The secularism implies equal treatment to all religions in India without endorsing or giving any preferential treatment to any one by the state. At the time of independence from the British imperialists, the division of the country was made on the basis of the ‘Two Nation Theory’ pursued by Mohammad Ali Jinnah and other Muslim League leaders - the essence of which was that the Hindus and Muslims are so different that they cannot peacefully co-exist together. Though Pakistan opted for and progressed as a Islamic state but India practically opted for secularism without specifically adopting it through the Constitution. The term secular was later included in the Preamble to the Indian Constitution through the 42nd amendment in 1976 but neither the Constitution nor any other law specifically defines the relationship between the state and religion.
The laws of the country, however, implicitly ask the state and its institutions to recognise all religions, enforce parliamentary laws, and recognise and respect pluralism in the country. Notwithstanding these provisions, there is a clear dichotomy in the applicable code of law because Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains in the country live under the common law but the Muslim population has a separate Sharia-based Muslim Personal Law including the matters such as inheritance, marriage, divorce, alimony etc. Such inequality has created a large number of serious social and political issues such as polygamy, extrajudicial and unequal divorce rights, inheritance rights, improving the quality of education in religious institutions etc.
As against this in Western countries, the secularism implies complete separation of the religion from State. However, many Western countries are officially secular yet they endorse an official state religion. Germany, England and many other West European countries have mixed population with the majority Christians and other minority religious groups yet the countries are officially designated as Christian nations. Thus Indian secularism is radically different from the conception of secularism in the Western Europe which does not even pretend to have equality or impartiality in the matters of the religion.
While conceptually the Indian position on secularism appears more rational but its application by the state has been a cause of abuse as the political parties are known to igniting the social and religious conflicts and take sides for consolidating their voters’ base to stay in power. While several political parties including the Communists and Regional/Socialists are in the play but in essence it is the role of two national parties viz. Indian National Congress (INC or Congress) and Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) that really matters grossly influencing the socio-religious and political fabric of the nation.
The INC, historically most popular and dominant political party established in 1885, is one with a broad-base that participated in the freedom struggle under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and ruled this country for almost six decades after independence. Traditionally, the Congress has the image so carved of a secular party on a social-liberal platform and centre-left leanings in the Indian politics. On the other hand, the BJP is currently the largest political party in terms of strength in the parliament and state assemblies which holds no secrets about its right-wing ideology and staunch nationalist sentiments. The party has undergone several transformations since it was first established in 1951 as the Bhartiya Jan Sangh, and is often identified for its commitment to Hindutva.
Ironically, despite the professed ideology of an equal treatment to all religions without endorsing or giving any preferential treatment to any one by the state, the Congress brand of secularism constantly failed to follow it in the letter and spirit under the long years of its regime since independence. The Party has been often accused of giving a preferential treatment and appeasement to the minority (Muslim) community and allowing them to continue with Sharia based own personal law by recognising them culturally different from other Indians religions and Christians as electoral strategy.
In fact, Manmohan Singh, ex-Prime Minister of the Congress party is on record to say that the Muslims minority have the first and foremost right on the national resources. In later years, the Communists and regional parties with socialist makeup tried to snatch, and to a considerable extent successfully, this agenda and tactics of the Congress in various parts of the country. Ironically, the followers of this form of secularism claim themselves as the true secularists and liberals who oppose any attempt of reforms in the Muslim community or uniform civil code under the influence of orthodox Muslim leaders and clergy on the plea that equal laws for all citizens, irrespective of their religion, would impose majoritarian Hindu sensibilities and ideals.
On the other hand, the BJP is an advocate of Hindutva i.e. preserving and glorifying the ancient cultural heritage and traditions of Hinduism. At the same time, it talks of social justice and development of all communities and favours a uniform civil code for all citizens under the state laws. According to this party, a separate Sharia and religious laws for Muslims militate the principle of equality before law and human rights, discriminate against Muslim women, permit religious entities to interpret religious laws at discretion, thereby creating the plurality of the unequal citizenship. This stand of the BJP is interpreted by a large section of the Muslim community as against their interests and many political parties compete among themselves, each claiming a true champion of the Muslims’ cause. Simultaneously, the Congress, communist and socialist parties charge the BJP as a communal party for their alleged approach and ideology. In the following lines, the author intends to analyse the concept of secularism and its application in Indian conditions since independence.
