Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Pseudo is the word!!

The politics of a Mecca pilgrimage

At the outset I would like to forewarn people who have a rigid mindset or one who wants to play to populist sentiments or someone who defines secularism as pseudo to be prepared to take this post with a pinch of salt and do some serious introspection.

I would like to quote the following from one of the books I read:

One of a Muslim's duties, as described in the Five Pillars of Islam, is to go on Hajj at least once during his or her lifetime. This is a pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca) in Saudi Arabia.
"The Hajj consists of several ceremonies, meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of prophet Abraham and his family...Prophet Muhammad had said that a person who performs Hajj properly 'will return as a newly born baby [free of all sins].' The pilgrimage also enables Muslims from all around the world, of different colors, languages, races, and ethnicities, to come together in a spirit of universal brotherhood and sisterhood to worship the One God together."

I think it is now pretty obvious that the Hajj pilgrimage is very much an Islamic religious practice. Then why is it that a subsidy is provided by the Indian government to benefit one section of the society? In the Indian constitutional context religion doesn’t play a role in doling out incentives to its citizens, atleast it is not supposed to. But the fact is it does. The whole concept of God is so subjective. To someone watching a beauty in a Rio Carnival could be a source of washing away his past. Would the government allow that? Does the Indian government provide a subsidy for its Christian citizens to visit The Vatican and attend the Pope’s address atleast once in its life? Can the Hindus in India get a chance to see The Balaji temple in Pittsburg if some religious book says so? For someone to whom football is his religion, would he get a subsidy to watch a Manchester United - Arsenal duel? I have my doubts on whether any of the above mentioned questions would get a ‘yes’ for an answer. Then why do Muslims get a subsidy from the Indian government?
I think the politicians are majorly responsible for this. They have always divided the Indian community along religious lines for their own selfishness. I think the Muslim society as whole is also equally responsible because it has got into their mindset that the subsidy is their birthright that I doubt if any government could come to power if they did withdraw the subsidy..That would of course happen, only if the parliament whose members may make a hue and cry to protect the rights of ‘Muslim minorities’, accepts it.
I actually think it is they who are not discriminated against but the rest of the society
vis- a – vis the Hindus, Christians,Buddhists,Jains….
Looking at the economic implications of a subsidy I personally think the money spent is pretty huge (approx some 150-200 crores) to appease a particular religious community. I think better value for the same money could be obtained by doing something that benefits the society as a whole. At the end of the say it’s a taxpayer’s money like mine, which is spent, on this expenditure. Even if someone does come with a frivolous statement like, only the Muslim’s tax money is spent on the subsidy I would as well demand a subsidy for me to book the next flight to the Rio carnival this year. I think that money could be spent for a nobler cause of educating a lot of orphans or under privileged children in the country.
I think time has come for a Uniform Civil code in this country. No should get any favours because of his religion. And I have nothing against public money being used for some pursuit that is totally non-religious in nature.