Intolerance and Winds of change in India
When more than a Billion people with distinctively different religious beliefs, culture and even skin colour live in a relatively smaller piece of land, conflict is unavoidable. When Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan, Brunei or UAE implement sharia based laws to all its citizens irrespective of their faith or culture, no one dares to speak about it or contradict the views of the respective Governments. But in India, with the slightest wind of change brushes their nerves, the volcano of discontent erupts, which is a good sign and a significant indication that India is free and tolerant.
( Image: Professor T.J.Joseph who had his hand cut off at the wrist as punishment on allegation of blasphemy, by people belonging to Popular Front of India, a confederation of radical, fanatic Muslim fundamentalist and extremist organisations in South India)
Intolerance is a bi product of inequality. This inequality is evident in Indian society at every miniscule section. Intolerance existed in India as a bi product of inequality since ancient times. But why this new found symptoms of intolerance, erupt into a national misbehaviour by intellectuals and celebrities?
Secularism as per Indian constitution means equal treatment of all religions by the state, but in Western countries, secularism is more or less a separation of religion and the state. Sixty years of Congress rule has effectively changed the meaning of secularism in India to minority appeasement rather than equal treatment. Indian minorities especially the Muslim community, by effectively using the Vote bank politics, always had their way. But after the BJP Government has come to power, the Muslim community has woken up with a realisation that their dirty tricks box is not effective as before.
(Image: Kerala Education Minister P.K. Abdu Rubb who always refuses to light traditional Kerala lamp for inaugural functions claiming it is against his religion.)
Traditionally the Congress led Indian Government has done all the dirty work for the Muslim Community on their behalf. Whether it is banning Salman Rushdie’s satanic verses, Implementing outdated Sharia Law for Muslims or the Haj subsidy, no hands were raised against Muslim appeasement. Those dared to raise their voices were immediately stamped as anti-secular. In fact the Congress Government’s pro- Muslim policies were designed to please only the minority Muslim fanatic factions. Rajiv Gandhi’s Muslim women’s act was one such misadventure. For decades, the Congress Government has ignored the perils of Bangladeshi migration to the East of India, which completely destroyed the peaceful co-existence in those regions. The failure of the Muslim community to peacefully co-exist with other faiths has created enough trouble in India as well as the rest of the world.
(Image: Indian media doesn’t find anything wrong with his derogatory remarks against women – Kanthapuram, Secretary-General of the All India Sunni Jam-Iyyathul Ulema)
The Dadri killing and the Kalburgi murder
Dadri killing and the Kalburgi murder, though isolated, made a big bang across the nation and abroad, but the dust completely settled soon after the Bihar Polls. In fact who was behind it? Was that a conspiracy? We will never get the answers. While relatively unimportant BJP supporters like Swami Agnivesh or Sadhvi Prachi’s rather foolish comments made national headlines, the media failed to mention anything about the hate speeches by Muslim leaders.
With the arrival of Modi in the national politics, the privileged class feels rather disturbed. The equations that were created and maintained in the last 60 years will change. The current privileged class will have to hand over their milk and honey to a new emerging class that will enjoy the benefits. Nothing changes for the common man but people who enjoyed power and privileges for a generation will resist change with tooth and nail. The celebrities, writers and other cronies who belonged to that class will protest and the Award Vapsi was only a part of that game. The journalists who were the licking dogs of the previous regime will use their pens to spread venom and this will continue until the new ruling class create their bunch of licking dogs.
The Amir Khan Controversy
(Image: An Indian Muslim family scared of the rising intolerance in India)
Amir Khan as an individual will be having his own views. But once you become a celebrity, you become a national property and whatever you say will capture the attention of a much wider audience. Individuals become celebrities with the help of a support network. In the case of a movie star, that support network is generated from their fans and the business people who invest money in them. In Amir Khan’s case he also draws support from the Muslim community, him being a Muslim. Since his survival as an actor invariably dependent on his support network, he is obliged to project their views as his. Amir Khan had critical views about Kamal Hasan’s Viswaroopam but was eager to apologise after his PK hit turbulent waters. In this instance, Amir Khan’s comments about intolerance in India should be read as his attempt to please his support network.
How tolerant is India as a nation?
Since ancient times, people of many faiths have sought asylum in India. Indians have welcomed them wholeheartedly and in most of those cases, India is the only country where those weaker communities were never subjected to any form of discrimination. Here we are taking a second look at some of those religious sects.
