In recent times, we read in the newspapers and on the electronic media that people are targeted for the food they eat, the clothes they wear, the faith they practise, the list goes on and on and on. Intolerance towards people who are not like us is on the rise. This begins with just a disagreement but if not nipped in the bud, takes an ugly turn leading to violence and deaths.
Incidents of lynching and other forms of violence are alarmingly on the rise. It actually starts within families. Parents are guilty of comparing the way of life of their young children today to the life that they lived in the 50s, 60s and the 70s and this leads to arguments and fights. Children too are insensitive to the feelings and expectations of their parents which gives rise to turbulence and conict in the homes.
India takes pride in itself for many reasons. We are the largest democracy, we are one of the fastest growing economies, our literacy rates are rising, more people have access to clean drinking water resulting in a marked improvement in our health indices, the buying capacity of the people is increasing, etc. India is perhaps the only nation in which people of all faiths and belief systems have traditionally lived peacefully for centuries.
I was conversing with an American friend who was on his first visit to India. He was telling me of how every state in the USA has its own laws etc. During the course of our dialogue, I told him that if I went to the state just next to my state, Maharashtra, I would not be able to read the signboards on the buses, the food would be different, the culture would be different and so on, and this made him wonder how such a heterogeneous society could still live together!
In the Bible there is a story of a young lady who was caught in the act of adultery. The ancient Hebrew law commanded that in case of adultery both the man and the lady should be stoned to death. Perhaps this was so as it would also serve as a deterrent for others. Interestingly the story goes that the man was let off and only the lady was brought to Jesus.
This was perhaps to also trap Jesus. If He had ordered them to set her free He would be guilty of disobeying the law, while if He did ask them to stone her to death, then where was all the love, compassion and forgiveness that He was teaching? While all the eyes and ears were directed towards Him, Jesus made a remarkable statement, “He who is without sin should cast the first stone.”
Gradually everyone quietly left the scene, convicted of their own sins. How true is the saying, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Indeed, we must first deal with the log in our own eye before being quick to point out the speck of wood in someone else’s eye!
Our richness is in our diversity and we must accept, accommodate and respect the value systems of each other. It is easy to condemn others but as the old adage goes, “when you point a finger at others, the other three point back at you.” If we continue to stick to our positions and are unwilling to yield to others it will not be possible to live in harmony.
Since ancient times India is a unique nation of a seemingly heterogeneous society living peacefully. India has also birthed three religions- Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. The world views India as a nation of peace and stability. At no time, in independent India, have our democratic values and credibility been questioned.
We must continue to live peacefully respecting one another. In our families, we should recognise the good in the present generation and our youth must value the advice and experience of the elders. Our focus must shift from the nitty-gritties of differences to viewing the big picture.
In a few years India will be completing 75 years since our independence. We now are a mature democracy and we must establish ourselves as a world leader for other nations to follow. Here is a simple, rule-of- thumb guide for behaviour: “Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.” (The Message)