By: Janghaolun Haokip
Secularism in India is something that often is undoubtedly intriguing to many. The nature of it is often ironic –twisted and abstruse and sometimes even to the point of absurdity –than beautiful as it is supposed to be. What is even more puzzling is the system, by which the entirety of the concept is approached, both politically and religiously, by both the leaders and the common people, as we hold our religions in our right hand and religious immoralities in our left hand, and at the same time.
Secularism was asserted into the Preamble to the Indian constitution by the Forty-second Amendment of the Constitution of India enacted in 1976. Since then it has come to play an important role in India’s multi-religious society in shaping and nurturing the nature of religious, and various other aspects of governance in the country. In the course of time, however, it has developed its own set of drawbacks that demands a serious retrospection. Moreover, the death of the 14 year old Christian boy who was hacked to death once again brings a crucial question into light “Is India truly secular?”
On June 5 in Odisha’s Malkangiri, a 14-year-old Christian boy was allegedly crushed to death with stone by a group of people. The young boy reportedly was tortured and made to face his death, with his body chopped into pieces and then buried, for the sole reason of being a Christian, for professing his faith, for his freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion granted at will by the Constitution of India. He died a victim of anti-national elements; of hate and of prejudice, and of discrimination and of oppression. Along with him are also many victims of religious intolerance, of religiously motivated riots, and of religiously motivated mob attacks that seek but to suppress and oppress people solely based on the ground of religion. How will the nation respond?
What is baffling today is the nation’s indifferent response against this hate-crime. The country seems to undermine the severity and the imminent and detrimental effect of these crimes in nation-building. It seems ignorant to the fact that these crimes are motivated by the idea or the concept of religious superiority neither which modern day civilisation nor the Constitution has a place for. Further, the country also seems to misunderstand the idea of secularism and how exactly a secular nation should be. It seems driven more by sheer exclusive nationalism than inclusive and constructive nationalism, of alienating another and claiming to be ‘the only’, which but fail to realise the aspirations of the founding fathers of our great nation, who, with their lives have given us this great land.
We cannot be adamant, therefore, but be deliberately guided by the intuitions of our founding fathers –the pioneers of our great nation. We must come to realise the aspirations, goals, and dreams in the sacrifices once made and must aspire to live up to those dreams once dreamt. We must come together and voice our concerns for the nation. Our egos and pretensions as individuals, social and religious groups must be brought to a minimum low in order to accommodate the frustration of respective differences. There must be no space reserved under any circumstances for social and religious fanatics that are extremely toxic and are likely to create undesirable consequences. We must be utterly responsible, each of us, in being advocates against discrimination and oppression on grounds of religion.
Failing to be so, otherwise, will invite an unavoidable chaotic society. We must understand that it’s a Christian today, but we don’t know who it will be tomorrow and the next day. These crimes aren’t just crimes against a particular religion but are crimes against our nation, crimes against the constitution, crimes against rational morality, and crimes against humanity. What is worse is that these crimes today do not end today but also go on to threaten the fate of our future. It blurs the vision of peace and tranquillity and the much needed religious pluralism while it broadens the scope for potential threat to the harmony of the country, regardless of who threatens or is being threatened in between the majority and the minority.
Wherefore, it is a must to look for measures to control conflicts. Not to mention growing insecurity and fear among minority groups in our country, if discriminations and oppressions do not end, the country could be in serious dilemma. On the other hand, the threat of a state resistance; of protest and unrest, is inevitable if the government fails to prevent or credibly investigate growing mob attacks on religious minorities or marginalized communities, directly or indirectly motivated by religious prejudice. The government and the people must strive together, therefore, towards religious pluralism, through religious tolerance and also the protection of minorities and the marginalized, and in cultivating and promoting the same. It must learn lessons from the past and must realise that the country is in no condition to accommodate any ugly attempt by any group to disrupt the harmony of the country.
The country must also remember the ugly affairs that befall the country as a consequence against different government policies in the recent past that are also supported by a large segment of its population. The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, among others has gathered scores of criticism from across the country and worldwide. The ‘Wire’ even termed the CAA as the greatest act of social poisoning by a government in Independent India. While the message of the government may be rational and reasonable to a certain extent, it is still not justifiable as it causes a nationwide unrest and compromises the harmony of the country. There must therefore be a strict and implicit adherence to the idea of secularism that has always inspired modern India.
It is indeed pressing today to come to realise that there are no Hindus, there are no Muslims, there are no Christians, there are no Sikhs, there are no Buddhists –THERE IS BUT ONLY ONE RELIGION AND THAT IS HUMANITY –of being compassionate and kind to one another, regardless, but as the same humankind. We must also come to realise that in the fate of our faith lies also the fate of our country.