Increasing Religious and Cultural Hostility a threat to India’s Growth & Development

The recent eruption of controversy surrounding the Tanishq advertisement depicting an inter faith marriage has brought into sharp focus the increasingly religious intolerance and hostility permeating Indian Society today. What was meant as a show of Indian pluralism and unity unfortunately descended into utter pandemonium, bigotry and downright hatred.

The People’s Voice Society was set up with the goal of promoting inter caste and inter religious marriages in the country, in order to facilitate cultural integration which would serve as a means to long lasting peace and tranquillity in society. This, in turn, would help propel India as a developed economy, with an educated young, healthy and vibrant society, devoid of class divisions, peaceful and progressive. We have seen that absence of cultural inclusiveness has led to riots in the past, the costs of which have set back the nation a great deal. Acts like the Protection of Civil Rights Act and the Special Marriages Act have given legal footing and encouragement to such marriages, and our Society is committed to raising awareness about these Acts across the country.

Returning to the controversy, the furore caused by the advertisement has only served to be symptomatic of the larger malaise that afflicts our society today. Religious divisions are heightened in our country today, and the role played by the media can be in no way overstated. In recent times, both print and digital media have increasingly started reporting news with a communal lens, flashing provocative headlines, and fanned flames of discontent between communities through divisive reporting and pitting one community against another in utilizing public resources.

For our nation to truly progress, we cannot be held down by religious, casteist or other man made divisions which only hamper our growth and blind us with loathing and mistrust for those supposed be “different from us”. This is despite the fact that no one gets stamped with any religion during birth, nor have any identifiable markers making them different from us.

It is only natural that as the economy advances and the Indian middle class expands, more and more young Indians would acquire education, knowledge, newer experiences and come to hold liberal views. More and more young women and men would study and work together. Some of them may fall in love and marry even as they may continue to practice their own religion individually. In a democratic and secular nation, there is absolutely no scope for targeting or victimizing those choosing to marry outside of their religion, and such actions cannot be normalized by the community at large.

The leading role in bringing about this change must be played by the media, which is the most powerful tool with the most penetration across the country. It has become very depressing to even open the newspapers these days as the headline of majority of articles starts with Caste, Religion or such other dividing factors of the society. We believe very strongly if the media stops highlighting the caste/ religion of the news subjects in the headlines, it will certainly have positive impact in our society. It is very crucial for the long term future of the country that all of us should come out of the poison that has spread in people related to man-made straitjackets like caste and religion. Only then can we become a civilized, positive & energetic society.

At the end of the day, human beings have always been serving human beings; this after all is our moral responsibility. This is how society operates.

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