The irresoluble case of political faith

Aam Aadmi Party just razed Bharatia Janata Party (BJP) to the ground on its way to a staggering Delhi polls victory. Only a few paltry months have gone by since the BJP had gained a majority in the Lok Sabha election. And it has already lost out to a brand new political outfit. Many experts already have numerous theories explaining the BJP’s humiliating defeat. Very few of the promises that Modi had made to the people actually got fulfilled. And there is, of course, the infamous case of the Rs 10-lakh suit, which caused quite an outrage. That brought down his popularity quotient by a few notches, indeed. At times, a few false steps can become colossal issues of public debate and resentment.

I was under the impression that Kejriwal’s popularity had also considerably waned after he resigned his position as chief minister. In fact, it would have been quite logical to have that happen. Many leaders of the AAP also left the party out of disappointment over Kejriwal’s juvenile behaviour. It’s true that he had committed a grave error. But he had it in him to accept the error of his ways, apologise, and promise that he would never again repeat this kind of gimmick ever again. The public appreciates an open, honest confession and apology. Moreover, this time, possibly, people who would have otherwise voted for the Congress, voted for AAP because it had seemed to stand a far better chance at defeating the common enemy — the BJP.

I congratulated Arvind Kejriwal on his unwavering principles a few days before the elections when he had firmly rejected the pledge of political support from Delhi’s Shahi Imam, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, saying “We don’t need their support.” Not one Indian politicians has ever displayed such bravado. Not even the ones belonging to the hindu right-wing. Most Indian politicians suffer under the belief that minority votes in India need to be won by placating muslim religious leaders. Most Indian muslims have not yet become self-reliant as far as deciding on their own ideology is concerned. Their imams or gurus usually decide for them, and dictate the community’s choice of a political affiliation.

To appease the Shahi Imam of Delhi to ensure his share of minority votes is a practice started by none other than Nehru, right after India became independent. This practice has continued unabated till date. The fact that Kejriwal has won almost all minority votes even after publicly rejecting the Imam’s offer proves that muslim votes can indeed be won without the aid of their imams. Experienced political analysts need to take a few lessons from Kejriwal. Foremost among them is the fact that it is absolutely unnecessary to appease any leader from any religion. Just as the religious leaders are manipulated by the politicians for their own vote-bank strategies, the leaders themselves also exploit these politicians for their own gains. In a country that is ostensibly secular, it is indeed a great tragedy that no politics is devoid of a religious angle, and no religion is complete without its own variety of insidious political game. That, henceforth, Indian politicians would walk the path that Kejriwal has dared to show them is perhaps too much to hope for. All orthodox leaders, whether muslim, hindu or christian, would always take the society a few steps backwards as long as they are allowed to exist. Imams, purohits, peers, babas, mataas — to mollycoddle these elements is to patently provide more energy and encouragement to render our society more ignorant, and more riddled with superstitions and stigmas. These uneducated, misogynistic powers have already learnt how to manouever Indian politicians to serve their less-than-honourable purposes.

Kejriwal had committed this same mistake right before the elections last year. He had visited Tauqueer Raza Khan, a UP-based muslim cleric. A visit of this sort can only mean one thing — the hope that the religious leader shall, out of pity, ensure that his uneducated and politically illiterate followers voted for AAP. I had unequivocally criticised Kejriwal for this move. This Tauqueer Raza Khan is the same man who, in his capacity of a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, had announced a bounty of Rs 5 lakh on my head. The fact that even Kejriwal had to resort to seeking support from this idiotic fatwabaaz, was quite shameful. At the end of the day, he was little more than a mafia-man who promised to pay people money in lieu of having someone murdered. I hope the criticism has stood Kejriwal in good stead. This time, he had rejected the support from orthodox muslim leaders.

