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Op-Ed

RSS reaching out?

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By EMN Updated: Sep 08, 2013 8:54 pm
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Charles Chasie

THE statement of Mr Mohan Bhagwat, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief, in Delhi on September 1, came across as interesting and significant – a PTI report that was picked up and reported in Nagaland papers also. He admitted that the NE region had been neglected by mainland India and that there should be a change of attitude towards the peoples of the North East.In particular, he called upon the people of mainland India to be more cordial towards the students from the region studying in different parts of India. “The North East students leave their land on the assumption that at least the country and countrymen are known to them. To help them adjust in a better way and make them feel at home, they should be treated in a way that comforts them”.
This is a welcome statement as there have been many complaints by North Easterners of being mistreated in different parts of the country. This also seems to be the beginning of a significant departure from past RSS position. From simply claiming everyone to be part of (Hindu) India, this is a call for change in attitude and to reach out to others who may not necessarily share their beliefs. Such attitudes give hope of a better future and living together.
Of course, there still appeared to be remnants of past attitude when he also said that the North East people know they belong to India and it is up to the rest of the country to realize that “the land and people belong to us”. The truth is mainland India’s attitudes have been such that many from the region do not even want to be part of, much less belong to, India! The Naga case was clearly different from the beginning. But this has become true of so many other communities and groups from the region too although they happily joined the Indian Union initially.
I still recall a piece written by Iqbal Masood, a well-known print media commentator, some years ago. Perhaps, irked by the attitudes of the Sangh Parivar, he asked, “What is this “Indian Mainstream” that Indian leaders keep talking about and the need for the minorities to join?” And then he answered that according to him, the Indian Mainstream was the vast majority of tolerant Hindus and, if this was so, then it was more for the intolerant Hindus to first join the Mainstream!
The Sangh Parivar’s attempts to impose Hindu beliefs on others clearly back-fired. The attempts to ban cow slaughter and to pass the Freedom of Religion Bill were two clear examples. They proved unacceptable and divisive and the country came to the brink of civil war, more in some areas than in others. Because when there is an attempt to impose, there is always resistance. This is human nature.
Like other religions, Hinduism too has its violent side. In fact, some people consider it a very violent one. There are also aspects that confuse. Many from other religions and races, especially from the West, are often baffled by the fact that the Hindu can apparently be completely at peace with his God without being mindful of what is happening to others next to him. Be that as it may, Hinduism too has much good in it if we can look for it and also find it. I have many good Hindu friends and I am completely at home in their presence. I have also experienced some not so happy incidents but I take those as aberrants rather than the rule.
Personally, I believe Hindus are meant to play a huge role in the life of humanity. If we look at Hinduism dispassionately we will find there are many good sides to it. Or even look at India as Hindu India for a moment. I know some will immediately disagree and even protest. But we must also agree that India is largely Hindu. If India is a democracy and Indians have all the freedoms they have, it is largely because the vast majority of Indians (Hindus) supported these. Tolerance and accommodation, I find, are a general trait of Hindu religion for true adherents. There are many bad traits too but the above facts are not diminished because of them. Today, many people keep asking why Muslims are so violent. You cannot blame Islam because of some who have gone astray. A favourite quote of mine from the Koran is that you are as near to God as you are from the person you are most divided from. Your attitudes usually depend on what you are looking for!
But we come back to our subject. If we look at (Hindu) India, all major religions of the world have found fertile soil here and many even thrived. In our own little corner, many Church leaders would like to shout from the top of their voices that Nagaland is a Christian State while Underground groups declare “Nagaland for Christ” as their motto. What else is happening beneath these banner headlines are best not to go too far into! Church History too can make any Christian sober immediately.
We also find that Hinduism is the only ancient civilization that has survived till date. Is this without a purpose? I doubt it somehow. Even the Chinese with thousands of years of history often get jitters when they come face to face with Indian History and civilization. A Parsi author friend of mine used to say that the reason why Indian civilization survived is because it is like pouring water on a duck’s back! Hinduism accepts what it wants and rejects what it does not want.
Today, world power is rotating back, and doing so more and more, towards India and China, the two most ancient civilizations. I don’t think this is just an accident of history. I think there is a divine plan and purpose somewhere. And I think Hindu India will play a great role here. But Hindu India (Indians) must look for and find this divine plan and purpose. (I have been interplaying Hindus/Hinduism and Indians because as I said the vast majority of Indians are Hindus). Who can tell what this plan and purpose is? But often things get revealed to us when people are truly and honestly searching. Spirituality is more important than religion any day.
It is such train of thinking that made me pick up Mr Mohan Bhagwat’s statement, for comment this week, which was buried in an inside page of a newspaper. The reaching out to others, or the attempt to do so, I think, is part of human “searching”.

Teachers & their Day

September 5 is observed every year as Teachers’ Day. It is supposed to be a day to honour teachers everywhere. On this day, every school has a function. Likewise, functions are held at district and State and national levels. Awards are announced to recognize those who have shown exemplary examples of dedication and devotion to duty and students. Sometimes, some welfare schemes are also announced for the benefit of the teachers. These are all good as the teachers do deserve the respect of society.
However, sometimes, it seems Teachers Day is sometimes observed more as a ceremonial and ritualistic function, something that has to be gone through rather than with real intent to honour the teachers and to help them. At such times, one wonders with what gumption the chief guests at Teachers’ Day functions give moralistic speeches.
Before anyone starts raising protesting voices, let us look at what greeted the teachers of Nagaland on their day this year. Many school teachers were not getting their pay. Almost all Government College teachers in Nagaland were in agitation mode. The irony was that the teachers were only wanting the basics of what was deserved and not perks or extras. Meanwhile, Governor Ashwani Kumar has had to take the painful duty to remind everyone that the quality of education in Nagaland is below what is expected. And that out of 58 colleges in the State only 8 have the National Accreditation Assessment Council (NAAC) rating and only two were placed in the A category. The statistics speak volumes and it is a reprimand to both teachers and Government.
What else? On the eve of Teachers Day, two factions fought and one was killed in the heart of the capital town. On Teachers day itself, another gun battle greeted the citizens, again in Kohima, the state capital. For the running battles the factions carried out in the capital town, they earned the ire of the Angami Youth Organization (AYO) who declared withdrawal of their support to these groups. This is how things happen in all other places; the people decide not armed groups. If you don’t have their support, it is of no use claiming that you represent them.
In Dimapur, Petrol pump closures greeted the entire town and students were unable to go to school etc. That was not all. The build-up to Teachers’ Day was about minors being murdered and mutilated in unimaginably gruesome manners, children going missing, rape of minors, and people warning parents to be careful and to monitor their children’s whereabouts etc. Some may well ask what have these to do with Teachers Day and whether I am saying these acts were committed intentionally to spite the teachers? No. I don’t think so at all. But such things do reflect on what is happening in society. And when we talk of teachers we are talking about the builders of society. That is the connection.
Happily, the Kohima police provided the silver lining like a delicious dessert at the end of a not so sumptuous meal by celebrating a no case pendency day on September 6. The Kohima district police set a record of sorts by declaring that they have no more cases pending in any of their police stations. May all police in Nagaland follow their exemplary example. Perhaps, a reward is in order?

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By EMN Updated: Sep 08, 2013 8:54:02 pm