September 11 marks the 125th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s 1893 address to the Parliament of Religions in Chicago. The speech that still gives me goosebumps and one that has continued to inspire generations are very relevant in the current context, more than ever.
He said, “Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair.”
It is saddening that the very nation that he belonged to is being broken into minute irrelevant strips in the name of religion. Religious extremity and bigotry seem to be the order of the day. Despite the Constitution guaranteeing every citizen the right to practice any religion of their choice, the people are constantly paying the price for their religious choices.
There are areas where Durga Puja has not been allowed to be performed for years now and the authorities are silent about it. There are politicians who offer blatant excesses to members of a particular religious community in hope of garnering more votes.
We often see students from certain communities getting an advantage over others in the name of religious quota. Sadly the Government authorities, the law enforcers, and the administration, in general, is unusually calm and stoic. The very fact that our politicians pursue acts of religious appeasement goes against the spirit of the guarantee and freedom outlined by the Constitution.
Perhaps, Swami Vivekananda summed it up best when he said, “I am a Hindu. I am sitting in my own little well and thinking that the whole world is my little well. The Christians sit in their little well and think the whole world is their well. The Muslims sit in their little well and think that is the whole world.”
Indeed acceptance and tolerance seem to be our biggest enemies today. We cannot accept a view contrary to our beliefs, we are not ready to take in alternative explanations. People are being killed in the name of upholding religious beliefs. In other places, ruthless murders in the name of religious cleansing are the order of the day.
The question is can the youth of today come out of their own religious wells and take forward the beliefs and vision of the greatest champion of youth power, Swami Vivekananda?