Governance · Law · Public Policy

Social and Religious Lines in India

The Preamble to the constitution clearly says “We the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC ….” The question is how much is the idea of secularism adhered to in a society which shows incidents of constantly being divided on social and religious lines?

The best example to start with is the Hindu Muslim divisions in India which keep on arising time and again in a society which claims it to be secular. According to one version, the Muzzafarnagar riots arose because a girl from Hindu Jat family was allegedly harassed in an eve teasing incident by a Muslim youth in Kawal village. As a matter of revenge, the Hindu relatives of the girl killed the youth which reportedly sparked off the clashes. First of all …Who gave them the right to cause death of another person?  Clearly, law gives no right to a person to cause death of any other person. Section 96, Indian Penal Code talks about private defense only when there is reasonable apprehension of death or grievous hurt.  When the brutal Delhi gang rape happened in December 2012 no when came forward to provide help to the girl who was callously raped to death. Were people not concerned then or is it only the religious lines which make them more vulnerable to protect their women?

As per the reports, the incident left 62 dead, including 42 Muslims and 20 Hindus and injured 93 and left more than 50,000 displaced. All these people lost their lives for what? Just because a bunch of Hindus and Muslims were intolerant towards their faith. Is this what a supposed to be secular nation has turned into?

Yogi Adityanath’s men telling Hindus to rape Muslim women are horrifying. What does respect of a woman has to do with religion? Do men have right to rape if a woman is Muslim? The religion is not a tool which could be used to harm people. It is an inner belief.  A belief in one great power. No religion teaches to kill or rape or to harm another person in any possible way.

The wrong interpretation and manipulation of holy texts is a Gordian knot which gives birth to animosities between people of different faiths. The recent incident in Agra of around 300 forced conversions of Muslims to Hinduism came as shocking news.  Such religious compulsion can be direful for the social and religious freedom of the people of India.

Unlike the popular belief, Koran clearly talks about no compulsion in matters of religion. To quote one verse of Koran, “To you be your religion, to me be mine.”  Evidently, the holy books are not propagating rancor between different faiths, it’s the people who are constantly trying to manipulate and mold the holy text according to their own satisfaction.

The recent case, where a church in east Delhi was burnt was the fifth incident in nine weeks when a church was attacked.  The rising number of such cases in present times is an alarm that secular nature of the country is in immense danger and it could not be saved by any government policy until and unless people realize that any religion only teaches to ‘love one another’ and not to kill one another.

The caste system which originated more than 2000 years ago still continues to be a challenge to equal status of every citizen in Indian society. In the 21st century, after such a long passage of time, the caste system still upholds its roots robustly. The division of four caste i.e.  Brahmins , Kshatriya , Vaishya and Shudra continue to exist even today  .Despite of the article 14 , article 15 being in place and provision regarding untouchables in the constitution , people continue to distinguish on caste lines.  The condition of Dalits in Gujarat is the worst.  They are continuously harassed and discriminated against despite of government policies being in place. Dalit women face more discrimination and sexual abuse from upper caste men and police than any women from other castes .Such a conduct is alarming and clearly puts in question the value and ethics of Indian society which seem to shift with the caste lines.

Denying basic rights to anyone only because he/she is born in a Dalit family is a worst case of repudiation of human rights.

 According to official data, in the year 2014 on average one dalit was murdered every fortnight in Gujarat. According to BBC reports, Even today in Haryana Dalits are tied to the trees and beaten by upper caste people.  Such incidents are not only traumatic in nature but also question the very idea of equality which article 14 guarantees to every citizen of the country as a Fundamental Right.

The former PM, Mr. Manmohan Singh described untouchability as a blot on humanity and acknowledged that despite constitutional and legal protection, caste discrimination exists through much of India.

More than any government policies regarding the untouchables, the need of the hour is for people to give up such strict adherence to the caste system and become more sensitive towards the human rights. There is a need to understand that caste or religion is not something which a person decides himself, it is what a person is born into without being given any choice.

Honor killings are another example which shows the extent to which an Indian society is willing to go just to save their caste or religious principles. Killing of a person only because that person married someone from another caste or religion is petrifying.  The rising number of such cases in India is an issue of concern as it shows the mental attitude of Indian society.  As per the official data, there were 18 cases of honor killing in 2014. The tragic case in which a girl studying in Delhi University was strangled to death by her parents who claimed that she destroyed the family ‘prestige’ by marrying  a man from different caste.  How was the killing justified? Is marrying a person from another caste is such a crime that it gives right to parents or any other person to take away a life?

On one hand India is developing at such a rapid pace and is one of the fastest growing economies of the world and on the other hand it is divided on social and religious lines. To reduce such a contradiction is what the need of the hour is.

 To quote Jawaharlal Lal Nehru from his speech, TRYST WITH DESTINY, “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.”

About the Author

Ankita SrivastavaAnkita Srivastava is a first year law student pursuing her 3 year LL.B. from Campus Law Centre, Delhi University. She has completed her graduation in Political Science from Miranda House, Delhi University. Besides LL.B, she is learning Spanish as well. She is a trained paralegal. Her hobbies include reading, travelling, watching movies and playing guitar.

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