RETAINING MULTI RELIGIOUS SOCIETY

India being home to the largest Hindu population in the world, the third largest Muslim population, and the largest Sikh population has the distinction of retaining a truly multi-cultural and multi-religious society despite external and internal threats of the contemporary times. However in view of the politicking of simple issues by the politicians into complexities there continues to be a persistent threat to the well knit secular system of the nation. The threat to the multi-cultural and multi-religious society is evident from the fact that there was felt a need to even amend the preamble of the constitution to incorporate the word Secular in it besides even the Indian Judiciary caught in a catch twenty situation to unambiguously answer the questions on secularism and religious freedom. The situation at present though in control yet seems to be quite conducive for the antinational elements. Being unable to heal the wounds of unfortunate Godhra incident, the Sikh riots of Delhi and the Babri Masjid conundrum every other day we are confronted with issues having the full potential of disintegrating the nation. The latest in the pipeline is the issue of ban on cow slaughter and ban on sale of beef that has been talk of the town not only in the fragile state of J&K but across the nation. While these are non issues for a common man who is more concerned with his livelihood, it is the politicians who at regular intervals continue to fire new salvos to ensure that they remain all important for their respective constituencies. It is a fact that consumption of beef by a particular community besides for people from other communities in different pockets of India is a normal practice that started from times immemorial. Not only this, the nation is having a colossal economic stake in beef export sector which is the largest feeder to Gulf countries. One fails to understand that when the practice was going on latently for so much time why such issues are brought into public ignoring the dangerous consequences these could be having on the nation’s integrity by victimizing its centuries’ old Secular credentials. As per the simple dictionary version, Secularism   means not connected with religious or spiritual matters. Unfortunately in India we have brought the concept very close to religion and for this full credit goes to the politicians who leave no stone unturned to keep their vote banks intact for their petty interests while overlooking the national interest. Another manifestation of secularism is that public activities and decisions, especially political ones, should not be influenced by religious beliefs or practices. According to Europeans, secularism is a movement toward modernization, and away from traditional religious values. Much of the dilemma in our society has resulted due to the inherent conflict with our own beliefs and the social character of our society which needs to be taken utmost care of today. Religion is essentially private and there is a need to refrain from interference by religious bodies in political matters as much there is need for the political establishment to interfere into religion which is a private affair of individuals. If this is not done then it would not only be unjust, but could lead to bloody situations. The vulnerability and threat to the secular ethos of this nation can be well understood from the fact that Justice Vikramjit Sen of Supreme Court while hearing a PIL seeking recognition for Christian courts set up under the personal law, observed that India is a secular country but I don’t know how long it will remain so? With the nation being really more divided on religious lines than ever before and especially the state of J&K witnessing polarization on religious lines, there is a dire need to respect the Freedom of religion in the same spirit as enshrined in the constitution of India as a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 15 and Article 25 so that every citizen enjoys the right to practice his or her religion peacefully without any interference from others including the state. In this context even the Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a strong pitch for religious freedom asserting that there is no problem in practising one’s religion but the potential for conflict arises when radical elements try to force their own ideologies on others. It is therefore hoped that due care is taken to disband the nexus between the radical elements and some of the politicians who are bent upon using every such opportunity to exploit the religious sentiments to satiate their political ambitions.