Bigotry should have no place in secular India


Mustafa Al Zarooni

Published: Sun 3 May 2020, 10:19 AM

Last updated: Sun 3 May 2020, 12:25 PM

Humanity is afflicted by an old disease that has claimed more victims than almost any epidemic. This disease targets the minds of people with nervous thoughts, sows biases and prejudices against people, thoughts, communities, or certain set of beliefs. 
It is called hate, bigotry, intolerance for different views.
Minds filled a jaundiced view of life know no reasoning. They lack compassion, empathy, kindness - traits that help societies become tolerant and progressive in a real sense. 
But there's no reasoning with biased minds. The bigotry often leads to bitterness, which then morphs into intolerance and rage that cares little for people. There is no respect for even women and children. The power of weapons rather than dialogue is used to prove the point. There are no middle grounds, only conflicts ensue. This is how societies get embroiled in civil wars, losing all semblance of progress and civility. 
We are seeing examples of such behaviour in many societies. 
In our connected world, we become aware of such behaviours instantly. There are tweets, messages, statements of people voicing their prejudice. There's unabashed commentary, and little respect for others, and a lot of this is perhaps done to gain power, political or otherwise, or seek influence among a wider audience. Hate speech is employed to win over people, and sway views. 
One of the societies exhibiting such behaviour is India, a land that has been plagued with sectarianism for decades. Its partition in 1947 was based on religious differences. India was divided into two, the mainland, and Pakistan. And more than two decades later, a further division in Pakistan led to the birth of Bangladesh.
India is a secular country, yet some of its political factions have created divisions based on religion for their own gains. Over the years appeasement policies have hardened views, made people bitter, and some left with the feeling that justice is only for a few. Resentment among a few quarters has led to the rise of militancy and conflicts. 
Political parties and leaders in India should respect the country's secular credentials, especially the RSS, an organisation that has been vocal about subjugating the Muslims in the country.
I respect that this is India's internal matter, but I feel the pain of hundreds of thousands when I see tweets, messages, pictures on social media of Muslims being treated badly in the country. It won't be long before such divisiveness and sectarianism explodes so bad that it won't just bruise India but also the region around it. 
Political leaders should amicably settle differences. They should be responsible for their statements, and decorum while in public. Their tone, words are powerful. They can inspire people to unite, or further widen the gulf based on religions and beliefs. 
There is beauty in tolerance, in unity, in solidarity. As countries across the world battle the pandemic, we are realising the importance of such values all the more. It is important to re-educate societies and encourage people to be together, to fight together, and emerge stronger from this crisis. And this arguably can only be done by a country's legislative and judiciary. 
Countries should tighten their law and order to protect all citizens, and not just a few. No one should be immune to bigotry. Hate speech must be a crime in any civil society. A strict judicial system and laws should be followed and offenders must be prosecuted. 
Citizens on the other hand can help by being more responsible when sharing content. There is little merit in sharing information that incites violence, prejudice. We have various platforms that allow free speech but this privilege comes with a responsibility and we all should be mindful of that. 

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