The problem usually is that Indian politicians are exceedingly averse to taking such lessons from their past. They find it impossible to take a step outside of the knowledge bequeathed to them by their ancestors. The CPM is another example: they hounded me out of West Bengal in the hope of garnering minority votes in 2007, but unfortunately, they didn’t get what they wanted. If only unjustly harassing an artist could ensure a political party all the minority votes, then it would have made their lives a lot easier. The same applies for Mamata Banerjee. The fact that she doesn’t allow me to set foot in West Bengal has never really ensured that she has minority support in her state. She suffers from the perpetual fear that letting in someone who speaks against religious fundamentalism shall make her lose muslim votes.

I hope the fact that Kejriwal has achieved this hitherto-unthinkable feat of bypassing religious leaders in his bid to sweep an election shall prove to these politicians how unfounded their fears are. He has successfully earned the love and trust of ordinary muslims by proudly relinquishing the help of the fatwa-touting fundamentalist lot. What the minority of this nation need are education, healthcare services, employment opportunities and an increase in their standard of living. The imams are radically opposed to all of these; they’d much rather have them lead a life suffused with superstition, orthodoxy and divisiveness.

The foregone conclusions of faith

The ISIS posted a new video a couple of weeks ago. It made a child kill two Russian spies and video-recorded it for the benefit of the world. The outfit has repeatedly stated its avowed aim: namely, to establish islamic law and an all-encompassing islamic state, where only, and only, Sunni muslims would be allowed to survive. The ones getting murdered are guilty of a very serious crime — they are non-muslims, or even if they are muslims, they are not Sunnis, or, even if Sunnis, do not subscribe to the murderous and insane death-dance the ISIS seems adept at performing.

The most disturbing bit in this entire drama is the fact that the ISIS is completely and utterly unrepentant of having killed numerous innocents. It’s enough for them that they are good muslims who are evidently carrying out orders of their divine messiah and their god. And that their Allah is in turn going to ensure their entry into some elusive behesth. Since they are apparently following the word of their god, their conscience remains clear, with no strains of visible remorse.

What can the world possibly do at this evil hour? The most we can do perhaps is to scream at the top of our lungs, that at least, for the love of god or devil, do not hand weapons to innocent children.

But the brainwashing of children by islamic fundamentalists is not a recent phenomenon. Palestine trains its children in the art of suicide bombing. A few days ago, Nigeria’s Boko Haram tied a bomb to the miniscule body of a 10-year-old and packed him off to a busy marketplace. The child died, of course, taking with him 20 other clueless victims. And thus, numerous children are daily falling unwitting victims to the ambitions of those zealots. Gone are the days when parents had ambitions for higher education for their children; they are instead now subjects of rampant miseducation, maleducation and religious education all over the world, which turn them into dangerous terrorists at this tender age.

On the other hand is the relentless struggle by liberal humanists to discourage practices of religious identity and discrimination among children. So that they do not identify themselves or others, since the earliest stages of their cognitive development, as hindus or muslims or jews or christians. There is no conceivable reason to take it for granted that religion is something genetic — that children born of pious parents have to be believers. In fact, theism itself is not something one should pass on: children are not unconditionally meant to be followers of a certain order. Children are not adequately equipped to decide which faith suits their temperament, and so, it is essential that religion be something that people decide on only when they are informed adults.

Otherwise, the children of this world have little to look forward to than undemocratic systems like the ISIS where science and philosophy have been rendered redundant as educational paradigms for them. Where their right to stay away from brutality and violence has been ended by religious edicts.

In Pakistan, a large number of imams and madrasa teachers took out a rally, replete with slogans and banners, no less. The banners read of eulogies dedicated to the killers at the Charlie Hebdo office, now hailed as supreme heroes fallen to the cause of jihad.

The imams state that they were their ‘brothers.’ In such an event, it was of course their abiding duty to read the funeral prayers for their deceased martyred brothers in Pakistan, as they did. These are the very same imams and madrasa educators that impart ‘education’ to thousands of children.

One wonders, with a vague dread, about the quality of that educational instruction. They must be mouthing the ISIS slogans with all the certainly of the well-ordained. It is so supremely ironical that ISIS or Boko Haram are not outfits who operate freely in a democratic nation, and yet, in a state like Pakistan, followers of ISIS are treading the democratic path with pride and élan. They are, quite legally, supporting the ISIS in public, rallying without state opposition and imparting their principles in masjids and madrasas shamelessly.

