India is a country of diversity and generally, we Indians are very tolerant. We have a vast geographical diversity, many religions, languages, castes, creeds and cultures. But we appreciate and nurture these differences. This makes us unique. No other country in the world is as diverse as India is. Citizens of most other countries speak one language and follow one religion. The British followed the policy of ‘divide and rule’ and succeeded in it too. It was Gandhi who united us through his guiding principle of non-violence. He acted as a unifying force.
“Do not follow the ideas of others, but learn to listen to the voice within yourself. Your body and mind will become clear and you will realise the unity of all things,” said a Chinese proverb. I do not think we need an external source to tell us the importance of unity and harmony. Our age old moral stories have always stressed the significance of unity. ‘United we stand, divided we fall’ is a known saying. But even when we know that there is truth and wisdom in these words, we misunderstand other people, fight, don’t care about other people’s feelings and end up making all our lives miserable.
If we think critically, it is not difficult to understand that external forces are what create differences in our minds. That discrimination makes us move away from our fellow humans, which in turn nurtures hatred in us.
Generally, we do not look at individuals as Hindus, Muslims or Christians. But when a religious fanatic tells us that Muslims are wicked or when we read in a newspaper that a Hindu humiliated a Christian, we start looking at them differently. We look at them with suspicion and whatever they do creates revulsion in us. We end up fighting with each other. But before we listened to that religious fanatic or read that news report, we never even knew what religion our friends belonged to. Even if we did, we used that information only to greet them and exchange pleasantries during festivals or functions.
Some people do not even allow their children to play with children belonging to other religions. So the hate is not in us, but is created in us by certain forces that are not happy to see us united, probably because they consider it a threat. These are the things we see around us and even experience ourselves, but most of the time we do not realise this simple fact. Even if we do, we do not accept it. We thus become willing or unwilling prey to other people’s scheming.
We need to learn from children. They do not have any idea about caste, creed and colour or the discrimination based on them. They do not have any prejudice. When we were kids, we never bothered about the background or social order of people around us. There was rivalry but no enmity. We considered each other friends. But as we grow up, we start to differentiate. It is the religious fanatics (some elders, not all), who sow the seeds of discrimination. We accept it and let the tree of hate grow.
It is we who created India and Pakistan, and Iraq and Israel. Nature did not do it. We humans created boundaries and lines of control.
John Lennon, one of the founders of The Beatles, in his iconic song Imagine says, “Imagine there’s no countries. It isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for. And no religion too. Imagine all the people, living life in peace... You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.”
I am sure you understand the truth in these words. As Lennon says, if not today, at least tomorrow we may have a world devoid of differences in the name of caste, race or religion. Let us not listen to fanatics, for without them, we live with our neighbours without giving a second thought to differences in religion, caste or creed.