Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Indian History X

After a zillion rave reviews from a number of friends, I borrowed a tape of American History X from the college’s library. And spent the last couple of hours thinking about the movie’s theme and how the issues portrayed thereon parallel Indian History over the last 50 years or so. And I could help noticing coincidences here. I borrowed the tape a couple of days ago and then suddenly the whole of the Indian media is ablaze with stories of the Kanchi Acharya’s letter to the All India Muslim Personal Law Board chairman Maulana Rabe Hasan Nadvi. The events of the last few days and today, the movie, have raised so many questions in my mind. But the movie also gives us what should be the most important question we have ever asked or rather haven’t asked ourselves ever in our life. And that’s just what we, as Indian citizens, regardless of religious membership should ask ourselves too. “Has anything you've done made your life better?“ Once we get an answer to this question, I think all our souls can rest in peace. And the answer to the question, according to me is a resounding “NO”.

Some of us burnt people alive and some of us went out with a sword to take revenge and all this because some of us broke down an ancient building, which served purpose to no one except a student of history, an ilk whose members form a very small percentage of our populace. Whether this was planned or it was an impulsive act from a couple of fools is yet sub-judice, but then it is intended that this contest will not leave the gates of the Supreme Court (or which ever court it is being tried now) in a hurry.

Humans are foolish and by the way, on the account of the fact that I am human, I am a fool too. We allow us to be manipulated by anyone who has figured out that we are a fool. And in this case, these manipulators are the religious leaders. That these religious leaders are also part our political landscape is perhaps the greatest collective blunder that our populace is guilty of, apart from all the procreation that has filled the country with more of the kind. The doctors advise against marriage among close relations, but will there arise a point in time where marriage among the citizens of same country would be frowned upon? Maybe that’s the only cure for this kind of demented behavior that has plagued our country right from its re-birth. We are seeing a reversal that will or may have already lead us to a situation parallel to that existing in medieval Europe.

I am a member of the so-called majority in India, the Hindus, who call themselves so pure and so soft that they don’t kill defenseless animals like the cow. But it is the same people who completely went against the teachings of their own “holy books” and turned aggressors to break down a place of worship. So did we set into motion a cataclysmic sequence of events that has torn asunder most of the country’s populace, one way or the other? Maybe we did, maybe we did not, but the effects of that razing continue to hound us even after a dozen years.

The main reason for this – the so-called religious leaders and the political parties who have yet not learnt to leave their religious affiliations at home when they come to their office. And another reason being – The religious leaders who think they know how to rule this country. The ruling party has not been able to shake off its militant roots and its members tend to make statements that contradict both themselves and the party’s “official stand” on many an issue. Hence it is sometimes difficult to understand the government course of action along certain lines.

Then come the religious leaders. These leaders have, in the last decade decided to take a number of initiatives, the latest of which has been the Kanchi Shankaracharya’s meeting and letter to the All India Muslim Personal Law Board chairman Maulana Rabe Hasan Nadvi. Now going through the contents of this letter, it is obvious where the whole initiative is going wrong. Read this - “Your board, on our request, may consider giving a no objection statement regarding construct of mandir upon the undisputed/acquired area”. That line is the first step of the proposed initiative to arrive at a “compromise solution” (??). Correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding of the English language (in which this letter was originally written) leads me to believe that “compromise” means a half solution that each warring party might accept on the light of concessions from both sides. To ask for a temple on the disputed site after having illegally demolished the existing mosque reeks of a demented mind. This is not an attack on anybody associated with the initiative, but it is an attack on the initiative, on the whole idea behind the initiative, on the fact that people still think religion can be a substitute for law and that too in a secular country like India.

I am not an atheist. I certainly believe that the ONE exists above us and sometimes looks after us in ways that we cannot understand. However I do understand that still there are a lot of things that can be solved using scientific logic and not just by walking on water. We have to remind ourselves that we are in the 21st century now and not in a time where a Crusade or two can help restore dominance of a religion. Which means that the laws of the land are supreme and these laws cannot be religious in nature if the people intend to be secular. Hence the model followed by the Middle East cannot be used in India.

So all this leads us to what has been irking a lot of people in India, the move to unveil a Uniform Civil Code and bring everyone under one set of laws as it prevails in most other countries. In fact even in the countries that strictly follow the Shariat, there are no existing laws specifically of people from other religions. So a Uniform Civil Code is the key. But this has been opposed by the different groups of people who have long grown used to easier ways of getting past the law of the land. I don’t know anything about the specifics of such a code. However since a lot of people have been seen to propose compromise initiatives, I am sure a lot of acceptable compromises can be arrived at while framing such a code. But will the judiciary be given a free hand?

From the above harangue, all of you who have seen Edward Norton’s outburst against the INS in American History X, will identify me as the same fool that I have described earlier. Believe me when I say that I am fighting against it. And since nothing we have done has improved our life, why don’t we do something different and change the laws of the land?

QOTD: "I'm the most dangerous man in this prison. You know why? 'Cause I control the underwear." - Fellow inmate to Derek Vinyard (American History X , 1998)

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