This letter is in response to an opinion piece by Julio Ribeiro (“As a Christian, suddenly I am a stranger in my own country”) that recently appeared in the Indian Express in reference to the recent incidents involving Christians in India.
We are some of the MBA 1985 batch alums of Faculty of Management Studies of Delhi University. We read this piece and were moved to write this for the record.
We are spread across the country and globe, and pretty busy raising our children and caring for aging parents, while holding leadership positions in companies, government, and non-profit organizations. This note, pulled together in a virtual online forum, is to convey our gratitude and feelings in response to Ribeiro’s note but feel it is of interest to your readership.
Like Ribeiro, we are proud citizens of Bharat Mat and are thankful to the men and women who serve in the defense forces, regardless of their religion. We are grateful to have the educational institutions, hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, orphanages, and other service institutions that offer care to all those in need, regardless of their religion. We don’t know our common ancestor somewhere in ancient history, who made the choices that make us a different religion, skin-color, language, food-preference, location or all the many things that we do not have in common. And like Ribeiro, we work to serve the nation in our own way.
We share a deeply held humanitarian ethic that is ordinary and so common that most of the time there is no need to say it, because we live it every day. Bharat Mata imbibed us with it as we were growing up. Our FMS cohort was a microcosm of the world with people from all parts of the country and abroad. And all over the country, there were classrooms and homes – just like ours —where wealthy and poor, dark-skinned and light-skinned, hot-headed and calm, religious and secular, vegetarian and non-vegetarians, tall and short, all co-existed, sometimes arguing over our differences, and sometimes coming together to help each other out through the ups and downs that afflict us all at different times.
Not just our personal experience, but even history is witness that whether people came to visit, trade or attack our nation, Bharat Mata simply adopted them as if they were her own children, coming to seek her unconditional love and spiritual power.
We write to assert our faith in our nation. We want to reassure you that when you write that you feel as if you are on the hit list, we care enough to respond. We too share that sense of siege for it afflicts not just Christians and Muslims, but also, we hope, the dominant majority of Hindus, who are peace-loving common-folks, going about their decent ordinary lives. The experience of growing up in Bharat is to not just tolerate or embrace its diversity, but to celebrate it as the core defining characteristic of the country.
Asserting nationalism in its positive aspects will limit the blind and misdirected nationalism that is a bigger threat to India than what any invaders or enemies could do. The genocides perpetrated in Germany, Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda are stark reminders of hysterical, fascist, knee-jerk attempts to rewrite history and 'cleanse' ethnic groups. Nothing good comes of it, only incalculable pain, suffering and loss for the entire nation, for generations.
Millions of Indians do not yet have basic human dignity afforded by sustenance, health, education, employment and a quality of life where they can participate in our democracy. Even as we work towards enviable economic growth in the country, we need citizens, statesmen and leaders to keep the goals of distributive and social justice on top of our agenda. What religion we practice is our business, but illiterate children, unemployed youth, violence against women, needlessly sick people who don’t have access to simple medical care, is everyone’s business. These are social problems that affect us regardless of our religion and these need more urgent social, economic and political attention. Just like the many children of the same mother, we have a right to be different, to love and debate, and yet work together for the greater good of the family.