Education above religion – The Shillong Times

Editor,

The last few days have seen tragic violence in India in the aftermath of the faux pas of Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal — from riots and stone pelting, to hanging an execution-style effigy of Nupur Sharma from an overhead wire, to a YouTube video threatening to behead her, to the destruction of “illegal establishments and homes” of Muslims in UP accused of involvement in riots (ordered by UP CM, Yogi Adityanath). Nupur Sharma has received rape and beheading threats, plus death threats against her and her family. Naveen Jindal and his family too have received death threats! This kind of violence is unacceptable in the twenty-first century — at that, in a democracy, although at least some of the violence, I imagine, is a culmination of long simmering tensions between Hindus and Muslims.
The only long-term solution, it seems to me, is education — either in the sciences, which should make students more objective — or better yet, in interfaith wisdom and theologies. High time Indian youth were exposed to the best aspects of each others’ religions. Indian youth should also be taught the Constitution and laws of India — especially the fact that there can never be a blasphemy law in a secular state like India!

Yours etc.,

Deepa Majumdar,

Via email

Divide And Misrule

Editor,

What is history? It is perhaps a definable set of events which made an impact on the present for the future to remember and even study. But what happened in the past must have shaped events charting out a territory noteworthy for its happenings. So the Indus Valley Civilisation flourished but it also came to an end. How and why it came to an end researchers are not sure. There have been speculations but the question mark still remains.
Today there is a frenetic desire to unearth the past dating to ten to twelve centuries back. Unfortunately, this has been distorted beyond proportions to change the past. We cannot change it and redeem it to a new found present. But this is exactly what is being done. History is being rewritten to serve political ends and to create a cleavage and divide between religious communities. Yet we say that we are a secular and tolerant nation. We are trying to rectify the past by discovering images of Hindu gods and goddesses in mosques. The result is a disastrous attempt at reviling the past, tear the present and point accusing fingers at people who lived ten to eleven centuries back. This also tantamount to holding the present Indian Muslim guilty of the past.
Now let us look at facts. Religion has been brought into politics, and this has been happening again and again. The argument is: Hindus have been dishonoured in the past. This must be corrected. How? by excavating mosques and discovering statues of Hindu gods and goddesses. The latest being the Shiva Lingam. This has been built up stage by stage. Erecting statues, uttering provocative words in processions, in other words as someone said in a tv news channel:” provoke, provoke and provoke”. It is an insidious ploy of isolating and ghettoising the minority community. Every discourse of the government rivets around temples and statues. What about main issues of education and illiteracy? What about the poor, Hindu, Muslim or Christian?
Again, history texts are rewritten. Portions of the Mughal rule are being deleted. This attempt at obfuscating and distorting history is a devious ploy to deny students their right to inexorable knowledge.
This is the new nationalism, founded on specious thinking. This is the new nationalism of driving wedges between the majority and the minority. Suddenly as it were the majority rediscovers a new founded nationalism, the basis of which is a sudden religious propensity. But at what expense? Holding the minorities for what is considered the ills of the past! Whipping up such sentiments and building them up is what construes a devil’s dichotomy of divide and misrule. This has led to vitiation of atmosphere and spewing hatred, culminating in those abominable remarks against the Prophet Mohammed. Abominable is perhaps too mild a word. What those persons did was to hurt and anger a worldwide community. What could be more despicable and irreverent than this?
In the process we are a badly divided and wounded nation. The wounds are cut deep and the abrasions can be felt palpably. Rioting is the new order, so are threats of terrorist groups. We are playing with fire, circumventing history in the most despicable ways and disrespecting religions.
Even the RSS chief has said that it is wrong to hold the present Indian Muslim responsible for the past. Is anyone listening? The Indian nation is marked for its heterogeneity, it is history which has shaped its destiny. We must uphold such historicity, not denigrate it.
My point is that phase by phase the false narrative has been built up in driving wedges between the majority and the minority communities climaxing in such blasphemous remarks. Once again the edifice of the country appears to be crumbling and ruinous.

Yours etc.,

Ananya S Guha,

Via email

Law and order imperilled

Editor,

The recent incidents of stone-pelting and violence in several parts of the country continues a disturbing trend of unrest that has emerged in India over the past three years. Since the 2019 Lok Sabha elections which saw the NDA return to power with a strong majority at the Centre, there has been a marked escalation of violence in response to even minor political or social developments, and indeed even in the absence of any trigger. This is unnatural and seems to hint that certain sections of people are encouraging such happenings as an attempt to oust the present government by destabilising the country and compromising internal security. Perhaps the groups concerned have come to believe that they cannot rely on electoral politics and democracy to achieve their desired political change in the immediate future, and have thus been forced to resort to such courses of action.
Of course, such designs are always possible in an open democracy, and one relies on the administration in these situations to quell all nefarious actions. However, the Narendra Modi Government has so far miserably failed to deal with such incidents, including months-long blockades and riots in Delhi itself. It is to be hoped that the government remembers to uphold one of its most sacred duties, preserving law and order, and that we are freed from this grim situation at the earliest.

Yours etc.,

NK Kehar

Shillong -3