They continue to poison many minds with the indoctrination of the sort for which ISIS is today vilified across the globe. They have rights to do so, to manufacture many more jihadis, since in Pakistan, ISIS is not banned. In many other countries as well, the state of affairs is exactly the same.

The world is not untouched by such vicious influences. The muslim fundamentalists are exerting a curious influence on India’s homegrown right-wing. They are, likewise, becoming more intolerant, more violent with each passing day. Perhaps not quite as much as the islamic fanatics, but they seem not very far behind either.

Tamil author Perumal Murugan’s fifth novel, Madhorubhagan, landed him in trouble with hindu fundamentalists, and the issue was raised anew after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Murugan was forced to apologise for and censor his book, his Facebook account was deactivated. The same happened with Rajkumar Hirani’s film PK, which roused a lot of rabble in the hindu fanatics’ quarters.

Cases where they have come up with protests against artistic freedom have pervasively affected painters, writers, filmmakers, cartoonists alike. Granted they haven’t yet gone to the extent of lining up non-hindus and shooting them in the head, but if they are not contained, the day isn’t far when they would become as much of a barbaric threat to the institution of democracy that the muslim terrorists are.

Cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo and me

A few years ago , I was invited to visit Charlie Hebdo’s office in Paris. I was bowled over by the work of their brilliant and talented cartoonists. Their struggle for freedom of expression at the risk of their lives is akin to my own struggles. There were fatwas, and there were death threats galore, but they were not deterred. There was pressure and intimidation over the lampooning of Mohammad, but they still carried on. If they were to draw cartoons, they knew they might be murdered, and yet they still drew their cartoons. There was a firebombing at their office, their names appeared on Al Qaeda’s most wanted list, and they still didn’t close their doors. Naturally, I’ve felt at one with their plight. Fatwas, ordinances, exile — nothing could ever silence my voice. Those cartoonists were all such wonderful human beings. They were adept at the art of satire, and they dearly loved a a good laugh. Their philosophy was similar to mine — they absolutely rejected religious fundamentalism, violence and terror. They were, on their part, worried about my safety and security. Since they were inhabiting one of the safest democratic spaces in the world, they didn’t seem very worried about themselves. I hardly could have known then that terrorists would barge into that very office and kill all of them, that there is no country left in the world that is actually safe and secure.

Charlie Hebdo will continue to be published. if it were to shut down or if the artists were intimidated into self-censorship, that would mean victory for the terrorists. I am happy to hear that the next issue, in protest of the massacre, will have a print of one million copies. The continued publication of Charlie Hebdo is a triumph for freedom of expression. It does not require a lot of talent to become a terrorist, to use an automatic weapon and kill innocents. But one can neither become a journalist nor a cartoonist without any talent. The murder of so many talented people by a few insane and barbaric men to please their God and their prophet, in order to get into paradise, is an offense to human decency. This is the way gullible young men and women around the globe are indoctrinated to be pious Muslims!

I have been stunned ever since I heard the cartoonists and journalists at Charlie Hnedo have been killed. I have a feeling that one day, I’ll meet the same fate at the hands of Islamic fanatics. Perhaps I’d be in the middle of finishing a novel or a book of poetry, and they will sneak into my study suddenly to butcher me, or maybe pump a few bullets into my head while screaming ‘Allahu Akbar’. If they could get away with this in a city like Paris, despite the presence of armed security guards, there is no reason for such an incident to not happen where I am staying . Come what may, I shall never be silenced, the way Charlie Hebdo shall never be silenced.

