Q) Secularism and Development in India (1200 words)
Superb Model Answer :
People don’t just talk they live religion here – Oprah Winfrey
I am Parsee, which is a religious minority not just in India but throughout the world and yet I went on to become the Chief Justice of India – Justice S. H. Kapadia (on his retirement) Societal fabric is woven over a period of time. The fabric has threads of religious beliefs, political system, cultural fragrance and above all a mutual accord between different beliefs and practices. People when start living together, history shows, they tend to long for a settled life. No warring tribe or clan wanted to go on fighting till the end. India was no different a place and today’s India is an amalgam of myriad colors. Ours’ is a cultural melting pot which has given us a truly secular identity. We are seen as a country where there is no monolith of religion and where the State does not differentiate amongst the subjects on the basis of religion.
Secularism and development are two important strands running parallel to each other. Whereas the former gives us our identity the later promises to preserve it for a longer period of time. Development gives endurance to all the principles and precepts we believe in.
Having said that, its important to underline the complexity of any such conviction under the light of the population of India. Ours’ is a country that houses one sixth of the humanity. How secular we really are and how development has been taking place in India, become two crucial questions to look into if one wants to foresee the challenges and possibly venture a solution to the emerging problems.
The 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976 inserted the word ‘Secular’ in the Preamble of Constitution of India. Though Ambedkar had once said that a constitution is as good as the people to run it and as bad as them (I do not recall the exact quote.), this insertion was a bold reassertion from the people of India of the values the forefathers used to believe in. Also, the Fundamental Rights provided to the citizens in India by the Constitution make it clear that religion, caste, creed etc cannot be made the basis of discrimination among the people. But when seen in the erstwhile political scenario, this small amendment actually made the basis structure of the Constitution Formally Secular by not just intending to mean so but also by boldly stating it in the Preamble itself. Later the Keshavnanda Bharti vs Union of India case made it obligatory for the Parliament to not tamper with the basic structure of the Constitution. And thus one can say, we formally became secular.
But the Right wing voices, on this land of religions and Gods, were never too weak. Riots, especially Hindu-Muslim, have never been out of news. The creation of Bangladesh, the tensions in North East India over the issue of Bangladeshi immigrants, the Bodo-Muslim conflicts and the Neillie massacre carry the painful memories even today. The Right wing ideology which sees the nation as an organic whole brings the nation to a conflicting belief from the individualistic approach when it says that the nation is an organic whole and “nation first”. The idea that for a village, sacrifice the individual, for the city sacrifice the village and for the nation sacrifice the city is from religion books. Though it might seem unrelated to the sectarian and religious conflicts that we see sometimes, it has to do a lot with the differences that get created in the society amongst the stakeholders. In a country where the majority follow Hindu way of life, and they themselves do not a form a monolith, the ideas such as Ram mandir construction, uniform civil code and abrogation of Article 370 do trifle many and unnerve a considerable number of people even when they have the Constitutional guarantee of Secular treatment by the law of the land.
Connecting the scattered dots, one may see that though we are developing and even when our economy is surging forward at a great pace, we are still to see the building up of national consensus on the questions of how secular are we and after partition, does a Muslim in India enjoys real freedoms as he would have in case there were no partition. As per Jaswant Singh, a general Muslim in India are yet to taste the secular flavour of our societal fabric. Disentitlement goes unreported. And while we try to weave a success story around the statistical figures from Finance Ministry, many cases of social segregation, political subjugation, cultural isolation and societal oppression remain hidden. These give rise to resentment and the internal security of the country comes under threat when outside source start dealing in drugs and weaponry inside the country. One should see the rise of terrorism, cyber crime, smuggling, naxalism, wahabism etc from the lens of such separation that takes place even when a secular Constitution is in place. Development is not a monochrome light coming from the fountainhead of the State. Its more like a spectrum of colors and it has many facets to it. 40% of our children are malnourished, we do not perform well in HDI ranking, our health infrastructure is very fragile, we are experiencing the problem of jobless growth, the demographic dividend and lack of skills in the youth is ironical, in agriculture we could manage a 4.% growth last fiscal but mechanisation as been slow and water table has been going down in various parts of the country, then the declining female-male ratio, crime against women etc all show the dark side of our success story. These are the fundamentals which cannot remain weak for a long time if we wish to come out of poverty and become a developed nation in true sense. Our higher educational institutions do not appear in the international rankings. If we have to continue to grow, we will need a second generation institutional reforms. And as all this happens, we also need to accept the darkness that shrouds the secular identity of the nation is many nooks and corners of our vast nation.
Amartya Sen argues that development should be seen as freedom. As more development gives more freedom and more freedom brings more development. Somewhere in between, the Secular identity of India plays a major role is helping the wheel of development move forward. Secularism is not the denial of religions. It is about looking at all religions with same importance. It is about keeping the State machinery impartial towards all religions. Gandhiji termed it as – sarvdharmasambhaav (seeing all religions with same view), whereas, Nehru saw it as – dharmnirpeksha (religiously impartial). Though there is a slight difference in both the views. Our history as a free nation shows that we have imbibed both the ways of looking at it in our understanding. But our understanding about these terms begins from school and NCERT books have seen tempering with the content with changing governments. This brings us affront to another vice of our State – spreading propaganda through educational institutions. Propaganda and rhetoric are not new to the print, electronic and these days’ social media but all such challenges can be severe to our existence as a peaceful nation.
Secularism is just a word. And Secular is what we call ourselves in the Constitution of India. But the psyche of a common-man is not captured in laws books. Any wave of violence against a particular community cannot be overruled in near future just because we define ourselves as secular. The Shia-Sunni strife in the Middle East, the conflict between Buddhists and Muslims in Sri Lanka and Mayanmar, the conflicts in North East India and last but not the least militancy in the J&K all can have grave impact on our society if we do not constantly put effort in keeping the anti-social forces at bay.
Development too cannot happen unless we have guaranteed a safe and secure place for one and all inside our borders. Growth can happen only when there is peace. Also, no development is development in true sense in a large section of the society is left in darkness.