Justice Markandey Katju-
The Ibadatkhana Movement begun recently in the Bay Area ( Silicon Valley ) of California, USA is going to be of historical importance for the future of India. I explained this to the members of the newly formed Ibadatkhana Committee, whose Chairman is Tassawar Jalali ( email email@example.com ) at a meeting of the Committee in Tasawwar’s residence in San Jose, California on Tuesday, 22nd October. I am repeating briefly what I said there.
(1) As mentioned in my article ‘ India’s National Aim ‘ ( see online ), this world really consists of two worlds : the world of the developed countries ( North America, Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and China ), and the world of the underdeveloped countries ( which include India ).
Our national aim must be to transform India ( and I include Pakistan and Bangladesh in that term ) and uplift it into the ranks of the developed, highly industrialized countries. Without doing so we will never be able to abolish poverty, unemployment, malnourishment, lack of proper healthcare and good education, and other social evils which are plaguing our subcontinent.
(2) This transformation is only possible by a historical, united, people’s struggle, which will be fiercely opposed by powerful vested interests, both internal and external, which feel their interests jeopardized if the transformation succeeds and India emerges as an industrial giant, like another China. So unity among Indians is absolutely imperative if our struggle for this transformation is to succeed.
(3) The present reactionary, neo-fascist regime in India, whose leaders have feudal mindsets, has an ideology which destroys the unity of our people by propagating and spreading religious hatred against minorities ( all its talk of ‘ sabka saath, sabka vishwas ‘ is empty fraudulent hypocritical rhetoric ). Ever since it came to power in 2014, lynching and attacks on Muslims and vandalization of churches in India have continued unabated. Hence this regime is in reality anti-Indian, as it preaches an ideology directly contrary to the very nature and identity of India as a country of great diversity ( see my article ‘ What is India ‘ online ). Hence it has to be combated by all genuine Indian patriots who wish to see a prosperous India.
(4) Of late, the Indian economy has tanked and taken a nose dive. GDP has declined ( it is said to be 5%, though Arvind Subramaniam, former Chief Economic Adviser to the Govt of India, says it is really 2.5% ), manufacturing, agriculture, real estate, power etc are all in the dumps and spiralling downwards, and unemployment has reached record heights ( as admitted by the National Sample Survey, a Govt of India organisation ). Farmers distress is continuing unabated ( over 300,000 farmers have committed suicide ), and every second Indian child is malnourished ( see reports of UNICEF and Global Hunger Index ).
All this is bound to generate massive opposition in India in the form of popular demonstrations, etc, which will soon begin, and hence to divert public attention from the real problems India faces, which the present government has no idea how to solve, it resorts to gimmicks like Yoga Day, building Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, cow protection, Swatchata Abhiyan ( cleanliness drive ), abrogation of Article 370, etc.
In addition, the government needs a scapegoat who can be blamed for all evils, like the Jews in Nazi Germany, and this scapegoat is the Indian Muslims, who are fair game for cow vigilantes and other lumpen hoodlums, again, to deflect attention from the real massive economic problems India faces, which our rulers have little idea how to solve.
(5) India is presently standing at a crossroad in our 5000 year old known history. It has two options : either continue on the path of self destruction being pursued by the present Indian rulers, the path of polarizing society on communal lines and oppressing minorities, marginalizing them and denying them any space in the public discourse, or the path shown by the great Emperor Akbar ( see my article ‘ Akbar, the real Father of the Indian Nation ‘ online ), the inclusive path of Akbar’s policy called suleh-e-kul ( universal toleration of all religions ) and giving equal respect to all religions and communities, the path which alone can lead to India’s prosperity. This is the path being shown now to Indians ( which includes Pakistanis and Bangladeshis ) by the Ibadatkhana Movement ( see my article ‘ The Ibadatkhana Movement ‘ online ).
Ibadatkhana was the House of Worship built by the great Emperor Akbar in 1575 in his new capital in Fatehpur Sikri. In it, scholars of all religions met amicably and discussed what their religion has contributed to benefit mankind. This was remarkable, considering the fact that at that time Europeans were massacring each other in the name of religion, Catholics massacring Protestants ( e.g. the St Bartholomew Massacre of Protestants in 1572 in France ), Protestants massacring Catholics ( e.g. in Ireland ), and both massacring the Jews.
(6) The Ibadatkhana Movement, though it relates to India, could not begin within India since today freedom of speech and expression has been largely suppressed in India, and the Indian media is largely sold out. Any dissent and opposition to the government invites slapping of criminal sedition charges, invocation of the notorious Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, etc and long terms in prison. So opposition to the present Indian regime, which is taking India towards the dark abyss of fragmentation and destruction, can only begin in the free space available in America.
Later, of course, the Movement will spread to the Indian subcontinent.
[Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.]