Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Secularism was lost in 1947 itself


sec·u·lar [sek-yuh-ler]
  1. of or pertaining to worldly things or to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred; temporal: secular interests.
  2. not pertaining to or connected with religion.
Secular state: A secular state is a state or country that is officially neutral in matters of religion, neither supporting nor opposing any particular religious beliefs or practices. A secular state also treats all its citizens equally regardless of religion, and does not give preferential treatment for a citizen from a particular religion over other religions.

Note that the definitions clearly state that secular means no connection to religion, as opposed to the popular belief that it means all inclusive.
Oh how the Congress party has screwed up the meaning of the word secular, almost to a point where it seems to have been distorted on purpose. Being brought up in India, and having attended a prestigious school in Bangalore, I, like millions and millions of Indians of my generation and generations past (post independence) and present learnt and continue to learn about the Indian freedom struggle. The greatness about independent India, which elevated its status above that of the Muslim breakaway real estate called Pakistan, was its secular principles and foundations. And by secular, we were taught it meant a principle where all religions are treated equally. Maybe it's semantics, but this actually is quite misleading. For the 25 years I have existed I did not check the dictionary to see what the word secular means. Now when I did, I got a rude shock. For many, what follows may not seem important as the difference between what we were taught and what the reality is may be too subtle to fathom, but then again, I'm not writing this blog for that majority alone, but even for those for whom it may matter.

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister, was the one who proposed the secular model for the Indian nation, and being an atheist, he knew the true meaning of secularism, which is, that the state shall not be influenced by any religion, and that there will be a separation of church and state (in this case, separation of church, temple, mosque, gurudwara, monastry, synangogue, etc from the state). However, the rest of the congressmen did not see the merit in this, and instead of separating the state from religion, it was agreed to include all religions. That's where the seeds were sowed and we are reaping the problematic harvest now.

If the state were detached from religion, there wouldn't have been a problem when religious nutters oppose abortion because of their religion, there wouldn't have been the problem of muslim women not being given a fair share in inherited property because in Islam, women are looked down upon and don't get a fair deal. This was amply exemplified when an immature, playboy Prime Minister, Rajeev Gandhi, did not follow the Supreme Court's direction in the Shah Bano case, for fear of upsetting the Muslims, in spite of the Supreme Court ruling in her favour and putting the doctrine of fairness and equality of the sexes above the doctrine of the religion. A truly secular verdict, followed by a purely political and insensitive action by the Congress party.

Another instance where religion continues to get the beter of secularism is when it comes to the use of contraception. The Church is into overdrive with its take on the use of contraception, in spite of the large population and the rampant spread of HIV and AIDS and other STDs. The rights of homosexuals would certainly have been protected had the country been truly secular, instead of a disgusting, awful tasting mixture of all the religions and dirty Indian politics. Instead, homosexuals are treated as diseased members of society, where the exremists demand lynching and the moderates offer 'treatment'. Education won't cure an extremist, but I strongly doubt if it can even cure the moderates. Thank goodness the religious fools who raise their ugly heads every now and then haven't excelled too far ahead in science, or they would soon be opposing stem cell research as well.

Our country is more than 60 years old, and in terms of the democracies around the world, we are very young. But what is sad is that like most youngsters, we are headed down the wrong path, and seem to be developing some very bad habits. Old habits die hard they say. You bet, as can be seen in our continued acceptance and blind following of the twisted version of a beautiful concept called secularism.

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