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The Secularist Offensive

Secularism suffers no universal definition. Such a lack of clarity allows the advocates of secularism the license to define it whichever way they like. In a multi-religious country like India, there is hardly any prominent world religion that would have no followers. India is a secular country in the sense that it is not a theological state- it has no state religion. It gives equal treatment to all religions. The state follows the age old traditional approach of equal feeling towards all religions or Sarva Dharma Sambhav. It does not mean inter-faith discrimination. Majority of the population has been practicing the Hindu religion from time immemorial. The ancient treatises of Veda and Puran are well known to the knowledgeable the world over. And yet the democratic India opted for secularism rather than a Hindu nation. This was so under the worst provocation of division of the country by the receding British Empire into India and Pakistan. Pakistan was created on religious grounds by conceding to the demand of the communal Muslim League and gave up any pretence to secularism. It is an avowed Islamic country. Even though the Muslim population in India exceeds the population of Pakistan, it remains a secular country. In the facts & circumstances of Pakistan being the greatest sponsor of terrorism, social harmony in India gets easily disturbed. I have been noting it since 1980 that every Hindu festival is celebrated under threats of terrorist strike. This year also, alert has already been sounded. It raises a pertinent question: are there limits to secularism?

How can it survive for long under threats from Pakistan sponsored terrorism? Can India meet this challenge through secularism, peace and love? Is terrorism a real threat to other countries? Is there a real clash of secularism and anti-secularism? Are Hindu sections alone expected to remain secular in India while all others can pursue their anti-secularism agenda? Can an India without the Hindu population be visualized? Can Hinduism be allowed to be attacked by the anti-secular segments? Can India without Hinduism have any identity? This question has become important in the light of sustained attack on the Hindu beliefs in the last 20 days or so. More than few million words must have been spent on decrying the Hindu belief by the media and the politician. Should the Hindu section of the nation give up its belief only to establish its secular credentials? Is there no value to the living tradition of Sarva Dharma Sambhav, which is nobler than simple secularism? Sarva Dharma Sambhav is definable and defined concept than the wooly secularism. Secularism had long been “rejected” by the Muslim clergy and the Christian authorities. Had secularism been as well defined as Sarva Dharma Sambhav, the media and politician would have spared themselves the negative spin to an incident of lynching. Neither the minority is weak in India as is deviously portrayed nor are there killers freely roaming in the streets in villages. It is a matter of public knowledge that such heinous crimes are sponsored by the politicians eager to catch Muslim votes in India whenever an election is held and blame the political parties branded as Hindu (Hindu Fundamentalist in BBC speak) or rightists. Even before an inquiry takes place, the leftists and centrists pronounce the Hindu parties guilty. Thereafter starts the media blitz. But are these people not supposed to delve deeper and logically, if not scientifically, examine these beliefs? If the Hindus consider it unholy to eat beef, it should be respected. How does anybody acquire the right to attack their faith? Claiming diversity as something unique to India amounts to ridiculing Nature, which itself is not for uniformity. India has always respected the sentiments of others. Even in non-vegetarian households, non-veg food is cooked in a separate kitchen in one distant corner of the house. I don’t eat meat or egg and I can’t stand the smell of fish being cooked in the vicinity. Is it too much to expect that due care shall be taken of my sentiments? It is more than sentiment: I shall throw up if I suffer the smell. I prefer to go out for more than hour if I find my immediate neighbor low on civic sense. If the Hindu feels hurt at beef, where is the need to make it an issue?

Even otherwise, there are not as many cows as human beings if all of us took to eating beef. Excess of everything is bad; it is so in this case. The allusion to the happenings was necessary but the issue here is something different.

The question is: what is the purpose of war? Isn’t it establishment of peace? A war lasts for days or weeks at the maximum. Thereafter begins the era of peace. How long can peace endure? Surely till disturbed by the next war. Violent societies face wars very often, but the non-violent ones witness it after considerable lapse of time. India being an ancient civilization has experienced both. The Mahabharat was a war fought for 18 days and cost millions of lives. Thereafter, Emperor Ashok vowed not to wage war. He took to Buddhism. Both Buddhism and Jainism propagated non-violence as the best religion (Ahinsa Parmo Dharma). Mahatma Gandhi used it as a weapon during the freedom struggle. The division of India took place because of the non-violence of Mahatma Gandhi and violence of the Muslim League led by Jinnah. Jinnah threatened and instigated a civil war in the country, getting a Muslim Pakistan but Mahatma Gandhi got no Hindu India. He asked only for a secular India. So the tragedy of partition, with mass scale migration of people on both sides, could not achieve complete exchange of the population on religious grounds. So, while Pakistan is a Muslim country, India is a secular country.

