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I am author of the books Political Internet(Routledge, 2017), Intimate Speakers ( Fingerprint! 2017), has finished the typescript of three books—first, on Internet and sexuality; second, on the negative impacts of social media; and third, a novel—and is presently working on a narrative non-fiction with the working title Lovescape: Why India is afraid of love.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

secularism and criminalisation of politics in India

Secularism in India

Introduction.

Influence of Religion

Religious appeasement is more important for the government than separation of religion from state. Critics say religious dogmas and beliefs are normally not accepted as a genuine right or freedom of expression. Books with even academic criticism of popular beliefs are routinely banned. The state has made laws promoting appeasement of perceived religious dogmas, such as banning slaughter of cows. Many people in India do not relate to secularism and confuse it with religious tolerance.It is normal in India for public money to be spent towards religion’s indirect promotion. All government schools routinely promote prayers. All government schools, whether Christian, Hindu or Islamic (Madrassas), routinely promote religious prayers. Many political parties in India have been accused of appeasing the minority groups, which are their vote banks, by putting up candidates who have the same religion as the majority of the voters in a constituency, ensuring the voters special consideration after the candidate wins the election.

The educational institutions established by non-Hindus can apply for the "Religious Minority Status". This means that 50% of the seats in these institutions are reserved for students belonging to a particular religion. For example, in [Don Bosco Institute of Technology, Mumbai|DBIT Mumbai], 50% of the seats are reserved for

Many have argued that India is not truly a secular state. Left-wing critics note that the right to change one's religion is restricted in a handful of states. While no state has ever banned conversions altogether, and while most anti-conversion laws are directed only at "fraudulent" conversions obtained through bribery, fraud, or coercion, these laws may have been implemented unfairly. Furthermore, these critics note that religious violence is a serious problem in India, as reflected in events such as the 2002 Gujarat Violence or the 1984 Sikh massacre by the Indian state and the right-wing Hindutva movements has supported. Right-wing critics note that Muslims, Hindus, and Christians have their own separate civil codes-and that while the Hindu code has been 'Westernized," no efforts have been made to reform Muslim civil law. They also note controversial efforts to "appease" Muslims through actions such as subsidizing pilgrimages to Mecca-though Hindu pilgrims have no benefits.

A right-wing internet columnist Rajeev Srinivasan wrote about Indian Secularism: "Thus the concept of secularism was born: a separation of Church and State, so that religious considerations could be excluded from civil affairs and public education. However, the so-called 'secularism' rampant in India is a perversion of that reasonable idea: in India it is contrived to mean the active involvement of the State in supporting certain religions ." Another critic, Dr. Elst Keonard an Indologist writes "[India] isn't secular. As a political framework, secularism requires that all citizens are equal before the law, regardless of their religious affiliation. That is a definitional minimum. An Indian secularist would therefore first of all be found on the barricades in the struggle for a common civil code, against the existing legal apartheid between Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Parsis. But the only major party to demand the enactment of a common civil code, as mandated by the Constitution, happens to be the BJP. On election eve, the others run to the Shahi Imam to pledge their firm commitment to the preservation of the Shari'a for Muslims. In the West and in the Muslim world, the upholding of religion-based communal legislation is rightly called anti-secularist."

Secularism-Indian Style!

The preamble of the Constitution of India declares that India is a secular state. The mention of the word secular was missed at the time the Indian Constitution was framed in 1950, notwithstanding the communal conflagrations during the Partition of 1947 and after, caused by Muslims demanding a separate state and the murder of Mahatma Gandhi by an ultra-Hindu ideologue. This was sought to be corrected by the 42nd amendment in 1976, under which India was declared as a secular state. Although India has no state religion, separate laws are applicable to different religious groups according to custom.

