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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Secularism in India


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.

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