Common Man’s Secularism – Part 1

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With General Elections 2014 getting over and the dust just settling down both at State level and National level,  my thoughts have not yet returned to normalcy.

I have never seen an election so far in my lifetime where the personal attacks were in the forefront than issues. Comments made in public, leaders spoke throwing caution to the winds and overall a forgettable election from the angle of “Decency” and “Constructive Criticism”.

I felt disturbed with the “vote-bank” politics – I hate this word but using it because of lack of alternatives in my vocabulary – and “Secular Politics” by all parties including BJP, party that won absolute majority after couple of decades .

There was huge uproar in media as well as in social media that these elections were fight between polarization and secularism while a section of media kept projecting that the fight was between development versus scams & corruption.

What puzzled me was the kind of focus and attention given to the religion and cast by both political parties and media.

I was brought up in a modest town near my village by my paternal aunt as my village was not having a school beyond 5th standard then. Only when I stepped out of my village for my 6th standard that I realized there are other religions exist and their practices are different. Until then, you call it as bliss of ignorance or the way my village lived I used to think entire world lives in the same way.

As I started understanding the life and the world around me, I understood that people practice different religions and not all people have faith in same religion. I made friends who are from other religions (and they are still my very close friends) and used to enjoy the biriyani or the plum cake as when they celebrate their festivals.

We as a group used to walk from home to school and used to come back after attending couple of hours of special coaching for what we thought were important subjects – Mathematics and English. During these times of walking, we used to stop for a moment and pray whenever we cross a church, we used to maintain silence and keep our hands on top of our heads whenever we hear a Namaz prayer from a nearby Masjid as that is what our beloved friend Anwar bhai used to do as a respect to Namaz, so did we.

There were occasions where my friends used to accompany me to temples and some of them used to come with me inside and some used to stay outside until I offered prayers.

Not just I but we all realized without anybody telling us that there are different religions based on different belief systems and there is absolutely nothing wrong in it. We neither tried to influence each other based on religion not tried to prove that our own religion is great. We accommodated each belief system so beautifully that each religion has become part of life and we learnt to live showing respect to other religions.

By the way, I have never heard of the word SECULARISM, then. Nor was I aware that there exists one.

My family offers prayers to Jesus Christ, my wife reads bible every night before going to bed, my sister visits Church often, we tonsure our heads at Thirumala, we visit Hazrath Al-Haj Syed Khwaja Rahmatullah Nayeb-E-Rasool Dargah near my village often, and we take our infants to Masjid either early in the morning or evening to seek blessings when they fall sick or appears dull. We watch with folded hands and with reverence whenever a Jain procession goes on.

By the way, we never discussed about how to be secular and how to practice secularism in our family.

Cut short to any election scenario and am sure you will end up reading news like….

“Banking on Dalit Vote bank” “Seeking support of Muslim Vote bank” “May take hit in Hindu dominant areas” “Appears Pro-Hindu” “Confident that minority sections will support”

I am just re-producing a heading form one of the leading news papers today – “Muslim and Dalit Leaders lose traditional votebanks…” This is just one very small sample and you can find out elaborate analysis on which religion backed whom and which cast voted for whom.

I have not come across any political leader who in his/her speeches have not touched on the religion.  We will have them mentioning in their speeches about Muslims, Christians, and Minorities. We will have the speeches starting like ‘to my Muslim brothers, to all my Christian brothers and sisters, etc.

Why is that one need to touch on the religion when they claim that they all are secular? How on earth you are going to improve the lives of my fellow Indians by clearly demarcating them?

Even if all Indians are living in peace with each other and even if all Indians are having tolerance to each other, these political speeches by the politicians for their own benefits and under the guise of secularism have really not helped to promote secularism, if at all it needs to be promoted by the political class.

Except for a certain percentage of people from all religions, we people of India know what secularism is and how to be secular. We need not have a leader to lead us on secularism nor do we need a political party to back secularism in India. Leave it to the common people and Secularism will take care of its own self.

We often say in corporate circles that the mindset has to change in order to achieve something. I strongly believe that is the order of the day for the country. When media writes and leaders talk about the vote shares religion wise and cast wise, how are we expecting them to change the world?

 As a first, you please stop talking about these percentages as by talking about these percentages will only be instigating the thoughts that we don’t even know that they exist.

My appeal to all leaders and media is do not attempt to polarize under the mask of Secularism by your senseless statements and articles on number of voters and their trends based on religion and cast. Leave it to us, we certainly are clever enough to know whom to vote for and whom to support.

We don’t need Social Media postings or pages to let us know whom to vote, we don’t need postings about greatness of religion, we don’t need propaganda about how good one’s own religion is, we don’t need efforts to get converted to or change religion in order to live better,

…all we need is..

..efforts towards spreading the message of plain humanity, efforts towards developing our own country, our own people through education, through sincere efforts to eradicate poverty.

My appeal to all Religious Leaders is please leave the people to their own faith, do not tell us which faith should we follow, tell us about humanity, teach us about peace not hatred under the guise of religion. Condemn the mistakes without worrying about which religion has committed which mistake. Lead us by example not by just mere talking for your own selfish sake.

If we as people of India make a mistake by electing a wrong leader we will learn from it and we will correct it next time as that is the biggest strength of our democracy – you please stay away my religious leader.

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