India is following its own peculiar secularism. Often the political parties, especially the religious oriented dub Secularism as “Western”.It all started with the perverted interpretation of Secularism by Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan ( the president of India and interpreter of Hinduism)Dr Radhakrishnan defined secularism as equal respect to all religions and never should be considered as irreligious. Political parties in power follow this definition and take advantage of the situation to their advantage.Mahatma Gandhi realized in the last days of his life the need for separation of religion from politics, especially the state. Gandhiji always practiced religion in politics through prayers. He followed the principle of equal respect to all religions. At the fag end of his life Gandhi wanted non-interference of State in the religious matters. He also emphasized the separation of religion so that it can be practiced only at personal level. But that was too late. He did not live longer to propagate the separation of religion from politics.Jawaharlal Nehru as first prime minister of India always stood for secularism. But he could not take it to the logical end due to pressures from political and religious lobbies. He even failed to bring uniform civil code in the country.

Indian Constitution:
The founding fathers of Indian Constitution makers clearly stated, “ that nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the state from making any law regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice.”(Article 25 (2) (a) constitution.Through 42nd amendment to the Constitution in 1976, the preamble clearly stated:” We the people of India having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Secular Democratic Republic”.Yet the political parties who oppose the secular principle and who support the practice of Secularism dare not interpret in proper perspective.
Congress Party:
Usually the Congress party is considered to be secular-by and large. Barring Jawaharlal Nehru, all the congress prime ministers, ministers, and others at various levels followed religious practices “officially”. They invite Hindu priests on the occasion of oath taking ceremonies, inaugurations, opening of new projects, laying foundations, etc. To avoid criticism they involve Christian priests and Muslim Mullahs too. They visit temples and receive honors “officially”. They exhibit their faith publicly at the cost of government funds, which means peoples money. The government officially declares holidays to all religious festivals. Temples, Masjid and churches are allowed in the premises of government offices. During office hours the prayers are allowed. Persons bring their own individual Guru’s pictures, images into the offices. Government officially patronage the pilgrimages, provide all facilities and extend financial concessions. Government lands are allotted to religious purposes.
Each religion took advantage of the weakness of political parties and gained much to benefit in several ways. Religious establishments became powerful institutions with huge amounts accumulated. All religions get exemptions from taxes. There is no accountability either for the illegal money or business affairs conducted in the name spiritual activity.
Cult Babas, holy women gather around politicians and built empires of ashrams. Even criminal activity of holy persons goes undetected except in rare cases.
Dhirendra Brahmachari a cult holy persons was very powerful during Mrs. Indira Gandhi`s tenure of Prime Minister ship. Chanda Swami, a cult person emerged as spiritual ambassador during the time of Mr. P .V.Narasimharao`s premiership. In each state several holy cult persons amassed wealth and established powerful empires. They developed connections with politicians who always come to their support in need.
Presidents of India prostrated before the holy persons and visited several of them “officially”. Similarly prime ministers, ministers, judges, officials made their religious visits official. All these practices made secularism more difficult in public life.
The confusion about secularism percolated to all levels. The compulsion of elections, made the political parties impotent before cults, religious holy persons.

Communist parties too!
The left parties are supposed to be secular and non-religious, if not irreligious. But this is not so. Communists gained power in states several times. They did not practice secularism. Take the example of Kerala. Communists ruled the south Indian state quite for some time. There is Ayyappa cult in Kerala. People annually visit the Ayyappa temple located on the top of a hill Sabarmalai. Neighboring state devoted visit in thousands. On the last day of the visit during January month, the government officially involves electricity department, forest department, and temple administration in the function. On the other hill near Sabarimalai, the government arranges to light camphor so that devotees see the light. It is described as Divine Light. Of course it is make belief. This practice is going every year. Communists also practice this anti secular make belief.
When there were protests, the chief minister of communist party defended the practice saying that the state gains much through revenue from pilgrims and hence there should be no protest.
Communist party (Marxist) is in power in West Bengal state. Every year Durga cult religious sacrifices were performed for 9 days with all pomp. The State government makes all arrangements and encourages the religious practice. The communist government described this practice as “cultural” and continues to gain popularity among people. This is another compromising attitude to perpetuate political power. Communists never tried to educate people about wrong notions of Durga cult, lest they should lose cheap popularity.
Mr. Surjit Singh, communist party leader from Punjab state wear Sikh turban, grows beard and moustache. He looks like typical Sikh religious person. Sikh religion insists that hair should not be cut; turban is must and so on and so forth. The communist leader never resisted this Sikh religious practice nor tried to educate the Sikhs that dress is personal. On the other hand they defend these cult practices in dress, food as “cultural” and follow them!

