By Dr. Obaidur Rahman Nadwi

India is a secular and democratic country, where all people belonging to different religions have equal rights and religious freedom. Unity in diversity has always been its main features. Undoubtedly, India is known for its diversity across the world. Despite this fact today, Muslims are passing through a tough time. They are confronted with a variety of issues and problems. Besides, they are falsely being implicated in various criminal cases based on concocted and fabricated charges. Consequently, a large number of innocent Muslims are languishing in different jails of the country. It is nothing but a travesty of justice, freedom and democracy. The need of the hour is that we must develop the motto “Live and let live”. Besides, it is our duty to strengthen our composite culture and civilization to combat disruptive forces and nefarious elements which raise their ugly head to destroy the country’s unity and integrity.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in a speech delivered at the IIT Bombay, in Mumbai recently, urged Indians “to condemn hate speech for making a strong pitch for the protection of human rights and pluralism in India”.

He said, “India’s global role will benefit if concrete actions are taken in support of the rights and freedoms of journalists, human rights activists, students and academics. Diversity is a richness that makes your country stronger. That understanding must be nurtured, strengthened and renewed every day by practising the values of Gandhi; by securing and upholding the rights and dignity of all people, especially the most vulnerable; by taking concrete action for inclusion, recognising the enormous value and contributions of multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic societies; by condemning hate speech unequivocally. India was re-elected on October 13 to the UN Human Rights Council but India’s recent human rights record has received criticism from a number of UN experts who have called upon New Delhi to ensure the safety of human rights activists, journalists and student leaders like Teesta Setalvad, Rana Ayyub, Siddique Kappan and Umar Khalid, who have been in the focus of government agencies.”

The UN Secretary-General urged Indians to be vigilant and to increase investments in an inclusive, pluralistic, diverse community and society. He added, “As an elected member of the Human Rights Council, India has a responsibility to shape global human rights, and to protect and promote the rights of all individuals.”

In a nutshell, it is time the prevailing atmosphere of hate, parochialism and prejudice be done away with. And democratic values and secular norms be restored by fostering brotherhood and fraternity cutting across caste, creed, religion, colour and region.

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “My notion of democracy is that under it the weakest should have the same opportunity as the strongest.” (Harijan, 18-5-40) He further says, “True democracy cannot be worked by twenty men sitting in the Centre. It has to be worked from below by the people of every village.” (Harijan, 18-1-48)

[Dr. Obaidur Rahman Nadwi is faculty of Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh]

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