Is Secularism a threat to Traditions of India?

Ram Puniyani
March 18, 2021

India got independence from British colonial rule on 15th August 1947 after a long struggle which was inclusive and had plural dimensions. Foundation of Indian Constitution is Liberty, Equality, Fraternity and Justice. The values of secularism are deeply ingrained all through and particularly in Articles 14, 19, 22, and 25. It gives us freedom of religion, to practice, preach and propagate the same.

Not all Indians were for such plural values which respect diversity. The communal streams immediately attacked the constitution saying it does not reflect the glorious contribution of Indian past, the values given in holy tomes like Manu Smriti. Communal stream was critical of Constitution and did not accept the tricolor as our national flag. Nearly seven decades down the line those opposing Indian Constitution and its values are rearing their heads from last few decades. There are top leaders like the Prime minster Narendra Modi who on one side claim to be Hindu nationalists and on the other level for electoral purpose claim that “We are secular not because the word was added in our Constitution. Secularism is in our blood. We believe in Sarva Pantha Sambhava.”

There is yet another types of leaders like Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of UP who detest this ideology out and out. Recently he stated that secularism was the “biggest threat” to the traditions of India getting recognition on the global stage.” At an earlier occasion he had stated that “The word "secular" is "the biggest lie", and suggested that the people who propagated it should apologize to the nation, a reference to the Congress party.”

Adityanath who has taken the oath on Indian Constitution has no qualms in denigrating one of its core values. He himself is the Mahant (Chief Priest) of Gorakhnath Math. He is saffron clad like few others in his party.

Let us see how secularism is a threat to traditions of India. India is inherently plural with rich diversity in religious traditions, languages, ethnicities, food habits, dressing pattern, ways of worship etc. In a way the Hindu religion, in whose pretext he is taking secularism to the task itself is so diverse; from the Brahmanical traditions of hierarchy to the Bhakti tradition talking of equality; there is a wide range. Has this diversity hampered the path to recognition of India on the global stage?

The rich contributions of India are recognized all over the World. The contributions of philosophers like Buddha are appreciated in large parts of the World, more particularly South East Asia. During freedom movement Mahatma Gandhi rose like a colossus and based on Indian tradition he propagated non Violence and Satyagriha (invocation to truth). These were the contribution which inspired many a great leaders in the World including Martin Luther King (Jr) and Nelson Mandela who followed his path to take their goals towards fruition. Indian philosophy influenced the global thinking in multiple ways.

Even global culture is diverse and learns from each other, the astronomical and mathematical contributions from India made their place in the global knowledge systems. Further the First Prime minster of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, gave the unique concept of ‘non alignment’, which was picked up by large sections of the World and many nations joined this unique movement at the peak of its success.

Contrary to what Adityanath is stating; it is precisely due to the secular path which we followed that we could achieve miraculous progress in first 5-6 decades of our republic in the areas of industrialization, education, irrigation, atomic and space research among others. As such we seem to have stagnated during last cople of decades as the path of secularism has been denigrated and mocked at. Lately the communal party is gloating that in last elections no body dared to utter this word!

There is also criticism that the introduction of this word in 1976 during emergency was uncalled for and so should be done away with. As such the whole constitution is seeped with the values of secularism. While at one level secularism says that state has no religion, Indian model of secularism respects all religions without being guided by it. Secularism is unique in another way that it respects those communities which are in minority and provides for affirmative, protective clauses for them. These are currently is being labeled as ‘appeasement of minorities’ and is being made a rallying point for electoral mobilization of majority community.

While Adityanath is lamenting against secular plural diverse values and propagates for Hindu Nation, the ideology of the ruling party, he is not alone in that. At the moment multiple articulations are being put forward. One Anant Kumar Hegde the Union minster bluntly stated that BJP is in power as it wants to change the constitution. One earlier Sarsanghchalak K. Sudarshan also put is forward by saying that Indian Constitution is based on Western values and so not suitable for our country. We should bring a Constitution based on Indian Holy books!

Religious nationalists all over the world abhor the secular-plural values they limit their power to impose their own values on society, to create a value system of hierarchy, the overt expression of which comes in the books like Manusmriti. The pre modern structural hierarchies of class, caste and gender are their ideal, be it the Talibans, Muslim Brotherhood (Egypt based communal organization) or those indulging in politics in the name of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

The plight of Pakistan, where communal forces had been dominant, is there for all of us to see. Neither it could remain united as Islamic nation nor could it make headways in areas of science, education, health and industrialization.

The communal mindset needs to be overcome to focus on the progress of society in the areas of education, health, employment and nutrition rather than celebrating religious festivals at the expense of the state or taking up issues related to temple-mosque and put to margins the issues of marginalized sections of society.

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April 25,2021

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Mangaluru, Apr 25: Activities in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts remained suspended for the second consecutive day today with the enforcement of weekend curfew to prevent spread of covid.

Even though a few marriages were held in different parts of the coastal districts, no major case of breach of law was reported in the region. 

All main roads of Mangaluru wore a deserted look as the residents preferred to stay home and private buses too remained off the road for the second day.

Though shops selling vegetables, fruits, fish, groceries remained open till 10 am, only a few customers were seen in the markets and shops. The street vendors selling vegetables outside Central Market were eagerly waiting for the customers to arrive, to sell all the vegetables they had in store.

Even fish markets wore a deserted look with few fisherwomen arriving to sell the fish. A majority of the hotels remained closed, too. The busy Nanthoor, Ambedkar Circle roads too were deserted with only a few vehicles moving around.

All the post offices coming under Mangaluru Postal division were shut, said Senior Superintendent of Posts Sriharsha N.

The railway authorities were seen entering the names of the passengers and allowing into the platform after checking their temperature and ensuring that they properly wear face masks.

The Mangaluru city police set up checkposts at 54 places in the city, including at major junction like Clock Tower junction where about 12 personnel were posted to stop unnecessary movement of vehicles.

A total of 1,000 police personnel have been used for bandobast duties. As many as 35 mobile squads, with about three squads for each police station, have also been deployed. The police will seize vehicles that are seen unnecessarily moving on the roads, said Police Commissioner N. Shashi Kumar. 

Superintendent of Police Rishikesh Sonawane said 28 checkposts have been set up to across Dakshina Kannada. Sector mobile squads were also patrolling in the district. Apart from cases booked for not wearing masks, six FIRs have been registered for major violation of COVID-19 protocol since April 21, he said.

In Udupi district too, the second day of weekend curfew was total with police barricading some major points in Udupi town and other areas. Motorists who were seen unnecessarily moving on the road were sent back home. Shops selling essential items were closed by 10 a.m. Most of the hotels did not operate and as there were fewer customers. 

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News Network
April 28,2021

Geneva, Apr 28: The World Health Organization said Tuesday that a variant of Covid-19 feared to be contributing to a surge in coronavirus cases in India has been found in over a dozen countries.

The UN health agency said the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19 first found in India had as of Tuesday been detected in over 1,200 sequences uploaded to the GISAID open-access database "from at least 17 countries".

"Most sequences were uploaded from India, the United Kingdom, USA and Singapore," the WHO said in its weekly epidemiological update on the pandemic.

The WHO recently listed B.1.617 -- which counts several sub-lineages with slightly different mutations and characteristics -- as a "variant of interest".

But so far it has stopped short of declaring it a "variant of concern".

That label would indicate that it is more dangerous than the original version of the virus by for instance being more transmissible, deadly or able to dodge vaccine protections.

India is facing surging new cases and deaths in the pandemic, and fears are rising that the variant could be contributing to the unfolding catastrophe.

The explosion in infections in India -- 350,000 new cases were recorded there on Tuesday alone -- has driven a surge in global cases to 147.7 million.

The virus has now killed more than 3.1 million people worldwide.

The WHO acknowledged that its preliminary modelling based on sequences submitted to GISAID indicates "that B.1.617 has a higher growth rate than other circulating variants in India, suggesting potential increased transmissibility".

It stressed that other variants circulating at the same time were also showing increased transmissibility, and that the combination "may be playing a role in the current resurgence in this country."

"Indeed, studies have highlighted that the spread of the second wave has been much faster than the first," the WHO said.

It highlighted though that "other drivers" could be contributing to the surge, including lax adherence to public health measures as well as mass gatherings.

"Further investigation is needed to understand the relative contribution of these factors," it said.

The UN agency also stressed that "further robust studies" into the characteristics of B.1.617 and other variants, including impacts on transmissibility, severity and the risk of reinfection, were "urgently needed".

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News Network
April 21,2021

New Delhi, Apr 21: The Serum Institute of India (SII) has announced that it will price its Covishield vaccine at Rs 600 per dose for private hospitals and Rs 400 per dose for state governments.

In a statement, SII has said, "For the next two months, we will address the limited capacity by scaling up the vaccine production. Going ahead, 50% of our capacities will be served to the Government of India's vaccination program, and the remaining 50% of the capacity will be for the state governments and private hospitals."

Comparing the prices with the other vaccines in the world, SII has stated that while American vaccines are priced at Rs 1,500, Russian and Chinese vaccines would cost Rs 750 per dose, making Covishield a cheaper option.

However, the vaccine price will remain at Rs 150 per dose for the Centre.

In an order earlier this week, the Centre said all above 18 years of age are eligible for vaccination from May 1. As it liberalised the vaccination drive, the government allowed states, private hospitals and industrial establishments to procure the vaccine doses directly from manufacturers.

Of the 12.76 crore vaccine doses administered so far, the Covishield comprises over 90% of the vaccine doses, according to government data on Wednesday. Of this, 15 states and union territories have only given Covishield.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday urged India's vaccine manufacturers to continuously scale up their production capacity to vaccinate all Indians in the shortest possible time. India on Wednesday recorded nearly 3 lakh fresh cases in its biggest jump so far. The death toll has also gone up by over 2,000 in a day.

Interacting with vaccine manufacturers from across the country via video conferencing, PM Modi said the private sector will play an even more active role in the vaccination drive in the coming days and that this will require better coordination between hospitals and the industry.

In another significant move, the Centre has approved advance funds of Rs 3,000 crore for the Serum Institute and Rs 1,500 crore for Bharat Biotech, which is producing the Covaxin shots.

On the other hand, Johnson & Johnson has applied to India's drug regulator seeking permission to conduct phase-3 clinical trial of its single-dose Covid-19 vaccine in India while also seeking an import licence.

They said the company has sought an early meeting of the subject expert committee on Covid-19 of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) to take a decision on its application.

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