The intellectuals of the Occident have always spoken in favour of Muslims, no matter how much terror Muslims might perpetrate. Perhaps they wish to maintain the western liberal tradition, or maybe their sympathies are drawn to the Muslims who were once colonized by European nations and now form a minority in Europe, or perhaps they are moved by the fate of Muslims persecuted in Afghanistan, Iraq or Palestine. But the intellectuals working at Charlie Hebdo spared no one. No politician, no religious leader of any denomination, escaped their humour. They made fun of Christianity, Judaism and Islam alike. They would also sometimes lampoon the Prophet Mohammad. Those were intelligent works of art. Some people complain they were provocative. But they have all the right to be provocative, and no one should have the right to kill them for being provocative.

Most people today would stand by Charlie Hebdo. They would criticize the terrorists and claim that their version of Islam is not in the true spirit of the religion, that real Islam does not provide any justification for killing unbelievers. This is, however, completely untrue. Numerous verses in suras like al-bakara, al-Nisa, al-Anfal and al-Tauba of the Quran speak of killing people who have no faith in Islam. There are express commandments to Muslims to kill non-Muslims. Many hadith passages have enumerated instances where Muslims were ordered to murder infidels. The prophet himself had waged many wars. The men from various Arabic tribes were coerced into converting to Islam. He with his soldiers killed 800 Jewish men of the Banu Qurayza tribe, and looted their land and property. He distributed the tribeswomen as spoils of war among the victorious Muslim men to enjoy either as sex objects or slaves. Islam was born of such unspeakable acts of terror. If it weren’t for terror tactics, Islam would have never crossed over the boundaries of Medina. It has been propagated throughout the world through fear, terror, force, tyranny, brutality, murder, torture and bloodshed. It is no wonder that the followers of Mohammad are today following in his footsteps and spreading terror in the whole world. Unlike all other religious orders, Islam is completely impervious to reforms. Islam has been largely exempt from any critical scrutiny that other religions have undergone to modernize them. It has almost remained as primitive as it was 1,400 years ago. The devout followers of Mohammad believe in true Islam, and therefore want to have a quintessential Islamic caliphate established to rule the entire world, which would only be inhabited by true Muslims and no one else. Whoever it is who happens to disbelieve or mock Islam, they reserve the right to do away with that person, exactly like disciples of the prophet did in the seventh century. Islamic terrorist groups like al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab intend to wage this holy war of terror throughout the entire world. All of them have the same ideology. Allah is the one and only true god. Mohammad’s way is the true path of Islam. They do not believe in plurality of thoughts or in democratic principles, relying instead on a theocratic, monolithic version of their medieval belief system.

Islamic fundamentalism is not a negligible problem. If one wants to address this problem, one has to go to the very roots. Preaching principles of freedom of expression won’t do any good. One has to know what mantra makes terrorists tick and influences them to take up arms. Their holy book reeks of violence. This Quran should rather be treated as a historical document than a complete code of life or the basis of laws. It is important to stop indoctrination of children with irrational religious faith at home or institutions like madrasas or mosques. Children should be raised to have logical and rational minds and to adopt a scientific outlook that will enable them to distinguish between right and wrong, fact and fantasy.

I strongly believe that as long as Islam remains unchanged and unreformed, there can be no end to terror.

Get body shop out of business

In the earliest days of slavery, while slaves would be toiling away in cotton fields, their owners would come and bodily pick away the females for sexual gratification. In the west, mulattos with lighter skins were preferred. In India, many an adivasi or impoverished woman has fallen prey to the lusts of their masters. They still do, mostly rented for sex in the slave market or sold into prostitution.

This history repeats in cycles. Those who support prostitution have never been prostitutes or remotely involved in that trade; so they are seldom exposed to the atrocities inflicted on the women in brothels. And prostituted women who do speak in favour of prostitution argue that it is a profession like any other, and that, it sometimes helps empower women.

But the fact is that a sex war continues to be waged against women around the world since time immemorial. To try and pass this off as the world’s so called oldest profession is to deceive people; it is no different from the most ancient form of torture; not just against an adult woman but also the girl child. The statistics are staggering.

In 2013-2014, half of India’s missing children were sold into prostitution. Forty-five per cent of the 67,000 abducted children were trafficked and sold to brothels, using every possible kind of force, ranging from violence to severe mutilation, rape and threat of execution.

