Secular Rethink- Part III (concluded)

[This, dear readers, is the last in a series of posts of my article. Bear with me, something up close and personal will be coming up soon]

A big step towards creating communal harmony will be appealing to the people via the mass media --- the movies. We must take a lesson from the Hollywood movies, and learn how America is portrayed in them. The image of the unknown is crafted very carefully in there, and that is what we too need to try and achieve. Blatant altruism and partisan movies will not work… it will become more of a laughing matter. The message has to be subtle, depicting the power of unity, of integrity, and most importantly, depicting the fact that no religion asks us to kill. The message that needs to be put across is that God does not need you to protect His honour.

Another problem that needs to be addressed is poverty. We have to feed the stomach first, before feeding the minds. To an ordinary Indian, everyday necessity is too hideous to allow him to think of anything else. We, the educated class, can indulge in the luxury of dreaming of 'religious harmony' because everyday necessity is not so hideous for us. The dream cannot be realized unless it is a collective dream. And to turn it into a collective dream we have to ensure that the fire of hunger has been doused before we plant the seed of education. Otherwise the fire will engulf the seed.

Finally, let us have some positive moves from the government as well. We do not want any reservations based on the religion of a person, because that maligns the community. When I see that someone is privileged just because he has been ‘branded’ as something, I develop distrust. Or maybe better still, just because I am branded as something else, I am denied something, the distrust or hatred is even worse. Vote bank politics can cause havoc which is not apparent on the surface, but manifests itself when the dam breaks. Let us prevent the deluge from happening and dry the water off in the sunshine. What finally comes off this endeavor is going to be decided by the pragmatic steps that are taken, how much responsibility people assume, and of course, how much spiritually enriched we are able to become, following the religion we swear by.

To conclude, let us think what would have happened if the two friends in the story we quoted earlier had been really educated, that is, educated ethically. We might have seen them furious about people who instigate such riots, furious about all clerics and everybody who calls himself a religious after having blood on his hands. We might have seen them praying to God that people should think as they do, that people should be ‘secular’ in the true sense of the term. We would have had two fresh recruits into the ranks of the Citizens for Peace.

[Just a last word... your comments are welcome, but please don't leave Yahoo offliners... more often than not they are lost as I close them quick. You can post here as anonymous]


  1. I experienced the riots quite closely...after that i was involved in so many debates and discussions that somehow i choose to rather not comment on this topic..

    i'll just say one thing, consider this, when a minority community goes such an attrocious experience afterwards it tries isolate some ways maybe we are also responsible for that chastisation..this wide hugely difficult to overcome when it comes to lower middle class add to it..the government in power and its ideas play a major role..

    I dont know abt ur time but at present there may be just one or two students from the minority committee in our college..think abt it..

    but yes I agree on most of ur solutions...

    one thing i feel these issues are best forgotten..ofcourse its easy for me and you to say that..

    nice essay btw...can i have ur yahoo id..mine is anubhav72001


  2. a couple of things and i might be wrong. you make a connection between riots and poverty, which automatically assumes that both are interlinked. Not true. You woudnt have riots in England and France and US then. You could then argue that it is the poorer there who were involved in the riots. Which is partly true but the thing is riots are never between poor and rich. It is between poor and poor.

    You mention ethical education, but the thing is there is no such thing, for what is ethics but one set of ideas of the proper course of action. There will another equally valid opposing set of ideas. What will you teach.

    Now the thing about riots is, they happen because of two things - one, what is perceived or is in truth a miscariage of justice. For no matter how much it deteriorates into looting, the spark which sets off the riot is usually, what is thought or is, an injustice which cannot be tolerated and in which, society, which is supposed to ensure justice, colludes.

    And second thing about riots is - people just are riot-prone because they have lots of animal left in them. They will explode once in a while singly or in masses. Small forms of these are called riots, big organised forms of this trait go under the name of wars.

  3. Anubhav, ok, you have my Yahoo id.. left an offliner @ yours.

    Thanks for the compliments about the essay. As you say, things are easier said than done. And the gap indeed needs to be bridged. You know what the remarkable thin in our campus was when the riots were burning in Gujarat? The people from the minority community, as you say, felt safer within the campus than outside. The reason being, to a student or to any untarnished mind, for that matter, what faith you follow, what brand you bear on your head has very little to do with what you come across as another fellow student or person.

