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Of Religion and Politics

Under-developed minds normally create differences. Developed minds create visions and differences disappear” – Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.

I have been following this huge debate on Shantanu’s blog - Satyameva Jayate for the last week or so - this post is kind of response to the debate on Religion and Politics. The debate initially started off well, discussing FTI (Freedom Team of India) policies in general but then digressed to the highly emotive Mandir-Masjid / Hindu-Muslim issue, leading to nowhere.

Mr. Amar Akbar Anthony (am using a hypothetical name here just to keep the religious affiliation out of the discussion), is a typical common-man in India, God-fearing & self-respecting, always trying to be on the right side, struggling with life to make two ends meet, mostly interested in mundane issues directly affecting his daily life, is genuinely worried and concerned about things like:
  • The rampant corruption around him - from CWG (common wealth games - that does not affect him directly in anyway) to the local Panchayat Office for getting his small little apartment assessed for property-tax (that affects him badly and directly).
  • The ration shop in his area is always out of stocks.
  • The roads are in a terrible mess due to which he has to leave his vehicle for service and maintenance almost every month.
  • Farmers in his home-village are committing suicide every week as they are unable to feed their families while hundreds of thousand tons of grains are left as unattended stocks in the open, rotting in rains in other parts of the country.
  • He is struggling to get his voter ID card for years, even after filing repeated applications. Last he was asked to locate and search his Voter ID card among millions of cards floating around in the flooded premises.
  • He is fighting a legal battle for his ancestral property in his home town for almost a decade. Local goons have encroached upon his father’s property and are now claiming ownership.
  • Electricity & potable water supply is in an absolute mess.
  • His son did very well in school but was still not able to get a medical seat as he could not pay the huge amount of 30 lakhs in the name of capitation fee that was demanded to be paid in Cash up front.

The suffer-list is endless and could go on and on, but lets get back to the point. Almost all of the above problems and issues are fundamentally arising out of State Functions & Policies – while some may be classified as first order, some are second order functions. But they all would find a solution in Political Leadership and Policy. May be I am missing a point somewhere and if so, would like to be seek clarity on these questions - 
How relevant is the Religion in the above picture?
How would Religion help solve any of the problems of Mr. Amar Akbar Anthony’s life and reduce his suffer-list? Would any of the Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian or any other religious faith leaders or followers be able to help solve any of these issues for Mr. AAA (Mr. Amar Akbar Anthony)?

If the answer to these basic questions is indeed a clear No, then why do we mix religion with politics at the first place? Mr. AAA following a particular faith or a religion is a matter of his very personal choice and preference. In case Mr. AAA has any problems with respect to his religion or religious feelings and sentiments, he is free to approach his respective religious leader and seek a solution or a clarification. State Function or Policy should actually have no role to play in this domain, except to protect his right as an individual to practice the faith of his choice.

I wonder if this is something so very difficult to crack or those who oppose this have some other hidden agenda.

FTI (Freedom Team of India) has published a draft policy on the issue of Religious Freedom and Tolerance. All FTI policies will remain as drafts until they are formally agreed to by at least 1500 FTI leaders. Comments are most welcome as they will help the development of these policies. Please visit here and provide comment.

Comments

  1. I agree Ashish. My mistake however, was thinking that these views and opinions were held by everyone.

    Then one day I visited a right wing blog and saw how much hatred and vitriol there is flying around based on religion, ethnicity etc.

    But after my experience, Satyameva Jayate seems to be much more sensible than others I've seen where they want Islam to be wiped out and Hindu raj imposed everywhere. I got a bad shock on seeing so many people say the same thing.

    When I blogged about it, many commenters said that they were only a small minority with loud voices. In fact, the same people seem to turn up everywhere!