To satisfy the lust of men for a few moments with their tiny bodies, these minors and young women are forced to sacrifice any hope of happiness they might ever have had. They are being stripped of dignity and denied their rights as humans.

Red light areas, as prostitute quarters are euphemistically known, continue to abound in this democracy. The most ugly, heinous, malicious, villainous, obnoxious and lowest forms of behaviour possible by men are meted out to women, making criminals out of these men. So, whoever argues for legalising prostitution is actually arguing for a legal protection for perpetuating the inhuman behaviour on sex workers.

India has about 1.5 crore sex workers – a demography which is higher than the combined population of many small nations. In several cases parents sell their daughter to escape poverty. Some others were hustled by lovers and husbands into brothels for a livelihood.

Prostitution is inextricably linked to human trafficking. They complement one another. Those who claim that all women in sex quarters are adults, and have duly come into the trade with express consent, after having considered carefully deliberated decisions, are lying through their teeth. In any such quarter, most are minors, and have been sold either by deception or by force.

Prostitution has also never emancipated women from impoverishment. No traumatised prostituted women ever earned millions from sex rackets; it’s the brothel owners who do. Every day, young women fall prey to the incessant terror of traffickers and pimps. Even those who seek to opt out are never allowed to quit.

Few women desire a life of ignominy. Men force them into the trade. Being forced into something is miles away from choosing it. Until recently, patriarchy forced women to burn on the funeral pyres of their deceased husbands as sati.

Even if we accept the argument that prostituted women want prostitution to be legalised, should civil society really let that to happen? If someone willingly wants to sell himself to slavery, should we simply sit and watch? If slavery has been abolished throughout the world, why does prostitution, the modern day slavery continue to flourish? Women do not perpetuate prostitution; evil, corrupt and powerful men do.

Buying of bodies must be banned. If there’s no one to buy a body, the ‘body shop’ will go out of business. The first step is to recognise prostitution as sexual slavery, as abuse, and infliction of bodily and mental harm and torture.

In India, men are almost never named and shamed in sex scandals. The woman is almost always harassed in public. A democracy ensures equality of rights and recognises men and women as equal citizens. Any democracy that covers up human rights violations by spouting excuses is not a civil society. Where it does, there’s a different name for it. It’s called patriarchy. And that is the true nature of a savage state.

Getting away with rape and murder

In Delhi, around December 2012, there happened a brutal incident. Six men gang raped a girl on a bus; but that wasn’t really all. They didn’t stop at inflicting violence with merely male organs, they had to reach into her insides and rip open her intestines. When her gut was spilling out of her, they still hadn’t stopped raping her. After they were done, they threw her limp body out unceremoniously from the speeding bus onto the street. She battled for her life as long as she could but it finally slipped out her wrecked body in a hospital far away from home.

In the Indian subcontinent, mostly the relentless canvassing and campaigning by male leaders have achieved women’s liberation. Men have fought to abolish sati, for women to step out of the home and hearth and get educated, have professionsand having suffrage against a largely patriarchal society.

Having said that, the number of men with such intentions and understanding come to a mere handful. While it is true that some men have indeed helped in somewhat scaling the immense wall of impediments in the way of women’s freedom, it also remains true that most men pushed womenkind back a few centuries, and unfortunately, the number of such men has always been far higher.

I have been looking at India closely for the past few years because I have been residing here; I am residing here because my democratic right of being a resident in any other part of this subcontinent has been undercut by ostensible democracies. And this nation, the oldest democracy in the subcontinent, which is far ahead of its neighbours in terms of education, resources and equivalence, wakes me up each day with its news dailies describing horrific crimes against women. Rapes of minors, murder, physical assault, strangulation, shootings, hacking, burning, stoning — strange, myriad ways of doing away with women are revealed every single day.

I am even more amazed by the fact that they meet with little or no protest. A slight increase in the prices of petroleum or onions is enough, usually, to get a few thousands on the street marching, but a hundred women raped, mutilated, brutalised doesn’t bring out a single man or woman. Rape stories have become so very commonplace that the media only reports especially brutal gangrapes these days with adequate coverage.

