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An open letter to Mahatma Gandhi

You won India's freedom but you lost the war on tolerance.

 |  5-minute read |   03-10-2015
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Dear Mahatma Gandhi,

If I interpret history correctly, you took on two battles simultaneously: You fought for India's Independence from the British and at home, you became the Mahatma for his advocacy of non-violence and tolerance.

Well over a half-a-century after your death, you remain one of the most famous, universally respected and adored public figures. And I want you to know this: You won India's freedom but you lost the war on tolerance.

In the end, the Hindu fanatics won and took over India. In present day India, a mob just dragged a man from his house and beat him to death for allegedly eating beef.

The 50-year-old farmer Akhlaq was in bed when the mob came for him and they used the bricks found beneath his bed and they assaulted him till the bricks broke and until he died. His alleged crime was eating beef. They said he had the beef in his house but as it turns not he didn't. No problem he was a Muslim, so this will soon be forgotten. Just as an aside, they never kill Hindus for eating beef.

He lived in Dadri, it's about an hour away from Delhi. They also dragged the man 22-year-old son and beat him till he was almost dead.

Also read: Beef, Hindutva and bigotry: Constitution has no place for it

You may be shocked but this murder doesn't not surprise anyone in India or Indians who live abroad.

We saw the writing on the wall for about six months now. The new government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been talking about meat for a while now. The "pink revolution," "the rising meat exports," the "holy cow" and "preservation of Hindu culture". He has even backed the idea of a national ban on cow slaughter.

You know, you remember some of the devout fanatics you had to rein in those days. Well, they are back with a vengeance now.

Modi has a real interesting back story. He is the Hindu nationalist who was a chief minister of Gujarat and he was leading the state during the religious riots in 2002 when a 1,000 Muslims were killed. He didn't get a visa for the United States many years because of his role in those riots. But these were poor Muslims and frankly, this "happens every day" a Bharatiya Janata party person has explained, so we moved on.

But I got to tell you, since Modi's election, Muslims are getting a bit concerned about a whole lot of inflammatory statements and actions of some very educated, enlightened Hindu nationalist leaders.

These chaps are asking Hindus to "out breed Muslims to "protect Hindu religion". And I hate to have to break this to you but this psycho fellow Sakshi Maharaj (no sorry his name is not a joke, it's for real), who called your mentally ill assassin Nathuram Godse a "patriot".

One other deluded minister (can't keep up with their names, they all sound the same) loudly and publicly declared that the Bhagavad Gita be declared a "national scripture".

They have got this new gig going: Hindu leaders run around trying to convert Muslims and Christians into Hindu. They also got this bee in their bonnet about love relationships and marriages between Hindus and Muslims, the press called "love jihad".

But to tell you the truth, it's mostly the beef that gets their collective goat. It's a bit complicated and confusing: sometimes they say kill the old cows, sometimes they only want to send the bulls to the slaughter houses.

Then wanting to send a stronger message they did this whole "beef ban" in Maharashtra, which effectively left predominantly Muslim butchers out of a job.

Also read: Six ways Modi sarkar is dragging India back to the dark age

Hindu hardliners say that beef was introduced by Muslim invaders an it's an alien concept so out it should go. Bye bye steak, bye bye hamburgers, just like that.

But I got to add this: the majority of people who have voted for Modi don't see it the way I do. Maybe it's because I am a Hindu and Sikh and I married a Christian that I see it clearly. I don't recognise the India of my birth. I don't remember it being so intolerant and I lived there for 24 years now.

I live in America, which is a free country.

My Indian countrymen are however, quite taken in with Modi's visits abroad, his selfies (that's a new thing with smartphones with cameras, don't ask, it's a new whole world now) and his calls for Digital India and his tweets. He is riding high on his clever rhetoric and hanging out with world leaders.

Meanwhile, India is still as you left in and instead of being a united, progressive, forward-thinking country, we are going to another destiny - a much darker one. This one is backward, regressive with the idea that India is a Hindu country. Where Muslims, Sikhs and Christians are clearly minorities with the rights and privileges of second class citizens. We have been shown our place in this new Hindutva society.

While your legacy is intact in India and abroad with your name etched on statues and streets worldwide, on the 146th anniversary of your birth, we need you more than ever.

Or maybe someone, somewhere else can be a new Mahatma and save India. I doubt it. They threw the mould away after you. So we are out of heroes now. It's our loss.

But thank you for all you did for us.

An Indian.

PS: I almost forgot. Happy Belated Birthday.

Also read: Should I be worried for the Muslim family in my neighbourhood?


Sonia Chopra Sonia Chopra @soniachopra28

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Ohio. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, New York Newsday, The Orlando Sentinel, Salon.com, Rediff,com, India Abroad, Indian Express, Firstpost.com, and The Quint.

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