Nehru Brand of Secularism
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru ruled the country as prime minister after the independence till his death in May 1964 and he is often lauded by many historians, political analysts and intellectuals as true secularist. Nehru has manyfeathers in his cap viz. freedom fighter, leader, statesman, politician, historian, writer, reformist and humanist, and people have written and spoken volumes about his persona and virtues. For instance, modern historian Ram Chandra Guha holds him at very high esteem for his secular approach. Historian David Kopf called Nehru’s book ‘The Discovery of India’ a gift to the Indian renaissance movement by reconstructing more than five thousand years of Indian cultural history with a pride, passion, and meticulous devotion. But here the purpose is not to seek his glorious record or analyse the virtues and faults of an iconic leader but to point out certain ground facts and realities, and implications of his stated secular ideology on the Indian democracy.
The country experienced worst ever communal riots, bloodbath, arson and other crimes against humanity consequent to the creation of two independent dominions for the Muslims and Hindus by dividing the nation after the partition in 1947. While Pakistan opted to pursue future course as an Islamic state but India with a Hindu majority remained a secular state though the Constitution was not specifically spelled to that effect. Under Nehru’s premiership, the Personal Laws of the Hindu community were promptly framed and Hindu Code bill passed by the Parliament but he consciously and conspicuously avoided taking similar initiative action for the Muslim community. By implication this gives an impression as if only Hindus needed reforms and Muslims didn’t.
Now after seventy years, even a reference to reforms in the Muslim community is suffice to ignite the violent reaction from the orthodox leaders and clerics from the community alleging such person or party as communal and anti-Muslims. Uniform civil code could have been a normal legislation around that time for the simple reason that India was partitioned on purely religious lines on two-nation theory where all other communities and people who stayed back had right to enjoy same fundamental rights to live with dignity but also had obligation to abide by the laws of the land.
Further, under the Nehru regime the legislation was brought for the administration and acquiring the immovable properties of the Hindu temples and Mutts but similar action was not taken for the minority communities, mainly Muslims. In fact, it is not a secret now that when the likes of Sardar Patel and Babu Rajendra Prasad took initiative to renovate the famous Somnath Temple in Gujarat, it was opposed by Nehru citing secular credentials of the country. Even after the renovation work was completed, it is alleged that Nehru (as prime minister) opposed Babu Rajendra Prasad, then President of India, visiting Gujarat for the inauguration of temple which of course he refused to oblige but inaugurated it as a Private citizen.
On the other hand, Nehru is believed to be instrumental in facilitating the annual Haj pilgrimage for Muslims by persuading the private ship owners to ply their vessels to Saudi Arabia. Later, the Government of India under Nehru started the Haj subsidy in form of discounted Air fares in 1959 with the Haji Act under his regime. A categorical statement invariably invites opposition from certain quarters but clearly, such actions do not fit in any module of secularism Western or Indian; a national leader or party should either maintain equidistance from religious issues of all communities or be equally helpful to all communities. One would find it difficult to understand Nehru's secularism - his reluctance to appreciate religious sensitivities of Hindus while going out of way to facilitate the monority communities for the same cause.
As a reformist and leader with modern outlook, Nehru is quoted as being critical of several Hindu practices and rituals citing it as superstitions of a backward community but he never dared to criticise or raise his voice against many social evil practices of the minority communities. He was believed to have conviction that the religion was irrelevant, backward and superstitious, and as an agnostic he was a staunch believer of rationality, secularism and scientific approach for the futuristic India. In Nehru’s perspective, the secularism was the freedom of religion and conscience including freedom for those who had no religion subject to their not interfering with each other and with the basic conceptions of the state. Secularism, in his purported view, conveyed the idea of social and political equality, and therefore a caste-ridden society like India was not properly secular.
Thus at conceptual level, Nehru’s vision of secularism was very broad and laudable but while translating the same in practice he faltered on many counts in his political life as can be seen from few illustrations in the foregoing paras. It was like putting the Hindu majority on the defensive, and predicating Indian secularism on certification by the minorities, that the majority is secular. This brand of secularism neither fits with the Western concept nor conforms to the Indian context. Needless to mention if there is defective foundation and beginning, the entire structure is bound to be faulty and suffering in the long run.