Scientist President Kalam`s Secularism
Mr. Kalam is the scientist from South India. When he was elected as president of India, secularists felt happy and expected genuine secular practice from the highest dignitary. But Mr. Kalam started visiting cult holy persons like Satya Sai Baba, Matha Amrithananda Mayi and Brahma Kumaris. This practice of encouraging holy persons started with the first President of India Mr. Rajendra Prasad. The first president not only visited the religious persons but also even went to the extent of washing their feet in public. The Presidents Sankar Dayal Sarma, Venkataraman officially exhibited their faith.
The Bharatiya Janata Party was in power for some time in the center and in some states. They stood for religion and hence there is no expectation from them to practice secularism. The disappointment came from Congress party and left parties.
Muslims and Christians, Sikhs etc took advantage of misinterpretation of secularism and gained much for their religious practices. Muslims started ignoring the rulings of Supreme Court regarding noise pollution at the time of prayers. Muslims use mikes and loud speakers causing nuisance to residents, students during examination time. Christians and Hindus also imitate them and started using mikes and loud speakers as though god is deaf! Religious churches, masjids, Hindu mandirs are built obstructing the roads and traffic. In the name of religion it is shown as though anything and everything is possible.
Thousands of holy persons emerge to earn illegal money, property since exemptions are there and accountability is absent. Most religious places involve in business that has become very lucrative and powerful centers. Tirumala-Tirupati has become largest pilgrimage center with enormous amounts of income. The money source at this temple is not questioned. Hence much illegal amount reaches the holy place and government accepts this practice in the name of religion. All such illegal and anti secular activity is rampant throughout the country, shared by all the political parties.

Future of Secularism in India

India has to begin the practice of Secularism, somewhere. To start with there should be clear understanding that Secularism means separation of State and religion in all matters. Religion is faith based and hence confine to individual belief related to god and supernatural spirituality. In the matters of state the law should be equal to all irrespective of religion. There should be no exemptions to the principle that all are equal before law. Some people including religious persons should not be kept above law under any circumstance. In India some judges visit holy persons “publicly”. This creates problems. It would be difficult for victims of holy persons to fight against injustice when judges openly prostrate before the holy persons. Justice cannot be expected from such persons.Similarly law officers, Police should not exhibit their personal faith openly. Holy persons who indulge criminal activity take shelter with the support of police devotees. These things are happening continuously in India. Religious crimes also are crimes. There should be no exemptions to spiritual and religious persons so far as crimes, mis appropriation of funds, sexual abuses are concerned.Religious practices of untouchbility, castes, child marriages, burning of wife when husband dies, oppression of minorities, discrimination against women, child labor should not be tolerated and there should be no exemption to those who practice them.In the field of education, scientific method should be inculcated from primary level. Religious instruction should not be included in texts, curriculum since that belongs to faith and belief. Holy loafers should not get any exemption from law, answerability and accountability.Rights of minorities so far as religion is concerned should be confined to personal level. This includes prayer, holidays, dress, food habits and civil law. They must not be brought to the streets.In India Religion encroached into politics and public life. Thus religious belief system vitiated the moral life of the people. Religious morality should not be confused with values and ethics. Religious values, morality are strictly confined to divine laws and supernatural realm. There is no verification, nor proof for religious belief systems and religious values including moral faith. They should not be confused with human rights, human values and human morals.Secular values are moral, and human. Secular values are not in any way connected with supernatural and para normal systems. Human rights and religions often don’t go together. When human rights and values emphasize that all are equal, men and women have the same rights, religions don’t accept. That is the crux of the point. In such cases religions wish to follow their holy texts like Gita, Koran, Bible which preach inequality between men and women. Secularism stands for sincere equality and genuine practice human rights and values. India needs secular practices in all walks of life. That will put India in futuristic stance. All state and Central governments can observe secular holidays leaving the religious holidays to those who observe them. That will make a good beginning for secular practice in IndiaThe fighters for Dalits, depressed groups, scheduled castes think that temple entry on equal footing with Hindus will solve the problem. Some reformers mistakenly think that if Dalits can be taught to become temple priests and marriage performance priests, that will uplift them. They are mistaken. In fact they are leading blindly into the Hindu caste system, gradation method and accepting Karma theory! Exactly that is the reason why B R Ambedkar wanted the Dalits to leave Hinduism so that they can bid good-bye to untouchbility, caste degradation. Temples, priesthood and religion will not uplift the Dalits and suppressed classes. On the other hand those deceitful practices lure the weak minds to accept suppression.Secular practices with human dignity, human values and human morality will alone bring them into great future.

