The disproportionate attention on political scams has often led us to ignore the many positive developments that signal the maturing of Indian democracy.
One is the statement from the powerful head of the Dar-ul-Uloom Maulana Ghulam Mohammed Wastanavi to Muslims on the need to put the wounds of the 2002 violence in Gujarat aside and move forward.
He has even taken the unusually bold step of praising Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in protecting the Muslims of the state since those fateful days. There have been criticisms from other Muslim leaders on what they see as a clean chit to the Gujarat administration, but these have not been the usual over-the-top ones we have come to associate with sensitive religious issues.
The fact that religion is no longer valid currency as a political tool was clear from the extremely sober reaction from both Hindus and Muslims to the Babri Masjid verdict. Despite the state taking all precautions to ensure that there was no law and order problem, it was the communities which behaved with restraint and calm. Though religion has no place in the official apparatus of a secular State, its custodians can and have played a vital role in maintaining communal harmony. The exemplary manner in which the chief priest of the Sankat Mochan temple acted after a horrifying bomb blast was the single most important reason in preventing any communal incident. The influential Akal Takht has been unequivocal in condemning the pernicious practice of female foeticide going as far as to say that anyone found guilty would be excommunicated. This is in keeping with the tradition of great religious thinkers down the ages who have always weighed in on the side of the positive aspects of faith. This has also insulated faith from the more corporeal vagaries of politics.
The Deoband chief’s welcome statement, however, does not mean that those who perpetrated the Gujarat carnage can absolve themselves of responsibility for what will endure as a blot on Indian democracy. Now, with this gracious sentiment from a Muslim leader, it becomes all the more incumbent that the guilty are brought to book. There seems to be widespread acknowledgment of the perils of distorting religion more than ever before. Though comparisons are odious, we should be thankful that, unlike in our neighbour Pakistan, our religious leaders still command enough respect to prevent faith being hijacked by fundamentalists. The most heartening message from Deoband is the fact that the scope for misusing religion by vested interests has diminished considerably and we are all the better for it.