15 November 2019 03:34 PM

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RASHMI OBEROI | 12 MAY, 2017

To All the Bigots In My Country, You Are Welcome to Leave!


We Indians are blessed with diversity. In the dissonance of the debate between communalism and secularism we have forgotten a crucial element that binds us all together- Our Diversity. India is one of the most diverse lands found anywhere else in the world. From language to dressing-style, the country has been hailed as one of the most complex amalgamation of various cultural identities.

We have so many religions, dialects, nationalities, cultures and races offering varying perspectives and viewpoints. This makes it easier for people to feel included. It’s very easy for people to overlook or neglect the needs of others when they have no idea what’s important to them. This is why diversity is important. Once you understand people’s needs you can provide for them and engage with them. India historically touts itself as a secular state, one where all religions are recognized and can peacefully co-exist. Well, at least in theory, it is. Unfortunately, the reality is very different today.

India’s diversity has always been celebrated, but it seems that some people still have a long way to go to accept others who are different and the fact that they’re living in a country where people are free to express these differences. Selfish individuals and religion-based political parties unfortunately cause problems. India’s history is replete with religious tolerance and people of all faiths have coexisted peacefully. In fact, clerics of different religions would often come together for discussion and prayer when a community was in strife.

However, there are highly inconsiderate, narrow-minded, self-absorbed people who are trying to disrupt the peace with their attempts at provoking religious communities. It’s highly unlikely they’ll succeed in the end. But incidents like these are concerning because they show how close-minded and intolerant people are in a nation that’s fairly progressive and liberal.

Social media has played a great role in revealing people’s prejudices. Holidays are an exceptionally vocal time for racists on Facebook and Twitter who cannot stand the sight of others having a good life. Our Constitution provides everyone with great freedom of expression, but when remarks are inflammatory, filled with hate or call for violence, they simply cannot be tolerated.

Tensions between religious groups - especially Hindus and Muslims - have long divided India, but the rifts have intensified including multiple incidents of rioting and mob violence involving the two groups. Lynching of beef-eating Muslims have compromised India’s status as a secular country. Since 2015, religious tolerance has deteriorated and religious freedom violations increased in India. Minority communities, especially Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs, experienced numerous incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence, largely at the hands of Hindu nationalist groups.

Members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tacitly supported these groups and used religiously-divisive language to further inflame tensions. These issues, combined with longstanding problems of police bias and judicial inadequacies, have created a pervasive climate of impunity, where religious minority communities feel increasingly insecure, with no recourse when religiously-motivated crimes occur.

Firmly pinning the blame for the deterioration of religious tolerance on the Narendra Modi government, a report says: "Since the BJP assumed power, religious minority communities have been subject to derogatory comments by BJP politicians and numerous violent attacks and forced conversions by affiliated Hindu nationalist groups, such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Sangh Parivar, and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP)."

As individuals and concerned citizens we need to ensure that suitable action is taken to stop incidents of intolerance, polarisation and the spreading of communal hatred from taking our country, which has a rich heritage and cultural diversity, backwards. The strictest action must be taken against any such anti-human, anti-civilizational acts and anyone even suggesting such actions must be severely dealt with punishment beyond that reserved for anti- national activity as this is truly worse than that.

I guess what inspired me to write this article is the hate and venom I see spewing on social media. I was blown away at how nasty people were and it has just got me really thinking about ‘Hate’. There is so much negativity on social media and people seem to be absolutely mean spirited. I just simply don’t understand and I don’t get it. Now with all that said, I know that not everyone is mean, nasty, and rude. I’m also not saying that there will never be bullies. There will always be bullies. I know happy people, and uplifting people are out there. There are lots of happy people in the world and there is a lot of good too, but we just don’t hear or see enough of it!!!

These days even when I read something positive there are always so many haters in the comments. People, who somehow have forgotten or never learned the good ole saying- “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” It’s really quite simple. I see and read a lot of things I may not like or agree with, but I simply click away, click out, and move on. I don’t have to take the time to comment like a coward behind a screen or monitor and say something that in person I would never say to someone’s face.

There’s just too much hate and too much debate and it needs to stop. Sometimes I underestimate the amount of power that we as humans have. We have the ability to make someone’s day a little brighter with a simple smile and “Hello, how are you?” We can change someone’s life with a small action. We have the power to change the world, but with that power there are negative actions as well.

Again I ask, "Why is there so much hate in the world?"

As a society, we tend to focus on the more negative aspects of life and we forget to notice the small, kind gestures of others. But sometimes those small gestures are what make the difference. Do whatever you can to bring joy to someone else’s life. Enact a positive change. I may not have the answer to the question: "Why is there so much hate in the world?" but I do know that we should be spreading acceptance, kindness and love. Not hate.

What is happening globally today is a more condensed and convoluted form of hatred and I believe without a shadow of a doubt that social media has a massive impact on the global population’s behaviour. Sites or services like Facebook and Twitter in my honest opinion are really internet forums on steroids and if you have ever taken part on an internet forum then you will understand what I mean.

The fact remains that if we continue to go down these same old roads then history will just keep repeating. We must teach our children to grow up accepting that people are different in many ways and that each person has a right to live on this planet no matter how different their views are and to keep communicating verbally and not only via text. When people stop talking a vacuum is created and that vacuum is often filled with hatred.

To all the bigots in my country: you’re welcome to move elsewhere…in fact the faster the better. Your biggest problem is your own ignorance and fear of the unknown. If you can’t handle diversity, then you’re welcome to move to an island – far, far away that accommodates people just like you.

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