Accepted norms of political correctness demand that followers of one faith do not talk about the practices of others. I think Indian secularism and public discourse have now matured sufficiently to not shy away from speaking your mind.
Ostentation and piety do not go together. Nor does wastage or pollution. These principles led to a widely acclaimed campaign, particularly among the children in Delhi's schools, to reduce noise and smoke pollution, and wasteful expenditure by cutting down on patakas (crackers) on Diwali.
Crackers are still burst; there is still a lot of noise and smoke, but there has been a noticeable reduction in that.
A similar campaign needs to come from within the Muslim community as far as the ritual of animal sacrifice on Eid Al-Adha is concerned.
The festival commemorates a famous and solemn sacrifice a long time ago. But it has expanded greatly in scope with individual families competing to buy bigger and bigger animals for ritual sacrifice. I humbly say that it is wasteful, overly expensive, polluting and causes excessive loss of animal life.
This isn't a plea for vegetarianism. Killing animals that are part of the food chain for food is legitimate. But with rising prosperity and religiosity our rituals are becoming more and more expensive and wasteful. This applies to all faiths.
A lot of animals are killed on Eid too, and these are not necessarily eaten.
The number of animals killed is so humongous - tens of millions - that even their skins have acquired an economics and politics of their own. Charities compete to have these gifted so that they can sell them and raise resources. In Pakistan, for example, the Edhi Foundation, set up by Abdul Sattar Edhi, who is often called Father Teresa has traditionally been the recipient of lakhs of such skins, and sells these to fund its activities. This may be a good thing. But it also gives you an idea of the extent of wastage and bloodshed.
Here is a suggestion. Why not promote a practice in which the entire community in a neighbourhood sacrifices just one animal and distributes the meat amongst themselves? It will save a lot of wastage, pollution, and even preserve animals for longer.
I am breaking the "don't-comment-on-other-people's-faiths" rule to write this, hoping that many of my Muslim friends would start a debate and a campaign. I had also commented on the awful practice of mass sacrificial slaughter of buffaloes in Nepal.
Some of our temples also follow the practice of ritual sacrifice, which in some places has become symbolic. Many families, particularly with a royal or feudal background, which observe sacrificial rituals, are already doing this symbolically, say, by chopping a large pumpkin!
Of course communities and individuals can choose their methods. But a change to suit modern times will be a good idea. Let's begin with a debate at least. Let me, meanwhile, wish all our Muslim friends a wonderful Eid.
(This post first appeared on Shekhar Gupta's Facebook page.)