Saturday, May 10, 2014

Politics and religion...a lethal combination

Politics an religion both look so similar in many aspects that some times it is very difficult to distinguish them from each other. In many countries both help each other in many ways, both these disciplines work very closely and assist each other to keep their hold on people's minds and in turn their votes. Specially in country like India religion is used extensively in politics, there are many ways by which politicians use religion to achieve their political goals. Sometimes politicians get so high in their heads that they start thinking that they are some sort of gods or demigods and they even start behaving that way. Instead of interacting with people, understanding their problems, serve them, answer their questions, they live totally comfortable and disconnected life. They only occasionally come to visit them (that too with lot of security and in helicopters or planes), give their speech and disappear, just like giving some sort of 'darshan' to people. They also think that people should be happy just to see them and listen to them as if they are some super humans whose mere presence or words will solve all problems of these poor people who are suffering because of misgovenrance of these same politicians. When these politicians start behaving like demigods they totally loose touch with reality, for them their image becomes everything, they start thinking that their speeches are like sermons, which people are supposed to just listen. They don't like any difficult questions, they don't like to mingle with all common people but only with their supporters (or fans or bhakts). So one can clearly see that there is lot common between the way politics and religion works (at least in India). Religion also works on very similar lines, just listen, don't ask any difficult questions, if you don't believe in powers of our God then please leave but don't challenge or question.

There are some parties like BJP who owe their existence to some cultural/religious organizations (like RSS), they even became major national party with the help of religious movement started by them (Ram Mandir movement). Why some political parties or politicians make use of religion to gain power? Can we keep politics and religion separate from each other? How and why politics and religion help each other so much? These are very complex questions and there are equally complex answers to them. One blog post is not enough to answer them all. Depending on culture and nature of society interdependence of politics and religion varies from region to region. But no doubt that it is a lethal combination, because only one is enough to bring fanatic side of people and when people mix both of them together their logical thinking is completely shut and then all it remains is just blind faith and fanaticism where there is no scope for discussion, debate or opposition. Politics is all about debates, discussions, questions, answers, policy brainstorming, participation of people (because after all its for people). It is very interactive and dynamic process, nothing is untouchable or taboo subject in politics, whatever is there in society can be discussed in political forum, but similar things are not true in case of religion. In religion certain things are not allowed, questioning is allowed only to certain extend, after that either one is branded as atheist (non believer) or thrown out of that organization. When people try to implement similar rules in political forum then it creates a problem, it just kills the spirit of political process.

One thing is for sure that both politicians and religious institutes want to control people's minds. They also want their money (for campaign or many religious functions, charitable work, etc.). To achieve these goals both these institutions want people to believe whatever they say without any questioning (or with minimum questions). They try their best to create situation where people are not encouraged to ask question (or are afraid to ask any questions), having such grand rallies or super human like image of their leaders is one way to intimidating people so that they hesitate to ask questions. This intellectual intimidation works many times, people just get memorized by presence of these magnetic personalities and surrender before them thinking that this great leader (religious or political doesn't matter) is going to solve all their problems. But it never happens, actually we don't need super heroes we need good leaders who are willing to listen to people, interact with them. We need leaders who are interested in designing system which can work efficiently, a system which doesn't depend on a star performer but is a star itself.

Use of religion or religious symbols is prohibited by law in India during political campaign, but many political parties do this any way. There are laws but there are also ways to bypass them. I think there is nothing wrong in discussing social issues which are related with some religious beliefs like same sex marriage, abortion, etc. but there should be free and fair discussion about these topics not some emotional speeches intended to polarize or divide the society. If people are not interested in healthy debate then better not to raise these issues during election time as nothing comes out of them except social chaos. These issues can be discussed on proper forum where there is no political interference. For many people both politics and religion are very sensitive issues, many have very passionate and strong views about their political and religious beliefs. Normally only one of these subjects is enough to create some heated discussion or debate then imagine combining both of them. I personally believe these two areas should be kept separate as much as possible for welfare of society. We have seen some disastrous effects of organized religion on our society we should not make the situation worse by mixing politics with it. I hope political parties, religious institutes and mainly 'the people' realize this and act accordingly.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

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