Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Kabir: Conscious keeper for secular society

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

As the nation celebrates its 63rd republic day with great pride, it is time to ask uncomfortable questions too. Our constitutional forefathers gave us a secular socialist democratic constitution so that each one of us has a stake in it and that every individual get an opportunity in participating in our national life irrespective of our caste and religion. Our constitution ensured that individuals are not discriminated on the basis of our identities and women do not remain confined to homes but have important role in each walk of our life. Untouchability is abolished by our constitution and yet practiced rampantly in our villages, in schools and manual scavenging is still the order of the day in various states of the country and government still do not have the exact numbers. The country has a secular constitution yet government could not protect a mosque demolished by the hoodlums claiming to be the followers of a particular God. The state of India could not honor the rights of a Muslim woman named as Shahbano who was given alimony by the Supreme Court but turned upside down by the Parliament of India. In the name of secularism, the state and political parties continued to protect and promote the competitive communalism. Political parties have converted secularism to identity politics dominated by the religious clergies of different religion resulting in complete absence of social reforms with in the communities and strengthening of the rightwing fundamentalists’ forces everywhere.
Therefore, it is essential to understand the entire situation around us and tried to find as why the secular constitution of India is unable to build a secular society in India. It is not the fault of constitution. Today, many people feel as if we want to change the constitution. The thing is that we have one of the best constitutions of the world where our forefathers envisaged that it will require changes in due course of time and hence a clause for amendments was made in it. And this is a process that every democratic society believes in that change is the way of life and hence our laws must reflect the sense of that period. Unfortunately, the more the country has made economic progress, the lesser has been its focus on cultural changes. Unlike Industrialization in the West, Indian status quoists actually used the industrial revolution for their own religious agenda. The caste capitalism in India actually promoted the caste interests of the power elite through religious propaganda. All those who talked against caste system, untouchability and communalism were blamed as western influenced arm chair activists who have no relations with the ordinary Indian and the society here. They blamed Nehru for introducing this brand of secularism in India and the reason for this dangerous game was the so called historians who did never ever gave due acknowledgment to the vast non-religious humanist heritage of this country which began from Carvaka and later the stream was strengthened by revolutionary Sufi Saint Kabir who was unambiguous in his criticism against religious fanatics.

Today, Kabir has become more than relevant for developing and building up of a secular society. Born in 1556 at Lahartara Varanasi, at the place of a weaver community person, Kabir saw the prevailing situation around him. Caste system was rampant as the priests would always consider themselves superior to others and that is why he had the courage to say that nobody is bothered about caste, those who believe in God are god’s children. He never believed in the supremacy of those who know Vedas and Puranas and in fact defeated many of these so-called priests in open debate which are called Shastrarth. He always believed that someone does not become a knowledgeable person by merely reading text books; the real Pandit is the one who understand the language of love.

Kabir was the conscious of society when it was facing oppression in different forms and priestly class has used religion and divine text to justify their position and oppression. He spoke against them boldly and unambiguously and that is why he is much above all those who appease the religious fringe in the name of secularism. He question the worshipping of idols by Hindus saying ‘ Pahan puje hari mile to main puju pahar, tatai yeh chakki bhali, peesh khaya sansar’, if you can get God by worshipping the stone, then I would worship mountain. Oh man, worship your grinding machine which grinds your wheat. Similarly, he was ruthless against the Muslim priestly class when he says,’ kankar pathar jori ke masjid layi banay, taa chadhi mullah bang de, kya bahro huo khudaya’ meaning you build the mosque through stones and now the mullah shout loudly over it as if Allah is deaf.

Kabir was much ahead of his time and his power came from deep rooted conviction in him to fight against all kind of discrimination. The point is that Kabir believed in one identity of human being. He was born in the backward Muslim community yet it was his birth based identity which he was never bothered about. None of his preaching was ever based on these fictitious identities that we now harp on so much as if that is the end of the world. His focus was inner change in our heart and he believed that unless we introspect about our own self, situation was not going to change. As he was honest and bold without any personal gains, he spoke valiantly and what we call ‘ Khari Khari’. Today, we do not have people and intellectuals who could speak that khari khari as we all have embedded perceptions about our ideology. Our ideologies are shaped in drawing rooms and we are ready to allow people being killed in the name of ideologies and perceptions. Human beings are being slaughtered for the sake of ideology. Our sensitivity only wakes up when somebody is from our community otherwise we have become highly insensitive. This kind of politics and intellectualism is nothing but farcical. Kabir felt that nothing is bigger than human being and hence no ideology can be bigger than the principles of love and common brotherhood.

If we want to make our constitutional principles envisaged by Baba Saheb Ambedkar to succeed, it is time, we start thinking on the lines of Kabir who believed in humanism and promoted the idea of love and affection. It is important that our secularism does not turn into a free for all religious fanaticism which only strengthens the communalist elements in our society. Our secularism must spread love and affection among people and provide opportunities to all the people in our national life. The secularism that our constitutions envisage is equal respect to all provided each individual is respected and his or her rights are not infringed by the religious values. Kabir spoke against all forms of oppressions in the name of caste, religion and identities. It is unfortunate that his legacy of humanism is not being propagated properly to the people. Those who blame secularism as the value of Western thinkers must not forget how Kabir, an illiterate and born in one of the most disadvantaged communities spoke against all forms of superstition and challenged the supremacy of priestly class in India. It was Kabir who felt the religious dogmas are nothing but violate the principles of equality and brotherhood. If our constitutional values have not become our social values, it is time, we reinvent the values of Kabir and other saints like him who stood for human rights of the people, talked of human values so that we become a humanist society free from all kind of dogmas and superstitions in the name of traditions and culture.

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