India is the only place in the world, where immigrant Jews were never subjected to any form of anti-Semitism from the majority community. The Portuguese were the first foreign power in India to discriminate against the Jews. The history of Jewish migration to India began from the time of the Kingdom of Judah. The oldest of the Jewish immigrants are thought to be settled in Kodungalloor, Kerala. The traders from Judea arrived in Kodungalloor in 562BC. Destruction of the First Temple in the Siege of Jerusalem of 587 BC, resulted in many Jews fleeing to India. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE sizable population of Jews arrived in the port city of Kodungalloor near Cochin. After the 1341 a disastrous flood and destruction of Cranganore (Kodungalloor port), Jews shifted to Cochin.
By twelfth century there were thousands of Jews living in Kerala. 12th Century, Jewish Traveller Benjamin of Tudela, in his book ‘The Travels of Benjamin’ mentions that throughout the island (Kollam in Kerala), including all towns thereof, live several thousand Israelites. Still there is a functioning Synagogue in Mattancherry in Kerala but that belongs to descendants of Sephardim Jews that were expelled from Spain in 1492.
In 1524, the Muslims attacked the Jews living in Kerala, because of their primacy in the pepper trade. The King of Cochin gave asylum and bestowed them with land and exempted them from taxation.
The Spanish and Portuguese Jews and British arrived at Madras during the 17th century, mainly as traders and diamond businessmen. The Bene Israel or Bani Israel arrived in the state of Maharashtra 900 years ago. The Baghdadi Jews arrived in the city of Surat from Iraq (and other Arab states), Iran, Afghanistan about 250 years ago. They all were escaping religious persecution in their respective countries.
The Majority of Indian Jews migrated to Israel after the formation of the Jewish State. The Jewish Community in India excelled in trade and was prosperous in general.
Christianity is believed to have come to India in the first Century. It is believed that St Thomas reached the Indian city of Muzris in AD52. Muzris is in Kerala near the port city of Cochin. Muzris used to be a busy trading port since ancient times. St Thomas, also considered as Patron Saint of India by Christians. He baptised many in Kerala and converted them to Christianity. Many historians contradict this version of the arrival of Christianity in India. Then rulers of Kerala, allowed the early apostles of Christianity to spread their religion in their land and Christian missionaries never suffered any hostility in India unlike what they have endured in the West. But there are no records of Christians seeking asylum in India. In fact Christianity reached India much before it entered Europe.
The Hindu generosity backfired in 15th Century, when the Portuguese seized control of Goa. The Portuguese invasion represented Christian reign of terror in India. Forced conversions, rapes and mass murders defined Portuguese rule of terror to convert Indians to Christianity. But the British gave a more human face to the conversion making use of India’s poverty and the nasty caste system. Even with the colonial upper hand, Christian faith couldn’t make many inroads in India. Fewer than 3% of Indians are Christians.
Islam is the second largest and the fastest growing religion in India. Islam first entered India through Arab traders. The history of Islam in India is as old as Prophet Mohammed himself. The second phase of the expansion of Islam in India, began with Muslim invaders from the 12th 16th centuries. Muslim invaders converted people of other faiths to Islam by sword and by imposing a tax on non-Muslims. Muslim rulers of India were at best can be described as cruel and redefined the boundaries of atrocities against other faiths.
Until the mid-7th century, the Persian Empire was dominated by a Zoroastrian majority. With the Arab invasion, the Islam’s intolerance towards other religious faiths started biting Zoroastrians. Muslims induced worst kind of atrocities against the Zoroastrians in the name of Allah. Like the Jews Zoroastrians faced discrimination almost everywhere in the World, from the hands of Romans, Chinese, Christians and Muslims. Zoroastrian migration to India has a history of around 1000 years. Zoroastrians are known as Parsi in India which means Persians. Unlike Christians or Muslims, Zoroastrians never tried to spread their religion. Parsis are the only group of religious migrants to India who contributed enormously, but demanded much less in return. Truly the best and the most praise worthy group of people ever to migrate to India. In India Parsis were never discriminated in any manner. Today there are only around 70000 Parsis living in India.
In 1959, the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, offered asylum to Dalai Lama and his followers. Dalai Lama setup a Tibetan Government in exile in Dharmasala. Many thousands of exile Tibetans lives here. The town is also known as Little Lhasa because of that. Another large Tibetan settlement is in Karnataka.
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