India as a civilization has been in continuous existence for thousands of years. As Swami Vivekananda pointed out in the Chicago speech of 1893, we have not only believed in tolerance but in harmony. India has always shown the world the magic of assimilation and integration, with all the sects and religions that have come here. I write this in my apartments in Kochi, Kerala, and just a few kilometres away is Jew Town, one of the oldest settlements of Jews in India. In their long history, it is India that the Jewish people thank as a space in which they never had to face any hostility in the past 2500 years.
Legend has it that by AD 52, St Thomas came to India and we had one of the first organized churches in the world on our shores, long, long before the Vatican and European Christianity rose. Historians point out the existence of the Cheraman Perumal Mosque, almost as old as the Holy Mecca. It is said to have been built by a Hindu king who went from here to meet Prophet Mohammed (SAAW) and took Islam as his spiritual path; the king's family all remained Hindu and they lived together.
What Sadhvi Prachi said is wrong and unacceptable. The idea of a "Muslim-free India" goes against the very soul of India, against the spirit of our Constitution.
All of the above is to point out that pluralism is India's greatest contribution to the world, along with yoga, ayurveda, vedanta and so many other great things.
Now, as we come to 2016 and Indian politics, it becomes a bit more complex. Let me be honest in saying that I am a Hindu activist, and lean to the right. Does that make me anti-Muslim? Absolutely NOT. In the Indian context, many mistakenly assume that in order to be pro-Hindu one has to be anti-Muslim, or in order to be pro-Muslim one has to be anti-Hindu. But they are not mutually antagonistic terms.
What Sadhvi Prachi said is wrong and unacceptable. The idea of a "Muslim-free India" goes against the very soul of India, against the spirit of our Constitution. President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have many times pointed out that in the 5000-plus years of India's history, acceptance and assimilation have been our strength. Note: even in this article I am sceptical of using the word "secular" as it has been misused and abused by many politicians for many not-so-noble reasons. So let me use "pluralism" instead of secularism.
I lodged a police complaint and also went to court against Sadhvi Prachi. The honourable court hearing the petition said, this is of a very serious nature and an India that is "free" of "any religion" is against the basic nature of "who we are". The complaint -- filed under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code, which tackles promoting enmity between communities -- was well received by a great majority of Hindus because they don't accept what Sadhvi Prachi said.
I concede that in the name of secularism, some wrong policies may have been pursued... But that doesn't mean we have to now create Hindu Owaisis.
I concede that in the name of secularism, some wrong policies may have been pursued, but that doesn't make the idea of secularism bad. The people who adopted such policies and positions "misused" it. They kept quiet when lakhs of Kashmiri Hindu Pandits were expelled from the Valley, they choose to close their eyes to genuine Hindu concerns in order to chase more "organized and consolidated vote banks". Let me remind you here that many people, I included, actively campaigned to get Akbaruddin Owaisi arrested for his rant against Hindus, while many "secular politicians" were reluctant to even take a position.
But that doesn't mean we have to now "over-compensate", that doesn't mean we have to create Hindu Owaisis. it only means that our Hindu community, which comprises about 80% of India, has to stay strong for a just, plural and harmonious nation.
Such a balance is possible. We need only look to the greatest Hindu, Indian and human of the past century -- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. At the risk of the "Hindu community" being divided forever in 1932, Mahatma Gandhi risked his life for uniting Baba Saheb Ambedkar and Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya in the Poona Pact. On 15 August, 1947, at the time when everyone was celebrating India's Independence, Gandhiji kept away and was engaged in preventing communal riots between Hindus and Muslims. From Martin Luther King to Mandela, the Mahatma was an inspiration for people fighting for their rights world over.
Remember PM Narendra Modi's words: "Bharat Mata has 125 crore children." Remember: 125 crore children not just 100 crore Hindus.
Some of my proud patriot Hindu right-wingers may have been offended when I filed a case against Sadhvi Prachi. I am sure they will understand that I filed it not because I am anti-Hindu but because I am a proud Hindu. And my request to them is to remember PM Narendra Modi's words: "Bharat Mata has 125 crore children." Remember: 125 crore children not just 100 crore Hindus.
If our 100 crore Hindus (including right-leaning Hindus) work along with our Muslim and Christian brothers, we can make our motherland a great example for the world to follow. India is the last man standing to defend the idea of multiculturalism. If we fail, we fail India and we fail the world too.
Bharat Mata ki Jai
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