A diverse culture, pluralistic traditions, abundant sources of knowledge, a tolerant ethos -- these are just some of the things India has been admired for in the world. But in recent times, I am disturbed to note that this once proud historic and socio-cultural edifice of our country is routinely being torpedoed by vested interests.
Many are holding positions of great power and are attempting to weave a web of intolerance that is shackling sections of our society. Among these elements are the RSS and a compliant BJP, which have already damaged the soul of our nation. They have begun undermining our unity in diversity through what could be fatal cuts. They have begun to put shackles on our freedom to choose. Tomorrow our freedom to express may come under their not so benign gaze.
Their undemocratic conduct has curbed the freedom of people’s choice of food, promoted intolerance on communal lines and mounted an attack on progressive thinkers. Incidents of burning Dalits to death, preventing Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali from performing in India and the killing of professor MM Kalburgi have created anguish among all. But then, this was to be expected from the RSS, which has derided Mother Teresa and celebrated the day of the hanging of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin as Martyr’s Day. The PM was quiet on these issues when the whole nation looked to him for his intervention and preventive measures.
The veiled verbal attacks on Kerala by the RSS and the BJP have taken on a shrill tone. But, as a Keralite and the CM, I have the moral right to defend and secure secularism and harmony in Kerala. A role model to the world in social and physical quality of life and a source of constant inspiration and ideas for the nation, Kerala has been built on solid foundations of traditions, value education and healthy socio-cultural practices.
It would be worth their while for the RSS to keep aside their animosity and go through the annals of Kerala’s history. They will find that it is almost impossible for communalism or divisive thinking to take root in the state. Such is the conviction of this state and its people who have been nurtured on the far-sightedness and philosophical thoughts of Sree Narayana Guru, the enlightened Sree Sankaracharya; the epitome of brotherhood — Cheraman Perumal and the scientific acumen of Aryabhatta.
Let me also remind the RSS that Kerala is the only place in India and among the few in the world to have given asylum to the Jews, when they were driven away from their homeland. It is a land where devotees pay their respects to Vavar (the Muslim friend and confidant of Lord Ayyappa) at Erumely, before proceeding to seek the blessings of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala.
I also would like to remind the RSS that our’s was not a civilisation that invaded others. We always welcomed everyone to our shores. This is what prompted one of the greatest monks of India, Swami Vivekananda to say about the Roman Empire during a speech in Colombo that “the spider weaves its web where the Caesars ruled”. I hope the message is loud and clear.
Oommen Chandy is the chief minister of Kerala. The views expressed are personal.