Intro: The Constitution has a clause on minority right to be preserved and protected in India. Still, political parties are vying with each other to appease minorities by bestowing special rights and privileges.
Dr Subramanian Swamy’s article in Independence Day special issue of Organiser must be revealing to most of the readers. Ever since our constitution was adopted there were debates and discussions going on about minority rights in India. The constitution has a clause on minority right to be preserved and protected in India. But strange to say that, as Swamy says, there is no definition of minority in Indian constitution nor is there a definition in neither the UN resolution nor a universally accepted resolution of the term in any international law. Still the so called minorities in India – the Muslims and the Christians – have been enjoying the rights guaranteed in the constitution, but also have been clamouring for more and more. Political parties are vying with each other to appease them by bestowing special rights and privileges, because they consider them as their vote bank. This policy followed by the Congress and Marxists is encouraging divisive forces and if not checked will lead to the disintegration of the country. It must be remembered that partition of India took place on the basis of religious minority and majority in the various provinces. But it did not end the policy of appeasement even after 1947. This is a very dangerous trend. Dr Swamy has suggested that all patriotic Indians including Christians and Muslims should come forward to declare they have no special historical backwardness to claim disability of any kind. In fact they were a privileged class and Hindus were persecuted subjects under their rule. Minorities in Pakistan – Hindus, Sikhs and Christians – are facing persecution both by brutal attack as well as by enforcing the blasphemy law. This state of affairs has been accepted by the world almost a natural and normal way. Hindus also do not seem to expect better conditions in Pakistan. Even in Kashmir, Pandits are treated as third rate citizens despite the fact that pre-Independent ruler in Kashmir was a Hindu.
That this must happen to Hindus appears to be a cruel irony of fate because Hindus have been, as a religious community, too liberal and generous to people belonging to every other religion. Right from the Vedic times they were brought up in the tradition that all ways of worship lead to the same goal, Swami Vivekananda stated in his famous Chicago speech that Hindus not only tolerated other religions but also accepted and respected them. The only country in the world that has given asylum to the persecuted refugees and has given absolute freedom of worship and helped them to flourish in every way is India. Swami Vivekananda proudly declared this in his Chicago speech, “I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to Southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation. I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is everyday repeated by millions of human beings: ‘As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee. There is a beautiful story about Zoroastrian`s landing in Saurashtra (Gujarat) as refugees when they were driven out of their home. In Swami Ranganathananda’s words “We could welcome foreign religions like Judaism and Zoroastrianism in India: ‘You are welcome, continue to practise your religion. We shall give all help to you.’ That is what happened to the Parsis, the Zoroastrians when they were severely persecuted in Persia (now Iran) by the rising tide of Islam, came to India in the 8th or 9th century AD, the king of a state in Gujarat welcomed them, gave them full freedom to practise their culture and their religion. This fascinating story, which has no parallel in any other country, is well narrated by Piloo Nanavathy, a Parsi lady, in her book, “The Parsees”. Now this attitude is universal in India. We are not to be taught this thing, whereas in every other country one has to teach it, because that is not their way and attitude. ‘If I am very religious, I am fanatical, I cannot be liberal,’ that was the Western and West Asian attitude.”
Now compare this with what is happening to Yazidis in Iraq. We must remember that it was 2000 years back that the Jews landed in India and about 1,400 years that the Parsis came to India. These may be considered as illustrations of the state of affairs in India at that period of history. There were no compulsions or any international law or any necessity to grant protection to anyone driven out of their homes. It was the generosity and cultural tradition of Hindus that made them do so. But, what is happening in Iraq to the hapless Yazidis in the year of 2014? There are organisations like UNO and there are rules and regulations regarding minority protection and refugee status. Yazidis are a miniscule minority of about 1, 50, 000 people living in the midst of an ocean of Muslims. The story of their persecution and mass killings have been appearing in all the media of the world, but it seems nobody is keen on applying those laws in the case of Yazidis. This small folk of people pose absolutely no danger to anyone in the world much less to the fierce Jihadis. They are people who have simple ways of life, and follow some ritual practices which have much in common with Indian tradition and mythology. Still the civilised world is looking upon this happenings either heartlessly or helplessly. There is an old proverb in India in Sanskrit, “even the God does not protect the weak.” If not anyone else, can not the Indian people try to organise support to Yazidis through constitutional means preferably on international forums before their total elimination from the face of the earth?
There is a sharp contrast between the religious approach of Hindus and Abrahamic religions. Even among Abrahamic religions, Islamists in general and Jihadists in particular follow the most intolerant attitude. Probably this contrast can be attributed to the conspicuous difference between the places of origin of Hinduism and the others. Hinduism was born in Bharat where variety is not only tolerated but also celebrated. It is like a beautiful garden where flowers of all hues and colours co-exists and lend an experience that is unique. Harmonious co-existence, lending a helping hand to each other is the normal attitude in Hinduism. Abrahamic religions have their origin in the desert regions where there is only monotony and no variety. There may be green patches here and there but the norm is monotony. It would appear that these natural characteristic of the region has influenced the nature of their religion and their approach to “the other”.
P Parameswaran (The writer is the Director of Bharatheeya Vichara Kendram, Thiruvananthapuram)