The history of India’s freedom struggle is also a great saga of efforts to achieve social cohesion and religious amity. Even these sincere and sustained efforts could not prevent the eventual partition of the country.
Obviously, every effort must be made to ensure that none is allowed to weaken the tradition of respect for religious amity and communal harmony. The post-Independence generations of politicians have, ironically, decided to fuel caste divisions and religious differences to harvest short-term electoral gains.
They know it fully well that this approach totally contrasts the values imbibed and the virtues practiced by the pre-Independence period leadership. The next 10 months before elections scheduled in 2014 shall witness blatant persuasions by most of the political parties to seek favours of people on the basis of caste affiliations and religious divisions. They have practiced it for the last several decades.
How else the cast combinations would have given opportunity to mere caste leaders to occupy positions of power? All this, however, does not diminish the importance of efforts required on priority basis to strengthen the golden threads of unity in diversity which is the life-giving elixir to national integration, communal harmony and the unity of India. In the existing state of shocking levels of value erosion, chaos and confusion that ignores the significance of ‘learning to live together’, it is encouraging to note instances that signify initiatives that take a long-term broad view of binding elements that foster a cohesive society.
Two of the recent events deserve far greater attention in view of their lasting imperatives. The Madhya Pradesh government has withdrawn its ill-advised and short-sighted decision prescribing parts of Gita in every school. The other is the expression of support extended to Durga Shakti Nagpal by the Muslim community of the village where she was accused of demolishing the wall of a mosque erected illegally. Both instances indicate the power of the people.
Any decision that creates apprehensions and impinges on sensitivities of the people and communities must be scrutinised thoroughly before finalisation. The Madhya Pradesh government realised the absence of necessary homework and right advice in this instance. It deserves appreciation for realising the lacuna and correcting it in time. The Supreme Court examined the recommendation that “basics of all the religions must be made known to every child. They should know the commonalities and learn to respect differences wherever these exist.
No rituals or dogmas were to be taken up and teachers were to be very specifically prepared to handle this sensitive matter”. In its judgment delivered on September 12, 2002, the court ruled that this recommendation was not against secularism and that “it should have been implemented 50 years ago”. This judgment is yet to be studied and understood by the governments, both at the Centre and in the states. It would save secularism from being politicised by vested interests for political purposes.
The Durga Shakti case exposes the hypocrisy behind ‘political secularism’ being practiced in myopic manner with short-term objectives in mind, totally ignoring its disturbing long-term imperatives. It exemplifies how brazenly the vociferous self-styled secularists practice communalism and fuel communal dissensions. The traditional and practiced secularism of India comes to fore when large numbers of local Muslims come forward and boldly declare that there was no communal angle involved in the entire episode and that the officer was only performing her duty lawfully.
This, and several other revelations, have proved beyond doubt that the case against the honest and committed officer was fully concocted in furtherance of achieving communal dissension. It failed miserably. These two instances together are positive signs for the democracy. When people assert, democracy gains, communal harmony is strengthened and national integration cemented further.