India, the largest democracy in the world, continues to be ruled by a Constitution which embeds secularism in its framework through the “one man, one vote”, equal opportunity offered by the Center to all citizens. , the same protection of the law afforded to all by the relevant state government which exercises autonomous control over law and order, a self-regulating electoral commission which prohibits communal appeals during the election campaign and the mandate that the political executive governing the nation would not bear a denominational seal. The rise of the BJP through the electoral process in recent years has led the opposition to construct certain narratives in an attempt to politically undermine the former – stoking fear of “majoritarianism”, rejecting calls for nationalism and stepping up traditional advocacy. of the “Muslim cause”.
Domestic politics in India has seen many familiar attractions and pressures and breaches of democratic norms, but the heckling over an allegedly disparaging comment on Islam was allegedly made by a BJP spokesperson through a reference to Hadis – the account of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad which had been a subject of protracted research by scholars of Islamic jurisprudence – gave anti-Modi lobbies in India and abroad a handful to escalate the “proxy war”. policy against the BJP regime.
An alleged indiscretion by a ‘party’ official leads to calls for a ‘national apology’ and the protest goes so far as to assert that one religion was above all others in the sensitivity of its followers.
It is true – and this must be respected – that according to the Koranic injunction, Islam was presented as the “perfect” religion and this also for all times to come because the Prophet was Khatimul Anbia – the last of the messengers of God .
However, this is a matter of belief within the Muslim community and it cannot erase the concept of equal respect for all religions that a democratic secular state like that of India follows. There are strong laws against the offense of hurting the religious feelings of a community and creating community discord that apply to all faiths and meet the requirements of a multi-religious and multi-cultural society.
Religion defines an individual’s relationship with his God while culture – which has a positive contribution from religion – harmonizes a person’s relationship with another member of society. Any religion given to excessive exclusivism can become problematic for a democratic regime that draws its strength from a shared culture of the land while respecting all faiths.
India places all religions on an equal footing and does not discriminate among its citizens on the grounds of caste, creed, region, class or gender. This is how Mahatma Gandhi’s call that all gods are the same found expression in his favorite prayer “Ishwar Allah Tero Naam”.
While allowing a free exchange of thoughts on the teachings of religions, this approach tolerated no derogatory remarks about anyone’s faith and gods. The handling of any transgression in this regard by the democratic government of India is an internal matter of the nation. India has the second largest Muslim population in the world and its freedom of religion, including the means to offer prayers and choice of livelihood, is fully protected.
Muslim countries do not have to act as protectors of the Muslim minority in India who have every right to protest against any attack on their religious feelings by any citizen, by any authorized means.
However, if protesters engaged in mass street violence, they would face a chilling response from the state. This is especially important as enemy agents are known to have exploited such situations.
Islamic countries can express concern about an event that violates the religious feelings of Muslims in another country, but they should not go on the offensive against an established democratic system over it.
They would actually help the cause of democracy if they affirmed their acceptance of all religions and their gods, in the first place. It is not advisable to project religion into national and international politics and use an isolated event of indiscretion from a “party functionary” to denigrate India as a nation and join the political lobby against the Modi government as such.
Any offense relating to the propagation of communal hatred punishable under Indian law must be investigated by the relevant state police, whoever the perpetrator is, and the responsibility of the latter cannot be transferred from the state government to the Center. The management of law and order must be kept above politics.
India’s international relations under Prime Minister Narendra Modi are based on the enlightened strategy of developing bilateral friendships for mutually beneficial economic and security interests aligned with the cause of world peace.
This policy has been followed towards democratic states, Islamic regimes and even autocracies, in recognition of the sovereignty of each nation. Hopefully, these relations will not be weakened by acts that place religion above nationality and display the superiority of one religion over another.
India would do well to reaffirm its equality of approach towards all religions and punish any offense of using derogatory remarks against any religion and its gods, strictly under the laws of the nation. Our diplomacy should particularly engage with other countries – including OIC members – to argue that in a democratic and secular dispensation, sensitivities on matters of faith must be equally respected regardless of community. Nothing that divides the world on the basis of religion can do any good – modes of worship may differ, but this must not hinder a culture of unity and must not create division among Indian nationals.
The preamble of our Constitution describes the promotion of the unity and integrity of the nation as its primary objective, even though the Constitution goes on to describe India’s system of governance as a Union of States.
It is unfortunate that the minority policy in this country has led to a tendency to depreciate the very idea of nationalism and to regard the mandate to salute the national flag or to stand during the singing of the national anthem as an “imposition to any minority. It is time for India to move forward on the path of national unity and inter-community harmony and re-emphasize “development for all”. Ordinary people in all communities ultimately have the same concerns about their children’s livelihoods, safety and future prospects.
In a democracy with a one-man-one-vote electoral system, any political party would strive for a majority and power. It is logical that the majority community could return a much larger number of representatives to the assemblies or to Parliament – this would not change the secular mandate that the Constitution confirms.
Any legislation that violates the right to equality will not withstand judicial scrutiny. Beyond personal freedom of worship, all Indians are politically equal. However, the reality of caste, creed and region-based politics prevailed in independent India – one result of this was realpolitik which made opposition parties realize that in the face of a divided majority community of in many ways, the support of the large minority is crucial for elections. The injection of religion into domestic politics is damaging enough – the fallout from the controversy over the alleged ‘insult’ to a religion by a ‘party official’ in India taking the form of a protest by Muslim countries directed against India as a sovereign nation, has created the impression that there is also a projection of religion in international politics.
This should stop in the interest of preserving the identity of the democratic world as a whole. India, for its part, remains committed to establishing mutually beneficial relations with Islamic countries, regardless of their different systems of governance.
(The author is a former Director Intelligence Bureau. Opinions expressed are personal)