Equal respect for all religions has been a concept India has followed for centuries but the tag of secularism in the constitution is nothing short of a political fraud.
K N Govindacharya | February 8, 2010
Secularism as practice and approach has ancient linkages to our glorious past where the concept of ‘sarva dharma sambhav’ has been enshrined in the sociological fabric of our nation. The term ‘secular’ was incorporated into our constitution to effectively weave this fabric closer and achieve plurality in our new system which would form the foundation of our governance, with boundaries only set in from the geographical perspective. Self-engineering of this concept however now sadly reflects just a symbolic expression in the constitution.
The warmth of this spirit of secularity in Bharatiya background is missing. It doesn’t lead our nation of multiple diversity to achieve its place in the new millennium. Society and polity is shattered by a dichotomy of principles suiting individual interests and the definition of secularism has been distorted. The important issues which succumb at the altar of secularism are religion, policies emanating from religious practices and professing faith. It has also divided politics on the basis of majority and minority. The function of the state to maintain its neutrality is compromised when the governance policies midwife the decisions to breach the sanctity of constitutional norms and its secular credentials.
Such a distortion in the field of politics influences the policy formation process. This process does not take into account the fact that Bharatiya nation and society a great civilisational past which is embedded in ‘sarva dharma sambhav’. The holier than thou attitude of the policy makers looks down upon the matters of faith and religious convictions. The policies tend to push the people to a corner as if practising their own beliefs is anti-secular and it tends to tilt the balance of democracy on the count of majority-minority differences.
The tenets of coexistence are solidarity, reciprocity and respect towards and between religious communities. However, when the sole intention of democratic might rests in achieving the capture of policy formation, the power to rule and effect, it ruptures this togetherness of the system. Resultantly the grave aspect of divisive polices is carried under the umbrella of secularity and in being seen as and called secular. This being the issue, matters of faith are compromised in favour of one section of society and derive a dubious connotation with regard to fairness of the policies. This is when ‘special temporary status’ accorded to Jammu and Kashmir, based on ethnicity, linguistics and demography as a result of political browbeating by a section of society, is atrocious when it is justified in the name of secularism.
The ‘secular’ identity as a cap has been worn so many times by various political parties that it now has lost its shape as has happened with the egalitarian concept of socialism. And it has been carried as a fruitless appendage all these years of our nation’s existence. The socialism propounded by Nehru and according temporary status to the state of Jammu & Kashmir under Article 370 have had their own momentum. Even until last week we had the war outcry of providing ‘autonomy’ to the state. Left to bleed, an entire population separated on religious basis. Though dubbed as majority in the country, the Hindu Kashmiris trying to find their own place under the sovereignty of the constitution have been forced to demand the homeland for themselves within their own country.
This philosophy carried by the largest tenure rule of the Congress-led government has inflicted wounds on the basis of discrimination, appeasement and policies favouring one over the other. The irony is that such discriminatory politics has the sanction of the secular stamping though this smacks of sharply divisive methodology. The governments led by other political parties with an eye on minority votes have followed the suit. This has generated a psychology of statelessness in the majority community.
Anything which supposedly hurts the sentiments of the minority community has been pushed aside, looked away and ignored, even if the constitutional obligation is being compromised. The state is willing to take back the bravery medals awarded to the security personnel who defended the terrorist attack on parliament, yet is not willing to hang Afzal Guru who has been strictured by the Supreme Court under a death sentence. The ruling coalition thinks that by moving ahead with Afzal’s execution, it might lose the minority votes. In the other monumental case of the Mumbai 26/11, some Rs 35 crore of of taxpayers’ largesse has been spent in the name of “protecting” the single evidence of Pakistan’s role in this terrorist attack and is well looked after, whereas Sadhvi Pragya Thakur had to conduct a fast unto death to allow her to practise her religion and maintain her dignity. She was offered omlette for breakfast and was refused food without onion and garlic. This type of secularity has come to breed contempt for the basic fundamental laws of the constitution and just tends to override on shallow assumptions. So much so that a uniform civil code is not acceptable; since it tends to interfere in the religious practice and is superseded by the supreme law, with its own independent interpretation and boundaries. The Supreme Court had to intervene and advise the coalition government bringing to its attention parallel Sharia courts which are running in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The government under the pressure of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board has not even responded to these observations buckling again as was the case when the the Supreme Court had passed judgment in the Shah Bano Case.