The Delhi gangrape changed that scene, ever so slightly. For the first time in years, people were angry, they were awakened to a few truths in this subcontinent. Thousands of men, too, joined the protests and demanded more measures for the safety and security of women. Many demanded death for the rapists.

What they perhaps do not realise is that the death penalty is possibly the easiest punishment to mete out to a criminal by a court. The logistics of a hanging is far simpler than to initiate a grassroot change in an inherently misogynistic society that must learn not to objectify women. The Herculean task of educating a society to look at individuals equally and respectfully, and not merely as sex objects, is a responsibility that this government must take.

Of course, making kids recite, like clever little cockatoos, lines about freedom and non-discrimination and how ‘men and women are equal, how women must not be disrespected,’ doesn’t exactly solve the problem as it doesn’t reach back to the core of their values. When the children go back home to find men to be the ruling heads and women to be side-characters in this cinematic reel, this observation itself changes their entire perception about themselves.

They grow up reading the same newspaper reports screaming, ‘One can do anything with a woman’s body and get away with it. One can rape an infant and be forgotten. No one thinks of this as something worthy of protest. To rape a wife is not punishable in a patriarchal society. To give or receive dowry is a common cultural practice condoned by both men and women.’

Yes, it’s that bad for women in this society which treats them as a second sex, as a lesser, lower life form, so that there’s really no other option for them than to bribe men and become their slaves for life. To pay men to accept them into their lives.

The media has its own role to play, the society its own. The society spots women by such so-called ‘innocuous’ ritualistic markers as the sindoor or the shankha-pola/mangalsutra, as something that is already licensed and sold. No such markers for married men, of course, for when were they meant to ‘belong’ to a woman?

The media rediscovers female bodies each day as sex objects, focussing maniacally on disembodies anatomical parts to titillate audiences. Whoever she is, a writer, scientist, thinker, philosopher, it ceases to matter. She is a mindless, spineless piece of flesh, and the folds of body are meant to be devoured by millions. They are not meant for conversations of intellectual stimulation, they are meant to be enjoyed.

Perhaps no other species can treat its females the way humans can. There is no documented instance of gang rape, there is no instance of murder after intercourse. If anything, the male of every species do their utmost to court the women into acquiescence through a mating ritual. To treat their own species so abysmally may finally lead to the extinction of the species altogether, because it seems to be somewhere stuck in the evolutionary ladder, and instead of bettering itself, is rooting for its own destruction by exterminating the female of its own genus.

Religious Conversions

Tricks and treats, coercion, threats, manhandling and extermination are the methods by which Christianity and Islam have spread throughout the world. If these tools had not been adopted, neither of the two religions would have ever crossed the territorial boundaries of the Middle East. I always thought Judaism and Hinduism were two religions where that kind of conversion does not feature. It now appears, however, that the differences have dissolved somewhere down the line. Anyone can become a jew, if they so desire. And anyone can become a hindu. The foreigners of the Hare-Krishna cult, I knew, were into the habit of wearing tilaks on their forehead and chanting Sanskrit slokas in their bid to pose as hindus. But it seems religious conversions are no longer limited to the Krishna devotees. For quite some time, India is undergoing a phase of mass conversions where groups of muslims are converting to Hinduism. Are they becoming hindus because they are suddenly attracted to the religion? If indeed they are, then I see no problems therein. If they are being coerced into it, I’ll protest. I have always been voluble against forcing people to do things, anything, in fact. The fact remains that hindu fundamentalists are coercively pressurising muslims to change their religion, and they are converting mostly out of fear. Fear of life exceeds love of religious faith. Consequently, everyone will try to avoid any active threats to their life and living by taking whatever measures he or she can. Greed is another factor: apparently, a lot of money is on offer for conversions. There is already a fund created for this purpose. It is exactly the same methodology adopted by christian missionaries or sufis. Hindus are calling this conversion wave ghar vapasi. Which means a ‘returning to the fold’: in other words, since they were once forced to convert to Islam from Hinduism, now it’s time for the prodigals to return to their home turf safe and sound. I asked a hindu orthodox, “How much time do you think has elapsed before this apparent ‘return’ is taking place?” He kept silent. I added, “About eight hundred years, isn’t it?”