Criminalization of Politics

After 60 years of India’s independence the lives of commoners is far worse than under Britishers. The benefits of independence have reached only few, thus creating islands of few ultra rich people surrounded by vast sea of utterly poor. The rich people in nexus with those in power are getting favourable laws enacted to suit their ends. Those in power are shamelessly enjoying 5-star luxuries all at tax payer’s expense, while more then 50 million are starving to death. The criminalization of politics, executive & judiciary is almost complete. The corruption has spread its tentacles far & wide, there is corruption from womb to tomb, from maternity hospital to grave yard. The injustices mated out, the atrocities perpetrated by public servants are worse than Britishers. The biggest confounding factor in the political environment of business is criminalization of politics: people with criminal backgrounds becoming politicians and elected representatives. Around 20% of the members of the current Lok Sabha have criminal cases pending against them. The charges in several of these cases are of heinous crimes such as murder, robbery, kidnapping, and not just violation of Section 144, or something similar.It is well known that all parties take the help of criminal elements to dominate the election scene in India. But this process is influencing the mind and the will of the people both to gain the majority to rule the country according to their will. The system of democracy is now changing into the dictatorship of some. Because the democracy of India are now in hands of the criminal who are not capable any way to hold the post if legislature.

Components:-
(1) Muscle Power:-
The influence of muscle power in Indian politics has been a fact of life for a long time. As early as in 1977, the National Police Commission headed by Dharam Vira observed: ``The manner in which different political parties have functioned, particularly on the eve of periodic election, involves the free use of musclemen and ‘Dadas’ to influence the attitude and conduct of sizable sections of the electorate. The Panchayat elections, like other elections in the recent past, have demonstrated once again that there can be no sanity in India as long as politics continues to be based on caste and

(2)Gangsterism.
The politicians are thriving today on the basis of muscle power provided by criminals. The common people who constitute the voters are in most cases too reluctant to take measures that would curtail the criminal activities. Once the political aspect joins the criminal elements the nexus becomes extremely dangerous. Many of politicians chose muscle power to gain vote bank in the country, and they apply the assumption that, if we are unable to bring faith in the community then we can generate fear or threat to get the power in the form of election.

(3) Money Power:-
The elections to Parliament and State Legislatures are very expensive and it is a widely accepted fact that huge election expenditure is the root cause for corruption in India. A candidate has to spend lakhs of rupees to get elected and even if he gets elected, the total salary he gets during his tenure as an MP/MLA will be meagre compared to his election expenses. How can he bridge the gap between the income and expenses? Publicly through donations and secretly through illegal means. The expenditure estimation for an election estimated as Rs 5 per voter as election expenditure, for 600 million voters, and calculation of all the expenses in a general elaction estimated around Rs 2,000 crore. Then there is the period between elections. This requires around Rs 250 crore. Then there are state elections and local elections. All told, the system has to generate around Rs 5,000 crore in a five year cycle or Rs 1,000 crore on average each year. Where is this money to come from? Only criminal activity can generate such large sums of untaxed funds. That is why you have criminals in politics. They have money and muscle, so they win and help others in their party win as well.

Reasons Of This Criminalization:-
(1) Vote Bank:-
The political parties and independent candidates have astronomical expenditure for vote buying and other illegitimate purposes through these criminals or so called goondas. A politician’s link with them constituency provides a congenial climate to political crime. Those who do not know why they ought to vote comprise the majority of voters of this country. Therefore majority of the voters are manoeuvrable, purchasable. Most of them are individually timid and collectively coward. To gain their support is easier for the unscrupulous than the conscientious.

