SONGSOPTOK: To what extent do you practice ‘religious tolerance’? Since when (how long ago)?

ANINDA GHOSH:  A question too difficult to reply. First question that comes up is, what is religious tolerance? In Tata Steel employment form, I wrote my religion as Humanism. Several of my marriage alliances broke off, as I declared my inclination to Communism n atheism. Even during my journey thru agnostics I started Namaj every Jummabar & fell in love  for beef, & then fell in for Baptism. My intolerance has been conspicuous to all religions as a rationalist leftist. As a socialist, I have never belonged to any religion , although some protestant softness still plays with my core.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you believe all religions are the same?

ANINDA GHOSH:  My wife is a  spiritual person & sometimes, I get weak momentarily at churches, mosques, dargahs n temples; but I tide over those reactionary trends. To me, all  religions are same venomous opium, same toxic  drug. I feel, all religions have faith in universe as the advaita of Hindu, Allah  of Islam , Dvaita of Vaishnavism, Buddhism / Jainism’s salvation. I believe, Christianity is what Gandhi preached n practiced &  to me, Krishna is Mohammad’s fierce manifestation  of  imposition of power n authority over the  weak n downtrodden.

SONGSOPTOK:  In case you practice religion, do you consider all your religious beliefs to be true? What about those of others?

ANINDA GHOSH:   The question does not  arise at all. My wife recites Gita n Chandi too well, despite never visiting any temple. Thru me, she got closer to Christianity, when I used to read Bible & she used to listen patiently. Her first 2 books show great influence  of Christianity on her writing. Both of us are too close to many Muslim friends off Bangladesh.  But, on the  whole, I still believe Hinduism to be a very tolerant religion. As ,in City of Joy Dominic Lapiere said—for Hindus, Paygambar or Jesus can be 2 avatars. There are sarbojonin Jeesupuja I have seen in Kabardanga as back as in 1994. It is the reactionary VHP n RSS that  are  polluting the sacred  strings of Vedic religion.

SONGSOPTOK:  Do you believe that all faiths are equally beneficial and equally harmless to society?

ANINDA GHOSH:   Any stubborn faith is harmful. Catholic church that disallows abortion is so very dangerously harmful to a pregnant mom… as per  me, every faith has an inherent indulgence to radical extremism &  fanatics are always unreasoning n irrational. As said Tagore, Religion is to  impart newer n newer lessons in life.  Just go thru a text by Romain Rolland, I understand by that—quite independently of all dogma, of all Credo, of every Church organization, of every Holy Book, of all hope in a personal survival, etc.—the simple and direct fact of the sensation of the "eternal" (which may very well not be eternal, but simply without perceptible limits, and in that way oceanic). The sensation is, as a matter of fact, subjective in character. . . .
I, myself, am familiar with this sensation. Throughout my whole life I have never lacked it; and I have always found it a source of vital renewal. In this sense I can say that I am profoundly "religious"—without this constant state (like an underground bed of water which I feel surfacing under the bark) in any way harming my critical faculties and my freedom to exercise them—even if against the immediacy of this internal experience. Thus I carry on simultaneously, freely and smoothly, a "religious" life (in the sense of this prolonged sensation) and a life of critical reason (which is without illusion). . . .

As per Romain, Spontaneous religious sensation, intimate sublime  bond with one’s surrounding , was a prolonged intuitive feeling of contact with immense forces. The oceanic feeling was connected with an energy that surpassed traditional categories of time, space, and causality. It transcended limits, empirical boundaries, and scientific definitions. It had nothing to do with organized religion or faith in personal salvation. It promised to be a spontaneous source of action and thought that might regenerate decadent Europe and the underdeveloped nations of the world. We seem to diverge rather far in the role we assign to intuition. Your mystics rely on it to teach them how to solve the riddle of the universe; we believe that it cannot reveal to us anything but primitive, instinctual impulses and attitudes—highly valuable for an when correctly interpreted, but worthless for orientation in the alien, external world.[8]

 Religion was, to him, soul’s  mystic fantasy with the whole , the universe…And  a child, thrashed to Ramkrishna Vivekanadism , I grew a penchant for  a great Hindu heart till I passed Secondary exam. As I joined college, religion turned to a bane to me from a boon of bounties.

SONGSOPTOK:  Do you believe all religious groups are equally beneficial and equally harmless to their followers?

ANINDA GHOSH:   I grew up in the vicinity of RK Mission, Bharat Sevashram, Mohananada, Anukul Thakur, Anandamargee, Onkarnath, Ram Thakur & Anandamayee. Later on, I met with the groups of Ramdev, Sri Sri &  South’s  multiple sects. Some prevent  bleeding  ladies from entering temples , they wear black dresses for months, do not take non veg n liqour & go on pilgrimage to Ayappaswamy temple inside dense forest. There are different Lingayat sects , whose godmen are worshipped by all sect people. Then there are Iyers vs Iyengars.  When I was studying CA Finals n after I passed, India was divided by Mondalites & upper castes. I saw those hatreds, I saw Ranveer sena killing Harijans &  revenges. I saw the madness among CAs that made them radical Hindus devoid of rational  thinking, who all spake the VHP n RSS  language of Hindus winning over Muslim atrocities in Kashi, Mathura, Aurangabad…When in 1st year  of B.Com, I  saw  our neighboring Sikh family carnaged by wildly lunatic Congress hooligans . Last  few years , I  have seen enough atrocities on scheduled castes n tribes n found many tribal girls going to last red light refuges. Over years I have seen several close aboriginal families losing land, livelihood, everything….and I have seen Taslimadi running in fear of life from 1 country to another & WB CM patronizing  radical Muslim hooligans for cheap electoral gains. I have seen all the blood oozing in streets of Dhaka to Karnataka n Maharashtra , where a Lingayat rationalist  is murdered for speaking against the clan’s vices.

