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An equal right to belong — Neera Kashyap

I am a Hindu.

I feel its strength in that I bear no burden of caste nor religion.

A privilege I know to belong to the caste-free educated.

I feel its strength in that I bear no burden of mandatory prescription:

religious rituals, social obligations, family duties.

But in doing things through ethical choice, I feel peaceful.

I feel the resilience of my skin, not too porous when the sacred is attacked.

For through centuries, religion and its artefacts have been attacked, destroyed

leaving me, my skin intact - alive, breathing, renewing its cells hydra-like 

in conscious acts of self-healing, re-building, leaving room for assertion, 

much less for hatred or violence. 

I feel its strength in that I feel no need to chant, ‘Jai Shri Ram’,

neither at home nor on the streets.

For the Rig Veda tells me, ‘Let noble thoughts come from all directions’.

And the Gita, ‘I am the Self dwelling in the Heart of every being’.

I feel its strength in the Heart, in the wild imagination of the manifest saguna:

from animism to atheism, from tree worship to the Oneness of all.

My skin feels the ritual fire of the yagna change to the fiery eye of Siva, 

the preserving warmth of Vishnu, the illumining love of my Master. 

I feel Bhakti’s efflorescence include one and all - through congregations, 

Gurus and pirs, an amalgam of faiths, love surging through local tongues.

My skin breathes through this resilience, this re-invention, 

this relatedness with others, a life extant.

My skin burns today with the monolith that has risen, the fixture of one tradition

fixed codes of conduct: how to speak, dress, eat, behave, react….

‘The other’ is beaten, forced to prove her patriotism, to utter Hindu chants,


It behoves no religion to kill in the name of religion.

It is certainly time I witness the weaknesses of my own skin: 

economic injustice, caste hierarchy, gender inequity.


It is time to re-invent again so we live as fellow citizens.

Equal, with an equal right to belong.


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