerance; all for stake at two minutes of fame?

The politicians certainly keep fanning the religious and caste wedge among their constituents.  With more than a billion Indians in audience, even a small fraction of the population becomes a big vote bank, and keeping them angry and outraged has become a standard political practice, and with television cameras all around, and available focus from social media 24/7/365 days, politicians constantly fan the intolerance into communities.  Every simple action gets a huge hype of communalism and is constantly fed with hatred between people.  Once an absolute model of secular community can become a model for communal disharmony; only with a few choice words that foster hatred.

Politics have become a crazy business of absolute power at any cost, and politicians are constantly looking to target the anger of people, and constantly make issues out of things that never mattered to communities, now turned into communal discord.  Much of the news coverage consistently elevates the political rhetoric into some sort of personal attack on a community.  A seemingly simple and innocent issue is all of a sudden turned into a community outrage, and with the political dialogues that target to enticing the hatred simply turns people who lived together in harmony for generations, into violent verbal and physical attacks against each other.

As secular as people are and have been all their life, they also have a human instinct that can be easily turned negative when constantly fed with intolerance.  Politicians and media work overtime feeding on the human insecurities and what brings out is the animal behavior.  People are constantly being exploited and the coverage of communal intolerance is only feeding into the insecurities of people, and further entice into hatred.

Communal clashes and sexual intolerance have become so pervasive that the nation is constantly viewing the episodes of human indignity.  Could it really challenge the basic frame work of the nation?  Are we really secular?  We have been behaving like a bunch of angry constituents of a highly intolerant nation, and now we are not even tolerant of our own friends and families.

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