The Statue and its Shadow

Editorial, Star of the East, March 1987

What is wrong with India? What is she heading for? How long will the country hold together? Answers differ. But there is no dearth of questions in a land where violence and communal riots are the order of the day. Violence erupts in a moment’s notice. Communal carnage is carried out in cold blood. The land of non-violence bleeds, and bleeds profusely with the blood of innocents. Indian masses have apparently lost all capacity to be shocked by anything. Perhaps this is the true Indian tradition-- total passivity before death and birth, killing and annihilation, poverty and injustice! Yet there is something of the Indian soul, which cries out, though feebly, for an answer, for justice and for the warmth of mutual love now lost to the millions living side by side.

People in high places give answers to people. But they keep changing answers as well. They know and the people know that the answers are just lame. Just a few months ago Rajiv Gandhi told people that religion was the culprit. Shun religion, privatize it, keep it in the seclusion of ‘individual’ reserves -- was his frantic call to the nation. Now he sees foreign hands that destabilize that country, invisible hands that work havoc with the peace and integrity of the nation. Communal violence and disintegration are direct operations of the foreign devil. Poor religion is excused for the moment.

There is a relationship between religion and the communal virus. Nation’s intellectuals are divided in defining that relationship. While one set of thinkers assert that religion is directly responsible, and banishing religion from public life is the solution. The other side argues that no authentic religion or religious leader preaches violence. But the name of religion is used as a pretext by political self-seekers. Religion, therefore, is totally innocent. Other opinions of mixed shades appear in between these two poles.

In fact, the relationship is ambiguous and very elusive. It is something like a statue and its shadow. Is the statue responsible for its shadow. Yes and No. There is the shadow because there is the statue. But the real responsibility lies with source of light that shapes a shadow out of a statue. This third force is the crucial factor. So is it in Indian politics. There are powers that cast sinister shadows out of anything, more especially out of religion without religion ever knowing it. The task before India is to identify these sources of “light” that create shadows of “darkness.” The political leaders will never help us in identifying it. There is a whole substratum of powers that align with them. But the ordinary people are still capable for it. Goodness and generosity still exist amidst them. The answer to India’s questions lies with the common sense of our people and the depth of humanity that they have been practising for centuries between individuals and communities.