Secularism is a term that looks lost in the media parlance these days mainly owing to the voice-choking aggressive political high handedness of the ruling B.J.P. and its stooges. The most distinguished merit of the Indian Constitution in the eyes of the world nations , is its commitment and reverence to Secularism. The founding fathers of the Constitution faced one of the toughest challenges before them to give a meaningful relevant, an unquestionable and irrevocable secure place in the Constitution in the context of the country that had been hitherto united under the British rule, getting split into two, one choosing to be a religious State and the other a Secular one.
SECULARISM: In essence Secularism is a movement towards modernisation of the ruling morals for nations and rulers. This is a noble attempt to relieve humanity from the monopoly of a particular religion and the aggressive infliction of any religion on its citizens by means of law of the rulers. Secularism has now become an indisputable reality though so often stifled and mutilated to be accepted. The most obvious truth is that India had never been a nation from Kashmir to Kanyakumari . No ruler had ever ruled this entire area as one nation. It is only the British who made a nation that had been hitherto diverse regions with any number of languages , cultures , beliefs and religions. The British were forced to find out means of a minimum confusion policy with regard to language for ruling. Macaulay’s long search for a national language for us eluded him forever. They, for all practical purposes, followed an undeclared Secularism in India.
ESSENTIALS OF SECULARISM:
• This guarantees Natural Justice of Freedom for all the citizens to practice any religion a citizen chooses, including atheism.
• This also guarantees equal treatment to all faiths by the Governments by being neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor irreligion.
• This is also a safeguard to all religions, avoiding domination of a major religion on small religions.
• This also safeguards the cultural, ethnic and linguistic identities of minorities.
• In a Secular State, the public activities and decisions , especially political ones, should be UNINLUENCED by religious beliefs and practices.
• With the above assurances and guarantees, Secularism points to the highest form of human civilisation, “where the mind is without fear ….” , the Tagorean dream of an ideal country.
• As per the jungle law, “Might is right.” In a civilised human society, the strength of majority, physical or economic or social position, does not threaten or jeopardise minorities.
Now, if we apply this yard stick to measure the validity of Secularism in practice in India today, it would be a daunting discomfiture. Ignorance, its consequent arrogance and the prejudice of the stone age barbarians are prominently nurtured and openly sponsored by the lawmakers. Where the religious differences have to be protected, the eating habits of one religion find a facilitator and a promoter under a legal garb to impose the habits of a negligible minority. This , inspite of the belief being in contravention to all the professed religious texts and practices purported to have been in vogue in ancient India. This is the SEVEREST ATTACK ON AND CHALLENGE FOR THE VERY FOUNDATION ON WHICH
THE NATION HAS BEEN BUILT.
Almost every day, there appears report of one excelling another in prescribing more and more threatening consequences if beef is eaten: from beheading to raping of women folk. THEY SEEM TO BRING BACK AND ENACT AGAIN THE RULE OF THE JUNGLES AND THE PRACTICES OF THE STONE AGE BARBARIANS, drunk with the power of majority in hand. Our Prime Minister maintains a culture of stoic silence in all the national issues, however serious they might be.
GROSS VIOLATIONS OF THE CODES OF SECULARISM :
There are any number of violations made, not by ordinary citizens but the people at the top have set indelible examples in the history of the Secular India. Starting from Indira Gandhi to our present President Pranab Mukerjee, have ruthlessly ignored the very basic norms of the law. Foregoing the status and the dignity of a Prime Miister of such a great nation, Indira Gandhi chose to sit across a well and talk to the Pontiff of the Kanjee Mutt, as a widow cannot talk to him directly. A present Central Minister was made to sit on the floor before him, as he happens to be a sudra. Our late President Abdul Kalam also was subjected to such disrespect. Many Foundation laying functions by the Government are conducted only as per the Hindu rites. No one ever cares for the law of the country. The spirit of Secularism is thrown to the wind. Pictures of deities of a particular religion are openly exhibited in Police Stations and Government Offices.
SECULARISM IN THE WORLD TODAY:
Today there are about one hundred countries in the world which have opted for Secularism.
Continent wise figures:–
Africa : 27, Asia : 22, Europe : 33, North
America : 5, Oceania : 4, South America : 8.
Earlier, some countries withdrew their secular status
In some countries in the world today, a semi secular form is followed.
