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Taking Stock
Secularism A Compulsion
By Rizwan Ullah

Rizwan UllahA modern nation state must, by the very nature of its structure and also bound by the developing world situation, be secular in its form and approach. Looking around in the world we find it mostly in existence and actual practice although in varying degrees and in various hues of the right and left. This is true of our country as well. But what makes the difference here is that our leaders deem it necessary to declare all the time that India is a secular country. There is hardly such a breast beating about secularism elsewhere. What is forgotten is the fact that the world watches what is happening from Ayodhya to Gujarat and elsewhere and opinions are formed in the light of the government performance and not on the basis of secularism hype.

It seems that it is embedded somewhere in Indian psyche that the country should not have been a secular democracy in view of the overwhelming majority of Hindus, and the next thing in the subconscious eager to raise its head but suppressed is the feeling that accepting or bearing with the secular structure of the Indian state is a sort of generosity, rather a charity, bestowed upon the minorities of the country. Such perceptions result from the basic misconception about secularism itself. So secularism should be clearly defined, understood and brought home to all concerned that it does not amount to a sort of largess offered to the minorities in return for their submission to the will of the majority. It is a compulsion for India of today and tomorrow.

Secularism simply means that the state machinery in the course of performing it obligations will not discriminate between various sections of the society on the basis of caste or creed, it may be expanded to include that political or social backgrounds of the people will also be extraneous to the administrative matters and in the dispensation of social justice. Thus going back to our own history we find that rajas, maharajas and kings were generally and predominantly secular in their approach towards the matters of state administration. There is hardly any example where subjects were treated differently only due to their belonging to a particular faith. If there is any example to the contrary it must be an aberration or a freak or mere misrepresentation of facts by some interested persons or organizations, even by a government. Thus we find Nepal in our close neighbourhood which is a Hindu state with all connotations and a Hindu king ruling over the country but as a matter of sate policy no interference in the religious performances by the people of other faiths is in practice. In the comity of secular and democratic states Nepal finds a place at par with all other modern states.

Democracy believed to be the best form of political system so far evolved or experimented with is now showing signs of aging and cracks in the system. The concepts of majority and minority are the byproducts of the democratic system. They were adopted as a means to run the system efficiently. Unfortunately the concepts overflowed to inundate other social institutions and groupings with obvious unhealthy consequences with abiding effect going to the roots. It shows that the emerging social and political conditions in the world call for a reassessment and mending the cracks in the system. In these circumstances thinking of a theocratic state amounts to making matters worse and solution of issues more confounding.

Protagonists of a theocratic state in India must open their eyes and see how religion has failed in solving internal problems, reducing social tensions and in riveting national cohesion. Christian states of enlightened Europe fought two great wars which engulfed other continents and awarded severest punishment to the Buddhist Japan; Muslim countries of West Asia spared no cruelties to their brothers in faith and we find an eye opener in close neighbourhood when faith could not keep Pakistan intact and united. The creation of that semi-theocratic state was a blunder committed by the Muslim community with full connivance of the Hindus of the subcontinent. It throttled the voice of almost half of the Muslim world and invalidated their contribution to the totality of Muslim cause. It is incumbent upon all Indians not to think about a situation where the united strength of the country is similarly dissipated depriving the country of its standing in world affairs.

Particularly speaking India is a Hindu country if not a Hindu state in theory. It is quite natural and quite in the fitness of things, for an overwhelming majority may or may not be a practicing Hindu but belongs to a particular social milieu. However, that milieu has a composite culture consisting of a Muslim component which is reflected through cuisine tastes, clothings and various social practices. This must continue until we change over to fast food, keeping our old parents at bay, leaving our children at the mercy of creches, throwing the family to winds and letting the ladies go about in bikinis without the fear of being frowned, and wiping out words like honour, respect, regard, chastity from our vocabulary books.

The time is long past when we should have made up our mind whether India would continue to live crouched in the conch shell or wriggle out of it in the vast open world to be able to play its role in the dispensation of its affairs. Seen in this perspective the fanatics rousing religious bogey are not only committing the crime of pushing back the country into the ages of darkness but they are negating every thing that the civilization and humanity stands for and the constitution guarantees to every citizen. They are not only rebels but traitors and call for a merciless punishment failing which the declaration of secularism will deliver no good and the country will split apart, for the language and caste factors have proved to be stronger than the Hindutva.

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