Religion is too serious to be left to politicians

The most threatened person in India today is neither the President of India nor the Prime Minister. This is Nupur Sharma. Sharma has always been an incendiary personality. She got explosive on TV, spoke insultingly and used a bad word. For this, his head is on the chopping block. Asaduddin Owaisi wants her in jail. She might be safer there. But she must have due process. Only the courts will decide what fate awaits him. I was in Bombay a few years ago. In a central plaza was a large poster of the Owaisi brothers. Akbaruddin Owaisi insulted the Hindu gods much more harshly than Nupur Sharma, the prophet of Islam. She even apologized; no such apology seems to come from Akbar.

They say Prime Minister Modi has curtailed press freedom in India. Yet awakened chains are thriving in India today. Every night they hit Modi. Awakened anchors trot over ancient Owaisi whenever there is controversy between Hindus and Muslims. There he speaks, the awakened anchors listening to his every word. They never seem to interrupt him. Woke Channels also invite Naseeruddin Shah. He bristles with anger and trembles with fury. With age must come sagacity. He says that in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan, blasphemy is rewarded with death. Well, that is not the case in India. If Shah loves the Islamic justice system so much, why doesn’t he go to Pakistan or Afghanistan? He has already starred in a movie called Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyoon Aata Hai. Now might as well ask, Naseeruddin Shah Ko Gussa Kyoon Aata Hai. He claims to be a liberal, who married a Hindu woman.

Well, that is precisely the problem. Many Hindus do not want Hindu women to marry Muslim men unless and until Muslim men allow Muslim women to marry outside of their religion, which they do not and probably will not. never. Hindutva flourished because LK Advani attacked the Babri Masjid. A shrewd but religious prime minister, Narasimha Rao, was duped by the bhakts’ “utter treachery”. India was never the same again. If Rajiv Gandhi had been alive, he could have stemmed the tide of Hindutva. But it is not, and no one has been able to stop the Hindutva from pouring through India. The culmination of Hindutva came when the Supreme Court of India handed over the disputed land of the mandir-masjid in Ayodhya to the Hindus.

P Chidambaram says the judgment was wrong. True, the court said many things and then did the opposite. A fairer judgment could have been to divide the disputed land between a temple and a mosque, or even to reserve the land for a national heritage museum. Even though the Muslims were granted enough land to build a mosque, many seethed in anger. Many Hindutvadis celebrated. It would now be the turn of Kashi and Mathura and perhaps even two thousand other mosques. This led to the televised debate that got Nupur Sharma in hot water. Today a Hindu tailor from Udaipur was executed; his execution publicly filmed. These guys are serious. They have a lot of crazy people among them. People just need to understand that a community takes very seriously, even violently, any affront to its religion or its religious figures.

Why is this so? Well, it is. It’s like asking why the sky is blue. If not, how many lunatics are you going to apprehend? Sharma was the BJP’s national spokesperson and part of its executive committee. She was suspended from the party for six months. But the party has a bigger problem at hand. How to save her? They are obligated to do so. She is an Indian citizen and party member. Naveen Jindal, Sharma’s expelled comrade in arms, is in even more trouble. He used even more insulting words. The BJP has washed its hands of it, but the state is also obliged to provide protection. Sharma and Jindal and everyone who publicly supports them are living on borrowed time.

Proud Hindu and Nationalist is what Jindal calls himself now. Well, it’s more like Stupid Hindu. Where was really the need to insult someone’s religious figure? The counter-narrative is that people like Akbaruddin Owaisi insult Hinduism. Well, let the law take its course with fanatics like him. Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity have evolved where people of the respective faiths mock their own religion. Maybe in due time Islam will. Maybe not. Who can say? India sits on a religious powder keg. Nupur Sharma’s trial will be watched closely around the world. Asaduddin Owaisi says she is destined for higher things, that anyone who insults Muslims is rewarded by the powers that be.

In this case, it might be difficult to reward Sharma. The controversy only erupted when Islamic countries in the Middle East expressed their anger. The Prime Minister cherishes India’s relations with them. Maybe in 20 years, Sharma can walk on the shards of her making and stage a resurrection. But not right now. Right now, it’s purely a matter of life or death for her. Former French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau has said that war is too serious a matter to be left to generals. Along the same lines, one could say that religion is too serious a matter to be left to politicians.

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