Recently, A. R. Rahman’s song ‘Hosanna‘ made news. A gentleman representing a Christian organisation, said that the song hurts the sentiments of the ‘Christians and Jews around the world’. I wonder who authorized him to speak on their behalf? Christians and Jews might use the word Hosanna in a devotional context, but the word has become part of the English language and is widely used.
If the gentleman had asked to ban the song or the movie, perhaps the Government would have obliged, foolishly believing to hog on Christian votes. That is what the Government did when a Muslim cleric asked for a ban on Salman Rushdie coming to Jaipur. In one of the most funny issues of recent times, the Congress politicians in Delhi and Rajasthan played into the hands of a minority among the Muslim minority to thwart Rushdie’s appearance at the Literary Festival. Numerous Muslim organisations condemned the Muslim groups that threatened violence against Rushdie. So how may Muslim votes, effectively, did the Congress win (or lose) by being a sucker to the extremists? Interestingly and ironically, the clerics and extremists who campaigned against Rushdie actually made him larger than he was. If they had ignored him, he would have come and gone with nothing more than a few snaps on Page 3. However, the extremists introduced The Satanic Verses to many people who had grown up without knowing about it. Now they will be curious to read it. How self-defeating has Indian fundamentalists and the politics around it become.
Let’s not forget that at the time of Independence, we Indians took pride in the fact, that we were a country where religion and communities were not factors in policy making, in contrast to the Pakistan, where almost everything was decided by religion. That distinction that made our heads high, is fading. Religion is steadily moving to center stage in politics and public life. Our selfish, shortsighted politicians find it easiest to attract voters on the basis of religion and caste. None of them realize, however, that they are loosing out on the votes of the ever-growing people within these communities who don’t give a damn about Hosanna being used in music, and Salman Rushdie coming to India. These are the people who want religion for peace of mind and just that. These are the people who don’t want to be treated differently in the name of the imaginary.