Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Situation in Orissa, Where does That Leave Us?

By far the best commentary on the ongoing atrocities against Christians in Orissa comes from MJ Akbar, the venerable journalist and columnist. Of late I have noticed that all religions have turned fundamentalists. Akbar argues that the term Fundamentalist is a misnomer as these sections of people do not adhere to the fundamental tenets of their religion but distort them to their likings. I know these are dark, depressing thoughts before the 9/11 anniversary which falls this Thursday, but I can’t help it. He points out, rightly, that Prophet Muhammad was tolerant towards Jews and other religious minorities when he was administering Medina.

When I grew up in the sixties and seventies there was a kind of grudging acceptance of one another’s cultural and religious difference. But now priests advocate some extreme measures like avoiding votive offerings given with love and avoiding any overtures of friendship with other communities, who are seen as cheats and dhokebaazs. On this my wealth-enjoying-brother Dhansukhbhai has something to say, “He lokama jara pan sense nathi. Soo fundamentalism karech? Paise kamvani vat karo ni?” These people have no sense, instead of fundamentalism they should be thinking of earning money.

An article in the same newspaper – The Times of India – states that a different slant has been given to the incidents to make it sound like a religious bigotry against Christians. The article “Why We Hate” by Atul Sethi points out that the tribals of Orissa – such as the Kandhs and Panas – have always been at loggerheads and recently issues came to a head.

Akbar argues rather forcefully that only one per cent of the people that too from fundamentalist sects that are needed to spread violence and hate. Lumpenisation will ensure that they will recruit enough mercenaries and hired goondas to see their missions accomplished. He says all this talk of genocide and religious extremism is not addressing the problem that is fueling it, that is, that people who indulge in extremism are poor and marginal.

So where do that leave us? In Rushdie’s words, a country teeming with the quarrels, quarrels about caste and religion, disagreements over colour and looks, a people so divided they can’t stop bitching about each other. Sad, but true.

No comments: