Secularism or Communalism?

Posted on April 9, 2010 in Politics

Nupur Dogra:

The Hindi word that is commonly, albeit incorrectly used for “secularism” in India is dharmanirapekshata and which ought to mean “indifference towards religion” but actually means “indifference to duty or Justice”. The word Dharma is not to be confused with religion, it implies a broader definition encompassing duty, Justice and virtuousness. The correct Hindi term is ‘Panthnirpekshta‘ meaning “indifference towards matters of faith”. The state cannot be Dharma neutral as that would imply abdication of duty the usage itself denotes the understanding of secularism as more a policy of political practice than a philosophy in itself. However, the plurality of religions, religious pluralism (the view that all religions are equally valid), and cultural (and communal) concerns greatly influence the various ways in which secularism has developed and is looked at on in India. Prominently in Indian soil, secularism is more a subject of politics than of metaphysics.

A nation cannot be secular merely because of its constitution, secularism is something that the people of the country should not only believe in but also act in accordance with it. I want to ask this to each and every citizen of India who proudly believes in the secularism of this country, is our country secular in true sense? Can a country where every fortnight a group of people suddenly rise from their sleep just to fight and kill each other in the name of religion be called secular? Can a place where people carry out movement’s and demonstration’s to bring about a change in the system and revolutionize it not for the sake of the whole country but for the sake of a handful group of people belonging to a particular religion or sect in terms of reservations be called secular? A nation where in the name of religion, a pregnant lady is raped and murdered. Is it secular?

India supposedly being a secular country, does not permit the State to discriminate against any citizen on the basis of religion. However, four states — namely Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Bihar have religion-based reservations in percentages varying from a high of 12 per cent for Kerala to 3 per cent for Bihar. These points clearly define secularism in India.

Such a policy is repugnant to the idea of genuine secularism — as distinct from the vote-bank ‘secularism’ of many political parties whose own interest lies in further ghettoizing minorities by offering them the lure of reserved quotas. Even after so many reservations The thing that amuses me is this: none of the said major group(s) is happy. Be it a Muslim or a Hindu, both feel threatened by each other, if not amongst the urban class, then at least amongst the uneducated rural and semi-rural class. The Christians still feel discriminated against as a minority. Even the caste based reservations cannot be justified as neither the Brahmins nor the Dalits or the other backward classes feel happy.

The only people who seem to benefit are the politicians.

According to me any type of reservation which is on the basis of religion, caste or race cannot be justified in a country which calls itself as ‘secular’. Reservations in India can be defined as a concept misunderstood by the people and misused by the government. The word reservation came into existence basically for the up-liftment of the socially and economically deprived people. I strongly believe that reservations should be provided on the bases of ones economic status but not on one’s ascribed status.

Why cant reservations be named as “reservations for people below the poverty line” why do they have to be reservations for Hindu, Muslim, Christians or anyone for that matter? Misuse of secularism in such a manner is only creating problems for all of us. When will we act?

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The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.