Constitutional Amendment on Secularism
Vide the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution driven by Indira Gandhi, the definition of India was changed from a "Sovereign Democratic Republic" to a "Sovereign, Socialist Secular Democratic Republic", while many constitutional experts expressed apprehensions about the express need for such change. In fact, even when the Constitution was being framed the issue of incorporating the terms secular and socialist came into consideration at the behest of K.T. Shah, another member of the constituent committee. The proposal was shot down by B.R. Ambedkar, the principal architect of the Constitution, who was against binding the nation by defining social and economic order, these being dynamic factors prone to change according to needs and time. Besides, he was of view that the Constitution must provide a mechanism for regulating the work and organs of the state and not how the society should be organized in its social and economic matters.
Notwithstanding above, the Forty-second Amendment of the Constitution of India was enacted by the Congress regime under Indira Gandhi in 1976 during the Emergency. Apart from adding the terms secular and socialist in the preamble, several other far reaching changes were effected in the Constitution through this amendment. This inter alia included Fundamental Duties of citizens, limiting of the power of the Supreme Court and High Courts in the context of the constitutional validity of laws and establishing the parliamentary sovereignty with unrestrained powers to make laws and amend the Constitution without judicial review.
By this amendment, while the spirit of secularism was formalised but the Congress government in essence continued with the policy of appeasement hitherto fore as electoral politics. The classic Shah Bano case could be cited to illustrate the point whereby the Congress government under Rajiv Gandhi with overwhelming majority in the Parliament had overturned the verdict of the Supreme Court Constitutional Bench granting the right of alimony to the divorcee woman in 1986 under the pressure from the orthodox Muslim politicians and clergy. This misuse of the mandate of people by the Congress government was clearly neither healthy for the secular fabric and gender equality nor for the jurisprudence in the country.
Secularism versus Communalism
Although the BJP in various transformations has always stressed on the Hindu Asmita (Hindu Identity) and Rashtra Gaurav (National Pride) citing the ancient cultural legacy of the Hinduism to the discomfort of many people and parties but two events during the last three decades led to a for greater polarisation and debate of secularism versus communalism in the political and social circles.
In Hindu traditions, the City of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh is remembered as the birth place of Lord Rama. On a disputed site where Rama was born as per Hindus belief, a mosque was built by a Mughal general Mir Baki in sixteenth century apparently after demolishing a temple that existed earlier. Ever since this remained an emotive issue for Hindus and a cause of numerous conflicts between the two communities for centuries. On December 6, 1992 the tempers ran high and the existing structure on the site was demolished by the Kar Sewaks (volunteers) belonging to the Hindu community. This event had a major political fallout and the minority communnty’s backlash leading to the damage and destruction of hundreds of religious places of the majority community in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The title suit about the ownership of the site is still pending for a decision in the Supreme Court and the BJP and allied organizations are actively supporting and pursuing the temple construction cause.
In another event on 27 February, 2002, a train returning from Ayodhya was put on fire by a mob in Godhra, Gujarat. Consequently, two bogeys were completely burnt killing at least 58 Hindu pilgrims. The event triggered an outbreak of communal violence leading to human casualty and material loss in both communities in hundreds but casualty on Muslims side was much more. This unfortunate incident gave an opportunity to the Congress and other opposition parties to openly side with one community by calling the Chief Minister of Gujarat and the BJP party as communal and responsible for the violence. Indian politics has always relied on polarising the electorate on religion and caste basis and these two events were suffice for the Congress, Communist and Socialist parties to take the mantle of secular parties while simultaneously branding the BJP as communal party forever.
Of late, this secular versus communal divide has been so strong and acute that if a Hindu common citizen or a political activist or leader talks about the Hinduism or Nationalism or found promoting national symbols like National Anthem, National song and National Flag, the issue is immediately politicised by a section of media and political parties citing him as a ‘Hindu Nationalist’, which according to them is a grave threat to the secular credentials of the nation. It is so difficult to talk reason or make out a case that the ‘nationalism’ is love and pride for the nation, and a person who loves nation cannot be threat for own countrymen. Nationalism should not be insulted by qualifying it with 'Hindu' or any other community name.
