I was talking to my friend on the phone, on the evening of Independence Day. We were talking about how things have changed in last few years and admiring the sky full of all kinds of colourful kites. Looking at kites made me realized how lucky we are to be born and brought up in a free country. She then told me about something then which suddenly took my mind to a whole new direction, filled with questions of all kind.

She said there was a man who rented a room in their building, about whom she has told me before also. The man had told everyone that he is a teacher in a well known University in Delhi. My friend also took tuitions from him. Well, he left the place for some months now and they came to know few days ago that he was a Muslim and was supposedly involved in a bank fraud. The people of the building were horrified to know this for “obvious” reasons. Everyone was angry with the landlady for not doing a background check on the guy.

I feel that some of those people would have been equally frightened even if that person was not involved in any kind of fraud. Most of the people were scared because he was a Muslim. There was certain kind of uneasiness in their minds. There have been so many incidents when a person is denied properties or accommodation only because of his religion. And the situation is equally true on the other side also. Many Hindu or Non-Muslims people are also denied properties for similar reasons. It’s not just Hindus or Muslims for that matter. It’s a fact that most people become uncomfortable once they know that the person sitting next to them is of certain religion. It is so very common, not accepted openly though.

India turned 61 that day and I kept wondering what is the biggest challenge up against us. Is it economic growth and stability or becoming technological hub of the world or preserving our cultural values? There are so many, on that list to work on, but can we really do all this when we do not trust each other only because of religion? One thing is for sure that we have to leave this entire religion preconception behind us if we are to take this great nation to greater places. I just hope next time you and me make up our mind about a person, it’s not based on his/her surname