    So that's a good thing :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Bhagwad, for sharing that important bit. These small minority with loud voices need to be engaged at every forum with positive & more constructive views, which is precisely Satyameva Jayate is engaged into right now.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dear Ashish,

    You asked religion should be kept separate from the politics. But can ever the Dharma be separated from Politics? Dharma is the platform on which everything in the universe rests. It is a way of life.

    I will be satisfied if you say religion and dharma are entirely different. In this case I would be most satisfied if you let me know what the ‘Dharma’ is?

    If there is overlapping of Dharma and Religion, and even then you are proposing the separation of politics and religion, nothing would be as disastrous as it is which I will let you know after your clarification.

    Waiting for your clarification.

    rkumarane@gmail.com
    www.idealworldkrishna.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. Dear Ramesh,
    Thanks for the comment. I understand your viewpoint and very briefly would like to distinguish between Dharma and Religion as follows:
    Religion is derived from the Latin word Religio, meaning to bind or connect together. The purpose of religion through the ages has been to help respective groups stay firmly bonded together and in part clearly distinguished in ideology & belief from other groups.
    Dharma is described in Wikipedia as –
    a) Many languages have words that can be translated as "religion", but they may use them in a very different way, and some have no word for religion at all. For example, the Sanskrit word dharma, sometimes translated as "religion", also means law.
    (Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion#Etymology).
    b) The word dharma translates as that which upholds or supports, and is generally translated into English as law. The antonym of dharma is adharma meaning unnatural or immoral.
    (Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharma)

    I believe that you have referred to Dharma in the context of Law and not any Faith or Belief.

    As a politician, my dharma would be to offer a clean and transparent government, free from all evils and bias, including religious.

    I hope this clarifies!

    Regards / Ashish.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dear Ashish,
    I am so thrilled to see you respond to me. I am satisfied with your intent and that you will be dharmic in your approach. However,

    I entirely disagree when you define the Dharma as per the Wikipedia.

    Wikipedia and similar things could never be an authority to define such terms. They are best suitable to define all the technical and mandane things. Dharma is the essence of the eternal arrangement which makes for the positive (healthy and sound etc) sustainance of the Human Beings to which Hindu way of life is just an indication once it is relieved of its unscientific content. This arrangement takes into account the basic instincts of the human beings, its scientific behaviour over the centuries and so on. Only the Jnani has the authority to define the Dharma even if it is Adharmic to the common. (Krihnas behaviour on some occassions in Mahabharata is adharmic to commons but Jnani always justifies the same).

    Is it possible for you to be dharmic in your approach as per the definition of Wikipedia? It doesn’t know what the dharma is!

    Now the subject enters into the philosophy (its purely scientific). But seriously note that it is inevitable. It can be entered only with your kind permission. Are you ready?
    see also my comment on
    http://freedomteam.in/blog/content/religious-freedom-and-tolerance#comment-3862

    ReplyDelete
  6. Dear Ashish,
    Thrilled to see you answer me. I am satisfied that you are dharmic in your approach. However, I entirely disagree when you define the Dharma as per the Wikipedia. Wikipedia and similar things could never be an authority to define such terms. They are best suitable to define all the technical and mundane things. Dharma is the essence of the eternal arrangement which makes for the positive (healthy and sound etc) sustenance of the Human Beings to which Hindu way of life is just an indication once it is relieved of its unscientific content. This arrangement takes into account the basic instincts of the human beings, its scientific behavior over the centuries and so on. Only the Jnani has the authority to define the Dharma even if it is Adharmic to the common. (Krihnas behavior on some occasions in Mahabharata is adharmic to commons but Jnani always justifies the same).

    Is it possible for you to be dharmic in your approach as per the definition of Wikipedia? It doesn’t know what the dharma is!

    Now the subject enters into the philosophy (its purely scientific). But seriously note that it is inevitable. It can be entered only with your kind permission. Are you ready? Or any other alternatives?

    See also comment on
    http://freedomteam.in/blog/content/religious-freedom-and-tolerance#comment-3862

    ReplyDelete

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