The mating game Republic at Risk

In a letter to the Outlook Magazine Admiral Ramu Ramdas [former Chief of Naval Staff] and Lalita Ramdas express outrage at the 'Politics of Hate' that appears to be gaining ground in India today.

Sitting here in our village home, keeping in touch with the world through internet and journals like yours, we ask ourselves how many fires can we fight? And yet it appears that there is really NO option except to keep fighting them and to stand up for what we see as the values and beliefs which are intrinsic to the foundations on which this civilisation (if indeed we can use that term any longer!) is based.

We have been reading the comprehensive coverage in your magazine, of the ghastly and inhuman murder of members of the Stein family in Manoharpur. We have also just read(over the internet) the highly slanted report of the murders [from Rashtradeep - Orissa] with its not so oblique insinuations that Stein and his family deserved what they got. What a coincidence that the Santhals and the Kolhas apparently lost their patience 34 years after Graham Stein came to work and live in Keonjhar - and decided to attack them when there is a BJP government in power at the centre, and the Sangh Parivar have targeted the Christians as the new enemies! It is hard to believe that so called educated people hold these views and what is more sinister, use their power and technology to propagate them in the most dangerous fashion over the internet from their comfortable spaces in American Universities. It is also interesting that the millions of dollars sent by overseas Indians and NRIs to support fascist activities in the name of Hindutva are not questioned or attacked. If only we can learn from the lessons of history, we would see that we are moving inexorably along the path to fascism - and it is the silence of the majority which can only hasten this.... 

Yes, we too are Hindus - comfortable in the freedom of thought that it provides, and because of which we can also look at our own tradition critically and see and understand all the warts and the distortions which it also accomoates.But what we are seeing propagated in the name of Hinduism is a far cry from the philosophy to which we subscribe. If we had been born Dalit, or Tribal, or experienced oppressiveness and discrimination in the name of religion, we too might have opted for Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or any faith which promised us a better deal and the hope of social justice and dignity. Certainly free India's Constitution guarantees each of us that freedom.

In all the polemics and passion that we see around us, one hears little if any questioning, or critiquing of the built-in inequities within Hinduism - only the shrill and fearful howls of Hindutva with its distorted and dangerous ideology of linking religion with nationalism and patriotism. If we believe that it is the spirit of inquiry and the search for truth which is the hallmark of both science and religion, then let us stop blaming others, and begin looking inwards in the real quest for self knowledge and encourage our people to bring about the changes within, rather than demonising other faiths, other denominations.

But the 'Politics of Hate' is so much easier than the Quest for Truth. It has always been convenient to mobilise the mob - be it against masjids or mandirs, Dalits, Tribals, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, 'Madrasis' 'Bangladeshis' 'Pakistanis'. We continue to rely on fanning the flames of hatred for 'The Other" to exercise power instead of getting to grips with the real issues of this country - poverty, education, employment and all-pervasive inequality . The issue is not one of Conversions or Christianity, but a question of how to exploit those who who have no identity or hope of a 'space in the sun' as the foot soldiers in the service of the armies of destruction and mayhem who can terrorise, garner votes when needed, and ensure political power at all costs.

Ultimately, it is through our economic policy decisions and the right kind of education in our classrooms that we can hope to build the kind of India that our Constitution has promised.For now, we can only ask and hope that the right thinking majority of people in this land, regardless of their religious affiliations, will speak up before it is too late.
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- Admiral Ramu Ramdas [former Chief of Naval Staff] and Lalitha Ramdas
  1999


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