Open Letter To The Members Of My Whatsapp Family Group

My family group on whatsapp, like every other family group on whatsapp, is a total and complete mostly a nightmare. Today it crossed a line when someone posted a message about how our media is being run by Muslim and Christian forces, and is therefore a threat to Hinduism. It happens everyday: my inbox gets flooded with scores of terrible jokes, pictures and Sanghi forwarded messages.

Most days I just ignore it. Some days I reply back. But something snapped in me today, maybe all the patriotism from Independence Day! I had had enough, and I wanted to make it absolutely clear.

So following was what I posted in the group.

Hello, everyone. I would like to make some corrections here:

Most of the information in the above message is outdated. A substantial portion of it is just plainly false. Fiction!

Before I forward a message, I try and verify its authenticity by going on the web. It took me all of five minutes to google the relevant information. But most of us would not bother to make the effort, and would automatically assume that whatever is being said is true. And it is that weakness of ours that messages such as these pry on. For their objective is not to educate, but to instigate.

What pains me is that we, as a society and a people, are still falling prey to such propaganda. We are a decade and a half into the 21st century, and we’ve come a long way from inventing the number system and the world’s first university. We have revolutionised food grain production and pioneered independent space programme. We are the largest democracy, the most educated and the wealthiest ethnic group in the world’s largest economy, the second largest standing army, world leaders in IT and the largest exporters of services in the world.

But our greatest achievement is that in the 69 years since Independence, we have taken literacy from 28% to over 70%; and despite all odds, our country survived the transition into self-governance.

And do you know why that was possible? How was the stupendous task of binding such a diversified country, with such vast differences was achieved? It was because inherently we are a peace loving, generous, sharing and openminded society.

The bedrock of Indian culture is not girls wearing sarees, it is not tabooing sex, or putting a tika on your forehead, or chanting mantras in front of a carved stone. No. The bedrock of Indian culture is tolerance. It is acceptance, openness, and a celebration of differences. That is the founding principle of this nation and that is what makes our country great.

But then I read messages like these and my heart breaks. What pains me further is that we, as a family, a part of the so called “educated class”, actively indulge in propagating such practices. Gandhiji landed in India exactly a hundred years ago, and he gave his life for communal harmony, for a united country and a peaceful nation. And look at us now: indulging in baseless communal propaganda, teaching our kids to hate not just one person, but an entire race only because they worship a different God.

The so called “threat” you think that is looming over Hinduism is no more true than the idea that the “moon eats the sun” during an eclipse. In our blind, vengeful hate, we forget that this is a religion that gave the world the concept of “vasudaiva kutumbhakam“, meaning the World is One Family. Over 5000 years ago!! The world was still sucking its thumb when we first preached acceptance.

Hinduism is the most decentralised, most flexible religion in the world. True Hinduism is so far off from traditional structure, hierarchy and conformity to codified customs that it cannot even be classified as a religion. It is a way of life! And how can one threaten that is something I fail to understand.

What I do understand though is that it is a painful situation I find myself in. As an educated human being I value debate, dissent and dialogue over everything else, so I would welcome any discussion where we sit together and talk out our political differences. But I know that wouldn’t be possible here. Here we would just quarrel. Because we wouldn’t want to reach a conclusion, we would just want to win the argument.

And that is why I have decided to leave this group.

Because I don’t want to get up everyday and look at my phone to find 15 messages all saying how Pakistan is our greatest enemy; how every politician who ever lived – except Narendra Modi – is an asshole; how RSS is the saviour of Hinduism and how BJP is the single greatest thing that has happened to India.

I’m sorry, but I just can’t take it any longer. I can bear the 200 photos of flowers and birds, I can brave the 400 misogynist, sexist jokes, but I cannot stand bear this complete breakdown of the institution of rationality, this utter intolerance of religious liberty or this blatant disregard for the sanctity of our Fundamental Duties.

And that is why I have decided to leave this group.

PS: It is ironical that such message of religious hatred must come on our Independence Day – a day that serves as a reminder of all the countless thousands who gave their lives in the struggle for independence, the millions more who died a needless death at the hands of communal animosity and ‘the solemn pride that must be ours for having laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.’

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