Religious Puritanism And The Doom It Spells For Indian Society

Lynching. Discrimination. Intolerance. Puritanism. Every day, a new story appears of a person or a group of people who were ostracized, attacked, and ridiculed for not adhering to the Hindu, casteist ideals India’s people have set for its citizens. Every day, we further demonize the diversity we once celebrated. We further isolate ourselves from outsiders for fear of “dilution” and “pollution” of genetic material, and the conservativeness and bigotry we propagate under the veil of “Indian culture”.

What is Puritanism?

Puritanism is a belief in conservative and non-accepting ideals of religious superiority and hierarchy. Religious puritans are present in every religion and are often the driving force behind inter-religion violence and clashes. They oppose the integration of society into an equal and wholesome one with equal opportunity for all, claiming their people will lose opportunities, holding on to a false sense of entitlement they never justified having in the first place.

The various ethnic groups and religions in India have been around for thousands of years. They are different from one another in ideology, appearance, and custom. However, as a society, we have tried to shut out the differing viewpoints of minority ethnic and religious groups. We make their representation purely symbolic by farcically trying to streamline all these multitudes of opinions and cultures into a Hindu Brahmin- propagated a caste-based system of hierarchy and custom. The issue is that these viewpoints number in the thousands. Moreover, discriminatory customs only serve to increase tensions between ethnic and religious groups already at loggerheads with each other.

How Does It Manifest?

A simple example of this is legislation like the beef ban. It was an unnecessary rule that was brought into force to placate the majority Brahman Hindus. They were unhappy with the fact that their religion’s representative animal was being consumed in India (its slaughter was already banned). However, as a secular nation, which is reiterated multiple times in the Constitution. India as a society and a system needs to focus on maintaining that secularism by not being blatantly Hindu in some of the formulated policies.

The Problem?

Barring the obvious social and humanitarian aspects of it, we must understand that it’s more about looking at this issue from a practical standpoint. The problem lies not solely with the fact that a culture of hate is being bred in India. Anything can be passed off as legitimate and sustainable provided the model can function over a long period of time. Saudi Arabia is a very simple example of this. Although intolerant of any religion other than Salafi Islam, their model works because a huge majority of their population are exponents of Salafi Islam and the bulk of their workforce is composed of them as well. In addition, their leadership is very continuous and non-conforming in their policy. This has cemented a religious hierarchy in the nation (which, by the way, is a monarchy).

This is where India cannot sustain an atmosphere of hatred. As a representative nation dedicated to serving their people, India cannot allow religious hierarchy and discrimination to manifest. It goes against every single value of the constitution. In addition, the sheer number of minorities and the proportion of the population they make up is large. At 20.2%, it is a number too large to ignore. That puts the number of minority citizens at more than 200 million. And if we’re to alienate a group this large, then the nation is sure to eventually fail. Governments will be rendered unstable due to the discontent marginalized groups will feel, and their protests will surely destabilize support for sitting governments in the long run. This will lead to a slow but sure demolition of State institutions’ credibility, leading to nation-wide distrust in the government over the course of time.

The Cause?

The main cause is the lack of intervention, and that responsibility falls on the government. Without having bothered to make inquiries or arrests with relation to communal and religious violence, they have provided citizens with the impression that their intolerance will be tolerated, their bigotry, quietly encouraged. In addition, the blatant Hindu manifesto in some legislation points to a larger, more institutionalized problem of minorities. Minorities in India not having the representation they need in the legislative bodies of the country.

In addition, the outrageous support and friendship levied towards far-right groups in the nation in order to win their political support. Mostly for elections and in legislative houses. This only allows them to propagate more freely and spread their message of conservatism and non-acceptance to common people. Some of who do not have the necessary mental faculty to rationally assess this and dismiss it as a random diatribe due to its association with the religion they believe in. Right-wing groups spin these discourses in such a way that people feel their religion obliges them to act hateful and intolerant and support and propagate this violence.

What Needs To Be Done?

Action has to be taken. The Indian Constitution guarantees:

  • the Right to Freedom of Religion,
  • the Right to Equality,
  • under which the Right to independent life, the Right to Life, and,
  • the Right to Free Speech. 

Sectional shutting out of these groups and violence against them for just practicing and abiding by their religion is discriminatory. It is also in violation of all of these rights and needs to be treated the same. Shunning mob violence as unpunishable because individuals cannot be identified is a farcical and flimsy excuse for the government. Becuase the Government is unwilling to lose the support of the right-wing in legislative assemblies by taking action against miscreants they support.

Politics needs to be traded in for the genuine spirit of democracy and equality. And until that happens, we cannot hope to achieve the ideal of democracy and equality we set out to achieve as a country. Nor can we ever hope to progress into a community that can contribute to this world.

– Pranav S Aatrey

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