People in India have religious freedom. So do people in USA. The ambiguities surrounding the interpretations of 'religion' have seeped into the rights and 'not-so-right' of religious freedom too. The debate over Park51 (the controversial area near ground zero where Muslims have been offering prayers for quite sometime now but a mosque has recently been proposed) is flaring the sentiments of the residents of US, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. But, the debate and the exchange of heated arguments are well in place as they are avoiding conflicts and loss of life and property.
The situation in India is strikingly different though the issues are largely the same. The difference arises out of the intervention of law of the land and the priorities that law and religion have respectively. Park51 is not new to the local Muslims of New York, they have been offering prayers in that place for quite sometime. It is not a Mosque though, but a place where they gather to offer prayers. The furore is created on the proposal of building a mosque there - an official, designated place, approved by the municipal authorities of New York. If nothing else, it does bring out the planned approach that the law follows when it comes even to religion and its practice.
Consider a similar situation in India. Any controversy would revolve around the 'discovery' of such a controversial temple or mosque! The municipal corporation has little control over a temple or a mosque springing up in a locality. In fact, these places of worship are one of the finest ways to gobble up state land and encroach the area, even if it happens to be in the middle of the street! The Indian state machinery has often failed in handling religious outbursts and clashes - a fact that remains true since before independence during 'direct action day' or even much before that during the times of the Mughals, the formation of Khalsa, etc.
The big question is about prioritising these two important issues - religion and state! I have always believed that religion is a personal affair and the moment it clashes with the functioning of the state, a check should be imposed. But, this is not entirely true. There are many states which follow, largely, a common religion and it helps to unite their nation. But, again, the reality of the day is that countries like India, US, Malaysia and parts of Europe are multicultural, multiracial and multi-religion. And it is important that a common thread is found to unite the nation and a dividing theme like that of religion can never be it.
In such cases, religion has to take a backseat. The state must come before the personal choices - that of religion, faith, caste and creed. Any instance of the state taking a hit due to religion will result in a potboiler created by a selfish few and that is what has been happening in India for quite sometime.
What we may need is a strict policy on religion and its practice. Why should loudspeakers be allowed on top of makeshift temples and mosques? Why should highways be blocked for religious processions? Why should the industry, education and lives be kept at stake due to the outbreak of religious hatred? The answer is simple. In India, religion votes and when every vote counts, religion is simply the most important factor for a win!