Secular Democracy – or Is It?

The constitution of India states that we are a secular, democratic republic. But every morning when I see the newspaper, I find that very hard to believe. “Why?” you would ask me: the whole world is raving on about India. But as an Indian, I am offended when I see the newspaper every morning.

There are nice things in there too, but they are few and far between.

India is a democracy and a secular country – but the truth is that all of this is just a concept that we are trying to attain. The reality is different. How can a country be democratic and secular if we ban movies and books and any kind of art which ‘offends’ a certain class of society?

For a real democracy to exist, and to truly prosper, the individuals living in that democracy must have the right to be exposed to all sides of the truth. No matter whose version of truth it might be. Individuals will decide what they want to see or read and what they don’t. If they like it, it will become popular, and if they won’t, then no one will read that book or see that movie.

Why should a section of society be ‘offended’ by it? And why should there be any sections in society at that? Respect for another person’s culture, tradition, religion and individuality comes from within. I believe that is called ‘humanity’. There should not be any distinction between individuals based on class, caste, creed, sex or religion. However, in modern day India, such is not the case. These distinctions exist.

They exist when I see violence break out because of the ‘reservation’ system existing in the country. Why should there be any reservation – for any particular caste or sex. Aren’t we all equals? If we are capable of obtaining a particular job or college seat, shouldn’t we get it?

It all begins from birth and ends with death, here in India. Each form that we fill out, since we are born till the day we die, has a column for stating your religion and your caste and your sex. Do away with such forms in the first place. When we are ‘secular’, if we are ‘secular’, why should we know of the other person’s religion / caste / sex anyway? Respect for another individual should come naturally.

They tried to ban ‘Da Vinci Code’ when it first hit the movie theatres. All the Christian kids I knew hadn’t even read the book, but they hated it with vehemence. I found it strange. I mean, to hate something, the least you could do is know what it is in the first place.

Christianity is supposed to be the most widespread religion on this planet. Why does it seem to be improbable, for instance, that Jesus Christ could have had a wife and a child. Is it because it is ingrained in us to think that religious prophets are not human at all? Or is it because it irks our sensitivities? One wonders how such ‘sensitivities’ originated in the land of the Kama Sutra.

This is something I find quite strange, since this religion is not indigenous to our country in the first place.

Funnily enough, not many protests occurred when this movie was released in any of the other countries. They had Christians too. I suppose they are more accepting compared to the Christians in India. The book / movie and the storyline of the book / movie did evoke a comment or two from the Christian community worldwide, but the book / movie didn’t get banned worldwide.

Parzania’ is now being banned in Gujrath because the story involves the Godhara riots. Strange. Why don’t we see a movie or a book for what it is – just a movie or a book? It is real – the riots in Godhara did take place. Banning a movie that shows them, is not going to make the past disappear. What will be achieved by banning a movie? The past cannot be changed, no matter how hard you try.

The riots will not be wiped out by not showing a movie that depicts them in the storyline. Aren’t we all avoiding facing the truth by banning such movies?

Black Friday’ went through the same fate for depicting a story that evolved around the Bombay Blasts – and it was steeped in legislation for so many years. Finally, it is going to be released on the 9th of February. I will see the movie and post my comments here.

Water’ was not even allowed to be filmed in India due to similar reasons. Does this mean that widows in ancient India did not suffer? The movie was subsequently filmed in Sri Lanka and is now nominated for an Oscar.

What do the politicians gain from banning movies that depict history? Are we truly democratic or are we emulating communist Russia from the Cold War days? Can entire periods of history be wiped out by banning books or movies that depict facts?

On one hand, Indians are being empowered by laws such as the ‘Right to Information’ Act, and on the other hand entry of any information in an individual’s life via a book or a movie is being controlled by the politicians.

India is truly a strange place. A heady mix of cultures, traditions, religions and sights, sounds and smells. Here, people hail from all walks of life, and living here is not easy as it sounds. But for someone who likes this life, nothing could be closer to heaven. It’s just the politics of this country that irks me the most. I don’t read anything much about it – it is a cultivated habit to ensure that I don’t get frustrated.

And now comes the difficult part. Blaming others is easy. Seeing the same shit in your self and admitting it is tough. I am going to do that here – for the world to see.

I am not someone who likes the violence and irreverent behaviour towards women that is prevalent in the Muslim society. Personally, I know quite a few Muslims, and they are wonderful individuals.

It’s just that most of the violence / terrorism prevalent in today’s world owes its origins to them. And this violence / terrorism are fanatic and religion-based.

The chief thing about them that I don’t like – as this violent behaviour is inculcated within them since childhood.

Another thing that I don’t like about what I have seen in Muslim society is the way that they treat women. It’s not even about the Burqua. If one goes back to the area of origin of a particular religion, one understands how certain customs of that religion originate. And I have tried to keep an open mind about every religion that I encounter.

And, given my country’s history, I never could develop a liking for them as a people.

Also, Hindus are known to be peace loving people, or so I used to think. We have never retaliated with violence. But today, when I saw ‘Parzania’ I was ashamed to call myself a Hindu. Not because of any religious / spiritual aspect, mind you. Simply because, I had never imagined how sickening, we as a people, had been in those riots in Godhara.

When I had read about it in the newspapers, I had felt quite good about the retaliation by the Hindus. Seeing the movie made me see how wrong I was.

Not that I am an advocate of non-violence or Gandhiism, but, there are times when I feel that Gandhi had some sense. This was one of those times.

How can one human being be so brutal with another? Just because he has a different path / thought / religion / caste / sex / belief system?

What has the world come to these days? I am ashamed! I truly am!

Our country is something that I have always been proud of being a part of – Unity in Diversity – we were taught in school. Is that just a phrase to be read in text books and never to be followed in real life? Or is this the real world – where we say one thing and mean another? Is this what maturity is all about? Or am I one of the foolish Idealists?

These are trying times, and I am trying to see the truth when I am surrounded by so much fog. I could have never imagined that a Hindu person could rape women and kill children, even if they were Muslim. It is so shameful. I am humiliated, and yes I do take this personally.

I had too many long-held beliefs, which for a long time, I felt were un-shakeable. I was a snob, and a caste / religion based discriminator. I have thought these shameful things in my life. But over the past couple of years, I have experienced the fruitlessness of such thoughts and ideas. I have changed. I know it. I feel it. And taking a page out of Gandhiji’s book, I am admitting it, for the whole world to see. I am ashamed of what I had once been.

How difficult is it to see that we are all one? Connected and interconnected, made out of the same matter – energy – we are all the same. Each and every religion will say this. No religion advocates violence. No religion tells you to lie and steal and kill. Each and every religion is just another way of life – another way of getting closer to a universal consciousness – another path towards obtaining oneness with the supreme. Each religion uses rites and rituals to bring discipline within its followers. Each religion uses parables and myths to convey basic truths that every individual can follow. Each religion is just another road towards the same goal, by whatever name it may be called.

Why must we feel that in order for a particular religion to exist, others should be wiped out? It is the shameful history of all mankind where this trend has existed.

Why must we first destroy, so that we can create? Why can’t all of us just co-exist peacefully?

Is this how Man is going to be wiped out from the face of the Earth – in the process of killing one another in the name of some entity that advocates peace and humanity in some form or the other?

Today, I am ashamed to call myself human.