We have long witnessed criminals being wooed by political parties and given cabinet posts because their muscle and money power fetches crucial votes. Elections are won and lost on swings of just 1% of the vote, so parties cynically woo every possible vote bank, including those headed by accused robbers and murderers. Legal delays ensure that the accused will die of old age before being convicted, so parties virtuously insist that these chaps must be regarded as innocent till proved guilty.

(2) Corruption:-
In every election all parties without exception put up candidates with a criminal background. Even though some of us whine about the decision taken by the parties, the general trend is that these candidates are elected to office. By acting in such a manner we fail to realize that the greatest power that democracy arms the people is to vote incompetent people out of power.Independence has taken place through a two-stage process. The first stage was the corrupting of the institutions and the second stage was the institutionalization of corruption. As we look at the corruption scene today, we find that we have reached this stage because the corrupting of the institutions in turn has finally led to the institutionalization of corruption. The failure to deal with corruption has bred contempt for the law. When there is contempt for the law and this is combined with the criminalization of politics, corruption flourishes. India is ranked 66 out of 85 in the Corruption Perception Index 1998 by the German non-government organization Transparency International based in Berlin. This means that 65 countries were perceived to be less corrupt than India and 19 were perceived to be more corrupt.

(3) Loop Holes In The Functioning Of Election Commission:-
The Election Commission must take adequate measures to break the nexus between the criminals and the politicians. The forms prescribed by the Election Commission for candidates disclosing their convictions, cases pending in courts and so on in their nomination papers is a step in the right direction if it applied properly. Too much should not be expected, however, from these disclosures. They would only inform people of the candidate’s history and qualifications, but not prohibit them from casting their votes, regardless, in favour of a criminal.

For the past several general elections there has existed a gulf between the Election Commission and the voter. Common people hardly come to know the rules made by the commission. Bridging this gap is essential not only for rooting out undesirable elements from politics but also for the survival of our democratic polity. This is an incremental process, the rate of success of which is directly proportional to the increase in literacy rate in India. The electorate have made certain wrong choices in the past, but in the future national interest should guide them in making intelligent choices.

(4) Denial Of Justice And Rule Of Law: -
Criminalization is a fact of Indian electoral politics today. The voters, political parties and the law and order machinery of the state are all equally responsible for this. There is very little faith in India in the efficacy of the democratic process in actually delivering good governance. This extends to accepting criminalization of politics as a fact of life. Toothless laws against convicted criminals standing for elections further encourage this process. Under current law, only people who have been convicted at least on two counts be debarred from becoming candidates. This leaves the field open for charge sheeted criminals, many of whom are habitual offenders or history-sheeters. It is mystifying indeed why a person should be convicted on two counts to be disqualified from fighting elections. The real problem lies in the definitions. Thus, unless a person has been convicted, he is not a criminal. Mere charge-sheets and pending cases do not suffice as bars to being nominated to fight an election. So the law has to be changed accordingly.

Legal Threads:-
(1) Vohra Committee:-
12 bombs blasts that shook Bombay on 13 march 1993, had involved the collaboration of a diffuse network of criminal gangs, police and customs officials as well as their politicalPatrons, a commission were institutes to investigate the so-called nexus. The report by N.N.Vohra found such deep involvement of politicians with organised crime all over India that it was barred from publication. Here Vohra observes "the various crime syndicate/mafia organisations have developed significant muscle and money power and established linkage with governmental functionaries, political leaders and other to be able to operate with impunity. As highlighted by the Vohra Committee Our elections involve a lot of black money and it is this use of black money in elections which has also brought about the criminalization of politics. After all, the story of the Hawala scam started by the police stumbling to the Jain diaries in their effort to trace the money received by the Kashmir militants. The scam brought out the linkage between the corrupt businessmen, politicians, bureaucracy and the criminals. The 1993 Bombay blasts which took away the life of 300 people was made possible because RDX could be smuggled by allegedly bribing a customs official with Rs.20 lakhs. Some 15 years ago Vohra committee submitted its report to curb criminalization of politics but the fact is that no application in this way is being made. This was mentioned in the petition submitted by the Speaker of Lok Sabha and President of India on 16th may that- “The subject of criminalisation of politics is one that concerns the entire nation closely. It is deeply disturbing that on the one hand, our polity is tolerant of ‘fake encounters’ (summary executions) of alleged criminals and terrorists, while our highest representative body – Indian Parliament – harbours people caught red-handed in acts of human trafficking, and convicted on charges of abduction and suspected murder.”

