Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and so the list goes on. India has often been touted as a melting pot of religions since her ancient past. The Constitution of India declares the state, a “secular” nation. But a pertinent question arises, “Is our view of secularism completely different or are we just looking away from the ground realities of our nation”? It is quite tenable to argue that riots and religious conflicts that often mar the headlines of Indian newspapers hardly speak of a secular environment for the citizenry of our nation. As the world is increasingly becoming more and more tolerable towards differences among people with globalisation, India seems to lag behind or at least not move forward as far as tolerance and secularism are concerned. With a huge and diverse population it is indeed crucial for India to be a harmonious nation for people of all faiths.
The Nice Start
To begin with, it is noteworthy to consider the fact that in the ancient India, people were remarkably tolerant towards people of different faiths. Even in Medieval and pre-Colonial India, there were Hindu kingdoms like Junagarh being ruled by Muslim rulers and Hindus ruling Muslim kingdoms like Kashmir. The Hindu-Muslim unity was so remarkably strong that it was imperative for the British to cleave it if they wanted to colonise our country. And so, the sad chain of wars and violence for the cause of religion began. The British spread animosity to replace the harmony in India among her different faiths. This was the catalyst that led rapidly to the mass destruction and oppression of our forefathers. The divided India fell like a pack of cards at the hand of the British, thanks to their strategy of communalism.
The Black Days
There are several nightmares in the history of Indian secularism. From the Babri Masjid of 1992 to the recent communal violence in Malegaon, it is indeed heart-breaking to see that we as people still cannot rise above petty religious politics and extremist propaganda. Be it the Gujarat riots in 2002 or the Anti-Christian sentiments in states like Orissa, Karantaka and Madhya Pradesh, such instances force us to introspect into our nation’s principles and ideals and whether our leaders are doing their part to uphold our cherished values. We must be reminded that all Indians are one and as was once remarked “Diwali main Ali hain aur Ramzan main Ram”.
The Secular Dream
On the road to a prosperous and harmonious nation, secularism is definitely a major milestone. There are very few nations in the world with as much religious diversity as India. Unfortunately, this diversity is becoming more of a bane rather than a boon which it ought to be. A country known worldwide for the famous quality of having “unity in diversity” should be doing everything it can for upholding her ideals. Extremism, especially on the basis of religion, has to be uprooted from society. Religious propaganda should be highly condemned and even banning such elements does not seem like a bad option. Authorities like the security forces as well as the Election Commission should take strict action against factors that may disrupt communal harmony, like political or anti-social elements. On the grassroot level, primary and secondary schools hold the key to religious harmony. Kids need to be taught tolerance and respect for each other’s faiths. There are several NGOs working for the cause as well and individuals, corporate organisations and the government must surely help them in every way possible. As India is entering the spotlight on the world stage, it is quintessential that such embarrassments must be done away with and religious and communal harmony be achieved. India has a lot of things to be proud of, we should just hope that the leaders at the helm of the country realise that and ensure that every Indian can stand proudly anywhere in the world.