Dignity, Diversity And Democracy.
It is heartening to note that some organizations and citizens committed to preserve and promote the values of pluralistic democracy are coming together in Hyderabad on July 31 and August 1 under the banner of Indian Social Forum to deliberate on the ways and means to prevent the onslaught of the reactionary forces on pluralistic democracy, human dignity and human rights. They have chosen for their deliberation the theme: DIGNITY, DIVERSITY AND DEMOCRACY. They deserve appreciation, support and cooperation of all citizens and organizations. Let this endeavour contribute to the realization of the dream of the founding fathers, the dream of a society in which human dignity is respected, diversity in religion, culture and language are accepted and appreciated and democracy as way of life and governance is ensured.
Not only in India but also all over the world a resurgence of the right wing organizations, who promote exclusive ideologies, is found. The terrorists who massacre innocent people are motivated by ideologies that do not tolerate diversity and respect human rights and human dignity. The horrible scenes of the recent terrorist attacks in different parts of the world are still fresh in our memory: attack on the Pulse club in Orlando, US where 49 people were killed; attack on Holey Artisan Bakery cafe in Dhaka where 28 persons were brutally murdered; Bagdad bomb blast in which 119 people were killed; massacre in Nice city in France, where a terrorist drove a truck through crowds celebrating Bastille Day, killing 84 people. In all these inhuman and dastardly crimes, the attackers were motivated by an ideology that does not tolerate diversity and does not respect human dignity.
All political parties in India are after the votes of Dalits and adopt various strategies to woo them. The RSS-BJP combine has instructed the RSS members to adopt a dalit family and dine with that family in view of assembly election in UP next year. Rahul Gandhi sometimes appears in a dalit family, eating with family members. Mayawati, herself a dailit, had spent crores of rupees for erecting the statue of dalit icons. But no political party is interested in restoring the dignity of the dalits. Seven members of a Dalit family were beaten up by a group of gau rakshaks for skinning a dead cow in Una town of Gir Somnath district in Gujarat on July 13. A purported video of the victims being attacked with iron rods and sticks was circulated on social media. In the video, some of the victims were seen tied to a car, while the accused were beating them up. This kind of inhuman and cruel attack on the dalits had taken place in the past also. Discrimination of dalits continues in the Indian society and as a result they are forced to do dehumanizing works like skinning dead animals and manual scavenging. When dalits are attacked and their human dignity is violated our leaders keep mum. Why is RSS not condemning the attacks on the Daits? Is a dead cow more important than a living human being for Hindutavadis?
The nationalism promoted or imposed by the BJP-RSS combine is based on the Hindu identity as opposed to Muslim identity. Anyone who does not agree with the concept of nationalism promoted by RSS is branded as anti-national. According to Romila Thapar "the nationalism as it evolved historically was inclusive and drew on the idea of unification of diverse groups to form a new community of citizens. Concepts of nations based on a single exclusive identity-religious, linguistic, ethnic etc.-are actually pseudo-nationalisms and should be precluded from being called nationalism". The constitution of India presents to the people a secular and inclusive nationalism, a nationalism that accepts and appreciates diversity in religion, language and culture, a nationalism that ensures the dignity of every citizen. It is the kind of nationalism that "cannot be reduced merely to waving flags and shouting slogans and penalizing people for not shouting slogans like Bharat mata ki jai" as Romila Thapar has described in her essay, 'The Colonial Roots of Hindu Nationalism' in Outlook magazine (July 11, 2016).
Democracy does not mean periodic elections to the parliament and state legislatures alone. The will of the people is paramount in a democracy. Hence protecting the freedoms of the citizens is a sacred duty of the government elected by the people. Instead of protecting the freedoms of the citizens, the government often resorts to repression against dissenting views, in particular against religious minorities, Dalits and tribals and sexual minorities. The NGOs and Civil Society Organizations that organize the poor for protecting their rights are often targeted and penalized. The recent judgments of the Supreme Court restored Congress governments in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh. The SC severely reprimanded the Central government and the governors for resorting to unconstitutional means.
Thus the socio-political scenario of the country is worrying, if not alarming. Along with the denigration of the dignity of the individuals and attack on the pluralistic values of the Indian constitution by the right wing reactionary forces, the democratic freedoms of the individuals are violated and democratic structures are weakened. This situation demands effective and powerful response from the citizens if pluralistic democracy is to survive in India. Organizing Indian Social Forum for reflecting on the theme "Dignity, Diversity and Democracy" is indeed a timely response. A movement under the Citizen's Forum is launched in Bihar for disseminating the constitutional values as summarized in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution. The volunteers of the movement go to schools and address the high school students, making them aware of the beauty of the Indian constitution and their responsibility to practice and protect the constitutional values as responsible citizens. Posters depicting the preamble of the Indian Constitution are exhibited at prominent places in the schools. The volunteers also address citizens' groups, self-help groups of women and members of youth clubs.
The Church in India cannot remain complacent, as Muslims and Christians are perceived by the Hindutva forces as the enemies of the nation and these forces are doing the backseat driving of the present government. The Church personnel and institutions are often being targeted by the activists of the Sangh Parivar. The propaganda machinery of the Sangh Parivar has poisoned the minds of large majority of Hindus, including the students who have gone through the portals of our educational institutions, with the notion that the ultimate goal of all activities of Christians is converting Hindus to Christianity and thereby increase their number. In other words many Hindus look at the church as a foreign religious agency with a political agenda. Unfortunately, the Church has miserably failed to respond effectively to the false allegations of the Sangh Parivar and remove the misconceptions from the minds of the people of India.
After the government of India, the Catholic Church in India has the largest network of educational institutions all over the country and lakhs of students are being educated through the schools and colleges run by the church. In fact, this is the greatest strength of the Church. Why not the Church use it as a means for inculcating and promoting the Indian constitutional values among the students, teachers and parents: The Church has to shed its superiority complex that it is the only repository of truth and start accepting and appreciating other religions. Some practical suggestions for promoting the Indian constitutional values are the following.
Exhibit on the walls of educational institutions the symbols of different religions and quotations from different religious scriptures related to the values of love, justice, compassion, equality etc.
Create a prayer room where students of different religions can go and pray and mediate instead of bringing them to the church or chapel.
Celebrate the festivals of different religions with inter-religious prayer and explaining the message of the festival by someone who knows it correctly.
Exhibit at prominent places in the school the preamble of the Indian Constitution in bold letters, preferably in the local language.
Make available to the students, teachers and the parents a small booklet, summarizing the core values and principles of Indian Constitution.
Organize talks and seminars for the students and teachers on the constitution of India and encourage students to learn by-heart the preamble of Indian Constitution.
Organize cultural programmes, speech competition, essay competition, painting competition based on the values of Indian constitution.
Encourage the students to read the biography of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation and write review. Award the students who do well with suitable rewards.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Indian Currents.
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