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Essay

Essay

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Published by mohankrishna75

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Published by: mohankrishna75 on Jul 04, 2009
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08/04/2013

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ARE WE SECULAR?
India is a Socialist, Secular Democratic Republic pledged tosecure to all its citizens justice, liberty and equality, and to promoteamong them all fraternity, assuring the dignity of the individual andthe unity of the nation. This is stated in the Preamble of theConstitution itself. Actually, while the word “secularism” is rathervague, and was introduced by the 42nd Amendment in 1976, Articles25 to 30 of the Constitution relating to the freedom of religion andfreedom to manage religious affairs are more specific. They contain theclear directive that “no religious instruction shall be provided in anyeducational institution wholly maintained out of State funds”. There is also the further provision in Article 28(3) that no personattending any educational institution recognised by the State orreceiving aid out of State funds shall be required to take part in anyreligious instruction that may be imparted in such institution, or toattend any religious worship that may be conducted in such institutionor in any premises attached thereto, unless such person or, if suchperson is a minor, his guardian, has given his consent there to. Thus, complete religious freedom, with the absence of anycompulsion whatsoever in religious matters, is legally guaranteed bythe supreme law of the land. India is, therefore, rightly described as asecular country in which the State has no religion, nor does it seek topromote or discourage any religion or religious belief. It is obvious thatthe Government and people of India are secular, that is, there is noofficial religion. That is the legal position. The State stands committedto a policy of non-interference in religious matters. Religion is a matterof personal beliefs and convictions.In January, 1948, Jawaharlal Nehru spoke of secularism thus: “Weshall proceed on secular and national lines in keeping with the powerfultrends towards internationalism ... India will be a land, as in the past, of many faiths equally honored and respected, but of one nationaloutlook, not, I hope, a narrow nationalism living in its own shell butrather the tolerant, creative nationalism which, believing in itself andthe genius of the people, takes full part in the establishment of aninternational order.”
 
 
 The goal of One World is still far, far away, but sinceindependence the Government of this country has undeniably keptitself aloof from religious controversies, not taking any side and takingall possible measures to ensure to every citizen full religious freedomin accordance with enlightened opinion all the world over, except in theIslamic countries where the tenets of Islam are enforced by law and thewhole polity is declared as Islamic, not secular in any sense. In fact,Islam, like most other religions, regards secularism as a dangerouschallenge.But how far are we, the people, secular in thought, word anddeed? When we look around us and examine the working of variousnon-government institutions, the various political parties, especiallynational parties, which are supposed to be have thrown theirmembership open to all communities, we find that the spirit of secularism is being flouted day after day. We are not completelysecular in our approach and attitudes. There are cases whereadmissions to educational institutions are decided on a basis that isanything but secular. If we review closely the working of our politicalparties, we shall find that candidates for elections are often chosen oncommunal considerations—Hindu candidates for constituencies havinga predominantly Hindu electorate, Muslim candidates for areas wherethe majority of the voters are Muslims, and so on. There are exceptionshere and there but, by and large, the observation made above is wellfounded. The voting in elections is often on communal lines; Hindusvoting for Hindu candidates, Muslims for Muslim candidates and Sikhsfor Sikh contestants. Political parties are not formed on a religiousbasis, but how is it that there are some distinctly communal parties inthis secular country?Again, how is it that in the selection of Ministers of various ranks,adequate representation is generally assured to members of variouscommunities and even castes? There are “vote banks” in the ruralareas where the caste factor plays a dominant role in determining thedecisions of the village Sarpanches and leaders of the various clans,(and even sub-castes) in directing their followers to exercise theirfranchise for a particular candidate. Jats and non-Jats, Brahmins andnon-Brahmins, Scheduled Castes and non-Scheduled Castes—theseconsiderations, undeniably sectarian and narrow, determine theiractions.In an ideal, well-established, modern polity— religion should haveno connection whatever with politics. But is that really so in Indiatoday? Why do communal riots take place with such disconcerting
 
frequency wherever members of both communities live in parts of thesame city or town? Why are there so much destruction, ruthless killingsand callous indifference to the plight of people of another community?Outbursts of communal frenzy are totally incompatible with truesecularism, and every well- educated community should have nonarrow considerations of religion and caste in worldly matters. And yet,there are tensions, strains, fears of the impact of liberalisation on aparticular religion, the inward hostility and suspicion towards otherreligions, and the lack of tolerance. All these point to a state of affairswhere genuine secularism has taken a back seat.
PORTRAIT OF THE INDIAN POLITICIAN
Politics is much too complex a phenomenon for anyone to thinkof it or describe it in straight lines and since the vast and ever- growingtribe of politicians practice this art, they too seldom act or planstraight. They are not what they seem, and they seem what they arenot. Jawaharlal Nehru was himself a politician, apart of course frombeing a great statesman, thinker, philosopher and a man of letters. Buthe was frank enough to concede that politicians usually hide their realreasons and talk pompously of religion, justice, the truth and the like.And still the great majority of the people are taken in by the soft,deceptive talk of politicians. No wonder, this tribe generally proves aroaring success in today’s gullible India, where the vast majority of themasses are illiterate and highly credulous. The typical Indian politician is a man without principles andwithout scruples of any kind; he is an opportunist par excellence. Hechanges his colours like the chameleon. Loyalty, sincerity and honestyare as far removed from him as the earth is from the sky. It is true thata politician has to deal with human beings and not with stones andsteel; even so, there is no end to the trickery, the sham and thehypocrisy which the Indian politician symbolises.Cartoonists generally present pot-bellied, Khaddar-clad people aspoliticians. Khaddar has, of course, nothing to do with real Indian

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