January 30th, Martyrs’ Day, the day The Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi passed away. One of his favorite bhajans was
raghupati rāghav rājārām,
patit pāvan sītārām
bhaj pyāre tū sītārām
īśvar allāh tero nām,
sab ko sanmati de bhagavān
Literally translated it means
Chief of the house of Raghu, Lord Rama,
Uplifters of those who have fallen, Sita and Rama,
Sita and Rama, Sita and Rama,
O beloved, praise Sita and Rama,
God and Allah are your names,
Bless everyone with this wisdom, Lord.
Such a nice and small poem which still holds complete relevance in this day and age. When The Mahatma sang this song during the Dandi Salt March, its popularity soared so much that it remains to be sung to this day all over India whenever anybody thinks of him.
That being said, it is quite ironical that today was the day I read these three news items –
- The controversy caused by SRK’s article in The Outlook magazine, now hosted on NDTV [Link]
- The controversy caused by the TN Govt over the release of Kamal Hassan’s Viswaroopam [Link]
- The pre-emptive ban imposed on Salman Rushdie by the West Bengal Govt [Link]
All of this leads me to wonder just like Kamal Hassan did, do I want to live in this country whose constitution (law of the land) calls it a democratic secular republic. Well, we do have democracy at least in name, to the extent that all of us who are more than 18 yrs old can vote (that is, if we can find our names in the electoral rolls and if somebody else has already not voted in our names).
However, given these headlines and based on various conversations that I have had with well educated colleagues, friends, family members and everybody in general, I struggle to find even 1% of secularism in this country. All of us are so tied to our belief systems, our prejudices, our notions, our stereotypes of how various communities are, how people from these communities behave, etc.
Most of us seem to believe that the only way we can live in India is to judge people, events and base our reactions and lives accordingly. Nobody seems to be willing to be just a little more open-hearted, welcoming of dissonance, welcoming of disagreements and overall truly secular, in all sense of the word.
Wonder if it is just me who is frustrated at all that is happening right now, or are there more folks like me out there thinking similarly?