Opinion DC Comment 05 May 2016 Message is important ...

Message is important, not the messenger

DECCAN CHRONICLE.
Published May 5, 2016, 12:29 am IST
Updated May 5, 2016, 12:29 am IST
A vibrant pluralistic society cannot be allowed to be held to ransom by a few.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and Home Minister Rajnath Singh during the BJP Parliamentary Party meeting at Parliament Library in New Delhi. (Photo: PTI)
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and Home Minister Rajnath Singh during the BJP Parliamentary Party meeting at Parliament Library in New Delhi. (Photo: PTI)

The latest annual report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom has been met with sneering criticism from the government of India. While such a reaction, likely stemming from an abhorrence of “cultural infiltration” of a world power, is predictable, India’s ancient wisdom would suggest that it would still be possible to take the concerns expressed in the findings and act on them for the good of our own society. The nature of the message delivered along with the findings — “religious tolerance deteriorated and religious freedom violations increased in India” during 2015 — might be repugnant to a sovereign nation under “surveillance” by a panel of people appointed by the legislature of a foreign country, bipartisan or otherwise.

Even so, it must be possible to learn something from what is being said, particularly as we know the controversies and tensions whipped up last year were detrimental to the overall fabric of an inclusive society like India with its people of multiple faiths living mostly in harmony for seven decades after the horrors of Partition.

 

As a nation, we can be concerned about nosy people from beyond our shores, but the warning sign in the line that the country is “on a negative trajectory in terms of religious freedom” is not to be ignored. Just a decade ago, India used to pride itself on being a nation which had a Muslim as President, a Sikh as Prime Minister and a person of Catholic descent heading the party leading a coalition government. There could not have been a clearer message that, unlike most other nations, such a thing could happen here, with members of the minorities or those of different ethnicity being able to occupy the topmost jobs in the country. While the ill winds that fanned the beef controversy or the scattered noises that tended to promote religious discord can cause temporary glitches to an open society, it is up to the same society to root out any imbalance caused by the narrow, sectarian and non-secular views of a few people.

 

The background of the USCIRF’s previous actions on India, including against the current Prime Minister, may also suggest a certain bias. That, however, does not preclude us from being able to act in our own interest to reiterate the fundamental right to freedom of religion. Our greatest strength is that this freedom is intact, as we can see also from the freedom with which people are able to switch faiths in India, however distasteful proselytism is when and if it aids such conversions. A vibrant pluralistic society cannot be allowed to be held to ransom by a few. The fact that apart from pockets of communal influences, a vast majority of Indians are absolutely free in matters of faith, or even non-faith, represents a quintessential India that has worked for years.

 

...




ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
-->