Now, as you chaps would know, this is somewhat of a recurring phenomenon. Every few days Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs or barbers pop up out of nowhere claiming that their religious sensibilities have been hurt. And, more often than not, our government either capitulates or goons beat up everyone up in sight so that there’s a de facto ban on whatever these chaps were protesting against.
Now, there are a number of reasons why this should not happen.
Firstly, we have the London bus argument: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”. However, in all honesty, this is a futile argument not only in India but in almost all parts of the world including most of the western countries. Also, I am a bit sick of the Dawkin fanboys and their I’m-more-rational-than-99%-of-the-world expostulations.
Secondly, we have this: clock:time::religion:God.
A clock helps us to tell the time but a clock does not define time. So, if my clock is two hours slow or has stopped, it doesn’t mean that Time is two hours slow or has stopped. Time is impervious to the clock.
Similarly, at best religion can be way for us to understand God, but nothing that mortal men and women do on this Earth can ever affect God. A fair argument, if you ask me.
Therefore, it’s quite preposterous to think that an octogenarian (or is it nonagenarian?) painter can insult the very embodiment of Shakti or that a newspaper columnist can insult God’s chosen Prophet.
Incidentally, I’ve discussed this point on online forums (yes, I have too much time on my hands) and I’ve been met with one stock response: “Would you not feel hurt if somebody insulted your mother? It’s a similar case when our God is insulted.”
Now, the thing is that, while my mum is somewhat of a remarkable woman (she can teach History to a bunch of unruly girls and make the best chaanp ever) she is hardly a god—in fact she’s, unfortunately, quite mortal. She is neither omniscient nor omnipotent and, in what is cinching proof of her imperfectness, she likes to listen to ABBA.
Hence, it’s not a similar case at all and if you do dis her and I should and would feel a bit pissed.
Last and, well, least we have free speech. This has, unfortunately, taken such a beating in our country that I feel it futile to waste time writing about it.
Having enumerated (some of) the reasons as to why this stuff should not be done, it is instructive to try and understand why these things are done, nonetheless.
In one word, the reason is identity. Religion, in our part of the world, and, in fact, in most parts of the world, is an intrinsic part of our identity. It’s who you are. In effect, insulting symbols of your religion is taken, almost instinctively, as a personal insult.
So, when the chaps in Calcutta were ostensibly protesting against a columnist insulting the Prophet, what they were really protesting was a newspaper columnist insulting them.
In fact, a corollary of this would also explain the Rama Sena’s actions (as opposed to the more commonly held sexuality argument). The Ram Sena (and the other Senas, Sanghs and Parishads) primarily consists of people who would charitably be called lumpen. Here Hindu culture, or their definition of it, gives them a lovely little make-believe world to hide in. A world in which they are actually better than the pub-hoping sahebzaadas zipping around in their fancy cars. That these people are largely Hindus in the first place matters little, because by the new terms of engagement, the Ram Sena chaps are the “better” or “truer” Hindus which makes them leapfrog in social status over the harlots who frequent bars and what not.
So, what do we do to remedy the situation? Well, quite frankly, I don’t know. Yes, we could make people richer; the whole cut-at-the-root-of-the-discontentment rigmarole—admittedly our best bet. But, sometimes, even that doesn’t help—the eagerness of the residents of Punjab to murder their own daughters is proof enough.
However, if you do think of something, scribble it onto a pink chaddi and send it to Muthalik. In the meanwhile, I suggest we follow Mark Twain’s advice:
"When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained."