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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News Network
August 14,2022

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A nine-year-old Dalit boy, a student of a private school in Rajasthan's Surana village died on Saturday, August 13, days after he was brutally beaten by his school teacher for touching a drinking water pot.

40-year-old teacher Chail Singh, an upper caste Hindu, who allegedly beat the boy has been arrested and charged with murder and under sections of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Police said the reason for beating up the Class 3 student Indra Meghwal that he touched a drinking water pot is being investigated.

The incident took place on July 20, the victim's father said. The boy suffered a serious injury to his face and became unconscious after receiving the beating. The boy was taken to the district hospital from where he was referred to a hospital in Udaipur. But even after a week, there was no improvement. The family decided to take him to Ahmedabad where he succumbed to the injuries. The photo of the boy with swollen eyes and an injured nose has surfaced on social media.

"He remained admitted at the hospital in Udaipur for about a week, but seeing no improvement, we took him to Ahmedabad. But his condition did not improve even there and he finally succumbed on Saturday," the boy's father Devaram Meghwal said.

The state education department has initiated an inquiry into the incident. Two officials have been asked to submit a report to the block education officer.

Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot said the incident is tragic and the state government will ensure that the victim's family gets justice at the earliest. The CM has also announced an assistance of ₹5 lakh to the family of the deceased.

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News Network
August 8,2022

Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has called a meeting of all Janata Dal (United) MLAs and MPs on Tuesday, leading to speculation his growing friction with the BJP may come to a head.

Chief among the many reasons why Mr Kumar is upset with the BJP, which is an alliance partner of the Janata Dal (United), or JD(U) in Bihar, has been the BJP-led central government's offer of token representation to allies as Union Ministers.

Mr Kumar's party had denied another Rajya Sabha berth last month to his former JD(U) colleague RCP Singh, who had taken a spot in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet last year without consulting Mr Kumar. Mr Singh bade farewell to the JD(U) over the Rajya Sabha snub.

"There's a conspiracy against me because I'd become union minister," said Mr Singh, a former Indian Administrative Service officer who was once the national president of JD(U). "I'll just say that there's no cure to jealousy," he said while leaving the JD(U) yesterday. "Nitish Kumar will not become Prime Minister in any of his seven lives," he said, describing the JD(U) as a sinking ship.

Mr Kumar reacted by sending out his party's top leaders to respond to allegations by Mr Singh of pettiness and for allegedly dragging his family into a political fight citing illegal property deals.

The JD(U) national president Rajiv Ranjan (Lalan) Singh in a hurry to blunt the attacks by Mr Singh, however, appeared to have overcorrected when he ended up threatening the alliance party BJP.

"What is the need to join the Union Cabinet? The Chief Minister had decided in 2019 we won't be part of the Union Cabinet," Rajiv Ranjan told reporters. He said the JD(U) won't join the Union Cabinet in the near future too, leading to speculation of a rift that can't be mended.

The sudden increase in outburst of Mr Kumar's aides like Rajiv Ranjan is seen as a calculated move to put pressure on the BJP to concede to the Chief Minister's demands, which includes removal of Bihar assembly Speaker Vijay Kumar Sinha, for whom Nitish Kumar's dislike is an open secret.

The Chief Minister, citing health reasons, had stayed away from a meeting of the government think-tank NITI Aayog in Delhi this weekend, which 23 Chief Ministers including West Bengal's Mamata Banerjee had attended. The absence was seen as yet another show of anger by Mr Kumar at the BJP.

Mr Singh had denied the charge of negotiating directly with the Modi government for a ministerial position in the centre. He said Home Minister Amit Shah had spoken to Mr Kumar about cabinet expansion and offered one berth to the party on the condition that Mr Singh himself become a Union Minister.

Mr Singh also denied the JD(U)'s allegations that there are irregularities in his property deals. "These properties belong to my wife and other dependents, who have been paying due tax since 2010," he said. "I don't know what the party wants to investigate. I have nothing to hide," he said.

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News Network
August 12,2022

Udupi, Aug 12: A 32-year-old woman lost her life when the motorbike on which she was riding pillion skidded and fell when a cow suddenly came across the road at Vandse village in Kundapura taluk of Udupi district. 

The victim has been identified as Ambika, an assistant teacher at Hemmadi government model higher primary school. She was riding pillion with her husband Srikanth, who is also a teacher at Navundra government higher primary school when the incident occurred on August 11 morning. 

It is learnt that Srikanth used to drop his wife to her school before heading to his school on his motorbike. The couple has a one-and-half-year-old child.

On August 11, when their two-wheeler reached Vandse, a cow suddenly ran across the road. 

In his bid to avoid crashing into the cow Srikanth lost control over his vehicle and it skilled and fell. Even though he suffered minor injuries his wife suffered severe head injuries.  She was rushed to a private hospital in Udupi where she breathed her last by night.

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