  4. Madhavan, hey! First time here I guess, right? Welcome aboard!

    You seem to say that there is no poverty in England and France... sorry, you're mistaken. But I have not linked poverty and riots in the first place. I have linked them to education, to unemployment, and to lack of exposure to the others living on the other side of the fence.

    I am not speaking of ethical education... but I speak of education that opens up the doors to ethics in your head. Please do not confuse this with the regular God-talk. I am not talking of that. I am talking of the ideas that form in your head as you read "To Kill a Mocking Bird", as you read "Train to Pakistan" and things like that.

    But I agree with the two other points that you make... indeed, they start with some such spark... but the inferno begins because there has been dynamite accumulating for quite some time. I do not wish that dynamite to accumulate. But well said, anyway.

  5. Sudipta,
    i think that mass media in the form of movies specifically is doing a decent job of portraying society in india. that is the purpose of any cinema - to be an expression of reality or intent of society, as it is or as it should be(read roja or bombay). having said that, its difficult to set aside commercial interests even when addressing larger issues.
    as for communal harmony, none believe in killing. the motive behind any religious revolt/conflict is deeply rooted not in idealogical theories, but in economic benefits. religion is the most basic of all our emotions. its our sense of identity. thats why is so powerful as a tool to achieve ends.

    hollywood flicks are quite simply superb. the lesson we need to take from them is that of free speech.... the freedom to come out with movies like JFK, and Farenheit 9/11. of course, i also tend to believe that the movies would never have been released if they would been thought to have any material impact on the way things turned out.

    this is turning out to be quite a long comment, so i'll leave it here. looking fwd to hear from you...

  6. Stupendousman,

    Yes, they are doing a good job... but let me give you an example of what I mean. The other day, I was watching Asambhav, and they had shown that the President of India had been kidnapped, and Arjun Rampal goes about rescuing him. Now, imagine a hollywood flick in its place. Mr. President would never had been kidnapped in the first place, and the bad guys would have cowered in his presence. I would like this repeated in Indian cinema.

    And your point about the economic benefits of the revolt/conflict is quite valid... I believe it hits home well. But I also liked the movies you mentioned; and their underlying message.

    P.S. - You seem to have stopped midway... come on man, speak up!

  7. Hey Sudipta,

    Nice article. I share the same vision of against-branding-oneself on particular religion/cast/or whatever. We actually need to come out of the concept of thinking that I am a Hindu/Muslim/Christian or Indian/Bangladeshi/Pakistani/American! We all are human being. I might born in a different country, different family (with different religion) but I am a human being. This should be my first identity and I should think other person as a human being first.

    To me, humanism* is the first religion and then whatever you believe privately doesn't make difference and everyone can live together in harmony.

    Well, I actually personally practice one religion and appreciate people practicing religions. Combining these two perspective can be termed as practicing religion "privately". Not branding myself as a practitioner of some religion but practicing my religion privately and appreciating other's believes. In this way, you can have a good balance and go forward.

    Its true that bigots have increased in numbers, and it is also true that people talking against bigots have increased too! Why not hope for the best!

    Peace. Naushad.

    * Humanism: an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanist beliefs stress the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems

  8. I forgot to comment about your solutions. Actually, I am not sure if just educating people will solve the problem or not, but this is definitely the first step!

    Again, reason of religion to survive in the coming days and recent days is the politics! Religion is becoming main stream support for politics, because people are weak for religions. So, if I can add one more reason to vote me and when the reason is religion it adds extra points in my side! In this way, people are and will constantly use religion for politics.

    So, there are reasons to think for and people should think how they can get rid of these bigots!

    I will repeat my last paragraph again.

    Its true that bigots have increased in numbers, and it is also true that people talking against bigots have increased too! Why not hope for the best!


  9. Naushad, well said! Humanitarianism is the way, for sure... let our voices combine against the bigots and let us all find the light! Thanks... I really appreciate your comments


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