Transform religious outlook

Law Against Lynching

By Dhurjati Mukherjee

Religious fanatics have led to undermining the interests of the minority, thereby fomenting communal tensions and creating social upheavals. The true secular aspect of the country’s social fabric has suffered a jolt. In fact, a recent study has pointed out that true secularism leads to growth and prosperity. According to a 109-country study, secularism and tolerance for individuals appear to precede economic development. Researchers, have for the first time, analysed the changing levels of secularism, tolerance and the gross domestic product of countries across the 20th century.
The findings hold significance for India, where it was perceived that in 2014 many had set aside concerns on secularism and voted for Narendra Modi’s promises on economic growth. In fact, Daniel Lawson, of the University of Bristol and a senior member of the research team found that cultural values of secularism and tolerance have “historically been very important in creating societies that go on to becoming economically successful”. The study found that a single unity of a quantitative measure of secularism corresponded to a $1000 increase in the per capita GDP after ten years, $2000 after 20 years and $5000 after 30 years.
One may mention here that economists of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had earlier indicated that tolerance expands opportunities for economic activity to previously excluded groups. However, in many countries, including India, recent events have demonstrated that tolerance levels of socio-religious groups have been on the decline. Rather, there is a growing trend towards right-wing governments.
This brings us to the question of the formation of a committee by the NDA government to probe matters pertaining to the rising lynching incidents and mob violence following the Supreme Court’s adverse comments that both the Centre and States need to do much more to curb the trend. This committee in turn is expected to recommend to a Union Cabinet committee the framing a law against lynching as was specifically directed by the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, in an advisory, the Union Home Ministry has pointed out that “incidents of violence and lynching by mobs in some parts of the country, fuelled by various kinds of rumours and unverified news such as child-lifting, theft, cattle smuggling are a matter of serious concern”. The question arises whether framing a Central law alone would help contain the incidents as it is equally important that there is a political will on the issue. Laws are no deterrent when mindsets are polluted with silent support from those who encourage the culture of hate.
A July 19 report by IndiaSpend, a website found that 98 per cent of all cow-related violence since 2010 had taken place after Modi came to power in May 2014 and that 33 people were lynched in 86 attacks, mostly in BJP-ruled States. This clearly proves that the political will is somewhat missing among the political leaders in a utopian thinking of promoting Hinduism.
Another study found that India witnessed 822 communal flare-ups in 2017, the highest for a year and a 27 per cent rise from 2014, wherein 111 people were killed, according to data provided by Union Home Ministry to the Rajya Sabha, on July 27.
The whole understanding of life and society has to change not just towards religion but also towards the community, whose interests and lifestyles need to be respected. How can one think that only the religious and social interests of a group – may be being in the majority — would rule while those of others be neglected? Fellow feeling and understanding needs to be encouraged in a big way as this has always been our religious tradition and heritage.
Remember, Swami Vivekananda had boldly maintained the need and importance of understanding and appreciating each other’s religion and called for unity among all religions. But precious little has been done thus far to synthesize the salient issues of all religions and generating awareness in this regard. It is vital that this has to start right from the school level and also at religious congregations to make the people realise that all religions propagate tolerance, love and compassion.
It is believed that while Western culture has made us narrow-minded and sectarian, it has also had an effect on the aggressiveness of people, who think themselves superior and what they preach and practice is the best. Such an opinion has to change and instead transform the minds of people, a little away from promoting fanatic religion to welfare issues of the poor and the neglected in that particular religious group.
Recently an eminent monk, the Secretary of Ramakrishna Mission, told the undersigned that he was an ardent supporter of Vivekananda’s understanding of life and thus believed that a person who spends even a little time working for his community may be considered a more religious person than his counterpart, who just prays before the almighty without any creative work for the masses. This approach needs to be emulated by our religious leaders so that we can overcome the materialistic influx and aggressiveness that has vitiated life and society.
It is foolish to expect at this point that the political class will speak in one voice as their political interests i.e. the strategy to garner votes at any cost is uppermost in their scheme of things. The perspective of transforming society has taken a back seat and that is why real concern for the people is less cared for.
However, even without the support of the political class, we may try to help change the people’s thinking as some religious leaders preach and practice Swami Vivekananda’s thinking pertaining to unity of all religions and bringing various such groups together. Moreover, he gave much emphasis on socio-economic development of the people and improving their living conditions, which unfortunately remains somewhat stagnant. Is it not bewildering that three young girls died of starvation, perhaps may also be illness, in the nation’s capital, Delhi, when we are trying to become a super power?
If the nation has to stride towards over all development, then a secular culture has to transcend and this can only be made possible, at least to a limited extent, by the efforts of intellectuals and voluntary agencies working at the grass-root levels. Religious and secular values must definitely be respected but the primary focus of attention has to equally be on the socio-economic development of the masses.—INFA