60 years of Secularism in India
Center For Inquiry India,
INDIAN SECULAR SOCIETY
National Conference on :
Shastipurthi (60 Years) of Secularism in India
March 14, 2010, Sunday, 10 A.M. to 5 P.M.
at Vasavi Youth Association Auditorium, Behind Dwaraka Hotel,
Lakdi-ka-pool, Hyderabad, India.
IRHA, RAI, Jana Vijnana Vedika, Manava Vikasam, Janachaitanya Vedika, Jayabharat, Kula Nirmulana Sangham, Satyanweshana Mandali
Dr. N. INNAIAH
D irectors :
V. K. SiNha S. V. Raju
(Editor, Secularist) (Editor, Freedom First)
Work Papers :
Secularism Indian Style,
Secular Magic Performance :
Report on conference
Center for Inquiry India in colloboration with Indian Secular society celebrated the completion of 60 years for the secularist movement in India .
A conference was convened at hyderabad on 14 march 2010. 100 participants actively involved in the deliberations.
Dr N.Innaiah, chairman of CFI India presented the work paper on Secularism-India style which was discussed in the conference. Prof V.K Sinha submitted a brief paper on secularist thought and need to implement it in India.
The conference was inaugurated by Dr N.Bhaskararao, chairman center for media studies Delhi. He opined that the secularist thought has a long way to go and regretted that the fundamentalist ideas are taking the country backward.
Mr S V Raju , editor Freedom First moved a resolution on Prof Amlan Datta and paid glorious tributes. The conference stood for a minute in respect of Prof Amlan.
Mr Kumaresan representing the Modern Rationalist and Dravida Khazagam from Chennai presented the message of Mr K.Veeramani and narrated the growth of rationalist movement in Madras under the leadership of Periyar Ramaswamy .
Earlier Mr C L N Gandhi, the president of Hyderabad rationalist association welcomed the conference and stressed the urgent need to preserve the secular values.
Prof Vikram presented power point presentation of magical performance which exposed the anti secular babas, holy mathas, and similar other anti social elements who are cheating the gullible public.
Mr G Veeranna, the vice president of Rationalist association presided over the second session and conducted the deliberations.
A question answer session was followed where in the participants actively put forth their experiences.
The conference had the joint participation from the sister organizations like Manava vikasa Vedika, Jana Vignana Vedika, India Radical Humanist association, Indian Renaissance Institute, Abolition of caste system society,journalism school students, teachers from Slate school,and youth from various societies.
The day long session went off well with full participation of Mr Rajendra Prasad , Mr K V R Reddi, Mr Suryanarayana, Mr Sambasivarao, Mr S V Pantulu, Mr D G Ramarao , Mr Dev Dutt , C.Bhaskararao, Suresh, Tapaswi, Venigalla Venkataratnam etc.
Indian Secularist society is planning to bring out a special issue on the conference with full pictures.
Messages were received from Paul Kurtz , Pancholi from Delhi , Jugal Kishore of CFI, Santi Sri from Pune, CFI leaders from world wide.
The conference earlier discussed the origin of secularist thought as envisaged by M N Roy in early 1950`s and developed by A B Shah.
Work Paper for the Conference :
Shashtipurthi (60 years) for Secularism in India
Six decades ago, M N Roy, the humanist, philosopher, and revolutionary, defined secularism as clear separation of State and religion. He clarified the position thus: "What is necessary is not facile profession of secularism, but a movement for the popularization of cultural values. The process of secularization, assuming that it is desired by the Government, cannot be promoted by legislation or executive orders. But men at the helm of affairs could help, if they did not willingly swim with the contrary current, as they do as a rule. The President of Republic, Governors, and Ministers of the States and the lesser are frequently taking leading parts in public religious ceremonies. This demonstrative religiosity is entirely different from religion as a part of one's private life." (The Radical Humanist, 14th May 1950).
For the first time the Indian Constitution included the word secular through the 42nd Amendment in 1976.
