Climate of polarisation has ensured questions about charity, environment and animal rights are given a religious or political tilt.
Bakrid has always been criticised by pro-vegetarians in India. Now, Hindutva supporters are sharing pictures, asking Muslims to donate to Kerala floods victims instead of slaughtering a goat.
The motive is communal, and not protection of the goats.
Incidentally, many urged Indians last week to not send money to the flood victims because Kerala is home to beef-eaters and a large population of Muslims and Christians.
— Sushant Kaushal (@Sushant_Kaushal) August 21, 2018
Religious festivals are now the stage where India’s new politics of polarisation is being enacted. If you tell Hindus to not burn polluting firecrackers on Diwali, you will be told to go tell Muslims to not slaughter goats on Bakrid or Eid al-Adha.
If you tell Muslims to not offer Friday namaz prayers in public, you are reminded about kanwariyas and their road-rage acts. If you complain about all-night loudspeaker jagrans, you will be asked how many times you have spoken against Muslims using loudspeakers for azaan, the daily prayer.
What were shared festivals – of feasting and gifting – are now getting boxed into ghettos.
But what complicate this picture of deliberate division within communities are the animal rights and environmental causerattis. These activists do not engage in communal whataboutery, but speak about air pollution, lung diseases and cruelty to animals. But they too are attacked by religious slander.
Every year hundreds of thousands of Hindu families bring plaster-of-paris idols of Ganesha, Durga to their homes, offer prayers for days, and then immerse them in the nearest water body. It has been reported that the new, non-earthy and non-clay idols, which are painted with synthetic colours, do not dissolve in water properly and choke the fish to death.
Appeals have been made to use natural clay Ganpatis. But every year, the size and number of idols, painted with synthetic colours, increase.
Last year, when the Supreme Court announced a ban on selling of crackers in Delhi-NCR, Tajinder Singh Bagga, the spokesperson of BJP’s Delhi unit, distributed crackers for free, and said he was opposed to “selective ban”.
When PETA activists protest against the slaughter of goats and call for vegan Bakrid, they are chased away by the community.
Similarly, during the month of Sharavan, Hindus pour milk over the Shivling. Some people suggested symbolic pouring of a few drops of milk and donating the rest to the needy. But such an initiative never took off.
Currently, India has a high rate of stunting, 38.4 per cent, among children, and more than 50 per cent young women are anaemic, according to the latest National Family Health Survey (NHFS) report. Donating milk to poor children, therefore, can be a better alternative.
The climate of polarisation has ensured that even genuine questions about charity, environment protection and animal rights are given religious and political tilt.
Some responsibility for this resistance must also be borne by those traders who profit from this massive consumption-driven commercialisation of festivals.
It is not just religious festivals. Now even natural disasters have become a stage for communal politics. From Bakrid to Kerala floods, religious politics will continue to poison public debate.