Abp Leo Cornelio, Bhopal
What kind of a freedom do we enjoy in India today?
There is restrain on freedom now, kind of systematic way of exploiting the freedom of the people in a way that is detrimental to democratic values. This is done as per a systematically planned program; they try to curtain citizens’ freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of movement and other forms of freedom. Lynching of peo-ple is happening regularly. No one is there to control it. The police are helpless
Lynching is an expression of extreme violence. The language of hatred is spreading all over. Your comment?
I feel the language of hatred is being encouraged. The tactic of divide and rule is widely used. The language of hatred and division has systematically destroyed unity and harmony. Today we had a students’ parliamentarians gathering from all our 25 schools. Twenty or thirty elected representatives from each school came together. I exhorted those children to spread the message of hope, peace and love. That alone can help our country get rid of mutual hatred. We need to transform the mind-set of the every child. Every young person should make an effort to achieve that.
Don’t you think this hatred is being spread as part of the Hindutva agenda of the RSS?
Politics and religion have got mixed up here. For many polarization of religion is now becoming a way of life, and that is how religion has become a tool to create divisions. I believe that it is easy to spread hatred in the name of religion, culture, and caste. The religion they speak of is not Hindu religion. Hindu religion is not at all to be blamed for what they do. Hindutva fanatics are misusing Hindu religion. Learned Hindu scholars have decried their band of Hinduism. A true Hindu will never take to violence.
Does the Hindu majority in India understand the difference between Hinduism and Hindutva?
The vast majority, I believe, does not understand the difference between Hinduism and Hindutva, because a good numbers of our people are uneducated. They are not able to discern the difference between religion and religious fanaticism or religion and the politicization of religion. Because they are moved by emotion, they find it hard to distinguish the two. The simple people don’t know the dangers underlying it. Our people are simple and uneducated and they are unaware of the terrible consequences of religious fanaticism.
The Hindutva protagonists and BJP leaders are saying that they are defenders of Hindu culture. For them Hindu culture is the highest and the loftiest to be had. Do they therefore export the cultural symbols of Hindutva?
There is nothing like a lofty or pure culture. Every culture is valuable. We have to keep the values of different cultures intact. I have visited a few dozen countries and I know that every country has its own values and culture. The values of other countries can be imbibed. There is nothing like pure culture or lofty culture or superior culture. Culture also changes as people get educated and advance in the path of development. Cultural values do not stay static. Our culture can also get enriched by learning from different situations and interacting with different people and different cultures.
There is a feeling that the high caste hegemonic attitude prevalent in the BJP has dismantled the values of equality and brotherhood and freedom enshrined in the Indian constitution. Are they going back – Ghar Vapsi – to the caste system of India?
I believe that they are making a certain effort in that direction. The Hindu culture they are talking about is actually the Brahminic culture.
Brahmins are not of a big number, but they want to become dominant and rule over the vast majority. As a result, other groups and other castes fall apart. That is a way of blindfolding the people.
In the history of the world, Nazism was a high caste movement aimed at Arian-culture dominance. Don’t you suspect that Arian supremacy is also behind Hindutva?
I agree with it. I feel that they are similar ideologies and are equally dangerous. This particular group is somehow influenced by Hitler’s fascist ideology. It is an ideology that believes in a race of superior culture.
Professor Amartya Sen, the Nobel Laureate, has said the idea of India, where citizens are equal and enjoy all rights, is in danger. Do you agree with Amartya Sen?
Amartya Sen is right, because we have a lofty constitution which everybody admires. But then, one Hindutva leader has said that ultimately the constitution is nothing but a collection of ideas from different other constitutions. What is in it that is specific about India, they ask. They have a uni-directional ideology, which is not at all comprehensive, and that is definitely detrimental to the integrity, unity, growth and progress of our country.
What do you think is the situation of the Christians all over India? Are they intimidated? Are they free to exercise their religion and profess it?
I would say we now have a disturbing situation where people feel very conscious of belonging to a particular religion. Now, no religion should make an effort to proselytize in a vigorous way. One is free to perform one’s religious practices, for which religious freedom is important and necessary. At the same time, nobody should curtail others freedom to change their faith and religion as long as they are not compelled or induced to do so. Inducement is a very subtle term; you can’t pinpoint what it is. Suppose you give food to a hungry man on the street, someone may catch you accusing you of trying to convert him. The same thing happens when we dismiss an employ for dereliction of duty and he retaliates by accusing you of trying to convert him. A lot of such instances take place. Such things will hold back people from helping the needy and the poorest of the poor for fear of getting branded and accused. That is why they even accused Mother Teresa of trying to convert.
How do you look at the future of India and its democracy?
I have trust in the Indian people; sooner or later they will come to the right realization. History has shown that people may be misled for some time, but all the people cannot be misled all the time. Time will come when the righteousness will triumph, and then I feel India will be truly liberated, having shattered casteism. The freedom of individuals is very important. God sometimes allows things to move to a level that will enlighten people so that things can change. That is my hope and prayer.