After Emperor Ashok, India had suffered loss of its freedom. The millennium of subjugation, first by the Muslim aggressors and thereafter the British & other European powers, had completely shaken the self confidence of the Indian masses, till Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi revived it and woke up the sleeping giant out of its numbness. Independent India went for democracy, which was welcomed by the masses. However, India had no tradition of democratic rule at the national level. Democracy demanded a large number of leaders to take responsibility to deliver governance to the people. It is here that India failed miserably. The new leaders have established the superiority of violence in daily life and governance. They have abused the power of the vote. They started with booth capturing, scientific rigging, misuse of money power to purchase votes, use of criminals to win elections, dividing society into communities, castes and even sub-castes. In a matter of just some 35 years, they have reduced civilized discourse into a nasty war of words. They have denigrated every single national icon. They have grown swollen heads on their shoulders. In their lust for power they have forgotten even Lord Krishna and the cow so dear to him. The politicians indulging in such sacrilege betray only their own intellectual bankruptcy. Lord Krishna is reverentially remembered by people not because he was God but because he demonstrated the best qualities of a mass Leader and his capabilities to change the lives of the people. Lord Krishna was born when the infamous Kansa ruled Mathura. He had established a reign of terror after imprisoning his father. He used to kill children, get all the milk & butter from the villages depriving the children of the only source of protein. He impoverished his people to such an extent that young girls could not afford a change of clothes while taking bath in a river or pond. Kansa would regularly dispatch his oppressors to harass the masses to extract their loyalty to him. An atmosphere of gloom, fear and hopelessness pervaded all around. Krishna challenged the power of Kansa and infused confidence in a people in despair. He revived their spirits by making them feel happy. He advised the milk producers of his community to stop sending milk and butter to Mathura and feed their children first. He formed his children’s volunteer group to execute his social responsibility. The earthen containers of those trying to stealthily export milk to Kansa or Mathura were stoned and broken on way by the volunteer force. The hungry group helped itself to belly full of milk, Dahi (yoghurt) and butter without fear or guilt feeling. As the children grew healthy and masses confident, Krishna advised women to keep a change of clothes handy while taking a bath at public places.

Lord Krishna & Gopis

Initially the innovative revolutionary methods and tasks performed by the volunteer force of Krishna caused a flood of complaints to his mother, but seeing the public purpose behind all these activities, they started showering love on him. Seeing change coming in their lives, Krishna would play music on his flute. Under the despotic king Kansa, the people had forgotten all forms of entertainment. The flute played by Krishna mesmerized them. Even the cows and calves and birds would listen to the rapturous flute of Krishna.

Dancing Lord Krishna

It improved the local prosperity and happiness. Krishna demonstrated to the people the power of change in happiness, contrasted with the gloom & doom, which had overwhelmed them. He celebrated this change by organizing the supreme dance or the Maharas one full moon night by the river Yamuna, elevating the dead spirits of a whole people. The cow played the key role in this transformation of the life of the people. Only agricultural economists can understand the value of a cow in the economics of livelihood of a farmer. If the value of such an animal was established by Krishna and the Hindus raised it to the level of holiness, only the ignorant will view it differently.

It is a significant coincident that the lynching took place in the Brij region of UP (Uttar Pradesh), the land of Lord Krishna (His Brij, Gokul, Vrindavan, Yamuna, also pronounced as Jamuna, and Mathura) and led to verbal violence of the lowest kind when a politician in Bihar ridiculed the holy cow concept. The media has been disparagingly using the phrase “holy cow” as a metaphor for decades. The politician lost his good sense and went to the extent of stating that Hindus too eat beef! He did not elaborate whether it is a common practice among majority of Hindus or limited only to some among them. Bihar is the land of the Buddha and Mahavir.

