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CASTE AND RELIGION; A Challenge to Indian Democracy?

The long held shibboleth which defined the base foundation of our nation, ‘Unity in Diversity’, now needs urgent replacement with ‘Unity in Adversity’. Of late many incidents were given communal colour including murder, rape and conflict. These cases had laid the bare magnitude of bitterness and hatred running profusely among different sects and sections of our society. For decades, the ‘Cancer’ of caste and religion has been eating away at the very secular fabric of our nation, posing a serious threat to the very existence of democracy of our country.

Our nation’s democracy grants us the privilege to exercise fundamental rights which are quintessential to live a meaningful and wholesome life, but by no means, does our democracy allow us to tear into the constitutional structure of our nation and take law into our own hands under the garb of caste and religion. Many a time it has been seen that violence gripping the Indian states is started by resorting to the provocative tools of caste and religion to serve own vested interest. The most unfortunate part of democracy is that caste and religion are often misused by our own legislators to stay in power. Our history is replete with instances where issue of development has been knocked down by caste based election campaign.

It is conspicuous that our leader leave no stone unturned in fanning communal flare but the common citizen need to stand up to blinkered mindset and rather seek for unequivocal and extensive manifestoes from the parties charted out on development envisions.

Caste and religion based vote bank politic has been one of the prime deterring reasons to the real growth of our country as it remains stuck with unwanted incidents and upheaval stirred especially by astute political class of our country. Issue of development gets sidelined by touching the emotive issue of caste based politics which helps political parties gain significant mileage over their rival parties with ease, putting the progress of the entire country at stake. Blaming solely people sitting at high echelons for jeopardizing the prosperity of our country will not help as we citizens ought to realise our responsibilities to think beyond serving our limited interest and rather swap it for nation’s holistic growth.

Unfortunately, reservation is another moot issue which has also been played as ploy by our policy makers to charm people into taking sides with them by demanding special status for special class, caste or religion. The nation cannot be expected to move forward if its people try to prove their identity as backward in a bid to sweep additional socio-economic benefits. If one religion is given special advantage, the remaining strata of the society understandably slip into annoying and agitating state. Taking into consideration the very colossal setup and complex matrix of our country, catering to one particular community or caste is bound to generate acrimony among the rest in the backdrop of the fact that majority does not get easily ready to forsake their privilege for their peers. The fundamental cause is not the presence of different religions but fanaticism attached to those religions and then, politics on those grounds surface boldly and bluntly. Several rows in our nation are owing to the religion and caste biases like vociferously taking to streets and others pertaining to Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and Christians. If we consider Indian as a united country, we should not paint people’s identity by caste or religion which they belong to or the language.

In lieu in fixing those yawning gaps and differences, our legislators rather make use of such loophole as an additional leverage to serving their own needs and means. In this whole run of grabbing the best, the importance to keep unity alive among different castes, communities and religions of our nations has been thrown to wind. Would not it be more beneficial for the meaningful and holistic development of the country, if our politicians begin encouraging deserved more than deserved?

Achieving consensus among different sections of our society widely split into unwanted hierarchy becomes extremely difficult, causing heavy loss to the nation’s progression. Constitution is cut above all the religion; all the same, our legislators become constrained to pass legislation in the purview that a law to be formulated may seem to benefit nation as a combined whole, but violating privilege given to the religious sects. Growing population has been a worrying concern yet one child policy is miles away from execution in a nation which needs urgent curb on alarming population mark. The reforms tried all over our nation have been a total failure and the lack of political will is the main reason. The reforms do not appear to be forthcoming at all and the policy of appeasement by self-seekers is more dominant. Feeling for nationalistic allegiance apparently seems to be wilting away. This is the underlying reason for it. Not for a single instance people from different castes and religion unanimously got up to a common soapbox asking reservations for economically downtrodden section of our society not taking into considerations the category those destitute people fall into. Our country needs to streamline its operations by purging the whole layer of politics stained with different castes and religions.

Our democracy allows us to elect our own representatives, but at the same time expect us to choose them with discretion and an objective outlook. When our Constitution grants its citizens the right to speech, it doesn’t allow us to make trenchant and politically and morally incorrect speeches. When it allows its citizens the freedom of expression and action, the Constitution does not allow them to make a mockery of law and order and set fire to public and private property, indulge in the act of arson only to make their protest heard under the garb of religious or caste security. Right to equality and religion does not allow the citizens to spread communal hatred only to lift one particular religion over other. National and local politicians, leaders and scores of organisation driven by caste and religious benefits work hand in hand to mark the democratic set up, that keep stirring the caste cauldron to divide country into many minute segments and strangle chances to let them glue together into a strong country.

It is quite perturbing to know that in our nation, every now and then, some religious fashion gets up and takes to violent means including torching buses, battering buildings and shutting schools and shops to create unjustified ruckus. Who’s provoking the caste politics and who’s playing into the hands of radical elements? Answers are clear that it is primarily all those political opportunist that make the cities burn to street was only to earn extra mileage in the arena of politics. Instead of indulging in wrong acts of political mud – slinging, leaders would have justified their roles in a more constructive manner, had they practiced appealing to the public to maintain peace, stand united and come up with effective measures to soothe down the burning situations stocked by caste and religion. Violence on caste grounds is not new to our country, but it is something which we cannot allow to flourish especially making nation’s growth and prosperity vulnerable to negative waves.

Caste, colour and religion have long played an instrumental role in the political arena of our country and other government –run institutions such as police and the judicial systems to have not been immune to it. Over the years, silver lining has been rise in the economic liberalisation in our nation backed by enlightened and empowered young citizens; there has been a flux in caste based politics with people turning down parties hinging on false promise.

On the ground of secularism, India is potential enough to rise to new lofty heights and become the supreme global power as it have highly untapped human resource under its belt. As of now what our nation needs the most is elusive unity which must be free from the shackles of caste, sects, colour and religion at composite levels. On the flip side, if we unmindfully continue trying to build up our nation’s growth story on the ground of communalism, then, our country will remain not more than just a precarious pile of cards no matter how high it is drown. Anytime, it is likely to collapse to the ground even with a light waft of air. Hope, future heralds positive outcome in Indian politics based on anything but caste and religion.

By Ardra.B

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