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Why Indianism is the only ‘–ism’ that stands true on the philosophy of our Constitution


IndiaBy Harshmeet Singh

Earlier this week, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, while announcing a judgment, spelled out the definition of ‘Indianism’ for the masses. According to Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar, “Indianism is Hindustaniat, which is akin to Kashmiriat. The expression Indianism also provides that the State shall not deny any person, which means a Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Christians etc equality before law or equal protection of laws within the territory of India (Article 14).” The Indianism doesn’t and would not mean that citizens/persons do not have right to practice and propagate their religion. The Indianism in the context of the Constitution not only protects but guarantees right to every citizen, which includes Muslims of this country to practice and propagate their religion. No law can be made to prevent the Muslims or any other community to practice and propagate their religion. All the people belonging to different religious denominations including Muslims have the freedom to effectively follow their religion’.

He defined Indianism as an umbrella which covers all the religions and religious activities under it. The decision was pronounced in the light of the fact that Indianism is the only ‘–ism’ that stands true on the philosophy of our Constitution, apart from ‘secularism’, which is a part of the preamble itself. At a time when feelings such as Religious Nationalism, Hinduism, Sikhism and others are running high among the citizens, this verdict takes us back to what our forefathers had in mind while framing the Constitution, and what we have, as a society, become.

In 2013, the same judge had observed that anyone who goes by the identity of ‘Hindu Nationalist’ or ‘Muslim Nationalist’ is working against the true spirit of ‘Indianism’. His previous verdict drew sharp reactions from a number of religious groups who took it as an attack on their patriotism.

The Indian constitution is unique in more ways than one. For instance, we follow a much more favourable definition of secularism as compared to some other secular nations. Our Constitution makers interpreted ‘secularism’ as state’s obligation to provide equal opportunities to everyone, irrespective of his or her religion. In contrast to this, countries such as France follow a different definition of secularism. According to them, secularism means that the state should have no religion. This explains multiple cases where Sikhs have been forced to remove their turbans or Muslims have been asked to take off their taqiyah (cap). It is perhaps this tolerance that has led to a number of ‘religious nationalist’ groups in the country.

Since our childhood, we have been trained to see things ‘relatively’. Someone else’s failure is seen as an essential condition of our success. Slowly but surely, such learning has captured our religious perspective as well. For my religion to be good, others’ religion has to be bad, is what our line of thinking has become. Speeches of these so called religious nationalist leaders seldom talk about the qualities of their own religion but go all out in degrading other religions. Thousands of people listening to their speeches and clapping on every line is a testimony to the fact that these leaders aren’t exclusive in their thinking.

India has seen numerous religions take birth on its land. While every new religion sought to move away from the evils of previously existing religions, none of them despised other religions in order to gain followers. The spirit of ‘Indianism’ takes inspiration from all those great religious reformers who tried to evolve something better without degrading any other religion or faith. Unlike today’s religious leaders, those great souls, about thousands of years ago, fought against social evils, rather than fighting with each other to prove their superiority.

There is absolutely no wrong in propagating one’s religious ideals. After all connection with one’s own roots is what keeps us true to ourselves. But when such propagation despises other faiths, it goes against the true spirit of ‘Indianism’. The word ‘Nationalist’ is powerful enough in itself. Prefixing a word like Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian would only dilute its significance.

‘I respect all religions & faith and follow my own religion’ is not such a hard fact to accept after all.

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Sri Lankan Muslims speak of tragedies back home

Sri Lankan Muslims and supporters protested outside the UN against the recent violence targeting their community

Sri Lankan Muslims and supporters protested outside the UN. IANS
Sri Lankan Muslims and supporters protested outside the UN. IANS

Sri Lankan Muslims and supporters protested outside the UN against the recent violence targeting their community, and for some of them it had been an intimate family tragedy.

While participating in the demonstration of about 250 people, on Wednesday, they narrated to IANS the harrowing moments they went through as they helplessly shared the trauma in real time over the phone with their families as the relatives were besieged by mobs during the riots.

Munir Salim’s parent’s home was destroyed and car set ablaze by a rampaging mob in Welekada Ambalateena near Kandy on March 7, and his elderly parents and his sister with her five children barely managed to survive only because the rioters could not break the main door.

Protest against violence and injustice. (VOA)

But they set fire to the second floor of the house, where his sister lived, said Salim, who is the president of the Sri Lanka Muslim Association of New Jersey. His sister fled downstairs with her children and survived with her parents, he added.

“I was feeling helpless talking to my parents when they first told me how they were throwing stones at our house and setting fire to the mosque and the shops in the area,” he said.

The rioters then moved away for a while seeking other targets, then returned to set the fire to the house and the properties as he was calling them back, he said.

The houses of two of his aunts nearby were also attacked and his cousin had to carry his paralysed mother as they fled for their lives, he said.

There were two deaths, injuries to dozens of people, hundreds of houses and businesses destroyed and several mosques damaged during the riots that started on February 26 and continued till March 10. Sri Lanka imposed a State of Emergency and deployed troops to quell the violence.

For Shihana Mohamed it was a heartbreak, listening over the phone as her family’s history of living harmoniously in the Kandy area for more than a thousand years, unraveled on March 6, she said.

She told IANS that her sister-in-law fractured her leg while fleeing the fury of the mob that attacked her brother’s house, destroying it and burning his car in Kengalla, also near Kandy.

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Her 83-year-old bedridden uncle’s house was also attacked, she said, and his family had to carry him to safety. As she was hearing about the attacks on her phone, she said that she wept and then desperately called diplomats asking for help. While the attacks were taking place, the security personnel stationed nearby did not intervene, she said.

Mohamed said that while the attackers were Sinhala extremists, there were other Sinhalas who came to the aid of Muslims at risk to themselves.

The Sinhala family next to her brother’s house tried to intervene, but the mob over-ran them, while a Sinhala neighbour stopped the rioters from burning down her house, even though they managed to break the windows, she said. Her uncle was protected initially by a Sinhala, she said. In another instance of communal amity, she said a Tamil family sheltered her sister-in-law, who had broken her leg.

For her family this was the second setback. During riots in 1989, which were not overtly communal but more political, her family’s properties were destroyed and they had to rebuild home and business.

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The Association of Sri Lankan Muslims in North America (Tasmina), which organised the protest, demanded that the UN intervene and hold the Sri Lankan government responsible for bringing the rioters to justice and protect minorities.

Ghazzali Wadood, who was one of the protesters, said, “It is the ultra-nationalists who are responsible for the attacks. The government should take action against the politicians behind the attacks.” IANS