Our school books carried a mantra on the very first page, ‘India is my country. All Indians are my brothers and my sisters. I love my country. I am proud of its rich and varied heritage.’ A mantra that led us to believe in earnest that indeed all Indians—Hindu, Muslim, Christian or Sikh—are our brothers and sisters.
I wonder now, will secularism soon become a dirty word in India? It’s frightening how by saying something crass loud enough and often enough, a small coterie can succeed in drowning out all sane voices just by virtue of their bombast and by tedious repetition. It happened in Nazi Germany. Repeating a lie often enough can change the discourse, obliterate the truth. Till you are left confused and stunned by the new reality. The new manufactured truth. Noam Chomsky talked about ‘manufacturing consent’ or media and market forces combining to successfully change the truth. This seems to be happening in the secularism-communalism debate.
I’m referring, of course, to the divisive forces seeking to drown out the reasonable ones by calling them anti-Hindu. With a name like mine, I wondered if I would be taken seriously as a writer, fighting with mere words, a quixotic battle for India’s future. For our children and grandchildren and future generations. Often enough I’ve had abuse thrown at me on my regular blog, of the ‘go back to Rome’ variety.
I’m not merely outraged and angry. I’m livid. I have never felt like a minority in India. Never felt the need to cry foul. Never been remotely interested in fleeing to the West for ‘better opportunities’ as was the trend from the ’70s onwards. Yet when some rabid politician asks me and ‘my sort’ to go to Pakistan or Rome, it’s time to talk back. I’m not good in a shouting match. But at least I can write.
My children grew up in an extended Hindu family. My grandfather was a Kurup from Kozhikode. But do I need, at this point, to wave these credentials in order to be listened to? I hope not. We, India’s Christians and Muslims, Parsis and Jains, Jews and Sikhs, are but a minuscule percentage of the vast population of like-minded Hindus, who have voted out the BJP. And yes, let’s say it out loud, the alliance of bullies, who, emboldened by a perceived electoral victory, are crawling out once again, to threaten to evict Muslims from their homes or deport all dissenters to Pakistan. Note, not dissenters to the Constitution or the law of the land—but dissenters to one man—Modi! Only Hindutva forces, to me the antithesis of pure Hinduism, are allowed to stay. So all the Hindus who don’t agree with Modi, the RSS, the BJP and the Hindutva they propound are advised to pack up and get ready to leave.
The simple fact is, the British ruled India for 200 years and, with all the power of the Empire behind them, they did not succeed in converting more than 2 per cent of the population to Christianity. I abhor conversion. I believe each religion has its own truth and genius. But is conversion really a threat, given the actual figures? That 265-plus years after the British arrived on our shores, there are only 2 per cent Christians in the country?
I’m a minority like every person who reads this article by virtue of the fact that I’m a woman writer with a college degree. That makes you, the reader of this article, and me a minority in our largely underprivileged, non-literate population. I’ve spent decades writing about Adivasis and Dalits. About the effects of poverty and human rights. So illusory growth in mere numbers does not impress me as much as literacy, elimination of malnutrition and dissolution of all forms of discrimination.
So let’s talk development numbers. The internet is aflame with Modi claims and the Gujarat model of development. His constituency are the twitterati, the FB and the IT people.
They flaunt Gujarati highways. Just like German autobahns. But I noticed the same trend a decade ago in Hyderabad when head honchos Bill Gates and Clinton were due to visit Cyberabad. Some kilometres away, I reported the biggest dry latrine I had ever seen in nearby Anantapur as well as around most major Andhra cities. Spend billions on roads to impress foreign investors and allow your poorest women to sweep rivers of liquid shit. Manual scavenging is alive in Gujarat and well, even as I write this. But why waste time on poverty, Dalits or Adivasis as long as you have the largest statues in the world, the best roads and concrete and glass skyscrapers to show foreign investors you can outshine Singapore or Dubai?
The PR showcases the ideal development model. The social indicators contradict this. The facts are, before Modi became CM of Gujarat, all but 170 villages were already electrified. Yet the billions spent on PR flaunt the lie that Modi electrified the state. Gujarat is 11th in terms of Human Development Index, 12th in infant mortality rate; 15th on the poverty scale; 13th on the hunger index; 12th in terms of the under-5 mortality rate; 19th in terms of underweight children; 13th in literacy, and two-thirds of rural people defecate in the open.
Gujarat is the third most indebted state in the country, with its debt being Rs 1,85,310 crore, having tripled under Modi. I shudder to think what will happen to India if our debt soars, leaving the poor behind, while the economy supposedly gallops ahead? Bankers do the math, please. And let us know.
Bihar and Maharashtra lack Gujarati business acumen, that ‘historical base’, the famous trading skills that made local cornershops in Britain a Patel preserve. Or the famed Patel motels in the US. Yet these states are reportedly progressing faster than Gujarat. They just don’t have millions put aside for a good PR job.
