Saturday, April 11, 2009

The message from God’s messengers


The religious representatives of three communities talk about their disappointments and hopes for this election

Photo: Swami Atmaswarupananda

Bava Maulvi

By Shevlin Sebastian

The Ramakrishna Math was building a hall at its ashram in Vytilla. When 15 lorries with mud arrived at the site, the local village officer appeared and said permission was needed.

“I did not know you needed permission to unload mud,” says Swami Atmaswarupananda, 61, the president of the Math.

Things reached an impasse. A desperate Swamiji tried to contact the District Collector, but could not get through. Suddenly, he remembered that he had briefly interacted with the local MLA, K. Babu at a cultural function in Ponurunni. He called up Babu and told him about the problem. Babu asked that the mobile be passed to the village officer.

The end result: the mud was unloaded from the lorries.

“Whenever I have asked for help, politicians, of all religions, have been very co-operative,” says the Swamiji.

But despite this, Swami Atmaswarupananda is disappointed by the politics of today. “It is a mobocracy, rather than a democracy,” he says. “The UDF and the LDF oppose each other for the sake of opposing.” He says that when the LDF comes up with a scheme that may be good for the state, the UDF will reject it simply because they are in the opposition. “That is not right,” he says.

‘Learn to disagree without violence’

On a hot afternoon, Catholic Bishop Thomas Chakiath, 71, is typing on the computer in the cool confines of his high-ceilinged office at Archbishop’s House, Kochi. A keen observer of the political scene, he says, “I am disappointed by the majority of the politicians. They enter politics for selfish and personal motives. I don’t think they are interested in serving society.”

Chakiath says politicians don’t focus on life-threatening issues like the shaky economy, global warming, air and water pollution and rural poverty. “These are things which affect the day-to-day life of the people,” he says. “In the remote areas of the country, people are starving because of a lack of money.”

Despite this, he says, politicians have no qualms in spending lakhs of rupees to put up posters, banners, flex boards, and printing leaflets and flags for the elections. “It is such a terrible waste of money,” says Chakiath.

He is also deeply disturbed by the rising violence all round. “Political parties should learn to disagree with opponents without resorting to violence,” he says. “They should learn to respect each other.”

'We are Indians first'

At his home in Purayar, a few kilometres from Aluva, Bava Maulvi, 49, the Imam of the Angamaly mosque looks relaxed on a Sunday morning.

“Drink this mango juice,” he says, as he proffers a glass. Then he points at a mango tree in the courtyard and says, “No chemicals, no pesticides, the juice is pure.”

However, Bava Maulvi says, the politics of the state is far from pure. “The recent rule by the government that all marriages should be registered with local bodies is disturbing,” he says. “It is an interference in the working of all religions.”

So what advice would he give to the winners?

“Do follow up on the recommendations of the Sachar Committee Report which states that the Muslim community is at the bottom, in terms of jobs and educational opportunities,” he says. “I see a lot of schemes for Muslims announced by politicians in the newspapers but rarely does anything happen on the ground.”

The soft-spoken Maulvi says that politicians continue to treat the followers of each religion as vote banks. “They seem unable to rise above it and look at all of us as Indians,” he says. “That is very disappointing.”

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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