During the Parliament’s winter session of Nov 2015, Indians watched an interesting debate about Secularism and its status in the reality framework. Indians also recalled an earlier attempt by the previous NDA regime (1998-2004) to force a review of the Constitution.
India is socialist, secular, democratic republic and word secular was added into the preamble by the 42th Amendment (1976). As per this there would be equality of all religions in India, along with religious tolerance and respect. As per the written Constitution of India, India is a secular country and we as citizens of India must abide by it. Even the old age philosophy of oneness of religion has been mentioned in Hindu scriptures known as the Upanishads. The Upanishads preach ‘Sarva Dharma Samabhava’ which means respect for all belief systems.
Let us remember that Indian constitution has not made the laws to define the relationship between religion and state. However, soon after independence, many political leaders started preaching communal ideology, which led to India becoming a combination of communalism and secularism. Since the early 1980’s communalism became so strong that it began to overshadow the secularism. New words like “sickular” and “pseudo-secularism” were coined.
The 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi, The Babri Masjid demolition controversy in 1992, militancy in Kashmir have brought up the sharp contours of communalism versus secularism. Communal forces began to oppress the minorities and the fault lines of democratic India began to emerge in broad day light. Communal and religious clashes became the biggest question on the definition of “secularism” in present day India.
Today, the vested interest of people behind communalism are trying to defeat the ‘Sarva Dharma Sambhav’ philosophy. Religion is personal and must not interference with politics. However, in situations of damage to religious sentiments the government is expected to deal with the perpetrators strictly and the guilty must be punished.
On the occasion to mark the 125th birth anniversary year of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and to commemorate the adoption of the Constitution in the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949, the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had questioned the manner in which secularism is being used in contemporary discourse. The background of this disputation was the idea of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government. It wanted a two-day debate on how far the values of the Constitution are being understood today.
The Ex-Congress president Sonia Gandhi had argued that the principles enshrined in the Constitution were ‘under deliberate attack’ and secularism is a core value in the constitutional system. Mr. Rajnath Singh had expressed the view that ‘secularism’ is the most misused word in Indian politics and that the time has come to end such misuse came close to questioning the continuing relevance of the very concept of secularism.
It was interesting and reassuring that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s had emphatically ruled out any such review and reaffirmed his government’s commitment to the core principles of the Constitution. In fact he had deflated the trial balloon flown by communalist fringe elements of BJP / NDA who are always engaged in fomenting the communal utterances. The prime minister had shut the debate asserting that the only religion for his government was ‘India first’ and the only holy book, the Constitution.
It is a good news that President Ram Nath Kovind will not host an Iftar party at the Rashtrapati Bhavan this year, said an official on Wednesday. “After the Ram Nath Kovind took office, he decided there would be no religious celebrations or observances in a public building such as Rashtrapati Bhavan on taxpayer’s expense. This is in keeping with the principles of a secular state and applies to all religious occasions, irrespective of religion,” Ashok Malik, Press Secretary to the president was quoted as saying by PTI.
Let all the religious fanatics who want to turn the Secular India into a Theoritical Hindu Rashtra take a lesson or two from the example the President is setting.