IF you walk around Shanti Path in New Delhi, you can see long queues of Indians seeking visas, especially near the American, British and Canadian embassies.Well, I am one Westerner who is ready to queue at Indian embassies to seek, if need be on my knees, a visa to stay and live in this wonderful country which is called India.
Why? Because I believe that beyond the poverty, beyond the immense problems that India has encountered since independence, there is a knowledge here that has been lost to the rest of the world, a knowledge so precious that it makes India unique, a country where it is a great honour to live and work. What is this knowledge that I have encountered at every step since nearly 40 years, I a person of white origin?
First: “I accept you; I accept that you may be White or Black, Red or Yellow, Christian, Buddhist, or Muslim. I accept that God may manifest at different times, under different names, using different scriptures. That God is Krishna, but also Jesus Christ, Buddha or Allah.”
This is an extraordinary statement and a marvellous instrument for world peace at a time when terrorism is striking everywhere in the world in the name of One God.
It is also a Knowledge that only the body dies, but not the soul, which is born and reborn again till it achieves perfection.
A Knowledge that whatever you do has consequences in this life or another. A Knowledge that all human beings are made of Love, even beneath the hate and the killings.
This knowledge belongs not only to the Hindus but also to the Buddhists, the Jains, Christians and Muslims of India. Once upon a time, the Syrian Christians of Kerala, though faithful to the word of Jesus Christ, incorporated some of the basic tenets of Hinduism, such as reincarnation and karma. Once, Sufis such as Dara Shukoh, Shah Jahan’s eldest and preferred son (who should have become emperor instead of Aurangzeb), while remaining true Muslims, could translate the Upanishads and step into a temple without thinking they were committing a mortal sin.
I am thus horrified at what happened in Jaipur and has happened again and again in the last few years in different parts of India; how the Hindu community which has given India this incredible knowledge, which has accepted in its midst all ethnic groups, religions, refugees, Parsis, Jews, Armenians or Tibetans, is so cruelly targeted.
To kill children in a Hanuman temple, one of the gentlest Gods of Hinduism, is a crime that should be punished by immediate death. Yet I am perplexed at how little this present government does to fight terrorism. Every time there is a deadly blast, it seems to go through the same farce: the Centre condemns “this despicable act of terrorism”, appeals for communal harmony, gives some money to the family of victims so they keep quiet, and promptly buries the whole thing, never finding the terrorists.
Look in comparison at how quickly the perpetrators of the London train bombings were caught, or those of the Madrid train bombs, whereas those of the Mumbai train blasts are still free.
The other thing that baffles me is that this government, or the previous one for that matter, keeps accusing some “outside” countries, either Pakistan or Bangladesh, every time there is a terrorist attack.
But there is no way well-coordinated, well-timed criminal acts such as the one in Jaipur or the Mumbai train blasts can be planned, without not only local support, but also a bit of hatred against Hindus among some of the local Muslim population. Why do Indian Muslims not come out more openly to condemn these acts of terrorism? The impression, wrongly created, is that there is some support for these acts among Indian Muslims.
Yet nowhere but in India can communal harmony be achieved. For nowhere in the world is there a “something else” that unifies them beyond ethnic origin and religion. Take pranayama, the science of respiration, perfected by Indians over three millennia.
“Does the breath have any religion,” asks Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living movement. “Is the air we breathe around us, Muslim, Christian, or Hindu?” Indian Muslims have to keep their faith and the beauty of their practices and beliefs. But the question to be asked is: “What kind of Islam do you want to practise? An Islam that looks westwards and swears by a scripture meant for people living 1,500 years ago in a language that is not Indian? Or do they want to practice an Islam that accepts the reality of other Gods, and does not target children in Hanuman temples.
Do India Muslims want to worship Babar, a man who lived by the power of violence, or do they want to imbibe the qualities of Ram, who gave up all riches and honours because he thought his brother deserved the throne more than him?
Do Indian Muslims want to participate in this great adventure that is India of the 21st century? Do they want to feel that they are part of India, proud to be Indian?
The author, who is the editor-in-chief of the Paris-based La Revue de l’Inde, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.