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January 27, 2005
Secularism Zindabad!!! Secularism Zindabad!!! Secularism Zindabad!!!
Wonder, why this sloganeering? Well, why not? We are after all the proud citizens of our great country and we should once in a while remind ourselves that our country was founded on the basic principles of secularism.
So please join me in saying it aloud: 'Secularism Zindabad.'
Now that we are done with the sloganeering, let us get back to the ground and the realities therein.
Where is secularism heading towards in this great country of ours? Do we really practice the concept of secularism that our Constitution refers to?
The Preamble of our Constitution starts as:
'We, The People of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation...'
So, does the government make every effort to uphold this Constitution in letter and spirit? Does it make sure that its policies are driven to maintain the secular fabric of India? Unfortunately, not.
What have we, the citizens of India, done to make sure that secularism stays and flourishes in India? Sadly, very little!
What has the media -- the fourth estate -- done to make sure that every citizen of this country, irrespective of his/her religion gets a fair deal? Inexcusably, nothing.
If the government, the citizenry and the fourth estate are not doing anything to secure the secular fabric of our great country, where does that leave us and our future generations?
We have experienced numerous examples of horrendous governmental policies that go against the basic tenet of secularism. Secularism means 'the view that religious considerations should be excluded from civil affairs or public education.' It also means 'a doctrine that rejects religion and religious considerations.'
But how many times have we really seen it being actually practiced in the policies of this or the past governments?
One latest example of the United Progressive Alliance government's anti-secular policies has been the decision by the human resources development ministry to remove S K Pandey and M K Kaw from their respective posts of director and chairman of the Srinagar-based National Institute of Technology.
Since this latest move by the UPA government is related to the domain of Kashmir, it is very detrimental to the secular basis of our country and thus the national security of India. This act of replacing these two top officers of the institute, without justifiable reasons, demonstrates the continuing appeasement policy of the UPA government towards the majority community in Kashmir. By taking this shocking decision, the UPA government has once again succumbed to the diktats of the majority community in Kashmir and confirmed that it cannot appoint any member of the minority community to the top posts of such prestigious institutes.
In a country that is constitutionally based on the concept of secularism, such decisions based on racial considerations are nothing but violation of the law. One only needs to read the letters published in recent editions of the vernacular press in Kashmir to see the venomous attitude of majority community members towards one of these two officers from the minority community. This definitely is another way of ethnic cleansing of the minority community in the valley, the recent wave of which started in Kashmir way back in 1989.
By succumbing to the blackmail tactics of the majority community in Kashmir, the government is setting a very dangerous precedent in the Kashmir valley. If this policy of appeasement continues to be the fundamental policy of this government, it is only a matter of time before every appointment to central governmental posts in Kashmir will have to be ratified by its majority community chieftains.
In light of such policies being practiced by the government, what should the mainstream media's role and responsibility be?
The mainstream media needs to wake up and be real about secularism. It has been so far practicing pseudo-secularism and that is a death knell for our country. It needs to live up to its own responsibilities as a watchdog. We have plentiful examples where the mainstream media has played havoc with the concept of secularism. It has most often taken the side of the minority communities at the cost of the interest of the majority community, all based on its convenience.
I am not against any community per se. But in my opinion, the mainstream media's job is to be fair and balanced and cover each community equally and fight for each community's interests irrespective of its size and religion. Wouldn't that be being truly secular in principle, letter and spirit?
What should the role and responsibility of an Indian citizen be?
We, the citizens, always whine about the unjust policies of governments. But is that whining enough to bring about a change, a positive change? Does this whining absolve us of our responsibilities?
NO. Simply, NO.
We, the citizens, need to engage in meaningful protests as well as education of our elected representatives. We all should protest against such high-handed policies of governments that are unconstitutional and are against the national security interests of our country.
We, the citizens, should write/speak to our elected representatives and express our disgust and anger over any such policy that is unjust and puts our national interests at risk.
We, the citizens, the electorate, need to make it very clear to our elected representatives that their job is in our hands and if we are not happy with their performance they will be without a job after the next election. Every election has to be their performance appraisal. Only then will these politicians learn and listen to us. We all need to be the watch-dogs for our own national security and survival.
So, my fellow citizens, would you please stand up against each and every anti-secular policy of this and all future governments? Would you please watch your elected representatives (all the way from a panchayat in a village to the national Parliament in Delhi) and their actions and how those actions affect the survival of our great country?
Would you please watch the media organisations and patronise only those that work for the welfare of our great country?
Would you please realise your responsibility towards our great country and deliver?
Would you, please?
It is now or never.
Lalit Koul is the publisher and editor of Kashmir Herald (http://www.kashmirherald.com) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org