In a letter to Chief Ministers written on October 15, 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru reiterated the idea of India:
“Whatever the provocation from Pakistan and whatever the indignities and horrors inflicted on non-Muslims there, we have got to deal with this minority in a civilised manner. We must give them security and the rights of citizens in a democratic state. If we fail to do so, we shall have a festering sore which will eventually poison the whole body politic and probably destroy it.”
This was an outright rejection of idea of the kind of communal hatred that the India stands against. It was made clear that one’s social identity based on ascribed factors like religion, caste, etc. would not be the determinant of citizenship in India.
We Indians have lived with extraordinary unity since antiquity. Secularism is not just a constitutional objective but a part and parcel of our society. It had infused into our collective conscience in such a way that it is now a part of our general temperament.
But this is just one side of the story. This same land had witnessed the worst riots in the history of mankind. Partition (1947), the anti-Sikh riots (1984), the Godhra riots (2002), etc. are, of course, classic examples.
The recent communal violence in Delhi is the latest addition to this. If we’re really secular, then the question that comes to mind is: why do we fight over religious issues?
To consider the religion of any person as the sole criteria for granting citizenship is a negation of the idea of a secular India. The anti-CAA protests were aimed at preserving this idea. But vested interests hatched a conspiracy to paint this whole issue as communal.
It was not about Islam or any other religion. In fact, it had nothing to do with religion. With the riots in Delhi, they managed to defeat the purpose of a movement and succeeded in their sinister motives.
Now, coming back to my question. Why do we fight over religion if we really are secular?
I see communalism as something that’s forced from the top and systematically filters down to the bottom. In my locality, where I have been brought up, I never felt like I was treated differently because of my religion. We celebrate all festivals with same zeal and laughter.
Eating gujiyas during Holi is as exciting and mouth-watering as the sewai during Eid. We could not even think of separating from each other, leave alone the thought of taking up arms.
For political motives, politicians intensely polarise society. They forcefully make us believe that we are two different people, having differences not only in religious interests, but also secular interests.
When some of us begin to feel like this, then they make us believe that these interests can’t coexist and are mutually competitive. Then the cleavage created is filled with hatred by leaders like Kapil Mishra.
But this needs to be stopped. It is said that either India can be a secular country or nothing at all.
Our Constitution is a living document that welds this great nation in the thread of oneness, patriotism and belongingness. Every community has contributed in the progress of the country.
The Preamble aims at promoting unity and integrity among all of us. This is not just about wordplay. When we talk about unity, the expression is to physically live together. Integrity is wider as it expresses an emotional bond that binds us with brotherhood and feeling to love together.
This infusion of unity and integrity has been manifested since the inception of India as a civilisation. It is this idea that kept India united with varying borders throughout history. We have never been a territorially defined homogenous entity.
The time has come to unitedly resist the attempts aimed at sabotaging our unity and defeating those who are trying to define India in their own, personal terms.