Alas!  Wars of words are more dangerous to society than real wars. There is a concept of Sur and Asur in the Indian literature.  The usual translation of the words is Gods & Demons. But  here is another etymological connotation of these two words. God Almighty in the Sanskrit and Hindi languages is called Iswar. Swar in Iswar means sur or a musical note. Music in essence takes a person to God Almighty or Iswar. The Gods are consonance or sur. The demons are dissonance or Asur. What is being played out in Bihar is this dissonance; it is the Asuras in full play. They represent the negativity, the force of evil and doom. It is not difficult to answer the Asur in their own language but it is not worth it. There is an ongoing conflict between the Sur and the Asur tendencies, mentality, attitude, speech and objectives. That is how the Life Cycle works. They provide the necessary tension to initiate motion in opposing directions, making churning a reality. Bihar war of words seems to suggest that the time has come for violence to cease. From Buddha to ISIS is a full cycle of time. Non-violence, which was placed at the top of the list of virtues in civilized society, has been replaced by violence effectively. Just consider the plight of the Buddhists in Tibet. They have been forced out of their country. China calls Tibet a part of its territory. But the same China is grappling to fight a handful of violent uighurs. Recently 15 serial bomb blasts took place in China and one serious blast destroyed property worth billions of US Dollars and several precious human lives. The terrorists have created havoc throughout the world, attacking trade towers in New York, trains in London and other places, killing journalists in Paris, attacking American and European tourists or embassies wherever they can  It is no war, even though to counter such attacks is called a war on terror. But the ISIS is a real war. It has a territory, army of trained soldiers and funds of its own to fight the war. Nobody so far knows the way to end this war. It has already drawn America and NATO in to the war theatre and Russia has marked its independent entry. The kind and level of violence and barbarity seen in the ISIS war for more than two years now tends to support the end of the virtue and value of non-violence as nobody would be able to adhere to its principles if their very survival is threatened. If violence registers success in one part of the world, it will become the creed. It seems, both peace and non-violence have reached their limits and must yield the space for violence. The Asur of Indian politics have made it public that they can adopt any violent means to capture power. For them the cow or Krishna is not secular but beef eating is secular.  The voices of dissonance pen the script of secularism in India!

Krishna playing flute with cow

Take a look at the picture. Note the immaculate dress of Krishna – he is his own designer and fashion expert. The colour, cut or style of wearing his creations are immaculate and impressive. Watch his head gear, especially the peacock feather. Krishna emphasized the importance of clothing. His personality remains an everlasting inspiration for all those who have come in contact with the charm of his magnificence. Brij is the land where even today one comes across people as pure as cow milk, as innocent as the volunteer force of Krishna and as pure as their hearts or their speech, even though politics has increased the number of the Asur in comparison to the Sur. When you don’t hear negative words, you are not influenced by them. There is value to the cow as to the Lord Krishna.

Can issues concerning the poor be ever discussed dispassionately in India? Aren’t 37% Indians living below the poverty line (BPL)? So, near about 460 million Indians are living below poverty line, which means they can’t afford a bare meal a day; their income being less than half a US Dollar a day! Now, a cow gives some means of livelihood to such a poor person for at least a decade or so. It provides her milk, dahi (substitute for green vegetables), butter, gobar for fuel as cow dung cakes, ox for ploughing as source for cash accruals, cow for milk again. In total sum, a very good source of protein, calcium, food, fuel and cash income. I leave it to the judgement of the scientific community to state if the cow milk is superior to other milk, because India is a country where complex knowledge had been employed in the form of tradition for the benefit of the layman. Without scientific terminology like pasteurization, fat content etc., cow milk had been prescribed for babies, lactating mothers, sick persons and generally for all other people in view of easier digestibility and wellness. Now kill the cow and you kill the source of livelihood of the BPL persons. Is it the aim of the advocates of killing the cow and eat its beef? Butchering cows by machines by the meat industry is short sighted and costly activity. It costs more rearing up animals for meat. Besides, animal slaughter houses cause pollution and noxious odour irritating many people in the society. That is why, all governments , from the central government to state governments, while promising half a million jobs during electioneering never promise opening of new slaughter houses but only free distribution of milch animals to the BPL families. Why? Think and then only carry on this unseemly debate about beef.

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