The administration of secularism is not the same in all the secular countries; they have different shades and dimensions but basically they all have accepted in principle the necessity and the importance of secularism to be an inevitable sign of a civilized society .
SECULARISM IN INDIA:
The present reality is far away from all the promises and the essential spirit of the founding fathers of the Indian Constitution. From the time immemorial, there have always been a number of religions, languages, traits, cultures and belief systems in India. In this way, India has been a unique combination and confluence of diverse life styles and races. Naturally, tolerance has always been the hallmark of the land which inspired Nehru to coin the popular phrase, “unity in diversity”. Indian religions are known to have coexisted and evolved together for centuries . The arrival of the Islam in the 12th Century brought forth a marked difference in this tradition and until it developed to the custom of collection of jizya tax on the ‘infidels’. But Ashoka about 2200 years ago and Harsha about 1400 years ago allowed total freedom of religion when the major ones were Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Any way Akbar was the Muslim architect of religious tolerance and secularism in India. After the fundamentalist rule of Aurangzeb, the East India Company made inroads into the entire landscape. For the British , the primary object was to rule the country and exploit all her wealth. As a pass time activity they were at times engaged in the welfare of the slavish lot. Secularism was not only a noble political goal but a strategic sagacity to keep the nation under their total control.
In the Independent India, the drafting and finalisation of the Constitution was the greatest task for the leaders. Secularism got the official nod only due to the 42nd Amendment enacted in 1976 when the Preamble to the Constitution asserted that India is a secular nation. But, unfortunately neither India’s Constitution nor its laws defined the relationship between religion and state. This ambiguous situation led to a lot of interpretations and counter claims by the vested interests leading to the demand of uniform civil code, that is, equal laws for every citizen irrespective of his/ her religion. This would surely impose majoritarian Hindu sensibilities and ideals on all the others, annihilating the very core of secularism in a country of majority of minority communities
The Divine Right Theory :
In the European nations there had been a theory in practice called “Divine Right Theory” mostly by Christian nations . This asserts that a monarch is subject to NO EARTHLY AUTHORITY, but he derives the right to rule from THE WILL OF GOD. Thus a ruler was not subject to the will of his people. This Theory originated legally in Scotland under James VI in 1597. This principle negated the temporal authority of a ruler but imposed spiritual obligations in ruling the kingdom. In one way, this took away the powers of the rulers from arbitrary and whimsical dictatorship and required him to follow morals rather than personal choices.
WHAT INDIA NEEDS TODAY TO SAFEGUARD SECULARISM :
Fundamentalism has existed in all the countries throughout history. In a very surprising way, it has been always kept under check by the majority of the nations. But what transpires in our country today is what has never happened in India. Violence of all sorts on the minority communities have been let loose sponsored , backed and instigated by the government. Eating of beef has been removed from the options of an individual citizen and instead banned with unconstitutional audacity and arrogance. Law is in the hands of hooligans and anti social forces, while the Government is a silent spectator and an indirect promoter. There is very little dignity seen of a Government that rules perhaps the biggest democratic nation in the world.
Tolerance and respect for differences among citizens are not merely moral obligations, but much more they are most basic duties of a citizen in a democratic country and a civilized society. Majority should not be misconstrued for possession of bullying powers. This practice exists only among animals with 6-1senses!
Take for example the use of signatures of individuals needed in every valid document. This possesses a very important truth about the social life of humans. It thrives on the truth that the signature of one person cannot be exactly the same of any other human person. This establishes the truth that each human IS DISTINCTLY DIFFERENT FROM THE REST OF THE HUMAN RACE. THEREFORE, EVERY HUMAN BEING IS BY BIRTH OBLIDGED TO RESPECT AND SAFEGUARD THE RIGHTS AND NATURE OF ALL THE OTHERS. THIS IS THE FOUNDATION ON WHICH A HUMAN CIVILIZED SOCIETY CAN BE RAISED.
Let us bear in mind that UNITY is the backbone of a society but UNITY SHOULD NEVER BE CONFUSED WITH UNIFORMITY. Unity is a natural virtue necessary to live in a human society, and a prerogative of an individual, where as uniformity is the annihilator of natural and individual identities that intrinsically denies plurality. History teaches us very important lessons. All the mighty empires have fallen not because of the might of their enemies but solely because of their own might abused. India should avoid the ignominy of learning lessons by endangering the greatest assets of our nation, democracy and secularism.