BE PROUD OF INDIA: LETTER IN INDIA ABROAD OF NEW YORK
INDIA ABROAD (PRINT EDITION), PAGE A3, JUNE 22, 2012
(Courtesy: India Abroad)
A lot of us have conflicting opinions about South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. Is she a victim of the circumstances of this country or is she simply exploiting our naivete? Is she being forced to say that she is Christian to gain much-needed votes or has she genuinely abandoned the Sikh religion? When the President of the country is forced to shout that he is Christian, we can understand the terrible pressure that Haley is under.
But my letter is not about her choices but her need to make such a choice. So often we read letters bashing India, and very few praising the good things that we have done. Well, here is a good thing. Neither Nicky Haley nor Barrack Obama would have to declare their religious affiliation if they were running for office in India. Unfortunately, we come from a poor country . We are darker skinned, we have come to expect only the worst from ourselves. This kind of attitude is damaging our kids, who are growing up to be second-class citizens of this world -- dumping their heritage and religion at the first opportunity.
Haley says she was harassed and mocked as child for not being Christian. And so, as an adult she joins the harassers , the mockers? What is the message that she is sending to young Sikh girls of today? Give in to bigotry and hatred?
I don't recall Sonia Gandhi ever having to answer for her religious views. To Indians, it did not matter. Or shall I say, to Hindus it does not matter? If the Buddha had the misfortune of being born in Europe or Middle East, he would have been branded a heretic and tortured to death, his writings burned, his followers killed. There would not be such a thing as Buddhism today. No Jainism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Bohra Islam or Tibetan Buddhism either.
But the multiplicity of religions means that there is room for conflict, room for mischief-makers to paint every conflict a religious one. In contrast, in countries where Christianity and Islam dominate there is less conflict -- because most of the minority have been killed or driven out. Lucky for the Zoroastrians that a country like India existed; otherwise there would be no Parsis in the world today.
So, then, did India do the right thing?
Can any one name off the top of their heads, one, just one non-Christian leader from the west? One, just one non-Muslim leader from the Middle East? No wonder Obama is forced to kowtow to religious fundamentalists. No wonder the likes of Haley and Jindal had to distance themselves from their heritage.
But not if they were in India. What a great country it is. Be proud that the country of our roots rests on a bedrock of such values and principles.