Just back from a family wedding that encompassed a whirlwind tour of four of my favourite cities and involved all my favourite people, I came away with a lot of love and precious memories but most of all a sense of peace in the interfaith relationships that bespeak my family. Entwining people of different faiths and religions – only love and bonhomie stood out. This is the real India… Not what our politicians want or are trying to create and not the ugly form of intolerance that India is lately known for.

India's constitution declares our country to be secular and there is a tradition of celebrating and embracing religious diversity. However, politicians at every turn have done their best to mar India's history by stoking religious tensions between people of different faiths and backgrounds and fuelling hatred.

One needs to understand that unless we put a stop to the damage being done by our callous and conniving politicians, we will reach rock-bottom very soon. Let me add here that the rising tide of religious hatred is only for the politician’s personal gains and coffers – inciting violence and hate to win power. Unfortunately, racism, bigotry and fanatical nationalism is also encouraged by them.

It is time for an awakening…a political change and the need of the hour is the belief in the time-tested faith that unity lies in diversity. The time is right to create an atmosphere that is free of caste and religious barriers. We need fair and just politicians who believe in a secular India. Problems arise when religion and politics is mixed and the blend is lethal – it has the power to take us as far back as the dark ages. There is also havoc when individual freedom of faith and expression is curbed.

The real India is still alive and when you move around the country meeting people from different regions and faiths and backgrounds, you imbibe the true essence of what it means to be an Indian. It is time to bring out the best of what our country has to offer. We need wise leaders who are not only disciplined but understand on-ground realities and deal with them with inclusion and empathy.

A strong foundation reflects fairness and is based on mutual respect – that is lacking in every corner of our country thanks to our brainless leaders. Look around and see the chaos and conflict brewing. Unless curtailed, the swirling cauldron of religious intolerance will destroy us. The goal of achieving a prosperous and peaceful world is already endangered. The devious pattern of criminal communalism and electoral success needs to be stopped.

We need mindful governance that seeks to unify and harmonise. One has to be persistent and forceful in the face of opposition, criticism and obstacles. Right now, we need positive social change and the ability to bridge the divide between existing religions and to reduce inter-faith conflicts.

It is true when they say that politics and religion should never be mixed and people must learn to keep their personal ideologies to themselves. Religion also needs to play a less prominent role in our parliament. We have to find a way to keep religion and communal life totally out of politics in a society where people’s identity and character are shaped in a large part by such characteristics. It might also be more agreeable to live in a world where people don’t bring religion to the table. It makes life easier.

The curse of communal hatred and cycle of violence that is omnipresent in our daily life can only be stopped by ending our history of deceitful equivalence and selective silence between the allegiance that the minority and majority have. We must have no room for religious polarisation!