Saturday, October 02, 2010

Ayodhya verdict

In recent past, I had in general avoided having vehement discussions related to social issues, religion and so on. But I was recently asked by a friend of mine about ‘what I felt about the Ayodhya verdict’. Although I had so much to say, (or in fact, because I had too much to say) I couldn’t put it all in a single sentence. So even though I gave some short version of my opinion then and there, I felt it to be apt to pen down the whole of my thought process.

OK, on the face of it, as far as the actual verdict of the Ayodhya issue was concerned, I honestly didn’t mind the result going either way (a temple or a mosque at the disputed site). But it was not out of apathy, it was because of my own personal position on the matters related to religion, or more specifically, the social or public face of religion.

I had penned down my thoughts on religion here a long time ago, where I had stated that while I am all for religion being a very private affair for every individual human being, it’s the ‘communization’ of religion that I hate most. This social, public aspect of religion creates a lot of problems. When a religion is ‘communized’ (as most of the common religions these days are) it becomes way too rigid in its practices and that is where many social problems usually arise. This is because, most of the religions, in the process of setting their norms on ‘appropriate practices’ usually tend to cross some sort social borders that need to be respected for social harmony.

Communization or giving ‘public’ or ‘social’ face to religious practices is not always bad. It worked wonders when Lokmanya Tilak introduced public celebration of Ganesh Festival about a century back. It gave a platform for the society to unite in a common cause, and helped our struggle for the Indian independence in a definite and positive way. That was the right choice for the given time and situation.

But often, communization of religion gives way to rifts in society. May it be the celebration of “Chhath Puja” in Mumbai, or building a temple or a mosque at a given site, it is mostly used by opportunist politicians and public figures (this includes people at important positions in so called ‘religious hierarchy’ too, which again, is an outcome of communization of religion) to increase their popularity and their hold on the community they supposedly want to ‘lead’. While in fact, the reality is that common man is just used as a pawn. Each of those who were incited by some politician to vehemently fight for their right to celebrate ‘Chhath Puja’ , could in principle , have celebrated it anyway in a calm manner. But the politicians wanted to make a noise as loud as possible about the issue and religion is their biggest weapon. With the current social, public structure of religion, it is a soft spot for most of the communities while the core idea of religion, as just a ‘way of life’ has lost its meaning completely.

Does this mean that I absolutely hate social side of religion? Of course not. I get really emotional and nostalgic remembering the Ganesh festival celebrations back in Pune (which, for a fact, I haven’t been able to attend for last 6-7 years) . Man has always been a social animal and often religious festivities are always a good excuse to come together and just have a good time. I can safely bet that thousands of people that throng the streets of Pune during a Ganesh procession would not just come there otherwise just for the sake of a social gathering, had it not been for a religious festival that ties everyone together with zeal and fervor. But we have to keep in mind the ill-effects too (which, I believe are currently outweighing the advantages).

So coming back to Ayodhya issue again, the current verdict was quite balanced when we take in to account the volatility and intolerance of certain sections of Indian society in religious matters. I wouldn’t mind any place of worship there whatsoever, in so far as it brings together the people from across communities. Communization of religion often comes in its way and that’s what I am against. That, in short, was what I wanted to say when asked about my opinion on the matter.

1 comment:

Milind Gadre said...

You described it very well : expression of faith in public domain can put us in such situations.

I think we always need some way of uniting as that, makes us more than an individual. Religion, has been such an invention which has worked well to unite people in strength for say at-least a couple of thousand years. I think uniting individuals in an abstract concept such as faith was indeed a step forward in our cultural evolution as humans. So, faith in public domain has been useful for us to grow up, expand and survive.

That said, (and as I agree with your view), religion also has remained major reason of conflicts.
In a new world, new concepts should unite us.
If it feels like a vestige of the past, religion should gradually take back-seat!!

A well thought out essay! Keep them coming :)