So I will put my faith in majority India. In Hindu India which provided sanctuary to persecuted Christians, Jews, Armenians, Chinese, Parsis and all others. Where all of us coexist peacefully without hate, celebrating each other’s festivals and holidays. Praying in temples, mosques and churches. And hope that this majority, the genuinely Hindu India, the India I love and claim as my own, will preserve the dream that our founding parents, the men and women who fought for freedom and opted for a secular Constitution, so that people like me could be born and nurtured in a healthy, powerful multi-cultural homeland. I reiterate. This is my home. I will not be driven out of it by fundamentalist forces.
Mari Marcel Thekaekara is a writer on social justice issues and the author of Endless Filth
Great piece by Mari Marcel Thekaekara (True Beginning of Our End); even better that Outlook had the guts to publish it. All businessmen and women of the country who harp on about the progress Modi has brought to Gujarat should also think about its moral cost. Siding with the big bad industrialists and squashing minorities who can’t fight back is not an indicator of progress but of shame. And I hope and pray that Modi’s contorted model of development will not be forced down the throat of the country.
Was reminded at this juncture of lines from The Second Coming by Yeats: “...The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of //passionate intensity...”
S. Shiva Ramu, Bangalore
I would urge Mari Marcel to visit Gujarat at least once before venturing to influence others on the subject. The religious minorities have fared well here, better than anywhere else, in the 12-year riot-free period. The world did not end for them when Modi got elected in 2002, so why should it end now?
Nital Solanki, Ahmedabad
Modi himself admits and thanks the Indian media for attacking him for the last 12 years. He says that nobody would have known him had the media not run such a consistent campaign of calumny against him.
Novonil Guha, Delhi
Pathetic is the word I would use to describe such pieces and their authors for whom everything is justified when their favourite political parties do it, be it riots, looting or crass, divisive policies.
Shyam K.H., Chennai
Modi should be indebted to the Congress—it is because of the prolonged IT development during its long rule that the BJP’s obsessed prime ministerial candidate has been able to package and market himself so on the social/electronic/print media, on such an exceptional scale. The signs of a push towards majoritarian democracy are already beginning to show as the mask is beginning to slip and he is desperately pulling it back until D-day. Helping him in his charade is his crude, brainwashed troll militia on the internet. He who taunts his bete noire as shehzada himself harbours the notions of becoming a maharajadhiraja of the country, and has started behaving like one even before the people have spoken.
Mickie Sorabjee, Mumbai
Yes, there are Christian fundamentalists who convert. Yes, there are rabid Islamist groups who preach hatred. But there are also rss shakhas and vhp leaders who spread the dangerous message of hate against the minorities. The truth is, all these groups need to be thwarted by force, and by a secular state. Problem is, if Modi and the BJP come to power, they will decide which of these fundamentalists need to be thwarted. And if they give their own fundamentalists a free run, there’s no predicting how much damage they’d do in five years.
Ramdev V., Delhi
With the elections stretched over a month, a weekly magazine like Outlook has already exhausted the collective wisdom and intellectual capital of all its journalists in its race to reach new lows in journalism. Hence, the outside help in the form of third-rate articles from fourth-rate commentators.
Dipto, New York
Outlook was biased under Vinod Mehta too but there was a certain breeziness to the magazine. Under the new editor, it has become extremely dull and boring. Hearing a Manmohan speech has become more exciting. The only interesting part is the rants and raves section.
Akash Verma, Chennai
Get this clear. This article is more dangerous than the “rhetoric by Hindu fanatics.”
Savithri Ajay, Hyderabad
By publishing such ridiculous trash, Outlook has taken its anti-Modiism to a new low.
Maha, New Jersey
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
"Gujarat is the third most indebted state in the country, with its debt being Rs 1,85,310 crore, having tripled under Modi."
India can't afford this kind of debt. Gujarat can because the centre backs it. In fact FDI. Modi's favourite will wreck the economy which obeys the balance
FISCAL DEFICIT - TRADE DEFICIT = NET PRIVATE SAVINGS. FDI increases TRADE DEFICIT and if it grows more than FISCAL DEFICIT, the left side becomes negative and peoples' savings disappear and the economy crashes. The growth is 4.6% GDP now and crash is not too far.
Perhaps the the writer has forgotten that it is the British who had first sown the seed of communalism when the Hindus and the Muslims were fighting for independence from the foreign yoke. In 1905, the British applied their notorious 'Divide and Rule' policy to divide Bengal on the ground of religion. The British left no stone unturned to convert both the Hindus and the Muslims, but their policy of plundering and perpetrating persecution in India created a vast gap between the then government and the common people. Besides, India's religious base is so profound that it can not be dismantled so easily. The writer should better eye on the condition of the people of those African countries where the British preached the Christianity with the Bible in one hand and the sword on the other. Most of those countries are torn with civil war, apartheid, poverty, extremism and political instability. We are fortunate enough when we think that our country had not been converted.
this is for lying sacks of **** that defend the losers at CAIR while pretending to be "secular" and reasonable. Enjoy.
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