Such divisory tactics played by a section of media, political parties and leaders have caused a dangerous rift and polarisation in the contemporary Indian society. Consequently, even on the issue of paying respect or acknowledging the national symbols, the country always appears to be divided. A section of the Muslim community openly opposes it arguing that the same is against Islam and Quranic teachings while another section driven by nationalist sentiments calls it unpatriotic. Self proclaimed secularist politicians quickly jump to endorse the chorus of the former group keeping an eye on the electoral angle. For illustration, recently the Uttar Pradesh BJP government issued advisory to the government aided Madrassas for playing National Anthem on the Independence Day as is the practice in other schools. A voice was raised against the advisory by a section of Muslim politicians and clergy only to be quickly endorsed by the Congress and other opposition parties. Needless to mention, a large number of Madrassas defied the advisory and instead played ‘Saare Jahan se Achchha…’ another patriotic song written by the poet Muhammad Iqbal who was among the chief activists for the partition of India and the creation of an Islamic theocracy..
The ground reality is that the majority Muslim population is peace loving and honestly believes in simply pursuing ‘Roji-Roti’ (livelihood) and ‘Deen’ (creed or religion). They are not interested in such controversies created by the community leaders and clerics that suits self-styled secularists (pseudo-secularists is a better description) of the country but when they are misled by the community leaders citing their religion is under threat, then many of them tend to fall prey to this disinformation due to deep religious sentiments.
On the other hand, Hindu society has an impeccable record and proud history of tolerance towards other religions. Since ancient times, Hinduism carried the heritage of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (The entire universe is one Family) which allowed them to willingly accept Jews who fled to escape Roman persecution and Parsis (Zorostrians) facing Islamic persecution through genocide centuries ago. Hindu kings and warriors never invaded any foreign land outside Bhratvarsha (India) since ancient time to exploit and snatch others’ land or riches. This philosophy is ingrained in Hinduism and Hindu psyche and in most of the cases, they are known to retaliate only in self-defence.
For several decades, Indian politics was dominated by a single political party successfully staying in power by playing cast and communal cards. In the recent years, educated Hindus have increasingly realized the designs of pseudo-secularists and are pressing their cause for the true secularism where every religious community should be treated at par by the government and Hindus alone should not be ignored or taken for granted.
While the Congress and many other opposition parties continue to accuse the BJP as a communal party, Prime Minister Modi on more than one occasions has clearly spelt out the policy of government to allay fears of any minority community, “The principles of equal respect for all faiths and secularism have been fundamental components parts of the Indian ethos… …It is integral to the constitution of India. Everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence.” Ever since in office in 2014 at the Centre, the Modi government has pursued the policy ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ (Let everybody join hands, for everyone’s progress).
The question is if a party talks about nationalism, invokes respect for the national symbols, looks after the welfare of the majority community too along with the minorities, bids for the equal rights of all citizens before law, should this mean that the party is communal or it is a motivated agenda of the pseudo-secularist parties and groups with vested interests? Unfortunately, elections have been held in India on the basis of the cast and religion since independence and, therefore, all political parties must share blame for this. Each party has its own vote bank and tries to woo the vacillating population which falls under different religions and castes. How could it be when one party does it they continue to remain secular but when the same is done by the other party in retaliation or as a counter-measure they are branded as communal. A fewe recent instances are cited here to illustrate the point here:
The Congress and some other parties criticise the BJP government move to identify and depart the illegal immigrant Rohingya and Bangladeshi nationals (mostly Muslims) while they maintain a calculated silence over the plight of lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits and Bodo Tribals in Assam which were compelled to leave their own homeland/country.
While thousands of million rupees have been spent over the Haj pilgrimage over the years, steps recently taken by the NDA government for Amarnath pilgrims were opposed by the opposition parties including the Congress.
During the recent Gujarat elections in December 2017, the Congress president had more than two dozen visits to temples during the campaign; and was declared by the party leaders as being a janeyu-dhari pandit and Shiva-devotee. Recently, another Congress leader has announced distribution of puja-kit among Hindu devotees in Gujarat. It is not difficult for any rational minded person to see the motive behind these overtures.
The Chief Minister and Trinmool Congress Party (TMC) leader in Bengal stopped Hindus to carry out religious rituals on the particular day in the recent past because that coincided with Muharram of the minority community which has almost 30% population in the state. Now the same leader attends a party event to distribute thousands of cows and religious books to woo Brahmins in the state.
The Samahwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh have been openly wooing Muslims and Yadavas while the Bahujan Samaj Party doing same with the Dalit community and Muslims; both claim themselves as a secular party while simultaneously accusing the BJP as communal.
These are only few illustration and instead of deriving any conclusion, the author leaves it to the readers' wisdom to see motives of the parties involved. However, the author would like to cite two more instances to illustrate the psyche of common man and how politicians exploit it to their own interests and electoral designs:
In July 2013, Nanglamal village in the communally sensitive Meerut, Uttar Pradesh experienced violence between the two communities wherein two Hindu people died and about a dozen were injured. The incident reportedly (official version) occurred when a group of Muslim youth objected to playing hymns during the Aarti in a Shiva Temple, damaged the loudspeaker, and started abusing and beating people who resisted. Reason it was Ramadan month and a masjid was located in the vicinity.
In another incident in September 2015, a case of mob lynching was reported from Bisara village, Dadri, Uttar Pradesh wherein one Muslim man was beaten to death and his son injured on the suspicion of slaughtering a cow-calf for the beef consumption. Reason cow slaughter is banned in Uttar Pradesh and Hindus venerate and protect cows since ancient times.
At the time of the first event, the Congress party ruled at the Centre while the second incident occurred after the BJP came in power at the Centre in 2014. It may also be relevant to mention here that the law and order is a state subject. During both the events, the Samajwadi Party was in power in Uttar Pradesh, which is long known for its pro-Muslim inclination. While the first case didn’t receive much of the media or government attention and was dismissed as a minor localised incident but the second incident was instantly blown out of proportion by a section of national media and political parties accusing the BJP government at Centre for spreading intolerance and communal hatred. A hype was created nationwide with the Congress party in lead about the growing intolerance and secularism being in great danger.
The incident became an international news putting the BJP government on defensive at the Centre with several Sahitya Akademi and other national awardees proceeding to return their awards against the alleged rise in communal violence and intolerance. Ironically, through this commotion the fact was completely ignored or forgotten that both the incidents were essentially isolated and localised events involving local population and the culprits in both cases should have been dealt with by the law and order machinery under the jurisdiction of the state government without any religious bias.
While talking of the communalism, one should objectively consider the ideology, policies and actions of a party towards people and communities and find out if it is actually working for the unity or division of the society. Unfortunately, the words secular or communal are being used in Indian politics simply based on the stand and approach towards one minority community. The truth is Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Jains and Parsees never figure in this debate in spite of being genuine minority communities in India. Ironically, Hinduism in not merely a religion, in a larger spectrum it is a cultural way of life which has survived several thousand years of turmoil but a mere reference to Hinduism and Hindutva is taken as offence by certain people and parties to brand any person or party being communal.
Intricacies of Secularism in India
Whatever model of secularism, Western or Indian, that we take, it is difficult to completely separate religion from the political system. Even the national heroes like Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi, in their time, are known to use religion and religious symbols to bring Indian masses together against the imperial powers. Consequently, after independence the government continued with association in religious affairs through institutions like the Department of Religious Endowments, Wakf Boards, appointment of Trustees of Temples, subsidies to Madrassas and Waqfs, subsiding religious pilgrimage etc. Where it appears to have failed was that it remain extremely supportive and liberal, to the extent of appeasement, in the context of one minority community but conspicuously ignored the needs of the major community taking them for granted. This dichotomy appears to have become a cause of discontent and resentment among the communities over a period of time.
Perhaps due to their inseparable nature, whenever the issue of secularism is raised it invariably has some political overtone of high or low intensity. Such concern could be about the nature of relationship between state and religion, interrelationship between different communities, and/or interdependence of secularism and democracy. It is possible to address such concern through the religious harmony which is ideally close to secularism but in practice difficult to achieve because of different political interests and ideologies. Ironically, almost every politician swears by the secularism but only few seem to really practice it. Fortunately, in India the judicial and legal structures still have credence in their ability to safeguard the secular fabric of the nation through constitutionally guaranteed provisions.
