I am appalled as an Indian to read of my country so deeply lost in mindless religious barbarism. While BJP leaders and Hindu seers rant and rave against a Christian prayer gathering— a constitutionally protected freedom to preach one’s religious beliefs—meanwhile Karnamoni Handsa, a nine-year-old girl weds a stray dog in northern India shocking the collective civility of Indians.

Some people can write off the incident as an isolated case, some multiculturalists might even defend the practice as a cultural expression, some intellectuals could even debunk it as a social aberration and some could be indignant but they are all still missing the bigger picture of the Santhali tribe to which the girl belongs. The Santhals number around 7 million and imagine a tribe resorting to girl-dog weddings because little girls grew “dog teeth” in their upper jaws and “dog teeth” were considered a bad omen. The only way out was to get the girl married to the dog or else the evil was sure to haunt. Tooth problems are best handled by dentists but strangely enough Indian collective progress seems to eclipse villages like Dhanbad, where ignorance, naivety and poverty seems to be charting the graph.

India is scaling mountains in information technology making global headlines. We even pride of nuclear capability. Some even wreck public peace and properties marching in justified rage to protect religious ideals and even file lawsuits against a whistle-stop visitor like Benny Hinn, who came, who saw, who prayed and who left. And noted columnist like Thomas Friedman puts India’s IT prowess on the pages of New York Times and yet few and fleeting are the progress made in shaping India’s cultural and human dignity much of which is dictated by pantheistic Hindu beliefs that settles like a cloud over the rural, real India.

The animal-human wedding even grabbed headlines in BBC and the world laughs at these dastardly practices. Yet we don’t get to hear self-styled BJP cultural czars protesting and stirring rage against such inhuman practices. Wonder when the outrage would make BBC or CNN headlines! Wish we could see people rioting, vandalizing public property and storming prayer halls to ban the uncivilized and inhuman practice of subjecting little girls to wed stray dogs!

Years ago in 1987, eighteen-year-old Roop Kanwar was forced to throw herself onto her burning husband’s pyre because she had no right to live as a widow. The Hindu practice of sati (bride burning), another social evil justified on religious grounds had claimed many lives. In the 1800s 438 widow burnings were reported around a 30-mile radius of Calcutta despite the belief that divinity was perceived in Bengal as Ardhanareeshwara—half male and half female—and yet women were esteemed low. It took a foreigner like William Carey to ban the practice of Sati. We have come a long way from religious fanaticism and the rioters don’t seem to get it. India needs to foster dignified human existence not pseudo-religious fervor.

In fact, the canine-lass wedding, for once has redefined news. Gone are the backwoods, newsy examples, “If a man bites a dog” that makes a news, now if a girl weds a dog it makes BBC news uncovering the dark cultural contours of India. The Internet, the newsboy of the global village, gets it to every bedroom in the global village. Sitting here in a small town in the northwest province of United States I am watching and reading India’s happenings. I encourage myself that things would change, and I need not feel embarrassed to explain why certain things happen back home. And just then another news flash hits me again as I surf around the net. This one turns me off, angers me and eats away my India.

The headline is bold, “Five year-old boy sacrificed in Jharkhand” I expected the worst in the news lead and sure it was. A little lad’s head is chopped to appease the goddess Kali. Interesting enough, the boy heads out to watch television in Sardar’s house and doesn’t return home. A worried father asks his oldest son to find his younger brother. The search proves futile as the older one discovers his brother lying in a pool of blood in front of the picture of goddess Kali. The scene ends. Once again religious belief in the heartland of northern India has devoured the head of an innocent boy. This is so sickening and pathetic to hear happening in the 21st century. Civility could not enter where TV entered. How could a TV watcher fall prey to the charms of a religious belief that some gods show up in dreams and ask for human blood? How could this be? How can this not rankle the rank and file of our society? How can kids be exploited in the name of casting away “bad omens”? Children are so precious and are so naïve.

I like to see protests, rage and agitation against these malevolent religious practices. Can we have a ban on people preaching and practicing that gods need human blood? Can we let the dogs stray and give the little girl a doll to play with?

Reuben David