As you must have already seen or heard on the news by now, a few days ago I was subjected to a horrible and unnerving incident at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Mumbai airport that has still left me wondering about the so-called ‘secular’ fabric of our country. Now as news coverage is never able to accurately capture any incident, I wanted to let you know exactly what happened and why I had a problem with it. The gist of it is simple – my wife and I were making our way to Delhi from Mumbai and were about to board our flight when we came across a group of Muslim men who were sitting down near the boarding pass counter and reading the namaaz. Now these men were actually blocking our pathway and doing so in an area that was causing a lot of inconvenience to regular passengers. And if that wasn’t bad enough, when I complained about this to the CISF officer in charge, he not only ignored my grievances, but actually started speaking to my wife and I in a rude and derogatory manner. He didn’t even shy away from hurting our religion sentiments, even though he was being so protective of other’s religious sentiments. This display of selective secularism has raised enough red flags in my mind that I’m compelled to pen down my thoughts in this blog.
First of all, let me just reiterate something I’ve always maintained – I have NO problem with any religion. This issue, and why I decided to raise my voice against it, isn’t even about religion to begin with, rather it’s got more to do with the plague of selective secularism that is spreading across the country. Take for instance the location where this incident took place – the airport. Now last time I checked, the airport is NOT supposed to be a place of worship in the first place. Yet, there are certain provisions that are actually made to make sure that the religious sentiments of specific communities are not hurt. If one wants to read the namaaz at the airport, there are specific rooms that are provided for to do just that. But for people to read the namaaz in the middle of the airport, right next to the boarding pass counter, should not be acceptable.
And if this apparent flouting of rules and norms is acceptable for one religion, then it should also be acceptable for all religions – which was the point that I was trying to make. Just ask yourself one question – if a group of people can be allowed to sit down in the middle of an airport to read the namaaz (despite causing grievances and inconvenience to other people), then shouldn’t people also be allowed to sit down and block that same pathway to conduct a puja? If so, why did the CISF officer in charge have such a problem with my sitting down, so much so that he started misbehaving with me and my wife in a derogatory manner?
It wasn’t until the head CISF officer came and apologized to my wife and I that I decided to let the matter go but by then we had missed our flight. I hope that if any good comes out my plight, it’s that people start understanding that no religion can and should be given such special liberties at the expense of others and if such special liberties are to be given, then they should be given and accorded to ALL religions. After all, isn’t that what ‘secularism’ is supposed to be all about? Unless I didn’t get the memo on the new definition on secularism, I wouldn’t like to think otherwise.
सदयं हृदयं यस्य भाषितं सत्यभूषितम् ।
कायः परहिते यस्य कलिस्तस्य करोति किम् ॥
(What harm can Kalipurusa do to him whose heart is full of kindness, whose speech is adorned with truth and whose body is for the good of others.)