United States President Barack Obama’s high profile visit concluded Tuesday with his address at the Siri Fort Auditorium. The President advised the hosts not to indulge in controversies and conflicts in the name of religion if they were to develop India into a superpower in the future.
Addressing a gathering of students and other invitees at the end of his visit the US President said, “India will succeed as long as it is not splintered along religious lines, or other lines.” He also invoked the Article 25 of the Indian Constitution to drive his point home more forcefully. Article 25 guarantees religious freedom in India.
Every person has the right to practice and profess his faith according to his choice without fear or discrimination, Obama said, confessing at the same time how he was “treated differently” in his own country because of his color.
In his 40 minute address the visiting US President touched upon religious freedom, gender equality, and helping the poor to realize their aspirations. Respective government is vested with the responsibility of protecting this freedom. The President lamented the practice of using religion to tap the dark side of man. He cautioned the Indians not to get divided over religion lest they want their country to scale new heights of development.
Obama’s words of caution came as a most sought after opportunity for the political opponents of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party. They saw this as a great opportunity to attack the ‘Ghar vapasi’ program being conducted by some Hindu organizations in various parts of the country. Tensions ran high over these programs in the recent past.
The decimated Congress leaders, enthused by these warning remarks, were the first to grab this opportunity to attack the government. Anand Sharma, Manish Tewari, Digvijay Singh, you name them and they’re there. All of them sarcastically asked whether the Prime Minister would take punitive action against the VHP and RSS for justifying ‘Ghar vapasi’.
Other secular and Left leaders too joined the chorus while the BJP put a brave defense and analyzed the remarks by Obama in the right earnest. KC Tyagi of JD(U) and D Raja of CPI accused the US President of dragging India into this controversy and conflicts.
All said and done, one needs to go deeper to analyze the import of Obama’s statement. India is known for her unique unity in diversity. We have as many faiths as per the choice of the people and all of them living in perfect harmony and peace. All the faiths and sects were born in this very land called India. The conflicts in the name of religion started in India with the entry of alien religions like Christianity and Islam.
The peculiarity of India-born faiths was that all of them not only respected each other, but also believed each one as a path that leads to knowledge of the Supreme Reality or Godhead. Christianity and Islam did not believe in this plurality and tried to convert people of this land either by force or deceit using all fraud and foul means. History is replete with such examples.
By character India and Indians are secular. When the Persians came from Iran persecuted by the invading hordes of Islamists, they were given shelter, freedom of worship and religious pursuits by the Hindu King of Gujarat. Today, there are 138000 Persians all over the world with 69000 of them living in India alone.
When the Christian s came to the coast of Kerala, they were given shelter, land, permission to build churches, freedom to profess their religion of the Hindu king and his Hindu subjects. Similarly, when the followers of Islam came to India they were given shelter, allowed freedom of religion and faith by the Hindu king and his Hindu subjects. But both these faiths tried to convert the local Hindu people into their faith by force, fraud and foul means. Thus, advising Hindus to subscribe and adhere to the idea of religious harmony and peace and secularism is like proverbial carrying coal to New Castle.
Today 99.99 percent Christians and Muslims in India are converted from their Hindu ancestry. They share the same ancestors, same culture, same traditions and same motherland with their Hindu counterparts, but for their separate ways of worship. The conflict that is seen today is mainly the result of the wrong interpretation of secularism by the Congress and its various hues, the Communists and the Media. In their dictionary secular became ‘anti-Hindu’ and ‘Hindu’ became communal. This is the root cause of religious conflicts in India.
Another equally important factor that caused religious tensions was a wrong translation of ‘Dharma’ as religion. In India, Dharma referred to the duties of the citizens towards their parents, fellow-citizens, society, country, etc. The term never referred to a way of worship. Dharma is the set of values and ethos that held the society together for eons and these values are time-pervading, eternal in character and unchangeable.
The leaders of independent India failed miserably to remind the converted Indians their relationship with Hindu Dharma, traditions and culture. The Congress leaders in their pursuit of vote bank politics, made these religious groups forget their rich culture and traditions. On the other hand, they criminally neglected the national Hindu character of this country and its people to the extent of an insult. They also reduced the all-encompassing, all-inclusive ‘Hindu’ to a mere faith like Christianity and Islam. This was the conspiracy to undermine the Hinduness of the people of this land. The RSS, VHP and other Hindu organizations are only trying to rekindle the flame of this Hinduness so that the people professing different faiths can realize their common past and stand as ‘One Country-One People-One Culture’.
Religion gave choice to an individual to choose his way of releasing the Supreme Reality. That used to be his or her way of attaining spiritual uplift. That was considered purely personal and the state would never interfere in it. In that sense, the administration or government has always been secular in India. The history of religious conflicts begins only with the advent of Christianity and Islam not only in India but wherever these religions went they destroyed the original culture and converted the people to their fold. They believed that theirs was the only true path of salvation and therefore bringing the entire human race under their umbrella became their sole objective.
Today also these conversion activities are going on in India unabated mostly by the innumerable Christian Church organizations. Most of these organizations receive funds for carrying out these conversions from their American and other western sympathizers. Will Barack Omaba show the same courage to tame these sympathizers and put an end to the religious conflicts in India as he asked us Indians to shun religious conflicts?
India has been the guiding light to the humanity on religious harmony and togetherness. Long before the advent of Christianity and Islam, the people of this land lived and progressed in unison. The multi-faith character of India holds guarantee to this religious freedom.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi knows this very well. That is why he became the first leader to talk the language of 125 crore Indians and ‘Sab ka Saath- Sab ka Vikas’. This is well within the all-encompassing ambit of Hindu or Indian values and ethos that see beyond religions. The entire country is very much influenced by his talks of development and awaiting the fruits of it.
It would have been better had the US President understood the Hindu concept of Dharma and western concept of Religion. He should have studied the history of the alien religions and their character in dealing with the indigenous cultures and peoples before advising the Indians to shun religion conflicts etc.
That would have saved him of this unwarranted and uncalled for advice for the Indians.
By: Virag Pachpore