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March 5th, 2009
01:38 PM ET

India, the aspiring pluralistic democracy

Eboo Patel
Washington Post
Interfaith Youth Core

In the middle of the Q and A section of my talk on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in this heartland city of Bhopal, a student from the local technical college stood up and said, "Sir, I have prepared a 15-minute lecture on Martin Luther King Jr. that I would like to read to you. Sir, would you like to hear it?"

He wasn't kooky activist, he wasn't kidding and no one in the audience laughed at him. He is part of middle India, earnest and aspirational India, ready to-do-whatever-it-takes-to-make-it India. After the program was over, he ran up to me excitedly and thrust the text into my hands. It was written in a schoolboy's cursive, in blue ballpoint pen. "I don't want to take your only copy," I told him. "Don't worry, sir, I have memorized the speech." I don't doubt it.

I'm on a brief speaking tour of India sponsored by the U.S. State Department, using the legacy of King and Gandhi as a springboard to explain why the world's oldest democracy and the world's largest should lead the world on the critical issue of interfaith cooperation.

If there is one term that describes contemporary India, it is aspiration. What is particularly refreshing to me is to watch that striving not just in India's economy, but also in other parts of its democracy.

The Chair of the country's first journalism department told me that there are somewhere between 35,000-40,000 newspapers in India - about a thousand of them in English - with new ones sprouting up all the time.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Eboo Patel • India • Religion
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Gene Penszynski from Vermont

    What about India's human rights violations and it's SOCIALIST five and ten year Centralized Government plans. What about it's Slave Labor-like lack of workers rights. Is it any wonder that American GREED MONGERS would offshore so much of America's economic infrastructure to this government sanctioned SLAVE LABOR COLONY.
    'Aspiring Pluralistic society' indeed !

    March 5, 2009 at 2:27 pm |
  2. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    Eboo--Ah--the word faith-–to believe in something greater than yourself-–it is something in this modern day and age of global conflict that the world has forgotten-–along with the erosion of moral and value systems. I wish you success on your speaking tour with the hope that you can make a difference--and be not forsaken--–one person can make a difference.

    March 5, 2009 at 1:53 pm |