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.