Preservation of national unity is the prime concern of every nation state. In the context of Indian society, which is the most diversified of all, this issue has gone a long way influencing the pattern of Indian politics and has a fundamental bearing on our social order.
Keeling in view this diversification, 60 years ago we gave ourselves a constitution imbued with the spirit of secularism. It was felt that the more diversified and complex a society, the more there is a need for a secular public philosophy, which attempts to hold this vast multicultural and myriad society into a single unifying thread. Accepting the principle of ‘Sarwa Dharma Sama Bhava’ or equal respect for all religions, secularism was assumed to act as an ally of nationalism, national integration, communal harmony and would act as a natural deterrent to prejudice based on religion and other such forces which are inimical to democracy and modernisation.
Though we have a secular state we do not have a secular society. This gives us a very sombre picture of Indian life: a picture of a society, which has been witnessing an escalation of religious revivalism, fundamentalism, religio-communal identification shaking the very component of our constitutional ideals.
Paradoxically, secularism has not emerged as a reality of the Indian society and political order. The ascending graph of communal violence, particularly in the wake of the demolition of Masjids, the attack on Christian missionaries, Sikh militancy etc accompanied by the manipulative state policies and exploitation of religion by political parties for their emotive appeal for political and electoral gains has raised serious misgivings about the secular status of India. Dose this signify a demise of secularism?
Never before has the communal virus been so evident in Indian polity, proliferating it’s diseased cell’s as today. This is primarily because of the inability of the government to quell it and to punish all those who incite communal frenzy. No doubt, with the passage of time these problems will assume serious dimensions and will become more complex; ultimately enhancing the divisive and viviparous tendencies constituting a major challenge to our secular edifice.
The need of the hour is to actualise secularism by formulating state policies which are in consonance with it and to find solutions to these perennial communal problems. National greatness lies in eliminating such forces and preventing inter-religious conflicts from tearing the country apart through violence. Most importantly upholding the basic secular credentials not in theory but in practice. Remember secularism is still a dream, which needs to be realised. It will not be a single act, but a prolonged process and requires bold, imaginative and immediate practical steps. Only then can we extricate our society from such forces who have posed over the years the most formidable challenge to our vibrant secular philosophy.
--Teresa N. Anthony