The world is made up of people adhering to different faiths. That's the beauty of it. Sans a few places on earth where the state subscribes to a particular religion, most nations allow religious freedom. One of the most religiously pluralistic nations on the earth is India. Regardless of what some political parties in the country allege, we are a shining example of coexistence and tolerance. Lately, August 14 was designated as the Partition Horrors Remembrance Day – a step in the right direction. Partition, as we all know, was on religious grounds. A body blow dealt with the British when they realized they could no longer enslave us.
India's beauty of religious plurality is intact despite the mala fide endeavours by a few political parties that do not shy from using faith as a tool to garner votes. This beauty, to sustain from hereon, relies on parity among adherents of all faiths. Parity essentially exists in our legislative, executive and judicial wings, thanks to the Constitution that mandates no distinction. But the same parity is jeopardized when some politicians and activists take a selective approach towards traditions of a particular religion.
Even if it is done to a person or community having an edge, wrong is wrong. That's the premise on which modern jurisprudence rests. It treats every person equally. There can be no provision for harsher punishment for a person with more means and no leniency for the unprivileged. That's parity – something the opposition parties of India have long forgotten. From this aspect, a wrong on the majority of faith and its traditions are simple and true.
For the past few years, a deliberate attempt is being made by so-called environmentalists to undermine the majority faith traditions by decrying some of these as detrimental to the socio-environmental landscape of the country. Fireworks, which are said to have been invented in China during the Song dynasty, and have been part and parcel of the Indian festivities during Diwali, have become one such tool in the hands of left-wing activists.
It is true that the return of Lord Rama was accompanied by the lighting of diyas in Ayodhya and elsewhere. At the same time, it is also true that the Gregorian calendar was introduced only in 1582, and England was using March 25 as the date of the beginning of a New Year until 1751. Traditions changed, and January 1 was declared as the first day of the year, prompting fireworks on the night of December 31. Hindus across the world, in a similar fashion, adopted new customs to commemorate Lord Rama's return to his kingdom.
Human traditions have always evolved with time. But at the same time, this evolution cannot be allowed to come forcibly. This force seems to be bothering the Hindu community's beliefs under the guise of modernism and socio-environmental progress. There is not an iota of doubt that the rich countries are responsible for the rising temperatures. Had it not been for the rapid industrialization of the West in the 17th and 18th centuries, global warming and related aspects would never have bothered us. But when the West underwent this so-called glorious phase of industrialization on the back of burning fossil fuels, it was projected as the evolution of humans to a more civilized way of living.
Christianity is the dominant religion in the West, but no emerging economy of today blames the religion for the rise in temperatures and health consequences and costs it has brought. The point is religion cannot be blamed or messed up when the root cause of damage is deliberate, reckless acts of humans.
In the same light, any faith and the associated justifiable traditions cannot be called out just because other religions do not want to partake in them. It's also important to recall here that broad-minded adherents of other religions actively partake in Diwali celebrations – including the lighting of diyas and fireworks. The issue is that a few adherents of the Hindu faith are sometimes the culprits behind damaging the sacrosanct fabric that underpins the religion.
Falling prey to these elements' appeal is easy. They misuse critical subject matters to destroy the tenets of the very religion they belong to. The motive is drawing the public's attention to make some quick name and money, and at times, political gains. That's a lot. Many non-governmental organizations claiming to be working for human rights, environmental activism and political awakening are used as an instrument for laundering money is a harsh fact.
By all counts, Hinduism is the most liberal major religion of the world, also the most diverse. From West Bengal to the Hindi heartland in the north, adherents of this religion have their unique customs to celebrate any particular event. Lord Ganesha unites Maharashtrians. Goddess Durga brings together the Bengalis, and in the north, it is a sort of mixed bag. There is little space for fanaticism or orthodoxy.
Unlike in some other faiths, where fasting remains at the heart of adherence, Hinduism is more liberal. But at the same time, the sad part is that the so-called ultra-liberal section, covertly supported by orthodox and fanatic wings of other faiths, wants even the selective belief Hindus have for fasting to fade away.
The problem is not these 'activists' and left-wing propagandists decrying fireworks on Diwali in the environment's name. It is about diminishing parity. It is about linking environmental damage to the traditions of the Hindu faith.
The world is made up of people adhering to different faiths. That's the beauty of it. Parity calls for letting even the majority dominant faiths preserve their justifiable traditions. Neither can London's riverside New Year fireworks display nor can Diwali celebrations be allowed to be misused to undermine any faith and score political points.
(The writer is a Businessman & Consultant)