Religion, Communalism or Liberalism: What suits India?

During last few decades, unfortunately Congress has had no Gandhis or Azads, not even their downsized versions. There is hardly any Congress leader, Hindu or Muslim, who is known for his religious knowledge and piety. But there are hard-line versions of both Patel and Nehru.

The Indian polity seems to have the domination of two kinds of leaders. On the one hand there are people who have manifest communal leanings, some being soft and others hardliners. Casteism is also in the same mode, but is normally not as rabid in India as communalism. The communal elements are there in almost all political parties though certain parties are considered outright communal in nature. The parties like Shiv Sena and BJP are well-known political compensations with clear tilt towards Hindu communalism. There are certain Muslim parties also like Muslim League and Majlis Ittehad Muslimeen, which practice reactive communalism. Then there are liberalists which again are there in almost all political parties. Congress and Communist parties have had the dominance of liberal elements.

It will be worthwhile to discuss here in particular the nature of Congress. Congress has had, throughout the history, a mixture of religious, communal and liberal elements. Gandhi and Maulana Azaad represented the religious class without any communal bias. For them religion was of paramount importance but it was more a matter of principles rather than identity. Gandhi was a devout Hindu and Azsd a devout Muslim. Both had deep knowledge of their religions, and still they cared for the humanity at large. Both were ready to understand the problems of all the religious communities in India and were ready to give them what they needed. They would take care not to antagonise other communities through their words and actions. Then there was Sardar Patel who had shades of soft Hindu communalism. He had a certain affinity for his community but still took care not to unduly antagonise Muslims. With Gandhi, Nehru and Azad around, he preferred to keep his preferences in check. It can be argued that perhaps he had no other option if he wanted to be a part of the ruling polity. Jawahar Lal Nehru was a soft liberalist, not fond of religion, but was again able to keep his anti-religion or non-religious views up to himself. He advocated total separation of religion and politics but did not let it become an open refutation of religion.

During last few decades, unfortunately Congress has had no Gandhis or Azads, not even their downsized versions. There is hardly any Congress leader, Hindu or Muslim, who is known for his religious knowledge and piety. But there are hard-line versions of both Patel and Nehru. Narsimha Rao was certainly more a BJP-man than a congressman. His role in the demolition of the Babri Mosque is now too well known to describe. I had an occasion to meet Shiv Raj Patil, former Home Minister in Narsimnha Rao’s government, and I found him a man with blatantly biased views against Islam and Muslims. Gandhi-Nehru family has largely remained soft liberal on the footsteps of Jawahar. But there have been many in the Congress (Hindus as well as Muslims) who became liberal hardliners giving no importance to religion at all. They believe that religion has nothing to do with public life including politics, and often fail to differentiate between religious identity and religious values.

The country today – in fact the whole world—neither needs communalists nor liberalists. The country needs the followers of Gandhis and Azads. Soft liners like Nehru can be tolerated but not the hard-line liberalists who have no respect for religion as a social force nor the communalists who spread hatred against other communities. Liberalists argue that they are believers in scientific spirit, and in a world of science there can be no room for religion except as purely a private affair. The truth is that liberalism is a product of economic fundamentalism and has little to do with scientific spirit. Liberalists believe in absolute freedom of choice, which is the master plan of the forces of economics aimed at commercialisation of human susceptibilities. Science, particularly medical sciences clearly prove that the freedom of choice is a dangerous concept which leads to huge loss of lives throughout the world. Both mortality and morbidity related to the freedom in eating, drinking and sexual behaviour are huge, with more than 70 million people dying as a result of the problems created by these practices. Religion on the other hand is almost on the same plane as medical sciences with most religions effectively banning or restricting these dangerous practices. Medical sciences, as I have argued in my latest book, “Dynamic Paradigm of Health” are unequivocal in telling the mankind that the safest option for the survival of human species in a safe and healthy environment with equal benefit to men, women and children, is through a well-established marriage system between males and females. Liberalists of course have other ideas. In the name of distorted and unhealthy notions of freedom and equality, they are not only condoning the death of millions of humans and humans-in-making but are also endangering the very survival of human species. Their argument in favour of theories of creation is also fallacious because theories of creation are less scientific and more economic theories promoted by the economic fundamentalists that do not tolerate God in sciences. Eager to prove that everything was created on its own without any guidance or planning from anywhere, they blame religion for being against the theory of evolution without realising that religions are not against evolution but against the concept that the evolution was not being planned and pushed by God. The universe did not come into existence in a single moment, and all the living beings did not originate within minutes. Of course, the evolution took place, but it is history; and history cannot be shown live. The theories of evolution are not final and will continue to change.

Thanks to both the enemies and friends of religion, religion has not remained what it should have been. Instead of religious values, godliness, piety and social values, religious people have become more concerned about the identity and are often more interested in showing other religions in worst colours rather than showing their religion in the best. There is absolutely no harm in anyone thinking his religion or ideology as the best. If he does not believe this, why will he stay in that religion? The problem comes when he shows more interest in spreading myths and hatred against other religions and their followers. This has to be stopped at all costs if the religion has to play the role it must play. Communalism has nothing to do with religion; it is the product of politics rather than religion. Politics tries to misuse every possible sentiment for their ends, and in a cou7ntry where religious sentiments are strong, politicians would not miss any opportunity to misuse religion.  

India needs religion – in its pristine form. India cannot afford a polity without religion. Religion resides in every sphere of India’s existence. The overwhelming majority of Indians believe in religion. They may have different methods of worship but they all believe in God. They all are firm believers in the family system and the devotion and loyalty that goes along with family. Unfortunately, religion has ceased top play the social role it must play. The polity is controlled by the forces for whom nothing matters but money and power. In order to further their interests, they are promoting a kind of liberalism, which hardly few Indians relish. Yet, anyone countering the liberalists is dismissed with contempt by the media controlled by the forces of economics.  

But religion will not resurrect itself unless all the communities resurrect their faith in the social dimension of religion. They will have to abandon communalism. The devouts of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Budhism, Sikihism, Jainism, and any other religion that exists here, will have to learn to live together, to abandon mistrust in one another, to care for the genuine demands of all and to give rights to all to live their lives in accordance with their culture. Above all, they have to learn that religion calls for service to the whole mankind, and not merely one’s own community. The parties like BJP, Muslim League and Akali Dal can still function. They can continue to fight for the genuine demands of specific communities but they will have to abandon forever hatred for other communities.

* Dr Javed Jamil is India based thinker and writer with over a dozen books including his latest, “Quranic Paradigms of Sciences & Society” (First Vol: Health), “Muslims Most Civilised, Yet Not Enough” and “Muslim Vision of Secular India: Destination & Road-map”. Other works include “The Devil of Economic Fundamentalism”, “The Essence of the Divine Verses”, “The Killer Sex”, “Islam means Peace” and “Rediscovering the Universe”. He can be contacted at doctorforu123@yahoo.com. For his shayri visit http://urduyouthforum.org/shayari/poet-Dr-Javed-Jamil.html