from team dirs
On Tuesday, 2nd August 2016, the Dept. of Inter-Religious Studies (DIRS) and the AICUF organized a Panel Discussion on the same theme that was taken for the College Day Mass held on 30th July: "To Be Religious Is To Be Inter-Religious." The panelists were professors from different faculties and different religious traditions too: Gulshan Shaikh (Science), Radhika Rani (Arts), Periyanayagi Subramaniam (BMM), and Awanish Kumar (Public Policy/BMS). The panel was skilfully chaired by Rector Fr. Tony J D'Souza.
Our team member Amruta has written about her experience in this blog post.
The event opened to the mellifluous tunes of mood elevating music as groups of excited students began to stream in and make themselves comfortable. Whilst they occupied themselves in choosing seats and waiting impatiently for the event to commence, Father Prashant could be seen enjoying an animated discussion with two of the revered panellists, Prof Radhika Rani and Prof Gulshan Shaikh. Photographers clicked away at top speed and were swept off their feet at all times, by their keenness to take tonnes of good snaps.
The boisterous crowd was soon quietened by the arrival of Sania who then proceeded to give the introductory speech in a nutshell. The lights were dimmed and a short, mind-boggling video was presented to the crowd. Gasps and whispers of horror rippled through the crowd as the Hindu barber in the video ruthlessly killed his Muslim friend, his religious aggression triggered by the sight of a fellow Hindu stabbed multitudinous times by a Muslim crowd. Without giving the audience time to recover, the video then went on to show that the stabbing of the man was merely a scene for a movie, eliciting loud oohs and aahs from the flummoxed audience. If the students had been even slightly bored and not fully involved before, they were all attention after the video ended. The panellists were then invited to take centre stage and seat themselves, facing the crowd of onlookers. Father Tony, the chairperson of the event then took charge by introducing the panellists and giving a brief outline of the upcoming procedure of the event. He appealed to Prof Gulshan Shaikh to commence by enlightening the crowd with her views and her experiences of communal harmony and religious discrimination. She jumped off to a great start, choosing to commence with an Islamic greeting, and was greatly pleased when the audience responded positively. The tit-bits she shared about her childhood, personal life and about growing up in a Muslim family kept the audience entertained, but also reinforced in their minds the point she wished with great alacrity to put forth, that of Islam being a religion of peace unlike the current stereotypical beliefs about Islam being all for violence and brutality. She lost no opportunity to stress fervently on the importance of adaptation to the society and the necessity of seeing someone as a person rather than labelling them by their religion.
Prof Awnish Kumar picked up the discussion after Prof Gulshan, sharing the fact of his being an atheist and one of his fondest memories being that of the religious processions that accompanied the coming of Mohorram. The crowd burst out in fits of laughter when he narrated a rather amusing incident about a taxi driver informing him that he would never sell the 0786 license plate of his taxi, as he believed himself to be the lucky receiver of a divine artifact. Scooping up another one of his enlightening memories, he discussed with great energy, his beloved grandmother’s belief in the oneness of all Gods and the idea of ‘sacredness’. For him, religion is not just a set of ideas, but a set of cultural practices and all religions deserve equal importance.
The importance of religious festivities was artfully taken up by Prof Radhika who went on to freely express her intelligent observation that festivals and celebrations are successful in uniting religions and making possible the mingling of cosmopolitan and hybrid crowds. She then expounded on the importance of dialogue as a means to eradicate people’s fear surrounding anything unfamiliar, in this context, say a different religious belief or a highly generalized conception of a particular religion such as Islam. She gave a few tid-bits on the Moholla committees founded by Julio Rebeiro and also shared the fact that though she was born and brought up a Hindu, she chose to convert to another religion because she believed in freedom of choice and the freedom to follow the value system one truly feels one identifies with.
However, one of Prof Radhika’s views was challenged by the fourth panellist, Prof Perri Subramanium who believed that festivities were more of commercial events rather than those arousing strong religious sentiments and harmonious thoughts. She believed festivals to be chief sources of manipulation of people’s thoughts and also the shaping of their ideas and beliefs. She gave more information on the Moholla committee and ended by saying that ‘When we don’t talk to people of different communities, we develop prejudices against them.’
- Amruta Khandekar, Team DIRS