Religious tolerance is implied only if you could shed your aspect of religious chauvinism and surrender or abjure your belief for the good of the other but reciprocity of that, or even demanding the similar response in return is being dubbed as communal.
On such a sensitive issue like Shri Ram Janmabhoomi/Babri structure, the truth has been sacrificed at the altar of distorted secularism. Even the union governments, and archaeological surveys have proved that there was indeed a temple beneath the Babri structure. But despite such a concrete evidence, this issue is being used to exploit the secular/communal sensitivities. If the archaeological evidence is the basic requirement for solving this issue then in Kashi (Varanasi) anybody can see the evidence on the walls of Gyanvapi Masjid today which speaks volumes of destruction of Kashi Vishwanath Mandir in the Mughal period. The nandi of Kashi Vishwanath Mandir is facing garbh griha of Gyanvapi Masjid. Had the intention of the political class been honest on the issue of ‘sarva dharma sambhav’ or secularism, the Kashi Vishwanath issue could have been solved just after independence, like Somnath.
Even in the matter of the Shri Ram Setu, the government shamelessly had to beat a hasty, embarrassing retreat in front of the Supreme Court after filing an affidavit mentioning Shri Ram as a mythological character. This same government came to the rescue of Muslim sentiments when the Danish cartoon fiasco erupted in the country. This follows scores of such instances in the recent past including those relating to Taslima Nasrin, banning Salman Rushdie’s book and preferential treatment to M.F. Hussain in the defence of secularism.
The fact that there are more than two crores of Bangladeshi infiltrators enjoying the rights of citizenship in Bharat and an ever continuing change in the demographic profile of the border states has been addressed by the political class in a way that reminds of an ostrich-like stance ignoring the impending danger to sovereignty of the country. Governments have feigned ignorance about huge amount of money being spent in proselytisation. The demands for a special status and powers are constantly changing the paradigm of the country.
The secular constitution was supposed to essentially protect the rights of the citizen and their equality and respect without any discrimination based either on religious, linguistic, regional or caste-creed basis.
The nation and its citizens have come closer to being concerned about the nefarious game played to suit perverted interests of this formation. The nation’s youth especially today believes in finding its own ground and temperament which resonate with the ecology, temperament of the nation and its nationalism. It today implies to have its moorings in the glorious past of our cultural social diversity yet keeping itself high with blend of true ‘secularity’ of absorbing other faiths and practices and to be called as its own. This means ethos which does not suit the tenets of our governance, policies or socio-political themes would necessary need to be changed.
It has come to the fore that all political parties do not have the will to effect these socio-economical-cultural changes. A new breed of volunteers needs to come forward.
The problem of national integration and social cohesiveness has been universal and has led to tensions in many parts of the world. The democratic setup of the US has its own share of problems. So does France. Germany is no exception where infiltrators from Turkey are playing havoc with social harmony. At one time the ‘melting pot’ theory was promoted as a way out for social integration of African-American, Hispanic and Asian communities with the Anglo-Saxon majority in the US. This theory did not pay results and the American establishment has now formulated a ‘salad bowl’ theory for social integration. In this theory the different sections are expected to retain their separate identities but share a common vision of America which would be essentially Anglo-Saxon.
In Bharat the responsibility of youth is to forge a society in which thousands of years of historical past, pains and pleasures are shared by the entirety of the population. A common aspiration of strengthening the Bharatiya brand of secularism is the challenge before the youth in which history doesn’t stop in the past of 2,000 years but pierces deep into the civilisational shared heritage of more than 10,000 years. The common bond of identity with the past transcending the mode of worship is the desired direction for a stable, cohesive, integrated Bharatiya society.
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