It is no more a secret that the political parties are using religion and caste to stay in power. The paradox is that on face they vouch for the secularism but in effect they systematically build vote banks on the basis of selective religion and caste. Compared to the yersteryear politicians who had some ethics, today’s politicians do not hesitate to ignite communal divide and trouble so long it serves their purpose and they quickly change or fine-tune their strategy according to the situational demand. The case in point is the recent Gujarat elections. At the national level, traditionally the Congress party boasts of true secular credentials while in practice known for appeasement of one minority community to the extent of ignoring the needs of the majority community. But during the recent Gujarat elections in December 2017, the Congress party president visited numerous temples to woo Hindu voters without simultaneously visiting any Muslim religious site. Indeed the religion is purely a personal matter and a person is not under obligation to visit or acknowledge shrines of other faith. But if the politician is linking it with electoral campaign, a true secularist would either get involved or maintain equidistance with all communities. For the communal politics, obviously Gujarat is not found attractive with the minority community population less than 10% in the state.
Almost every political party in India claims to be a secular party championing the cause of the welfare and well-being of all communities through various concessions. But unfortunately, vote bank politics of many such parties, and policies and action when in the government, is often found to be violating the thin line between concessions and appeasement. To prevent more damage to the secular fabric of the nation, it appears necessary for these parties to have deep introspection, a sense of balance and direction keeping the national interest above all considerations. In fact, it is high time that the political parties and leaders take measures to separate religion and state in the true spirit of secularism and stop special consideration for any one community. Ironically, many of these parties including the left-centric Congress, communist and socialist parties, a section of media and self-proclaimed intellectuals charge the BJP as communal force while assuming the secularist tag for the self by being comfortable with their lopsided appeasement approach towards one community.
However, the main hurdle today appears to be the eco-system developed under the grand old party over a long period to suit their continued stay in power. Unfortunately, the elements with vested interests in the system are active in all walks of life with a potential to derail any development and reform process. Such elements are in politics, religious institutions, bureaucracy, judiciary and, in fact, everywhere. I remember when I was still in government at a senior position, when the present government came in power in May 2014, how dozens of senior bureaucrates had sought to revert to their parent cadre unable to cop up with the political change of guard with a demand of high performance in the new order. When the elements of this eco-system join hands with the ambitious and power-hungry politicians in a sinister design, the combination has a potential to cause any institutional damage or derail any reform and development process. Unfortunately this is what is happening today in the country and even judiciary is not entirely free from this hangover. One wonders if the political outfits, particulary the grand old party, will ever learn to shed off the erstwhile rotten culture of the governance based on dividing the society on religion and cast basis by simultaneously adopting a true secular character and spirit of governance with 'Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas'.
The so-called ‘secular’ parties have treated minorities, mainly the Muslims, and scoring over them as a vote bank over the years by inciting a fear psychosis during the elections and intervening period that they must support them or else the 'communal BJP' would come to power. Therefore, the onus also lies on Muslims and other minorities to learn and get sensitized about the fundamentals of the secularism and at the same time selfish motives pseudo-secular politicians and community leaders. Unfortunately for many people in India, the secularism has become merely a narrow interpretation of concern for the religious appeasement of the minorities, particularly the Muslims with approximately 15% population which they perceive more as a potential vote bank.
Communalism is a divisive force that identifies people in distinct, often under conflict, religious groups while secularism tends to unify communities on the principles of equity and mutual respect. Virtues of the empathy, humanism and philanthropy remain basic traits of any truly secular person or party who would always look for the welfare and well-being of all citizens without making any distinction and discrimination on the birth, cast, creed or religion. Secularism, in true sense, would necessitate rising above the religious considerations to ensure natural justice and fair play with all communities. Therefore political parties and social/political activists, particularly self-proclaimed secularists in India, must have introspection as to what extent they qualify the essentials of secularism if they are genuinely concerned with the progress of communities and nation. Common people in all communities should also use wisdom to identify true and fake secularists.
Under a properly functioning secular and democratic government, people irrespective of their cast, creed or religion should be able to pursue their basic requirements of food, comfort of life and social security. The religious beliefs and spiritual matters should be left in the private domain, and political parties and government should neither interfere nor favour any community with any preferential treatment. The onus for this largely falls upon the two largest national parties i.e. the Congress and BJP for their continued relevance in the governance and nation building. It is the demand of time that they particularly the former sincerely endeavour to pursue true secular values envisioned in the Constitution for the inclusive growth and welfare of all communities and nation. Common people must also use their wisdom and education to identify and reject parties and politicians who play with their religious sentiments to further own vested interests.