Democracy is defined by freedom of the people. This means freedom in all aspects of life be it profession, religion, personal life. Of course these are bound by the law of the land and practices acceptable to the society we are a part of. The freedom comes with duties and responsibilities for every citizen of this democracy. The elections are the biggest symbol of the freedom of democracy, and also a clear indicator of the state of the nation.
Being a part of the world’s largest elections, with over 800 million registered voters, we are now exposed to a daily dose of drama, rhetoric, entertainment and increasingly noisy television debates. While many issues have taken centre stage the bulk of chatter has been about the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP (so called Hindu nationalist party), and the self declared protectors of secularism and all things righteous, the Congress party. To add to this, we have the Aam Admi Party (supposed to be the common man’s party) which has mastered the art of grabbing media attention. All of them claim to be representation of India. When India won independence in 1947, little would one have thought that after 67 years we would still be struggling for identity.
India is a complex country and is a collection of states, with no single language, religion, ideology to culture to unite it. When in school we prided ourselves of the unity in diversity. Now as educated, aware and involved adults we see it as just a bit of jingoism. The Congress party has been elected to government more often than any other party and has come down to being focused around one family, the Gandhi family. I sometimes wonder if a large section of unaware voters believe this family is the family of Mahatma Gandhi and therefore votes for them. For the sake of my country I hope I am wrong. What do we vote for then ? We vote for continued freedom, growth and prosperity. This includes the freedom of religion.
Secularism in its purest form means ‘not connected with any religion’. But switch on the TV to any news channel and 50% of the debates are around the topic of secularism. Some social activists and of course the Congress party have declared themselves the owners of secularism. How can they be secular if they categorise development based on religion ? How can they be secular if they have not done anything to improve the quality of life of every religion ?
Regardless of all this, the usage of the term ‘Secualrism’ has become the biggest gimmick of the elections. With a country of over billion people, is religion the biggest factor of identity ? I would like to believe it is not so. But like I mentioned, India is a complex country and we have had a history of spirituality and religion which cannot be brushed away unemotionally. Times have changed, people are more aware. Boundaries have reduced. People now see the world and the quality of life across societies and want it. Would we be a nation of billion people where poverty is reducing ? Would we be a nation where law and order prevails ? Would we be a country where women feel safe ? Do we want to be a country where education is accessible ?
Then why do we listen and accept this jingoism of ‘secularism’ ? Religion and spirituality is a private matter for an individual and a community. Why do we allow it to become a matter for governance to be based on ? I guess this has to do with the basic concept of power of the masses. We are a country of the mob. The mob rules. Individuals have no place. Strength is in numbers here and not in the concept or ideology.
I am a hindu. I remain a hindu even if I don’t visit the temple. I remain a hindu even if I don’t pray or follow any ritual. To me Hinduism is a culture, a way of life and not really a religion. Would I base an important decision such as for a country to run, based on religion ? Absolutely not.
The world is watching and we are marketing ourselves as a nation obsessed with one family, one man or one issue and not with development or being the superpower we are capable of becoming. But like I said, times are changing an the old guard better watch out. We are a complex country but information and awareness changes things…fast.