India is an extremely diverse country with several religions, ethnicities and languages. Political parties are using these diversities to create differences, thus fracturing the secularity that binds it together. Nehru’s brand of secularism has been under specific strain especially over the last 60 politically overwhelming years. Historically, rulers can be held responsible for sowing seeds of communalism by destroying places of worship, imposing taxes on religious practices of a particular community, and so on. The British well-tailored the partition aiming to capture their lost power. They tapped this communal tension to their advantage by creating separate constituencies and electorate through the Government Act of India 1919 and 1935, which furthered a division between Hindu and Muslims into the Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League respectively. Communal waves started hitting the rock of unity.
Hence, post-partition, the Nationalists, especially Nehru, wanted India to be a secular country. Secularity as an ideal was adopted since Independence through various articles that ensured religious freedom. Article 15 states that no discrimination can be practiced on the basis of religion, while Articles 25-28 have been delegated to religious freedoms. Article 25 states that a person has the freedom to profess and propagate one’s own religion. On the other hand, Article 26 prevents imparting religious education in the state and Article 27 clearly specifies that the state is prevented from imposing taxes on the grounds of religion alone. However, the word ‘secular’ was specifically added in the Preamble of the Constitution in 1976 by the 42nd amendment.
While our forefathers tried to dilute communalism, politics and the greed for power strengthened it. Political parties are trying to shake the secularity of our country by creating communal fragments in the society in order to achieve power thus creating vote bank politics. Religion has become an integral part of politics. Proving your affinity towards one’s religion helps in ensuring a confirmed vote bank. While some extremists bank on Hindus, others divert to Muslims. Pacifying insecure religious groups becomes a political move. Politics of appeasement is trending right now. Coalition politics has given rise to this.
Ever since Independence, political parties have used religion as a weapon to gain power. Starting from the Babri Masjid demolition on 6th December, 1992, which led to the Bombay blasts in 1993 was solely due to political parties trying to rally their vote bank and divide the population on the aggressive Hindu-Muslim lines. This shows the gravity of the problem.
The exodus of Hindu Pandits in the 1990 in Kashmir again throws light on how people are being killed barbarically on the basis of religion which is something a person acquires naturally as a result of their birth. Not only are state players using communalism but also non-state actors like terrorists are also strengthening discrimination based on religion. The abuse of Islamophobia has become a repulsive vote bank politics for parties. Since all political parties are playing the communal card, none of them can truly stand up against the other. This is stagnating the development of the nation, which is stuck in the vicious cycle of dirty politics.
The beef ban has once again divided the population on communal lines leading to constant attacks on Hindus and Muslims, thus deepening lines of hatred. There is no doubt in the fact that the rise of BJP has led to a rise in communal violence. Religion is getting politicised to gain power. Communalism marks division on the basis of religion. Why should a secular country which is not ruled on the basis of religion be ruled on the basis of religious majority or minority?
Criminalisation and communalism has been forming the heart and soul of politics. Whether it is the Partition, or the bitter conflict over Ram Janam Bhoomi, or the deeply rooted communalism in Sikh militancy during the 80s– all these instances prove how secularism has only existed in the minds of freedom fighters. Post-independence, politicians were busy colouring every issue in a communal colour. We think that this problem is trivial and will fade with time, but it is not. The gravity of this problem lies in the people whose lives have been sacrificed in the name of religion and to satisfy political greed. What we often fail to understand is that there is no religion greater than that of humanity. We are not doing justice to God by dividing people in the name of religion.
Picture Credits: IndiaFacts