“Nahi manushat shershtha taram hi kinchit (There is none loftier than man)!” – The Mahabharata
“And We have certainly honoured the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference.” – Quran 17:70
Amongst the developing countries, India is famed by its commitment to secularism as the guiding force of state policy and action. The conception of secularism in India is not just a trophy won by some intellectual group. It has been acquired by paying the price of flesh and blood, through the martyrdom and sacrifices of our freedom fighters. Further, the sacrifices of countless known and unknown Indians, who stood up for a secular nationhood at critical moments in India’s history. India’s secularism is not just quantitative but also qualitative.
Even though modern-day secularism has been imported from the western democracy, its roots can be found in Akbar’s court, or in Shivaji’s army. There are countless instances where India stood for secularism in the past.
As Gandhi ji says: “Hindustan belong to all those who are born and bred here and who have no other country to look to. Therefore, it belongs to Parsis, Beni Israels, to Indian Christians, Muslims and other non-Hindus as much as to Hindus. Free India will be no Hindu raj, it will be India raj based not on the majority of any religious sect or community but on the representatives of the whole people without distinction of religion.”
This was the definition of nationalism for which the Mahatma was shot dead by a terrorist, who was the member of a fundamentalist organisation. Our founding fathers were not keen to design a new India on the lines of religion like Pakistan – they knew such an approach would fail. Because the religion has this stupendous tendency to get offended with everything and anything. One can cross-check it by just looking at countries which had been or is being governed by religion. Many of them are failed states. The only way a nation of diverse faiths like India can survive is to be governed by logic and scientific laws.
No one can paint this multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic, multi-regional, multi-faith land into one colour. Because it is just not in the nature of humans to live in a stagnant mode; we are bound to intermingle because humans love diversity. For example, religion-based festivals are not something you choose. But in a country like India, one can celebrate Eid as well as Holi. This very nature will make you secular, while religion will only make you work on a predetermined set of rules.
Even if we take the Mahabharata’s or the Quran’s quotations, it is human beings who are superior. And this realisation should be increased through education. As education flourishes, faith in secularism is bound to increase.
This article was first published here.