From the lynching of a man from a minority community on the pretext of allegedly storing beef to the ban on the sale and consumption of it in various states across India, the secular fabric that binds this multicultural and country is being torn apart. The current state of affairs shows no sign of relief.
Out of the total 1.2 billion people in India more than 19 percent belong to minority communities. Equality, democracy, secularism and freedom are the cardinal republican values. Presently, these values are taking a very serious beating in India. So much so, that a mere whisper of these values can get your face blotted in black ink or, if the attackers are generous enough, paint. And it does not stop there. Expressing views which are not popular with the current administration, may end up in death threats on social media and public humiliation. This is chiefly due to the growing influence of organizations based on religious and caste affiliations from the majority community that impose restrictions on what one can eat, say, express, wear, write, etc. Intellectual circles as well as the public are in a state of shock, if not fear.
— Aasia Ishaque (@aasia_ishaque) November 26, 2015
Ironically, the central government and judiciary alike are turning a deaf ear to such shameful events. This indifferent attitude has, in fact, encouraged such behavior. Interestingly, the trend of intolerance has been so alarming that writers and intellectuals have started returning their awards. Celebrities and religious leaders have equally raised their voices against the deplorable situation. From the Dalai Lama to actors like Amitabh Bachchan concerned voices have been heard from all corners of society.
The idea of a secular, social, democratic India promoted by India’s First Prime Minister, J L Nehru, seems to be a long lost dream. The central administration of the country driving the bandwagon of development seems to have flattened all the values which have kept this country intact since its independence from the British in 1947. India seems to be the victim of the belief that development alone can run this country while keeping the basic tenets of democracy on the shelf.
It cannot be denied that India needs development. However, the attitude of the government has raised serious concerns among religious minorities. There is a sense of fear and lack of faith. Development no longer seems to be the priority among minorities; it has given place to security and religious freedom promised by the Indian constitution. Bollywood actor Aamir khan recently expressed his despondency on the growing intolerance questioning the prospects and future of minorities in India.
Although these developments largely affect minorities, they have also sent ripples across the liberal minds across the nation resulting in a widespread reaction and protest. This environment is neither conducive for development nor for the foreign investment that the government is painstakingly seeking. What the government needs to understand is that without fostering a sense of security and freedom, lofty promises of growth and development cannot attract anyone. Furthermore, the government should not forget the resounding defeat it faced in recently concluded Bihar state elections. When development is promised at the cost of basic human liberties, safety becomes a priority and development takes a back seat. And it is not just about beef.