Indian Secularism Being Put to Test!

Of late, a corner of the capital city was witness to communal tension between two religious communities, which began with a heated scuffle over a parking place. One is prompted to wonder as to what has parking spot to do with religious differences. There is nothing surprising over individuals and groups resorting to street fighting over minor issues. But yes the fact that a minor issue was accorded a communal nature over is certainly a disturbing factor.

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Who and/or what should be blamed for this? Are certain sections of people looking for opportunities to indulge in communal behaviour? If they are, this certainly does not justify patriotism and/or nationalism of these sections. Let us not be blind to the fact that patriotism is not and cannot be decided by whatever religion, region, caste, class or any other linkage of a person or group is. Given that Indian Constitution still stands intact with respect to its primary principles as well as rights guaranteed to each and every citizen, the question of the same being violated by any individual and/or group cannot be described as legally valid.

Rather, the time has come when greater action is needed to put a stop to violations of the Indian constitutional values. It is well-known that the Indian Constitution grants each citizen the right to practice his/her religion. From no angle can rise in incidents be justified, where non-Hindus are being forced to hail Hindu deities. Religious practices cannot be forced by any person and/or group upon others. The Indian Constitution does not permit this. Practices without any legal sanctity and which are abusive of our constitutional values are hardly suggestive of patriotism of persons indulging in the same. This certainly raises questions about nationalist sentiments of persons propagating and practicing criminal activities of this nature.

Yes, it is pathetic that till date substantial attention has not been paid to questioning the “patriotism” and “nationalism” of those citizens as well as leaders who tend to try and impose their religious inclinations upon others. As mentioned earlier, the Indian Constitution does not permit this. Each Indian has the freedom and right to practice his/her religion without abusing he religious values of other citizens. No citizen can be forced to practice any religion by force, violence or by other means. Increase in incidents where individuals are forced to hail certain Hindu deities amounts to abuse of Indian secularism as well as democracy.

Clearly, it is fairly astonishing that no strict dictate has been issued condemning these incidents and also announcing strict punishment for such practices. This apparently is one of the key reasons responsible for continuance of these practices. Why haven’t these been strictly described as illegal, anti-national and also activities which are damaging this country’s secular image and are hardly suggestive of any patriotic zeal of communal elements promoting the same?

With regard to the communal tension having recently been provoked in capital city, the manner in which different religious communities have agreed to resolve their differences and live together in peace is a pointer to a strong reality which cannot be ignored. This suggests that people at large are keen to live together in peace and avoid communal tension in the country. Here, one may point to the sudden rise in supply of dates with practically all fruit sellers during the month of Ramzan. Fruit-sellers, irrespective of what their religion is, give great importance to the fact that Muslims purchase dates to break fasts and therefore the consumption of dates increases during Ramzan. Business priority marking their decision to increase their supply of date is totally devoid of any communal angle. Rather, it may be hailed as one that is reflective of Indian secularism.

Considering that Indian secularism stands out markedly at various levels, what can one say about incidents which appear to have been deliberately provoked to spread communal tension, including the recent one in Delhi? It is possible that these are a part of a planned communal campaign with an eye on political gains. Delhi is scheduled to face assembly elections early next year. Maybe, this is true. But, let us also accept the fact that people in general are not unaware of this possible trend. The fact that in Delhi they have risen above communal considerations to resolve their differences in an amiable manner cannot be ignored. Equally important is the fact that communal tension, while it lasted, was confined to a select area in Delhi. It did not provoke communal sparks elsewhere.

It is possible, individuals and/or groups may try their hand again at provoking communal tension. Secularism of Indians is likely to be put to test repeatedly till strong legal action is pursued against anti-national communal elements. What an irony, it was put to test when newly elected legislators took their oaths in the Parliament. In coming days, it is hoped that these legislators will serve as models for the country in keeping with Constitution’s secular and democratic ethics and not otherwise!           

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