Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are solely the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ScoopWhoop.
India has never been a country of one people. Even before the British, when we were a bunch of princely states, despite whatever religious intolerance might have existed during the time, the people living on this land always were a heterogeneous bunch.
But that doesn't mean in any way that we have always been a secular country. Even after independence, despite both Gandhi and Nehru calling for religious pluralism and agreeing that the country be founded on those principles, the word was not included in the preamble.
So when people make the argument that the 'S' word was never included in the original document upon which independent India was founded, I hear you.
You are factually correct. I, however, do not understand the problem a lot of us have with secularism, and a lot of us HAVE a problem with the whole idea of it, as this country has been painfully reminded this week.
By definition, secularism implies that religion should not play a role in government, education or other parts of public society. In short, it means the 'separation of religion and state'.
In a broader sense, secularism is the principle that allows people of different faiths to live and practice their beliefs with every bit of the freedom granted by the constitution. So your neighbour could be Muslim, Hindu, Christian, even worshippers of Thor or Zeus and enjoy the same rights as one who doesn't believe in any of them.
It seems like a rather simple idea- Live and let live. So where lies the problem?
Especially since we all read about respecting all religions and living in harmony in our NCERT books. So how have we suddenly demonised an entire community of people for the God they worship?
One would imagine what the cause could be. Well, speaking from experience, quite a bit of it seems to come from the environment we grow up in. In our homes, while nobody tells us to hate other religions, the belief that one's religion is better than anothers' is widely propagated, consciously or sub-consciously.
It begins with our parents, our neighbours, our elders. We grow up hearing horrible stories about Muslims and how they pose a danger to our way of life. We see them play terrorists on TV and in films. Literally, pop culture is littered with such examples.
Indian TV and cinema has found a brand to potray a Muslim character, an idea of what a Muslim must look like- strong ruthless men in Pathani kurtas, with a tabeez on their necks or on their arms, surma in ther eyes and maybe a turban or a skull cap and speaking Urdu half the time.
While most hardcore Hindutva members will tell you that the Muslims will overtake Hindus by population, they are actually so rare that most of us spend our entire lives without actually meeting many of them.
And from the ones I have met and have been friends with, and mind you, this is again a very small number, none of them dress like what Indian cinema makes you believe.
An image of the 'other' has been created in our heads and we have been conditioned to be scared of them. But are they that scary?
The second and the most pertinent argument fanatics have is history, which has been distorted to say the least. But let's not worry about that. Say, the Muslim rulers, from the Delhi Sultanate to the Mughals fought countless wars and slaughtered countless people, let alone Hindus.
Every word of that previous statement is factually correct. So what?
All of it happened centuries ago. So how does it matter? Every king in the history of the world has fought and killed innocents, irrespective of their religious beliefs.
As recently as the Second World War, the Japanese king Hirohito pushed the nation into supporting the Nazis and attacking nearly all its allies in Asia.
I mean, the British killed a shit load of people in the 300-odd years they were here. And yet, I don't see anyone boycotting Harry Potter!
We all seemed to cheer when Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire won at the Oscars!
And the claim about us being the original residents, come on guys. This land has been home to hundreds of cultures and communities from across the globe, all living with each other for thousands of years. So it's very unlikely that anyone can ever pin point which of us were here first.
To conclude, we are all Indians. So why are we going after our own people?