Saturday, January 17, 2009

Indian Republic needs Communal harmony

Indian Republic needs Communal harmony
Syed Ali Mujtaba

On 26 January 2009, India would be celebrating its republic day with great fanfare on the Rajpath in New Delhi. Millions of Indians will be watching the Republic day parade on their TV sets that would showcase India’s progress as a nation in different spheres of activities. On the surface of it all that would look very grandiose indeed and many may yell Mera Bharat Mahan (My India is great). But does that give the complete picture of India, I have my doubts.

The fact remains that even fifty-nine years of our Republic, India remains a theater of communal conflict. It is unable to wield its complex mosaic of social diversity into a national unity.

Since this is one of the most important issues confronting the country and the region as whole, some thoughts are essential to brood over this topic when we are celebrating the Republic day.

The genesis of the communal divide lies with the advent of the ballot box democracy. Ever since then power came to be defined in terms simple majority. The unities that were formed earlier on class and economic criterion, gave way to religious based communities. Religion came to dominate the political mobilization-taking place in the country.

In the course of two decades of political negotiations to the run up of independence, the Indian political leaders failed to sort out the communal rigmarole, resulting in the partition of India.

After the independence the vision of secular India has been wavering. The periodic eruption of communal riots is testimony to this fact. Since electoral consideration compels political parties to forge linkages on communal lines, there is hardly any attempt made to bridge the communal gap. This gap is getting further accentuated as religious communities are interpreting economic competition in communal terms.

These are some thoughts on the problem and it would be apt to attempt few suggestions how to make this country and the region a better place to live in.

The foremost thing that should be done is to combat the campaign to redefine nationalism with Hinduism religious symbolism. It’s creating havoc on the innocent minds and alienating people of other faith and breeding separatism. There is an urgent need to arrest this diabolical campaign. If this does not happen separatists’ tendencies would continue to gain ground and then it would be hard to sideline the likes of Indian Mujahdeen, SIMI etc.

Next, the deliberate attempt of political mobilization on communal lines has to stop. Political parties should give adequate representation to the religious minorities and nurture their leaders to build faith in democracy. If this happen it is certain that social relationship between Hindus and Muslims would improve.

It is alleged that the minorities in India are denied citizens rights enshrined in the constitution. This discrimination is alleged to take place from the stage of school admission, finding jobs and other gainful activities. This real or imagined perception that minorities’ are discriminated on the basis of their religion must be allayed. This can be done so by strengthening the citizenship rights and by promoting social equality.

At the governmental level, there is need for administrative commitment to stop the occurrence of communal violence. The government of the day should be firm on protecting the life and liberty of the citizen of the country. People like Nrander Modi are blot on the face of Indian Republic. No administrative head should ever behave or act in his manner while dealing with a communal situation.

As many studies have revealed that some religious minorities are lagging behind in different sphere of activities, the government should have some specific policies and programmes to alleviate them from their current situation. This may include reservations for other religious communities whose social status are equal to the schedule caste categories. This move would instill hope and confidence in such minority group to actively participate in the nation building process.

In doing so the government should never eye on vote bank politics or get cornered by opposition propaganda of minority appeasement or pseudo secularism.

The jingoistic religious nationalism has to be scaled down to zero level. Religious factor is one of the reasons for acrimonious relations between India Pakistan and Bangladesh. A perception is being built up that since people in Pakistan and Bangladesh are following different religion and so they are enemies of India. This is creating havoc on the regional harmony.

Its resonance is also souring relation between Hindus and Muslims in India. We have seen that whenever India-Pakistan relation improves there is a corresponding improvement in the relation between Hindus and Muslims in the country. So there has to be a great deal of sensitivity required to deal with Pakistan as its in India's interest to improve relations with Pakistan.

Finally, in building communal harmony the role of non-governmental organization is also seminal. Efforts should be made by the NGOs to develop secular platforms for inter- faith communities to interact at the grassroots level. This could be done, by promoting secular and national festivals on par with the religious festivals. This may create a social platform to propagate peace and harmony in the country.

India’s fifty-ninth Republic is a great opportunity to take a resolve to build peace and harmony in the country. We all should not let this opportunity slip away.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at

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