Published on 13 April, 2015
Written by - Shiv Visvanathan
Sometimes when you get up in the morning and reach for the newspaper wondering what the world has in store, you occasionally savour a moment which is more heart-warming than having a cup of coffee. I just read a report about Maryam Asif Siddiqui, a 12-year-old school student in Mumbai, having stood first in the “Gita Champions League” contest, where the participants were tested on their knowledge and understanding of the Bhagavad Gita. It was not the fact that she is a Muslim but her reverence for all religions and the wisdom of religions that warmed one’s heart.
Such news is a perfect counter to the vitriol of Giriraj Singh, a Union Minister, who was in the limelight recently for his controversial and racist remarks on Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The contrast between Singh and Siddiqui is deep. One celebrates difference while the other seeks to subjugate it. One throbs with intelligence while the other breathes mediocrity.
Today, Christians are being targeted but if anyone is stereotyping Hinduism, it is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Their Hindutva is a sign of envy, of a mediocrity that wants to imitate the West.
A sense of siege
People like Mr. Singh create and leave behind a trail of anxiety where the minorities feel pressure on themselves to realise their identity. This became especially poignant in two instances; the first, in an essay/article by former police officer and diplomat Julio Ribeiro, and the second, in an interview of Indian political psychologist, social theorist, and critic Ashis Nandy. Both are Christians but what is interesting is that both are true Indians, not in a nationalist sense, but as a part of the culture. Ribeiro is proud of being a Christian and Indian and his career as an officer. It is his Christianity that has made him a part of India and made him aware that Christianity in India is older than it is in the West. But now he claims, “communities were being targeted, a sense of siege affects a peaceful people”.
Both Ribeiro and Nandy express the confidence of a community which does not see itself as a minority. It feels it is a part of India’s pluralistic culture, where identities are many, and affiliations open-ended. Ribeiro wonders what his Indianness means when his Christianity is being threatened. Earlier, being Christian and Indian was never contradictory to each other.
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