(2) Supreme Court’s Judgement:-
The Supreme Court judgment of May 2, 2002 mandated that candidates disclose their criminal antecedents, if any, as also their financial and educational background. The Election Commission had proposed amendment of statutory rules and the format of nomination papers, to give effect to this judgment of the Supreme Court. The Apex Court judgement to check corruption among public servant is a welcome step. No law should provide protective shield to the corrupt public official and the court has rightly held that no prior sanction of competent authority would be required to prosecute them. With this order, 93 MPs and 10 ministers in Manmohan Singh's ministry are under the scanner on various criminal charges. This is appalling. It is ironical that the executive and legislatures who make and implement policies and guidelines for the development are themselves acting as stumbling block in the development of the nation. The role of Supreme Court becomes very important here. The Apex Court as custodian of constitution should take all necessary steps to strengthen democracy in the country. The legislature and executive have been complaining about the Supreme Court’s intervention on their domain, but it becomes imperative in such kind of unwanted situation. The Supreme Court of India upheld a PIL which made it mandatory for everyone seeking public office to disclose their criminal, financial and educational history. It was a way to ensure that the voters knew the important details about their “honourable” leaders, and steamed them were indeed.

Some of the parties would be able to draw advantage from the Supreme Court order because they have had less opportunity to indulge in crime and corruption. They would have a greater chance of watching candidates of other parties squirm and suffer in agony. Some others might be happy because they already have efficient watchdog systems and batteries of lawyers in place that would permit them to file counter-affidavits and challenge nominations of opposing candidates within hours of their being filed.

(3) Right To Information Act And Criminalization Of Politics:-
The Court held that the right to information - the right to know antecedents, including the criminal past, or assets of candidates - was a fundamental right under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution and that the information was fundamental for survival of democracy. In its Judgement of May 2, 2002, it directed the Election Commission to call for information on affidavit from each candidate seeking election to Parliament or the State Legislature as a necessary part of the nomination papers on: Whether the candidate has been convicted / acquitted / discharged of any criminal offence in the past - if any, whether the candidate was accused in any pending case of any offence punishable with imprisonment for two years or more, and in which charge was framed or cognisance taken by the court of law. If so, requires the details thereof; the assets (immovable, movable, bank balance, etc.) of a candidate and of his/her spouse and that of the dependents; liabilities, if any, particularly of any overdue of any public financial institution or Government dues; educational qualifications of the candidate. The Right to Information Act 2005 is a historical Act that makes Government officials liable for punishment if they fail to respond to people within a stipulated timeframe. Many public servants are leading luxurious lifestyles, beyond the legal sources of their income. Many public servants are filing false affidavits about their annual income, wealth details to Election Commission of India / Vigilance Commission / other authorities, as the case may be. These authorities are not properly verifying these affidavits. Many scams, scandals are coming to light day in & day out, politicians are accusing each other of involvement in scams. Whereas, the said authorities are keeping mum, as if those affidavits filed by tainted public servants are true. The tainted public servants are not even providing full, right information to public as per RTI Act, lest the truth come out.

This seen is very normal now a day that some public servants, caught red-handed during luxurious spending, they easily say that it is at their political party’s expense or their well wisher’s expense. However no entries are found in the account books of said parties to that respect. The law forbids public servants from accepting gifts, hospitality, favours beyond the value of rupees one hundred (Rs. 100 ) , as it may be a form of bribe. But one may ask all these under RTI. Right to Know is an inherent attribute of every person. Right to know differs only in one sense with right to information. Right to know is a natural right and right to information is a provision given by government to its people. Natural rights do not have any value legally until they are legally considered. Hence right to know as such implied in the freedom of speech and expression which is a legally considered right must have to be given a special value. Right to information as such will bring transparency of the government activities and allow the people to find remedies for those things by which they suffered.

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