Almost all muslims in India are converts. Lower caste, untouchable, deprived and impoverished hindus converted to Islam either because they were brainswashed or bribed or beaten or attracted by the sufis or out of their hatred of brahminical Hinduism. It’s still going on. In case of a hindu-muslim wedding, the hindu has to convert to Islam. Its opposite, where a muslim embraces Hinduism after marriage, almost never happens. For hundreds of years, hindus have been systematically converted in this subcontinent. Today, when hindu fundamentalists are screaming revenge, and want to reverse the tide of history, the Delhi masnad trembles in the wake of their forceful slogans. Hindus can be converted to muslims or Christians, but none can be converted to Hinduism – this strange discrimination and discrepancy in practice shall no longer be tolerated. Hindus are going about it with a lot of enthusiasm, but, the question is whether it is at all possible for 25 crore muslims to be reconverted. Especially when converting even 25 of them has ended in stirring up a controversy. There is condemnation and criticism all around.

The right to conversion should be universal. Hairstyle, fashion statements, houses, cars, political parties, ideologies, husband, wife – if one has the right to change all of the aforementioned, then why can’t a person change their faith! It’s not such an immovable, insurmountable existential truth that it is deemed irreplaceable. People should be able to change their faith as frequently as they like, whenever they like, to any whichever religion they like. Hindus to muslims, muslims to hindus, Christian to jewish, jewish to mormons, mormons to Jehovah’s witnesses, from thereon to zoroastrian, to bahai to pagan. Anything they wish. Conversion should be part of human rights. Or if they so wish, they should even become atheists, free of all religious shackles. I have been free of religious faith since my childhood. Ideally, no child should be marked by any religious faith since no child is born with any innate religious beliefs. It is riddled with its parents’ faith almost forcefully. Every child is forced into adopting the faith it is born into, and coerced into believing it to be its own. In an ideal scenario, when a child reaches maturity, and acquires an objective knowledge of the religions of the world, along with adequate exposure to humanism or atheism, it should be left to choose which of them it wants to follow. If one has to be a mature adult to adopt ideological or political beliefs, then how is it that one does not require adulthood to adopt a religious faith?

It’s perhaps because religious fanaticism needs blind faith. And children are eminently ideal for such a scenario. Enlightened adults do not get carried away by faith-related fairy tales so very easily. If it actually becomes possible to stop the brainwashing of little children with religious jargon, then the concept of religion itself wouldn’t take very long to disappear.

And now, hindu fundamentalists have taken it upon their righteous selves to follow Islamic fundamentalists to the very last detail. Since muslims are violent, they have to turn aggressive. Since muslims convert kafirs, they need to do the same. Evidently, fundamentalists from all religions are verily the same. They have only one motive, one mantra: to destroy civil society.

News is that an anti-conversion bill is about to be passed. This is taking the whole issue too far. It makes absolutely no sense that human beings, who have the right to change anything about their lives, will be debarred from changing their faith. To imprison a person within the cages of a single religion is exceedingly cruel and unjust. If the Constitution allows for democracy and human rights, then this bill cannot be legally passed. It is inconceivable how fear of extinction of religious orders can drive communities. What power can close the gates on time and evolution? When has it ever worked? Sumerian, Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Viking – all the religions that once ruled the planet with pomp – are now dead and dusty. The Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism as we know now – all shall inevitably die some day. I pray to nature that when that finally happens, no other new god, no other high priest comes to plague the planet with new lies, superstitions and tall tales.

Let humanism live. No religion has the power to make a civilisation survive. Only the love and human sympathy of one people for another can achieve that. Freethinking, rational humans with a scientific temperament, unencumbered by superstition, shall eventually save humanity.