India - a synthesis of religions

An open letter to my Orthodox and Leftist friends


The past few months have been disconcerting, to say the least. We have seen India being divided. Well, divided is not the right word infact. Factorised is the right word. Remember Factors?, the ones we read in middle school? The factors that ended up reducing a large ten digit number to an LCM of 2. Well, I see India is a sub-continent. Infact it only seems to be a travesty of geographical shortsightedness that it is not listed as a separate continent. So, for the past few weeks I have seen my childhood friends throttling debate in our common whatsapp groups and proclaiming India as a land for Hindus, all the time badmouthing muslims, patronizingly including Sikhs in their Hindu vision.

Factorising, reducing a million digit number to the LCM of 2, its lowest common multiple. And therein lies the source of my pain.

But I am jumping the gun here. Let me start from the beginning. I was fifteen years old, filling up the form for my matric exams, as the teacher asked us to fill the column for ‘caste’. I had to postpone my form by a day to seek a reply from my mom, who told me we were Jats, Jat Sikhs. Now that I think of that day I feel so proud of my dad and mom who never talked about caste at home. I think they were far too influenced by the Shastri wave or Nehru wave. Whatever!

Oh yes, whatever! I am supposed to dismiss such idealist things as an aberration if I want to move in the new India. This new India is all about caste, and religion, isn’t it? I learnt gradually. In Engineering College on the first day, a group came to our lecture theatre and asked all Jats to raise their hands. They had their own association and they were mobilizing members. I did not raise my hand. Infact I vividly remember sniggering at them for their medieval mindset. And so I moved with a more vibrant group of friends, all fun-loving like me. As I moved ahead in college I realized the various caste based factions and groups. But thankfully, none of my close friends was a part of such groups. I never really felt different. Infact, I never felt alien. I learnt about such varied cultures. I went to Jain temples, to dargahs, ganesh mandirs and prayed to Sheron waali maata; took my friends to gurudwaras too. I loved the India I saw as a youth; but it seems to be degressing into the far horizon; so far away that one must look hard to find it.

I don’t love the India that I saw in the past few weeks. Ah, I jump the gun again. I need to go back again into time to understand the genesis of the pain.

I had always been a voracious reader, and my interest in India, my motherland and its ancient history was arisen by a programme on Doordarshan. Bharat Ek Khoj, a dramatic representation of Nehru’s Discovery of India. That book was a revelation, once the TV serial went off air. It instilled in me a pride in being Indian, a pride that was way beyond the assembly line unfurlings and national anthem singing parades in school.

During those days of college, the Khalistan movement was at its peak in my native Punjab. During my visits there I had instances of being in the middle of heated debates amongst my relatives. Some espousing the cause of a united India, and others counting the instances of India’s exploitation of Sikhs. I was clear where my loyalty lay. With India; of course! I could realize the wisdom of the founding fathers of the constitution who laid the foundation of a secular India.

Punjab survived the militant decade with its sanity intact. Not because of military strength of the Punjab Police but because of the way the common Punjabi rejected separatism. This was a test case of India’s secular identity and Punjab passed the test.

One must presume that people across India would learn from such examples. You touch a raw nerve and it will pain, you apply a balm it will heal. Indians, mostly a Hindu majority must realise by now that a monolithic version of India is not possible and not desirable either. India is a collection of different nationalities who have chosen to live together under one flag and under one government. If anyone tries to impose their singular world-view over the entire nation, all hell will break lose, and with it India will break lose.

We cannot stop the north-east from eating beef, you cannot force the south to speak Hindi. Damn it, we have Brahmins in south that bury their dead rather than burn them, we have communities that consider Mahishasur as their hero, for every Maratha that celebrates their victories we have Mahars who celebrate their losses and downfall. We are a collection of opposites, we are a melting pot of differences.

The current trend is disturbing.

The worst vitriol is being spread against Muslim minorities, whose actions are seen with a lens and any random idiot of that community is seen as a representative of the whole community. If you go by that standard, Air Chief Marshal Tyagi, a Brahmin of the ucch-kul, who has sold his countries interests to the Italians, must represent all Brahmins and they must all be termed as corrupt anti-nationals. By that standard that rogue Punjab Police SP who allegedly escorted the terrorists to Pathankot base must represent all Sikhs and they must all be termed as smugglers.

This constant hammering of the minorities makes them more insecure and they in turn huddle into ghettoes, too scared to venture out into the mainstream; their insurgents feel strength. It is all counter-intuitive. The more you attack the minorities, more severe will be the impact on the majority; and vice versa.

Also, I have a grouse against the intelligentsia too. Anything remotely Indian; anything remotely connected to the culture of India is being seen as saffronisation. There can be a Sanskrit course in US universities, or a Chinese language course in IITs but all presumptions are un-leashed if Sanskrit is announced as an ‘elective in IITs’. All hell breaks lose if there is a serious attempt to study pre-islamic history and to give it it’s rightful place under the sun. Ram, Krishna are dismissed as mythical figures but by the same historical gauge, Christ is seen as a historical figure. Minorities propagating, proselyting and converting are seen as normal, while majorities converting are seen as an anathema.

Double standards, if I may say. What is good for the goose should be good for the gander.

Remove your orthodox tints, remove your ultra-liberal leftist tints and see India with its practical problems. Be the cold water over the fire rather than the ghee.

There is no point in scoring points against our country-men. It is a zero sum game, everyone loses.

STOP IT before you lose it all. Unite, hold, hug and smile at each other. And hey, don’t forget Gandhi’s three monkeys; see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. (Oh yes, if you don’t know, Gandhi still has answers which Godse does not have)

Vande Mataram,

Kulveer Singh

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