They resist even a slight divergence from their own culture. Civilisation, as they see it, is represented by no other. They are keen to preserve everything about that great culture for it is their rightful heritage - their khandaan."
They perceive the desire for change as criticism … criticism for their ways. How can anyone call themselves a true Hindu (or a true Muslim, Sikh, Christian or Parsi),’ they ask, ‘and still desire a change from our norms and traditions?' And yet they see it happening all the time.
They see others in their own community openly keen to join the modern world and all the changes it brings. To an extent they accept changes too - changes in communication and travel, science and technology, and in modern medicine. What they can’t bear is to witness their own kind enjoying differences in rituals, habits, in how they work and behave. They feel stung. Almost betrayed. Everything they stand for seems to be falling apart before their very eyes. They feel vulnerable.
The liberal minded go ahead and experiment. And we feel really sorry for our traditionalists. It must be difficult to live in this fast changing world. The traditionalists are a mere handful and yet, here’s an amazing fact, their opinion is slowly gaining the upper hand in Mumbai. Why?
The reason is simple. They have … organised.
They have organised under the leadership of someone who understands their fears and wishful thinking; someone who promises our traditionalists a chance to return to their previous days of glory. The plan is simple. It is consistent and it is universal. The first part of the plan is to ridicule the traditions of others, so different from their own refined ones. The leader is strident and loud in his or her condemnation. This emboldens our traditionalists to voice their feelings of murmured discontent; to let off steam; to believe that here is a person who will protect their faith, their community and their very identity. And is there a price our traditionalists have to pay? Of course there is. There always is. That is the second part of the plan. The leader lets it be known that he or she can make good their promise only if voted to a position of greater power and authority. This leader’s motives aren’t my concern today. Let it suffice that the traditionalists do not look beyond the promise to ask what the leader’s actual plans are. How does one make good on a promise to return to the ‘good old days’? Force the others to renounce their own culture or religion? Or send everyone back to where they came from? Or the more liberal minded from within their own community to stop experimenting?” As mentioned before, the traditionalists do not look beyond the promise. Bolstered by the strong front behind which they stand, they become strident in their own verbal attacks.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for those verbal attacks against a whole community to become an attack against individuals. They might have a neighbour or a co-worker who belongs to the hateful ‘others’. How long before one or two verbal attacks spark off physical abuse? When that happens, what do our traditionalists do? For the sake of the glory that was and which they want back so badly, they are willing to accept that some individuals from other communities - decent though they might be - could sometimes get hurt. They turn a blind eye.
Incapable of hurting an ant under normal circumstances, our traditionalists’ attitude has undeniably hardened. So where have we, the tolerant majority, gone wrong? We aren’t the ones hurting others so why are we to blame? We might not like some of the things they do in the name of tradition but what can we do? Disapprove of someone’s grandfather or an old aunt? Take a stance against our own?”
So WE turn a blind eye.
Others amongst us prefer to distance themselves from the whole thing - why stick our noses into something that doesn't concern us?
One way or another, we all take a vow of silence.
This is where our silence has led us. We are beholden to, and victims of, the organised actions of a small proportion of people from our own communities. Or, from a different perspective, we are victims of the inaction of the tolerant majority. Either way there is extreme mistrust between communities. Already great cracks have appeared in our secular umbrella, in one law for all, in peace and harmony, in live and let live. If things are allowed to carry on as they are, then in all probability, this secular umbrella is going to crumble."