What's your beef ???

By Dr Oscar Rebelo
19 June 2017 22:58 IST

What's your beef ???

Let me start, by stating for the record that I'm still an agnostic - not sure God exists and importantly which one - but I'm not taking my chances, in case I suddenly come face to face. 

Religion is truly a peculiar business. It brings out the best in man (and woman) and we see increasingly now the worst in man (and woman, Sadhvi Saraswati anyone). 

I'll try to now navigate through the latest assault on our Goan sensibilities BEEF!!!

First and foremost when agnostics, liberals siculars, thinkers , philosophers and all other intellectuals analyse religion. There are three inviolable principles that you must adhere to when you confront religious beliefs. 

1. RESPECT: NO religious belief has scientific validation. As much as the beneficial effects of cow urine can't be proven, so too the birth to a Virgin Mother or the day of resurrection (Fitna). These are beliefs cast in stone for the faithful. They get sustenance and meaning and self-worth when they surrender to this higher power. This is pretty incomprehensible to our small, supercilious scientific minds. But there you are. So we need to accept this basic premise. If a belief, however incredulous in the realms of science, provides succour to millions and gives them an anchor to cling on to, we have no right to denigrate it.

Hence,: if a cow is holy to a Hindu, it is holy. Period. 

When do we intervene then?? When these beliefs disrupt harmony in society and violate basic human rights, then as a rational democratic society, we must step in as state and civil society.

Hence we can't question the belief of a Hindu. But when a Hindu vigilante lynches a Muslim cattle trader we must intervene loudly.

In Modi's India, this does not happen with the required intensity as a democratic society would require. 

So the million buck question.. How do you reconcile science and religion... Slowly , gently , with firm conviction and never derision...As times change , religions also follow.. Wait for it to happen. Don't push too hard. 

2.  EVEN HANDEDNESS : Any form of bigotry by any organised religion and specifically religious heads must be well-taken-head on.No compromise.

So if the Sadhvis and Sadhus spew venom and need to be called out, so too must a Maulavi who calls for Kafirs to be converted or Bible-thumping evangelists who claim Jesus and only Jesus is the true God and the rest of humanity will roast in hell, for being pagans or whatever. 

No minorities, no Constitution, no law and cops... Just plain basic human decency and common sense. 

Let every religious head publicly declare that all religions lead to God and no religion is superior to another... then see the change. 

But it's simpler to take a bullock cart to Mars with Elon musk than get this acknowledgement.. But we dream and try. 

3. DEMOCRACY : I strongly believe that a robust democracy and fearless, unbiased institutions of justice and a fiercely independent Press, however flawed, are the best antidotes to religious and race bigotry.

If America is combating the bigotry of the blond bimbo, it is because democracy is at work there relentlessly. 

Trumpo bimbo can never trump democracy. 

It is this same sturdy democratic principle that is making the despicable right-wingers scurry for cover in Europe.

Sadly, the Islamic world cannot contest and defeat the radical Islamists in their world, because they haven't invested in genuine democracy and building up of impartial democratic institutions. 

They've outsourced their human right arguments (the worst slaughters of innocents in the Muslim world are by bombs from the west) to their tin pot dictators and feudal monarchs in bed with the Americans. 

Imagine if they had a vociferous judiciary and civil society who could take their case to international fora, the bombings of innocent kids in Syria and Afghanistan and Iraq would never have been possible.

Which then brings me to our precious land.

I'm completely Convinced that genetically we are perhaps the most democratic, accommodating, peaceful and live-and-let-live people on the planet. Maybe it's about our Hindu ancestry and culture. 

We were immensely blessed in 1947 that our founding fathers gave us a kick ass Constitution like no other breath-taking in its vision and humbling in its simple goodness of heart. Something that truly defines us.

But sadly Mr Modi , under your regime and importantly by your deafening silence, there is a tacit approval of these democratic tenets being eviscerated one by one. 

From cow vigilantism to idiotic censorship rules... from the hounding of the opposition to the crawling of the media... the writing on the wall is clear.

Democracy is not seen as an antidote to bigotry and majoritiarism.

In fact it's an impediment. 

I concede that some of the economic reforms by this government are truly path-breaking.

From demonetisation (however clumsy) to now linking Adhar to bank accounts. From going after benami properties (though for now only the opposition is guilty) to tiring out Pakistan, our biggest economic headache, we've made reasonable progress.

But to achieve this, if the option is to suffocate democratic instincts of a society, then this is truly reprehensible and must be opposed tooth and nail. 

Many historians and intellectuals argue that the difference between Pakistan - our eternal rival - and us is that we are secular and they are communal. 

We need to go beyond this narrow minority and majority prism.

We are India and a resurgent, economically advanced, culturally syncretic power house because we ARE DEMOCRATIC and they are not.

If we willingly weaken our democratic institutions and put them under siege, all of us, Muslims Hindus, Christians, liberals, sickukars will be heavy, very heavy losers. 

To slide from democracy to fascism is simple, quick and often very heady.. (Arnab Goswami is a wonderful example). But to then retrieve the pieces and trudge back from fascism back to democracy is arduous, heart wrenching and sometimes takes generations and bloodshed to achieve. 

We owe it to our kids to stem the slide. 

PS...Vijay Sardesai and his band of Fox trotters (one step Goa Forward and two steps backward) will get you beef on your table. And then claim moral victory for secularism. I doubt he'll ever defend democracy when in peril however... and that is the challenge of our times.

Blogger's Profile

Dr Oscar Rebelo

Dr Oscar Rebelo is one of the leading social activist of Goa and a practicing doctor. He led the historic peoples’ movement in 2006-07 to get the anti-Goa Regional Plan scrapped and save Goa from total destruction of Goa’s ecology and natural beauty. He is a Goa-based leader of Aam Aadmi Party. He is also a columnist.

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Previous Comments

Oscar, I visited Panjim in 1960 from Karachi (my home town) and I spent many fine days with a Jorge Rebello who lived in Kampal with his parents and siblings. He drove a VW beetle and we had many fun times during my 4 month stay in Panjim, If Jorge was your father, please get in touch. Thanks.

- Alan Falcao, Markham, ON., Canada | 20 th June 2017 04:50


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