Thursday, November 12, 2009

SECULARISM IS ABOUT FAITH AND RESPECT

I received the following article by email and thought that this is just the right kind of attitude that we need; a definition and understanding of secularism, which is way different from the West, that India with its many religions needs. I thought of sharing the original article, author unknown, to solicit your views and opinions. So, here is the original article.....

Any one more secular than the army

As a serving army officer, I never stop marvelling at the gullibility of our countrymen to be provoked with alacrity into virulence in the name of religion. I have never heard the word 'secular' during all my service -- and yet, the simple things that are done simply in the army make it appear like an island of sanity in a sea of hatred.

In the army, each officer identifies with the religion of his troops. In regiments where the soldiers are from more than one religion, the officers -- and indeed all jawans attend the weekly religious prayers of all the faiths. How many times have I trooped out of the battalion mandir and, having worn my shoes, entered the battalion church next door? A few years ago it all became simpler -- mandirs, masjids, gurudwars and churches began to share premises all over the army. It saved us the walk.

Perhaps it is so because the army genuinely believes in two central 'truths' -- oneness of god and victory in operations. Both are so sacred we cannot nitpick and question the basics.

In fact, sometimes the army mixes up the two! On a visit to the holy cave at Amarnath a few years ago I saw a plaque mounted on the side of the hill by a battalion that had once guarded the annual Yatra. It said, 'Best wishes from -....- battalion. Deployed for Operation Amarnath.

On another instance, I remember a commanding officer ordered the battalion maulaviji to conduct the proceedings of Janamashtmi prayers because the panditji had to proceed on leave on compassionate grounds. No eyebrows were raised. It was the most rousing and best-prepared sermon on Lord Krishna I have ever had the pleasure of listening to.

On the Line of Control, a company of Khemkhani Muslim soldiers replaced a Dogra battalion. Over the next few days, the post was shelled heavily by Pakistanis, and there were a few non-fatal casualties.

One day, the junior commissioned officer of the company, Subedar Sarwar Khan walked up to the company commander Major Sharma and said, "Sahib, ever since the Dogras left, the mandir has been shut. Why don't you open it once every evening and do aarti? Why are we displeasing the gods?"

Major Sharma shamefacedly confessed he did not know all the words of the aarti. Subedar Sarwar went away and that night, huddled over the radio set under a weak lantern light, painstakingly took down the words of the aarti from the post of another battalion!

How many of us know that along the entire border with Pakistan, our troops abstain from alcohol and non-vegetarian food on all Thursdays? The reason: It is called the Peer day -- essentially a day of religious significance for the Muslims.

In 1984, after Operation Bluestar there was anguish in the Sikh community over the desecration of the holiest of their shrines. Some of this anger and hurt was visible in the army too.

I remember the first Sikh festival days after the event -- the number of army personnel of every religious denomination that thronged the regimental gurudwara of the nearest Sikh battalion was the largest I had seen. I distinctly remember each officer and soldier who put his forehead to the ground to pay obeisance appeared to linger just a wee bit longer than usual. Was I imagining this? I do not think so. There was that empathy and caring implicit in the quality of the gesture that appeared to say, "You are hurt and we all understand."

We were deployed on the Line of Control those days. Soon after the news of disaffection among a small section of Sikh troops was broadcast on the BBC, Pakistani troops deployed opposite the Sikh battalion yelled across to express their 'solidarity' with the Sikhs.

The Sikh havildar shouted back that the Pakistanis had better not harbour any wrong notions. "If you dare move towards this post, we will mow you down."

Finally, a real -- and true -- gem....

Two boys of a Sikh regiment battalion were overheard discussing this a day before Christmas.

"Why are we having a holiday tomorrow?" asked Sepoy Singh.

"It is Christmas," replied the wiser Naik Singh.

"But what is Christmas?"

"Christmas," replied Naik Singh, with his eyes half shut in reverence and hands in a spontaneous prayer-clasp, "is the guruparb of the Christians."

13 comments:

BK Chowla said...

That is why always maintain that India is secular and tolerant.Did you read my post on this subject?
We are being targeted as communal only because of few dirty,stinking politicians for self promoting goals.
I salute all those in the Armed forces .

Balvinder Singh said...

JP, a very appropriate post in today's times where people are being divided on religious lines. Indian Army is the best example of secularism. I was commissioned into Dogra regiment and though being a sikh i know the arti and the gaytri and other mantras like the back of my hand.

At so many occassions in army gurudwaras and mandirs i have seen pandit jee of the unit mandir sitting side by side with the granthi of a unit gurudwara giving sermons one by one on some religious function which our civilian clergy will never digest.

Anonymous said...

Jai Hind!..and that is why I absolutely LOVE my country.:D

-Snisha

J P Joshi said...

Agree with you wholeheartedly. Will be reading that post shortly. Indian secularism, at the macro level, does not exclude God, it includes Him, but also has learnt how to respects every one else's rights to their faiths. This is the greatest thing that I find about India. In Canada, I find it as the other extreme when one has to make politically correct statements like "Happy holidays" and not mention Christmas for fear of being called non-secular.

J P Joshi said...

Agree. Now that you mention, I am reminded of my B-I-L's wedding, from the Sikh regiment. His regimental band was playing, while he and his newly wed wife were sitting on the dias, and the rest of us were generally enjoying ourselves at the wedding reception in Delhi...his regiment was in J&K. Three of his regiment officers were also there. Suddenly someone from his regiment entered the premises and shouted, "Bole so nihal" and my BIL got up and the other Sikh regiment officers and soldiers had their right hands up and the air was saturated with their war cry, "Sat Sri Akal". You could see the carotid arteries bulging out from the neck of my BIL, as the lights were focussed on the dias. It gave goosebumps to each one present and brought tears of joy in my eyes. Long live the Indian Army. Jai Hind.

J P Joshi said...

Yes, and so do over 1 billion other Indians, including me. Thank you for your comment.

human being said...

loved the ending very much...


how it is beautiful when people are not only tolerant of others' views but they share, as well...

thanks for sharing this with us... feel a positive energy in me now...

J P Joshi said...

human being: Thank you for your comment. Agree with you.

Renu said...

Beautiful thoughts and post..we are secualr not because of politician, but inspite of them..its because of the people only.,

J P Joshi said...

Renu: Agree with you..politicians, of any and every party, only exploit people in the name of secularism.

Id it is said...

A heart warming post! The need to believe, to have faith is universal; it just manifests itself under different names, be it 'god', 'allah', ...
I guess the Indian army recognizes this universal truth, and is the better for it!

Anrosh said...

instead of the politicians addressing the indian air, navy and army officials, on key occassions we need the army to address the politicians - they have a whole lot of lessons to learn from them - 3 months in orientation and a refresher course every 6 months - both for the rajya sabha and lok sabha - don't you think.

on another note, i like reading the live narration what this soldier or that soldier said - you never hear all this on NEWS.

J P Joshi said...

Id it is: Thank you for your comment. Yes, if only each one of us understood this basic fact, this world would be a much better place to live in.....

Anrosh: Agree with you, but also know that this is never likely to happen in my lifetime at least.