A Timely Reminder by Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam (September 15, 2014)

The Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi has said recently on the 13th anniversary of 9/11 that if the United States had heeded Swami Vivekananda’s call for universal brotherhood, America would not have to see that day. We have a point to ponder here.

Vivekananda is no stranger to the US, at least since his historic address at Chicago Congress of World Religions nearly a century and a quarter ago. Fraternity, or brotherhood of humans is the greatest symbol of mutual goodwill, understanding and empathy.

Universal brotherhood implies such a relationship across regions, religions, racial distinctions, civilisational antagonisms and political beliefs. This is the greatest human ideal that is based on equality and justice. The Preamble to the august Constitution of India lays great emphasis on these values for the attainment of real freedom.

The foundations of equality lie in the belief that all human beings are descendants of a single pair of parents and no human being is superior to another human being on the basis of colour, race or nationality. Thus all ideas of racial supremacy are false and reprehensible.

The Prime Minister’s lofty observations give us ground to review the domestic situation also to see how far we have carried the idea of universal brotherhood in this country. Have we achieved equality in any sense? Are all castes and classes treated equally here? We must remember that there can be no brotherhood, universal or local, without equality.

Justice is another corner stone for brotherhood. Have we given justice to the victims of 1984, 2002, 2013, or any other massacre? How can we ensure brotherhood by denying justice to victims of organised, targeted, mass violence? How is it possible?

Can we stop such mass violence without stopping hate speech and poisonous propaganda? Over the last several months there is no respite from round-the-clock vicious anti-Muslim propaganda clearly meant for inciting violence against Muslims.

People as important as the all-India president of BJP, Uttar Pradesh BJP president and state BJP poll coordinator have regularly been accused of inciting anti-Muslim violence on a daily basis. However, nothing has been done about it.

We appreciate the Prime Minister’s emphasis on universal brotherhood. However, we also recognise the fact that what is good for others is good for us. If others need brotherhood, we need it more.

On the contrary, what we have been witnessing in the country is designed not to promote brotherhood but to destroy it. We must set our own house in order before advising others. Otherwise, nobody is going to listen to us as we will have no credibility if hate speech and mass violence become the order of the day.

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