With the wives, one can expect a perfectly reasonable statement – if made by the husband – to be immediately cut down as nonsense; but finding highly educated, seemingly quite intelligent persons to try to tear down thoughts which are on the face of it most reasonable is something which surprises. In fact, surprises greatly!
Secularism, as a concept, would follow and derive as a principle of justice.
The core of natural justice is the thought-engine that each life is born with a certain potential and law should be crafted and allowed to function in a manner as to further and promote such potential.
To promote then such potential, a human being has to be treated equally with other human beings irrespective of his or her religion.
There can be no discrimination or disfavour of any human being on ground of religion if a human being, as a matter of working of natural justice, is to be allowed or helped to achieve the potential that his or her life is endowed with. If any particular religion is favoured by the state; then that automatically is discrimination against other religions and therefore a denial of the principles of natural justice as such discrimination hampers, obstructs and restricts followers of religions discriminated against from achieving the potential that their life and natural talents may be capable of.
Or in other words; since the principle of natural justice has the thought-engine or the cardinal principle of shaping laws in order to allow human potential to be achieved; it follows that any discrimination on grounds of religion would hamper achievement of such potential and would therefore be against the cardinal principle of natural justice.
As such, it would seem perfectly reasonable to support the concept of secularism in as much as it follows from the principles of natural justice.
The Indian Supreme Court often relies upon the United States Supreme Court for the purposes of interpreting the provisions of the Indian Constitution. This is because both the Indian Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court have been appointed as the ultimate custodians of the Constitution of their respective countries. Given this similarity between the Indian Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court as also the relatively much longer experience and history of the United States Supreme Court; Indian Supreme Court, as stated, finds it natural to often go through the views and opinions of the United States Supreme Court for the purposes of interpretation of Indian constitutional provisions.
While the concept of secularism would follow and be derived from the cardinal principle of natural justice as stated above; the United States Supreme Court gives wholesome support to the concept of secularism on the ground that the history of humankind has shown that whenever the machinery of the state has either merged with groups or numbers claiming to be religion-based; or has become closely associated with or influenced by religious organisations; then that near invariably has led to considerable strife and bloodshed and, therefore, the machinery of the state has to keep itself away from matters of religions and state intervention in matters of religion would be undertaken only when called for on grounds of secular notions of justice. [An illustrative judgement of the US Supreme Court to this effect, citing a number of other decisions of the same Court, is SCHOOL MANAGEMENT OF ABINGTON TOWNSHIP, PENNSYLVANIA VS. EDWARD LEWIS SCHEMPP 374 U.S. 203 (1963 )]
Thus, both as a matter of working and thinking of principles of natural justice as also the reading of human history – both not removed from each other; the concept of secularism seems eminently justified and worthy of entire support.
Sometime back, therefore, I posted something in social media in support of secularism. I was surprised by the vehemence and the hostility with which it was attacked by certain quarters !
The cornerstone of such violent attack was that secularism is a concept borrowed from the West and that it has been blindly and wholly wrongly adopted in India.
No, secularism is not a concept borrowed from the west. The propaganda that secularism is a concept borrowed from the west has to be shred apart.
The Vedas, going back thousands of years in history, lay down a number of shlokas that bespeak of secularism at its best. Some of these shlokas are reproduced here.
The Yajurveda states:
[May all beings look on me with the eyes of a friend: May I look on all beings with the eyes of a friend. May we look on one another with the eyes of a friend.]
Secular principles of equal treatment irrespective of religious denominations and co-existence in harmony – which would straightaway be trammeled if the state accords priority to any particular religion with the resultant discrimination against other religions – stand highlighted by the Prithvi Sukta in the Atharva Veda:
[Earth is HOME to humans of different thoughts & persuasions; – may it BENEFIT all of us.]
[Oh, Mother Earth, give to us, as your children the capacity to interact harmoniously; may we speak sweetly with one another.]
And the Rig Veda emphatically declares:
[All humans comprise but one fraternity.]
It is a mischievous myth – undertaken as propaganda on part of certain quarters – that secularism is a concept borrowed from the west. Secularism, very much to the contrary, is rooted in Indian thought from the very ancient times and has been poised and reflected in the most prestigious repositories of such thought, belief, culture and practice.
The following words, in this connection, spoken by Guru Govind may also be seen.
[Mandir or Mosque, Puja or Namaz, Puran or Quran have no difference. All human beings are equal.]
Secularism is eminently Indian in thought and concept and to propaganda that it is a concept borrowed from the west is grossly erroneous and unfair.