Mangaluru, Jan 21: “We are witnessing and continuing to witness excesses of religious extremism that is encouraged by some religious groups in this country. It is becoming very difficult to advocate a secular society given the looming presence of this extremism. However, we cannot have a democracy with laws that revert back to religion,” said eminent historian and Prof Emerita at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi Prof Romila Thapar.
“Being a multi-religious society, secularism should be an important component if we are to support proper democratic functioning in this country. And social justice should be an important component of a secular society. As long as we have the freedom to choose the values that should govern our society, we can choose to secularise our society. We need to redefine the secular move for India to shift the focus from co-existence of religions to equality of all people belonging to different religions,” she said.
Prof. Thapar also said that conversion to Hinduism is invented recently and the phenomenon was problematic because of the caste system. Referring to the ‘Ghar Wapsi’ campaign of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, she said that those converting into Hinduism are put through “purification”, thereby suggesting that they were from lower castes.
She said conversions were not a problem in Christianity or Islam for which it was not modern phenomenon. Pointing at the practice of untouchability, she said Islam and Christianity too had similar practices.
Prof Thapar also said that religion was a matter of faith and it was essential to speak up when it was used as an instrument of politics. Most people in India value their religion, looking at religion and worship as a personal experience. Such people also find that using religion for political purposes is not acceptable,” she said.
Former professor of History, Mangaluru University Prof B Surendra Rao introduced the keynote speaker and presided over the function. Dr Srinivas Kakkilaya and other dignitaries were present.