Almost 72 years ago, our country woke up as a free nation to make its mark in the modern world. Our founding fathers laid the foundation of this great nation on the unity and brotherhood of its people for our unity had proven to be a powerful weapon, instrumental in achieving freedom from British Colonialism. The Indian National Movement was a movement that had unified people of different castes, creeds and religions and only then it had been successful in uprooting the British Regime from Indian Soil.
Immediately after achieving freedom, there was a Herculean task before our national leaders, to keep the peoples of different religions and regions united. A task that was especially difficult as the country was still nursing the wounds of partition. But our leaders of the time showed a sense of maturity and magnanimity in keeping the future of the nation their only priority while making numerous sacrifices, personal and otherwise. The partition of the country based on the two-nation theory had led to unforeseen tragedy as lacks of people were killed and lacks others displaced. But despite the tragedy, lacks of Muslims chose to live in India and likewise many Hindus, Sikhs and Christians chose to build their lives in Pakistan. It was only possible because since time immemorial ‘Bharat’ had been the land of saints, sufis and Gurus and the teachings of these elevated souls gave them the strength and courage to again live together as brothers and try to build a bright future over the ruins of a bleak past. For the role that our nation builders and these unsung heroes played in creating the modern India, they deserve a warm salute.
But, years later the secular fabric of our nation seems shaken as there is a palpable sense of insecurity and fear among the minorities. The campaign has driven a wedge between different communities of the country which is clearly visible and thus reported not only by national but also international media.
Only recently the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo released the State Department’s report on International freedoms, an annual submission mandated by Law. The report consisting of country wise chapters detailed mob related violence, legal status of minorities and government policies in the chapter on India.
The report referred to the Central government’s and State Governments’ steps to affect Muslim practices and institutions and its challenge in the Supreme Court to the minority status of Muslim minority educational institutions affording them independence in hiring and curriculum decisions. The report also highlighted that various activists understand the proposal to rename cities as a strategic design to erase Muslim contribution to Indian History.
While I agree with our government’s rejection of the US findings on the ground that no foreign entity has the right to report on the state of our citizen’s rights, the concern of the global family and independent agencies cannot be completely overlooked. Our ruling establishment has to seriously check acts of mob related violence and vandalism as soon as possible so that Indian secular image is not dented anymore. The duty of the government at this crucial juncture is to prevent religion based violence, oppression and discrimination. It has to facilitate the creation of an atmosphere where the society at large realises that all countrymen have equal rights in all spheres of life, without any discrimination on the basis of caste, colour, region or religion and that no religious group can claim to be the custodian of the country. For the following words of our First PM, Jawahar Lal Nehru stand as relevant today as they were decades ago- “All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India with equal rights, privileges and obligations. We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action.”
It is also noteworthy to analyse the role of opposition parties in totality in the present scenario which has not been satisfactory in protecting the rights of minorities. As it is the moral and constitutional duty of the opposition in a democratic setup to raise their voice against all kinds of discrimination and injustice .It’s high time for the opposition to come forward aggressively to protect the secular fabric of our country,
Only when all communities and religions can freely and peacefully thrive and contribute towards the country’s progress can PM Narendra Modi’s slogan of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas be said to be implemented in letter and spirit.
(Teja Singh is Advocate, J&K HIgh Court Jammu)