We seem to be deliberately negating Rabindranath Tagore's immortal lines:
Where The Mind is Without Fear
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;My beloved country, what is happening to you? Respect for others, courtesy to all, tolerance, acceptance of different ways of life and religious beliefs, where have they all gone?
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the
dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
The minorities have always enriched our lives. India has assimilated many many cultural and social mores from them, and, despite the homogeneity projected by the media today, Hinduism itself is far more nuanced than they'd have us believe. There are so many sects and sub-sects of Hinduism, all following their own particular practices.
There are also amazing syncretic sites of worship, like Firoze Shah Kotla, where people from all walks of life and religious backgrounds leave missives of appeal to the resident djinns, and there are Ramayanas staged wherein the lead players are all Muslims. We suffer many cliched representations of minorities as well, unfortunately, especially in Hindi films. But even though there are cliches, the right of the 'other' to be part of the nation was never questioned. The Christian padre, the Muslim tailor, the Sikh taxi driver- they have been part of the landscape of our country . And it is not important how many centuries their ancestors have been here either- being a citizen of a secular nation grants all its citizens their fundamental rights.
When a loved one is ill, it doesn't matter whether he is treated in a Christian missionary hospital or in Mata Amritanandamayi's hospital or a government hospital. You are looking for the best available treatment that you can afford. You do not ask for the religious or caste antecedents of the blood donor, the doctors, or the nurses. It simply doesn't matter. Why, then, in our daily lives, does something as personal as religion become a reason for conflict?
In our daily lives, so many of us shun 'the other'.
The 'other' is as human as we are.
If he or she worships differently, eats differently, speaks differently from us, why is it a problem?
Why should the 'other' be evicted or killed?
Is this person not a citizen of India?
With the inalienable rights of an Indian citizen?
Why does he or she need to constantly 'prove' his Indianness?
Have you ever been in a situation where you feel threatened because of your religious beliefs, or your name, or the presence or absence of a foreskin, or the presence or absence of a turban, beard and long hair?
When neighbourhood watches ensure that you aren't garlanded with burning tyres?
Where renting an apartment is difficult if your name is either Christian or Muslim?
Where you live in an industrial township, and are expected to participate in unfamiliar rituals of temple worship just because it is assumed that all Hindus do observe these rituals?
Where any form of noise pollution is tolerated because it is being done in the name of religion?
Many women would be able to understand the following concept with ease: that of having to prove your commitment and loyalty to your husband and his family even after years and years of marriage. It hurts, doesn't it? Our fellow citizens, who happen to have their own particular religious or community identity, why must they prove their loyalty to India again and again?
Why should anyone feel insecure in his/her own country?
Terrorism and fundamentalism both need to be eradicated. Both flourish only in a climate of suspicion and intolerance. Neither seem to have anything to do with any kind of religious tenets.
Let us, once again, learn to care for our countrymen and women as human beings belonging to a single great country. Else we may end up with several disparate states and no country.
Together, we can make India a country to be proud of.
She belongs to all of us. There can be no 'buts.'