India is one of the first nations on the earth to practice Pluralism, i.e., respecting others’ otherness. While the Hindu ethos considers the world as one family, also known as Vasudhaiva Kutumbukum, the Islamic, Christian, and other traditions also subscribe to the idea that we originated from a single couple. Together, these values ‘had’ contributed to India’s post-independence political stability. We have lost those values now.
As a nation, we were bestowed with diversity; the characteristics of the entire world are contained in our country; India. Collectively we are Adivasis, Atheists, Bahais, Bos, Buddhists, Christians, Dalits, Hindus, Jains, Jewish, Muslims, Sikhs, Tribal, Zoroastrians, and every possible grouping. We are also Brown, Black, White, and Yellow. India ‘was’ indeed God’s own country until recently.
India is also the first nation on earth where God has placed people of different faiths and races together as a model of co-existence. India has been a beacon of Pluralism, and now the divisiveness, discord, and distrust are causing social instability.
How do we get out of this?
On August 15, 2020, we will be celebrating the 74th Independence Day and we need to determine as a nation if we really love our motherland, or is it a political stunt? Our mother wants all of her children to get along with each other.
Lord Krishna, blessings upon him, whose birth celebrations conclude this week, said, whenever adharma (chaos) takes over a people, I will emerge from among you to restore dharma (righteousness). We hope the time has come for that catalytic change.
We are not dictatorships or kingships, where an individual dictates how we behave and what we do. We are a democracy, and we decide how we want our nation to be.
The political leaders are good at coining new phrases without meaning a word of it. The slogan “Sab ka saath, sab ka Vikas aur sab ka Vishwas” is pragmatic and is the right attitude to bring prosperity to the nation. Thus far, it is nothing but a political slogan as the leadership has not brought the Indians together, nor has it earned their trust.
The change begins with leadership.
When an 8-year old child was raped, and her body was mutilated; when Tabrez Ansari was brutally murdered, and the video was circulated; and when Dalit girls were raped and hung on trees, Modi did not speak. When a church was vandalized, when attempts were made to evict Sikhs from their land as settlers, and about 120 such incidents, the man shamelessly remained silent. However, when he saw the national outrage, he paid lip service and spoke the words he did not mean.
If Modi were to speak after each incident, the chaos would subside, the lynching of fellow Indians will stop. All he has to say is I will not tolerate any Indian harassing a fellow Indian, and the violators will be punished severely, and follow through it. But will he?
The change also begins with our children.
As a parent, should you poison your children towards others? The answer should be no, but yet we do it.
A doctor, a son of my friends’ friend, was a guest at my place for a few weeks while attending meetings related to his residency. At the end of his stay – he said, “I wish my parents had not poisoned me against Blacks, Muslims, Christians, and Jews; everything I have heard from them turned out to be false.” He continued, “I have lived in dorms with others, and now with you, they were plain wrong.”
He agreed, when you are biased towards others, it affects your work performance. Your relationship with fellow workers will not be clean as you were poisoned against them. You keep a reserve with your fellow worker, and subconsciously, you don’t trust and share everything with them. That attitude reduces your contribution to your work, and you will not be able to serve your employer with full integrity. And when you go home, you are not giving 100 percent to your family either, and you are obsessed with your hatred towards the other.
Would you hire someone like that to work for you?
We have to reject the poison injected into us by our parents, teachers, and religious men. It takes away the joy of conflict-free living.
Our attitudes need to re-align.
As the cities become cosmopolitan, you will not find a place of work, worship, playground, school, restaurant, theater, and other areas of public gatherings where you will not see people of different faiths, and ethnicities are interacting, working, studying, intermingling, playing and even marrying each other.
These interactions are bound to create conflicts. We must prevent such disputes, so each Indian can live securely with his or her faith, culture, gender, race, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.
God created each one to be a unique being with our thumbprint, eye print, taste buds, religious buds, and DNA, and we have lost that ideal in the last few years. We cannot force others to do what we want without giving them the same right to tell us what they want us to be.
A vast majority of us have heard ‘false’ things about others from our friends, news, social media, or our knowledge of others, and we instantly form opinions about others. As responsible individuals, we must strive to strip stereotyping and build pathways to ensure our society is functioning smoothly.
We need to reassure each other, loudly and clearly, that together as Indians, we must commit to safeguarding every Indian’s lifestyle, however different that maybe. Together as Indians, we must uphold, protect, defend, and celebrate the values enshrined in our Constitution, a guarantor of the way of life for each one of us.
Let me state this clearly, “My peace and tranquility hinges on the peace of people around me,” and “My safety is tied to the security of people around me.” It behooves me to build societies where all are secure; it guarantees my security and tension free life.
As we learn to respect others’ otherness and accept the God-given uniqueness of each one of us, conflicts fade, and solutions emerge.
*Dr. Mike Ghouse is the founder and president of the Center for Pluralism. He is a speaker, thinker, author, consultant, pluralist, activist, a news-maker, and an interfaith wedding officiant. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions to the media, public, and policymakers. More at www.TheGhousediary.com