Considering that our country is ruled by a Hindu Nationalist Right Wing government right now, people have a vastly varying opinion when it comes to minorities in the country. Specifically Muslims (Yeah, I said it). 
I’m about to share with you a story regarding religious bigotry that makes me laugh every time I think of it. Mainly because it’s true and extremely outrageous. It’s actually pretty disturbing. Even to me. 

I’ll just need you to trust me on this (The same way one character tries to gain the trust of another in one of my short films which you can find on, I’m not making this up. 
This happened back when I was in the Second or maybe First Grade. This is before any idea of bigotry had even set in my tiny brain. For the record, I’m currently an atheist. This will be very important once you finish the story.

So I’m in primary school and it’s a regular day. The class was going to start in a while and I was sitting next to my desk partner.
Sitting on the bench behind me were two of my friends and we were just talking about something I can’t remember, while my partner was unpacking his bag or whatever.

My partner slowly joined the three of us in talking about whatever the fuck kids spoke about in 2002 (Huh, 2002, wonder what major incident took place then…). Slowly, the conversation drifted to each of our ethnic identities. Back then, kids used to ask each other “Teri Caste Kya Hai?” (What’s your caste?). We didn’t mean it in the sense of the actual caste system, it was just a fucked up way of asking “Which State do you belong to?”. It was a way for a kid to determine whether their friend is a Punjabi, Gujrati, Bengali, etc. It was pretty harmless until it wasn’t. The idea of the actual caste system hadn’t entered our minds yet. 

The three of us, excluding my partner, declared our respective “Castes”. It was now my partners turn, he was a Muslim. You see, like caste, our fucked up young minds had also not grasped the concept of Islam. To us, thanks to the mindless drivel that the ultra patriotic “war” films were producing at the time, Muslim meant Pakistan. What happened next is straight out of a South Park episode. 
Once my partner said he was Muslim, the rest of us started chanting “East or West, India is the Best”(I’ll give you two minutes to laugh and another two to cry) for a good two minutes, I think. We straight out declared to whoever was within earshot that my partner was a Pakistani. We didn’t even do it out of hate, I remember very distinctly that we were very ‘matter-of-fact’ about it. Thankfully, the teacher came in soon and none of us ever really thought about this again. 

Fast Forward 14 years, I’m driving around town with some relatives and showing them the city. One of them is an eight year old boy who referred to Shah Rukh Khan as a Pakistani in a very honest voice. I laughed about it because it was funny to me (In a crass comedy way). I tried to correct my cousin but then I soon realised I was talking to an Eight year old. I immediately remembered that story about my partner from school and I burst out laughing until I realised how fucked up this is.

This is what Nationalism does to India. I don’t support ANY political party but just think about this. Kids in school have turned Religion into a way to divide each other as India and Pakistan. These kids are going to grow up one day. I was lucky to have started questioning the Religious/Patriotic bullshit at a reasonable age. A lot of these kids won’t.  
At the same time, whenever I try to talk to people, mostly family, about how, maybe, just maybe, the country is just a symbol and Nationalism is just a giant P.R campaign, I’m usually shot down from all sides. 

To be honest, I’m not religious, patriotic, nationalist or align with any belief that involves in me either standing up or kneeling down to respect a symbol.
The point is, the more we subscribe to this “I have muslim friends so I’m not bigoted but they’re all the same, yaar” ideology, the further we divide each other. I would sincerely request people to stop believing in Religion but I have to respect your fucking beliefs. Religion divides. That’s the truth. And when you mix nationalism with it, that’s when you get hell. If you’re Hindu and agree with something stupid like the Beef ban (or a Muslim who thinks there’s nothing wrong with separate civic laws for Muslims), remember, you’re a whiny little bitch who’s crying about a thing on someone else’s dinner plate. Grow the fuck up. You’re the reason why I once made a kid feel insecure about his residence in a country. Fuck You. 

I’m not trying to say that every one who believes in Right Wing Politics aligned with ANY religion is a regressive jerk off. I’m just saying, kill yourself.