Since Independence in 1947 and after becoming republic in 1950, India has been following peculiar secularism. Often the political parties, especially the religious oriented, dub secularism as a "Western" concept. Prof. K.T. Shah tried to include secular idea into the Indian Constitution in vain. His amendment was like this: "The State in India being secular shall have no concern with any religion, creed, or profession of faith; and shall observe an attitude of absolute neutrality in all matters relating to the religion of any class of its citizens or other persons in the Union." (Amendment No 366 in the draft Constitution, 1948).
Dr. Radhakrishnan, the President of India who propagated Hindu thought, mischievously interpreted that ancient religious traditions of India observed impartiality. That was the basic principle of secularism, which is not separate from State. The political parties, which came into power, took advantage of this interpretation and used it to strengthen their own religious sects while throwing perks at other religious groups.
Mahatma Gandhi realized in the last days of his life the need for separation of religion from politics, especially the State. Gandhiji always practiced religion in politics through prayers. He followed the principle of equal respect to all religions. At the fag end of his life, Gandhi wanted non-interference of State in religious matters. He also emphasized separation of religion so that it can be practiced only at the personal level. But that was too late. He did not live long to propagate separation of religion from politics.
Jawaharlal Nehru, as the first Prime Minister of India, always stood for secularism. However, he could not take it to its logical end due to pressures from political and religious lobbies. He even failed to introduce a uniform civil code in the country.
The founding fathers of the Indian Constitution clearly stated " that nothing in this Article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice."(Article 25 (2) (a) Constitution.)
Through the 42nd amendment to the Constitution in 1976, the preamble clearly stated: "We the people of India having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Secular Democratic Republic."
Yet the political parties, some of which oppose and some of which support the practice of secularism, dare not interpret it in the proper perspective.
A. B. Shah founded Secular Society and published the magazine The Secularist. He vigorously pursued secular ideals, published several books, organized conferences, and recruited eminent persons. One such person was Hamid Dalwai, who stood for renaissance among Muslims, and started Satya Shodhak Mandal. A B Shah challenged Puri Sankaracharya about the cow cult in the Vedas. He pleaded for secular education from the primary level. V K Sinha and SV Raju are carrying forward his legacy, continued by. Abraham Solomon, Laxman Sastri Joshi, G D Parekh, V M Tarkunde, Prabhakar Padhe, Dhabolkar, Sib Narayan Ray, M. P Rege and Avula Gopalakrishna Murty, and M. V. Ramamurthy. V V John and J B Naik along with a host of others worked vigorously in the field of education. A B Shah published several books on secularism by establishing Nachiketa publications. Quest and New Quest journals stood for secular ideas.
Usually the Congress party is considered secular. Barring Jawaharlal Nehru, all the Congress Prime Ministers, Ministers, and others at various levels followed religious practices "officially." They invite Hindu priests during oath-taking ceremonies, inaugurations, opening of new projects, laying of foundations etc. To avoid criticism they involve Christian, Sikh and Buddhist and Muslim priests. They visit temples and receive honors "officially." They exhibit their faith publicly at the cost of the Government, which means abusing people's money. The Government officially declares holidays for all religious festivals. Temples, masjids and churches are allowed in the premises of Government offices. During office hours, prayers are allowed. Persons display their individual guru's pictures and images in offices. The Government officially patronizes pilgrimages, provides all facilities, and extends financial aid. Governments allot lands for religious purposes.
Each religion took advantage of the weakness of political parties and benefited in several ways. Religious establishments have become powerful with huge funds. All religions get exemptions from taxes. There are not accountable for the money they collect or businesses they conduct in the name of spiritual activity.
Cult babas and holy women gather around politicians and build ashram empires. Even criminal activity of holy persons goes undetected except in rare cases.
Dhirendra Brahmachari, a cult person, was very powerful during Mrs. Indira Gandhi`s tenure as Prime Minister. Chandra Swami, another cult person, emerged as a spiritual ambassador when Mr. P .V. Narasimha Rao was Prime Minister. Ravi Shankar, Ram Dev, Matha Amritananda Mai, and Satya Sai Baba, have devotees in both Central and State Governments who facilitate their activities. In each State several cult persons have amassed wealth and established powerful empires. Thanks to their connections, politicians come to their support whenever necessary. Sri Sankaracharya of Kanchi in Tamil Nadu was arrested on criminal charges. But the Hindu political parties such as the BJ P tried to come to his rescue.
