Friday, August 07, 2009

The grip of religion over identity has loosened

[A social revolution in values is visible across India, in public and private entertainment; in the lifestyle of campuses and the elasticity of leisure. Politics was and is economics. That is the core. But politics is also a cultural fact. Culture, in its traditional and respectable manifestation, has been heavily influenced by religion, or religiosity, and the ethical codes it demanded. The grip of religion over identity has loosened, particularly among the majority communities that together constitute the Hindu population. Religion remains a vital existentialist force among minorities because it defines the difference. And so, the use of the headscarf, or even the burqa, is rising among young Muslim women while young Hindu women are celebrating the fusion of western sauce with Indian fashion. There is an internal logic, even if you may not consider it a justification, in the fact that the mosque, gurdwara and church continue to play a far greater role in minority politics than the temple does in majority thinking. This is why the BJP’s promise to build a worthy temple on the site of the Babri mosque now provokes a yawn instead of a war cry. Jawaharlal Nehru once called dams and steel mills the temples of modern India. The temples of post-modern India are malls, television studios, dance halls and stock exchanges. This new culture is edging towards a new politics, even as it tests the endurance of established virtue in the process. This is not to suggest that the establishment is dead. You can see its vigorous rearguard action against the liberalization of homosexuality laws. A political party must, of course, spread its attention span beyond a single section of the electorate, but parties that become so embedded in their past that they cannot come to terms with a new and growing influence in public life, pay a heavy price in elections. The practical way of dealing with change is pragmatism. The BJP and the Communists are mired in post-electoral ideological confusion for a very good reason: they have an ideology. Ideology gets brittle when it remains locked in the fetters of its birth. Flexibility is always a difficult call for believers, and every debate about the exact degree of dilution necessary is an invitation to acrimony. Politicians can learn about change from Grandma
from M.J. Akbar - Author and Veteran Journalist by M J Akbar Appeared in Times of India - July 13, 2009]

Savitri Era Party is attuned to the throb of the twenty-first century India. [TNM]

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