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Culture + Religion /30 Jan 2015
01.30.15

Martyrs, Murderers and Monuments

On January 30, 1948, the world mourned the loss of a frail 78 year old man. He was ascetic, exemplary, and harmless. He abhorred the division of mankind on the basis of religion, discrimination of any kind, vile casteism, fascism, and fanaticism. Most important, he was neither dogmatic nor didactic. He practiced what he preached, a rarity in this world. And he disagreed with his detractors with an ingratiating smile. Prime ministers, presidents, princes, kings, queens, and above all the common man, looked up to him and desired his endorsement.

This Great Apostle of non-violence met his untimely death in a most violent manner. He was shot three times at point blank range on his way to a peaceful prayer meeting with his fellow-devotees. Shot for believing that his country was big enough for Hindus, Muslims, Christians and believers of any faith. Shot for trying to uplift the poor and downtrodden. Shot for preserving decency, democracy, and secularism.

If the assassin and his followers thought they could halt the juggernaut of secularism by killing a frail old man, they were sadly mistaken. India was and still is a pluralistic, secular democracy.

Notwithstanding the emergence of a right wing government, India will remain secular for generations to come. If these demagogic forces are under an illusion that they won the election because the population has embraced their philosophy, they are making a big mistake. There is no question, these people, led by a charismatic, and articulate leader have won a hard fought election. However, if their leader fails to rein in these extremist elements in his political party he jeopardizes losing it all. If he fails to distance himself and condemn these elements in the strongest language possible, he is in danger of alienating a large number of people, crucial for his reelection. The Indian electorate is unforgiving. Prime examples: Indira Gandhi and her clueless son.

Some members of the ruling party praise the murderer of the Great Man of the twentieth century. And several right wing individuals and organizations have become active in propagating the misguided ideas of the assassin. Alas, there is also a movement to build a temple for this most heinous individual.

Do we want a shrine for the murderer of Abraham Lincoln? Do we want a shrine for the perpetrators of the Holocaust? Do we want a shrine for the murderer of Mahatma Gandhi? Do we want a shrine for the murderer of John Kennedy? Do we want a shrine for the murderers of the journalists of Charlie Hebdo?

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