By the people

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India being a democracy, one has to accept the elected representatives, whatever be their politics, religion and hue. But one can certainly hope that good sense will prevail, and people will vote only for those who will further the secular agenda, says Rashmi Oberoi. And not divisive policies, she prays..

WWhile we all had laughed at the Americans for voting Donald Trump to power and scoffed at the average American for being racist, we may now raise our eyebrows at the election of a ‘Yogi’ in our very own country as a Chief Minister, no less…! And that too a man, who has had a string of controversies behind him, has gun-toting followers, and has uttered the most bizarre theories in the past.

Blood pressures have naturally risen and people have ranted all over social media with the ‘Bhakts’ (followers of the ruling BJP or Bharatiya Janata Party,) all defensive and charged up. The jokes are aplenty and there are many who wake up each morning with nothing better to do than go on and on about their love or hatred for particular political parties/politicians, till it sounds like a stuck record!

We are a democratic nation and the people have spoken or rather decided that this is the way forward and this is how it will be for them. After all, you reap what you sow. But that doesn’t mean, we, as individuals, now get back to a lethargic mode and leave things in a limbo… No, as good citizens of this great country and responsible ones at that, ask yourself each day what you can do to further improve it, and change things for the better.

For, if things continue at this pace, the unceasing growth of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) will unleash radicals, awaken fringe elements, and result in actions that may spiral out of control. Maybe this is the moment when the opposition should push itself to rise from its slumber and cast an eye on the horizon. It just might be able to get its act together. We definitely need a strong opposition to counter balance. Prime Minister Modi will of course do his best to let the opposition continue in its blissful sleep.

Not my India
I have no interest in politics per se, nor am I an ardent supporter of any political party but yes, as an ordinary citizen. I definitely do not want a hardliner Hindutva ruling our secular nation. This is not my India. I feel parliamentary democracy in India has become a farce. For the proper working of parliamentary democracy, many pre-requisites are needed, and till the leaders are responsible and conscious of their duties and responsive to public opinion, democracy itself will not be stable, and we can certainly do without dictators.

The country requires someone who can get the job done with minimal expense. And saffron extremists facing trial on charges of incitement to communal rioting and attempt to murder, are certainly not required to be leaders in our country. Due to hasty decisions like this, communal cauldrons are simmering in so many parts of India, and the fear of them boiling over will be nothing short of catastrophic. Endorsing Hindutva’s hard-core hardliners will only result in tearing apart the secular fabric of our country.

The Amarnath yatra  (above) is sponsored by our government, as is the Haj pilgrimage

The Amarnath yatra (above) is sponsored by our government, as is the Haj pilgrimage

We grew up with pride knowing that India is ‘a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic’, and so shouldn’t all political parties based on religious ideologies be banned? Secularism implies “right to be free from religious rule”, and not “freedom from religious rule”. As a result, people are free to choose a religious party as their government, but the resulting government cannot impose a religion.

People naturally fear that religion-based parties would somehow turn the entire population into bigots and promote hatred between majority and minorities. We cannot deny that ultra-religious fringe groups wouldn’t exist or be associated with religious political parties. However, again due to the very nature of democracy, their political strength would remain curbed due to their hateful and divisive actions. Most important, the strength of a democracy lies in giving voice to everyone, to even those who we don’t like.

From a practical standpoint, Indian version of secularism differs from its Western counterparts. The Indian government has never considered religion as an enemy or even a competitor. That is why we see temples being run by government boards, and government sponsoring Haj pilgrimage and Amarnath yatra.

The vested interest of people behind communalism must come to an end for a truly secular India. There should be liberal space and respect for each religion. Great and deep subdivision of religion needs to be addressed urgently. Religion is personal, and must not interfere with politics. To strengthen secularism, whenever there is damage to religious sentiments, the government must deal with the perpetrators strictly, and the guilty must be punished.

It is my conviction that India’s survival as a multireligious, multilingual, multiracial, multicultural society will depend on how successful it is in working its secularism. No society can prosper or be at peace with itself if one-fourths of its population feels neglected, deprived and unwanted. It is disconcerting to see that, in recent times, serious questions are being raised about India’s secularism. It is for the first time since Independence that the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ ideology is being talked about so openly, defiantly and persistently.

For India to rise and shine once again, we need big time reforms to be a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic in the real sense and not just on paper.


Rashmi-Oberoi

Rashmi Oberoi

As an army officer’s daughter, Rashmi Oberoi was lucky to travel and live all over India, as also a few years in Malaysia and U.S.A. Keenly interested in writing for children, she wrote two story books – My Friends At Sonnenshine, which was published in 1999 by Writer’s Workshop, Kolkata, India, and Cherie: The Cocker Spaniel, which was published in 2009 by the same publishers. For a few years she moved into the corporate world of HR but her love for writing took precedence, and she pursued her passion by writing articles and middles for newspapers, print and online magazines, including a children’s magazine abroad.

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