Nowhere I could find benefits & harmless nature of  any religious  group. I personally escaped from attacks by fanatic tribal Christians when Bible was burning , just because we protested against the fanatic Christian fathers preaching faith healing of blindness ,  deafness, dumbness, paralysis…yaa, ABVP guys saved us.

SONGSOPTOK:  Should members of any given religious group refrain from criticizing religious practices of others?

ANINDA GHOSH:  I feel so. There should be a limit. We have to admit  that Brahma sect  came with greatness of  Islam & Constantinople renaissance.. Widow marriage & end of  Sati  were great social revolutions. But when vices are not so horrible, UR Anathmurthy’s utterance  of  humiliating stances against Hindu sects may not be correct.  I also  visit Gods in temples , but  find it  humorous to stand in long queues to offer pujas, but is it possible for an individual to stop stampedes at kumbhs, where  people die while assembling in lacs for an early moksha just by bath!!!!  I could not change my mom’s  superstition that daily sinners’  sins can be washed off  by 6 visits to Puri/ Varanasi / chaar dhaams. A movement is needed on a large scale to obliterate all such superstitions. Ghar wapasi started off with a bang  of serial tortures on SC/ST Christians & Muslims . And why to restrict the dialog to religious curtains??  Dalits  in India are disallowed to touch high caste  wells’  water, dalit students need to sweep / scavenge sewages,  dalit girls  are raped left n right without reporting. Dalit administrators are humiliated by caste Hindu ministers…Veg culture of  caste Hindus are imposed  on lower castes, who love non veg.  As a nation India is too poor in world giving index & world happiness index; we should  have minimum tolerance towards diversity , without  imitating Saudi/ Iran/ Pakistan, to uphold the secular structure, as people do in times of natural calamities.

SONGSOPTOK:  Do you usually refrain from talking about your beliefs to others? Should you be ignoring your own religious ideas?

ANINDA GHOSH:   I have  no  defined  positive religious belief. I feel, even Vivekananda was a Marxist &  all  religions should prima facie aim at  an egalitarian society’s  equitable demography. Prior to Feudalism, religiocracy had a more equity in society.  I personally feel,  what was practiced in USSR / China  in terms  of restriction on religious practices / rituals , should be partially imposed in India.  Surprisingly, any boy/ girl getting a chance in an engg/ medical college thru quota is ostracized &  surprisingly Salman Rushdie is not allowed in any litfest incl Jaipur, while leftist & rational film makers & literary achievers refuse invitations. There must be freedom for me to adhere to my atheism/ different religious faith &  all rationalists must have courage to stand up( like Mahasweta Devi with her 1084’s mom novel , against the mass murders of Naxalites) against  irrational laws post Shah Banu verdict. Muslim n Christian fanatics must not be allowed to make riots  at the drop of a tiny hat against Mohammed/ Jesus. If Shariat is banned in several  Islamic nations, it must be banned in India. Surprisingly, leftists & rightists alike fear telling anything against the maulavis.  My personal choice is a free n fair dialog n debate on people’s multiple faiths.

SONGSOPTOK: What are the different ways religious tolerance, including secularism, can help (or hurt) the demands of a complex world?

ANINDA GHOSH:  Secularism can be  defined by the following Khajurao structure in Indian context. According to Vivekananda, religion is the manifestation of the Divinity already in man. He also told, religion is the idea which raises the brute unto man, and man unto God. As I already said, Secularism in India means equal treatment of all religions by the state. Unlike the Western concept of secularism which envisions a separation of religion and state, the concept of secularism in India envisions acceptance of religious laws as binding on the state, and equal participation of state in different religions.

A 19th-century Hindu temple in Khajuraho India, incorporating a Hindu spire, a Jain cupola, a Buddhist stupa and a Muslim style dome, in place of the usualshikharas West is more tolerant n stands higher in giving index because its belly is full n not hungry. India is illiterate

SONGSOPTOK:  Should ‘religious tolerance’ be a part of the school curricula?

 The seed is put in the ground,
and earth and air and water are placed around it.
Does the seed become the earth;
or the air, or the water?
No. It becomes a plant,
it develops after the law of its own growth,
assimilates the air, the earth, and the water,
converts them into plant substance,
and grows into a plant.
Similar is the case with religion.

This piece by Swamy Vivekananda  & Ramakrishna’s theory of all beliefs leading equal ladders to salvation  are  to be  inculcated in the brains of teachers.. A child  is taught in this nation to hate another caste’s / religion’s child &  95% Indian households do not believe in inter-religion/ intyer-caste marriages. Even so called secular govts have never tried to bridge  such gaps.

SONGSOPTOK:  Religious acceptance and bigotry appear to be the two sides of a coin (unbiased). People are equally likely to choose one over the other. Do you agree with that observation? Please explain.

ANINDA GHOSH:   As you are born into a family in a 3rd  world nation, where sanitation is not a way of pure life,  religion becomes immature refuge of your scoundrels  to thrive on your illiterate emotional idiocy.  Basics  of Manubaad  come in much bigger package compared to Chaturbarna &  you are shckled under wheels of  religious rituals n fanaticism, be it Raamkatha, Keertan or Shivjagna….  The  great  Vaishnav  heart is gone, where love is the only human religion,  Lalon is not  loved, Kabir is not adored &  people start believing  YSR died only because he challenged the richest deity of d world. People start believing, Ganesh drinks milk. Such fanatics  lead to bigotry & all riots…. Dadri carnage of killing a poor muslim in sheer  doubt of his eating / stocking beef.

We sincerely thank you for your time and hope we shall have your continued support.
Subhodev Das

(Chief Advisor: Songsoptok)


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