Wednesday, April 8, 2009


"Secularism" is a big term. It has got a wide portfolio of usage in Indian politics. When the politicians of our country have to justify some of their acts they use this term.Its a term which has been coined n number of times in media and has seen so many changes in its usage that it itself would have forgotten its real meaning.

In simple terms it means that "the state won't support or follow a particular religion". India is supposed to be a secular country at least according to our constitution. Unfortunately but, the usage of this term and practise of secularism has lost its meaning in our country. Greedy ad manipulative politicians of our country long back drew a hypothetical line between 'secular' and 'non secular'. Any breach over the line would mean disrupting the communal harmony of the country. The funny part is that all these 'secular' people have different agenda for their secularism. And those who allegedly come under 'non secularism' prefer to be called as secular. Lets take a few examples as we go on with this debate;

1. Varun Gandhi's speech: Varun Gandhi, the grandson of former prime minister Indira Gandhi made some comments against muslims. They were derogatory indeed. Its not clear what he exactly said as he keeps arguing that his voice has been manipulated . But he allegedly said that "..we will chop off the hands of those who will stand against us (hindus)..." . He then became the center of criticism by both political parties and social activities. His own party started deserting him and criminal cases have been filed against him. Adding spice to this publicity, the big don Dawood ordered his shooter to go to India and finish him off, as "our men are in danger". The obedient shooter came to India only to be caught by the police.

But all these incidences have actually made Varun Gandhi a celebrity. He is now more popular in media than his cousin Rahul Gandhi. Just by breaching the hypothetical line of secular and non-secular he got what he wanted at the time of election; publicity. No wonder if he emerges winner with record votes this time. Following the foot steps of Varun another BJP candidate from Bangalore declared that he "don't need a single minority vote to win" thereby gaining popularity in media and thus the attention of public.

This incidence shows that secularism/non-secularism is nothing but a gimmick to gain sure shot popularity.

2. Muslim student's plea in supreme court: A school student belonging to Madhya Pradesh filed a petition in supreme court to be allowed to have a beard in the school. The court rejected his plea saying that they cannot encourage such 'talibanism' of India. Media, again adding spice, gave this news prominence. Now here the argument put forward by the court was that secularism should not be misunderstood. Secularism doesn't mean that we favor extremism of any religion. Indeed a strong move by SC.

3. Anjali Waghmare and Kasab: Now this could become a plot for some upcoming film in bollywood. Kasab is the only terrorist who was caught alive in the 26/11 attack in Mumbai. He is facing his trial. The court assigned an advocate Anjali Waghmare as the defense lawyer of Kasab. Following this, many Shiv sainiks (members of political party Shiv Sena in Maharashtra) attacked the residence of Anjali saying that she should not accept the court's offer to defend Kasab. Anjali after undergoing a much deeper thought process finally decided to defend Kasab and is currently facing a harsh criticism from the Shiv sainiks.

Now these three incidences show three different aspects associated with secularism/ non-secularism. First thing is that Secularism is not associated with favoring or not-favoring any religion. The state remains neutral in any religious matter. In fact state should be kept aside from religion. People who make speeches like Varun Gandhi cannot separate state and religion. They believe the religion followed by majority should have a say in the matters of state. However, the basic definition of secularism does not allow this.

Instigated by the examples set by people like Varun Gandhi, people like that student of Madhya Pradesh asks the court to allow him to follow what he feels like religion. But the court has to abide by the constitutional definition of secularism. School in India is a school, not a place of religious fanatics to practice education and religion (and arms) at the same time. Schools have certain rules that need to be followed irrespective of whatever religion you belong to. Court says that if they allow beard in schools, they would next be getting petitions from people to allow girls to wear a burqa in schools. They cannot allow all this. Educational institute represent an integral part of state and should be kept away from religion.

The third example set by Anjali Waghmare is the best as far as individual efforts are concerned regarding restoring confidence in secularism/ non secularism. Past 60+ years have seen so much changes in the usage of the word secularism and acts in favor of/ against non-secularism that secularism itself has lost its real meaning. Like schools, courts are also an integral part of the state and they should be kept aside from region or any other kind of bias. I am not supporting Kasab, who in India would like to support the man behind the merciless killing? I am sure even Anjali Waghmare would not want to. But, since its a matter of state affairs, rules must be followed. For a lawyer, protocols and rules set by the court are their religion and Anjali just followed that. When she told the chief justice about her decision, the Chief Justice asked, "Are you sure? you want to defend him?" "Yes" came the reply from brave Anjali.Anjali Waghmare is not a bad Indian or supporters of terrorists, she is a true Indian and we all should feel proud of her. Can anyone imagine how difficult that decision would have been for her.

What requires to fight against the selfish biases regarding secularist/ non secularist thing is a little courage. We all should understand that state is the most important and stands above any religion.

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