Presidents of India prostrated before holy persons as part of their "official" visits. Rajendra Prasad, Shankar Dayal Sarma, and Abdul Kalam are typical examples. Similarly, Prime Ministers, Ministers, judges, and officials made their religious visits official. Mr. Atal Behari Vajpaye and Mr. P. V. Narasimha Rao as Prime Ministers set a bad example. Their practices made practice of secularism in public life more difficult.
The confusion about secularism has percolated to all levels. The compulsion of elections makes the political parties impotent before cults and religious holy persons.
The Left parties are supposed to be secular and non-religious, if not irreligious. But this is not so. Communists gained power in States several times. They did not practice secularism. Take the example of Kerala. Communists ruled the south Indian State quite for some time. There is Ayyappa cult in Kerala. People annually visit the Ayyappa temple located atop the Sabarmalai hill. Neighboring State devotees visit the temple in thousands. On the last day of the visit during January, the Government officially involves the Electricity Department, the Forest Department, and temple administration in the function. On another hill near Sabarimalai, the Government arranges to light camphor so that devotees can see what is described as Divine Light. Of course, it is just make-believe. This practice is going on every year. Communists also resort to this anti-secular make-believe.
When there were protests, the Communist Party Chief Minister defended the practice saying that the State stood to gain from pilgrim traffic.
The Communist Party (Marxist) rules West Bengal state. Every year religious sacrifices are performed for 9 days during Dasara. The State Government makes all arrangements and encourages the religious practice. The Communist Government describes this practice as "cultural." The party adopts the compromising attitude to perpetuate itself in political power. Communists have never tried to educate people about the wrong notions surrounding the Durga cult, lest they should lose popularity. The West Bengal Communist Government closed its eyes to the atrocities of Mother Teresa in treating sick children and also kept silent when she diverted the funds to the Catholic church instead of spending them on poor children.
Mr. Surjit Singh Barnala, CPM leader from Punjab State, wears a turban, and grows beard and moustache. He looks like a typical Sikh religious person. Sikh religion insists that hair should not be cut; turban is a ‘must', and so on and so forth. The Communist leader never resisted this Sikh religious practice or tried to educate the Sikhs that dress is personal. On the other hand, he defends these cult practices in dress and food as "cultural."
Even the Maoists are no exception. There is a popular festival in Telangana known as Sammakka and Saarakka jatara. It is nothing but a religious cult where people gather and observe all cult practices. Yet the Communists participate and support this jatara depicting Sammakka and Sarakka as tribal heroines. Thus, they are absorbed in mass religious practice. Popular extremist singer Gaddar has visited Ramappa temple and the Bhadradri temple and prayed for the Telangana separate state cause!
Scientist President Kalam`s Secularism:
Mr. Kalam is an astronomy technologist from South India. When he was elected President of India, secularists felt happy and expected genuine secular practice from the highest dignitary. But Mr. Kalam started visiting cult persons like Satya Sai Baba, Matha Amrithananda Mayi and Brahma Kumaris. This practice of encouraging holy persons started with the first President of India, Mr. Rajendra Prasad. He not only visited religious persons but also washed their feet in public. Presidents Sankar Dayal Sarma and Venkataraman exhibited their faith officially.
The Bharatiya Janata Party was in power for some time at the Center and in some States. Since it stood for religion, none expected it to practice secularism. The disappointment came from the Congress party and Left parties.
Muslims and Christians, Sikhs etc took advantage of the misinterpretation of secularism and gained much for their religious practices. Muslims started ignoring the rulings of the Supreme Court regarding noise pollution at the time of prayers. Muslims use mikes and loud-speakers causing nuisance to residents, and students during examination time. Christians and Hindus imitate them as though god is deaf! Churches, masjids, and mandirs are built obstructing roa