Prevent Youths’ Exposure to Religious Hatred that’s Worse than Narcotic

A few weeks ago, two people were lynched to death in Punjab over the charges of sacrilege in two separate incidents.

Published: 16th January 2022 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th January 2022 01:07 PM   |  A+A-

A few weeks ago, two people were lynched to death in Punjab over the charges of sacrilege in two separate incidents. The mob had taken the law into their hands and offered instant street justice. What should have drawn wide condemnation in any other part of the civilised world became a circus in our country with every political leader except the honourable exception of one or two condemning the victims and conveniently remaining silent about the crime of the perpetrators. The police promptly filed FIR against the victims of lynching.

If someone has committed any sacrilege, we have laws to deal with them. The courts, the Constitution, the government, law and order machinery etc. exist for a reason. If we leave it to the mob to decide who is a criminal and what punishment is to be met for the crime, we can kiss goodbye to civilisation.

In another shocking incident, a religious conclave in Haridwar openly called for violence against another community and urged people to be ready with guns for a civil war. There have been spates of incidents reported by miscreants stopping Christmas celebrations forcefully. A religious leader was arrested for abusing Mahatma Gandhi. Though Gandhi or any other individual should not be above criticism and everyone should have the right to express their opinion, one needs to draw the line between criticism and abuse.

Miscreants have been there in every religion since the dawn of religion. What is frightening is the reach they have now. What would have been isolated incidents in some corner of the earth now go viral and reach every home. With the advent of social media, it is easy for bigots of every religion to spread their message of hate. Some stay in foreign countries, thus safe from the reach of our country’s laws and spread such messages through YouTube and Facebook, engaging and influencing thousands of followers to hate their neighbours and friends. Each religion is competing to create an atmosphere of hostility and bigotry.

That the youth is getting influenced by such messages was evident from the arrest of a young woman in her late teens for the crime of creating an app for ‘auctioning’ Muslim women. Those who get attracted to the extremist ideology of ISIS are also educated youths in their early twenties. Thanks to the public outcry, the police have acted fast and arrested some of the hate mongers. Honourable Vice President of India, Sri Venkaiah Naidu, censored the hate speech in no uncertain terms. While all these are welcome acts, more needs to be done if we don’t want to descend into the madness that followed the partition of British India.

The laws in any civilised country have many restrictions on the use and abuse of drugs. There is an age restriction for drinking and smoking. Some of the potent drugs are illegal, and possession and use of them can result in jail terms. The dealers and distributors of such drugs are treated as criminals, and rightfully so. Which nation can afford to encourage peddlers of intoxicants to waylay its youth and jeopardise its future? But religion is an exemption to this rule.

Religion is no different from narcotic drugs or intoxicating drinks. In small doses, it can be helpful for many to tide over personal losses and pain, just like how morphine could act as a pain killer. It helps people to ignore reality. It gives hope and sedation, and even pleasure. However, like any other narcotic drug, it can be deadly in large doses. Sometimes, it is worse than any narcotic. It is rare in the annals of history to read about adherents of two competing brands of liquor to have engaged in mutual butchery. Religious riots and wars are as common as the common crow.

It is the only intoxicant that parents willfully and cheerfully feed their children. Ideally, as there is an age bar for drinking and smoking, there should be an age bar for following any religion. The mindless intoxication that is now happening at a vulnerable age needs to stop. However, these are wishful thinking in a democracy where vote banks dictate the election results.

Maybe the solution lies in our homes. Most drug addicts, except that of religion, usually ensure that their children don’t follow in their parents’ footsteps. Even those who use liquor or smoke for recreation rarely encourage their little children to join them in their party. Just like how we shield our youngsters from pornography, smoking or alcohol until they are of suitable age, it would be better to prevent exposure to the toxic potency of religious hatred, even if we are the junkies of such manufactured hatred through social media platforms.

Anand Neelakantan

Author of Asura, Ajaya series, Vanara and Bahubali trilogy


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