TODAY’S India is in extreme and intense reflection, a burning contemplation, both within individuals and within the society. This is because the Constitution seems to be in confrontation with Religion, society with faith, and politicians with people. In 2019, the people of the country will decide whether they wish to be ruled by the Constitution or Religion. The Indian Constitution mandates an absolute separation between the State and Religion, and the absolute right of the electorate to decide its fate. But the controllers of political and religious powers wish to make Religion more supreme than the Constitution. They want to construct a Theocratic State, like the neighbouring Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which was formed largely on the basis of religious identity, and in opposition to the majority Hindus in the non-partitioned subcontinent.
The Indian citizen will need to answer foundational questions that will decide the shape of the society in this century. Should the Constitution continue to rule the society and nation? Should Religion decide? Should faith, which is intensely personal and a matter of individual choice, be imposed on all the citizens? Who will be the future rulers and emperors of India—politico-religious leaders or people committed to the Constitution? In fact, should India remain a secular democracy, or transform into a theocratic State? Do we need to change the Constitution?
For thousands of years, ever since the advent of civilisations, the State has battled Religion, at times in violent and virulent ways. So, sometimes political rulers acquired divine status, like in Egypt, and religious ones dictated politics, like Vatican did in the Medieval Age. The wars were about politics, but also about social and economic powers. The commercialisation of the State, as also of Religion, aided and abetted the process. Fifteen hundred years ago, St Augustine sought an ideal relationship between the “earthly city” and “City of God”. In the modern times, the battle lines are drawn basically between Constitution and Religion.
Any societal conflict invariably leads to deaths and killings. When politics tussles with politics, people die. When ideologies and religions are engaged in warfare, the masses die. But the worst happens when a combination of State and Religion, whichever reigns supreme, takes on an opposing, but similar, mix. Remember the Crusades, when the Church and States got together. Remember the rise of Political Islam, which decimated the so-called infidels. Remember India’s Partition, which showcased the hidden brutality and violence in humans. Remember the mindless riots in Independent India, which proved that each community, religion, and political party was as guilty as the other.
We cannot let this happen again on a mass scale in the 21st Century. No one should, whatever be the cost of avoiding it. Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric that this is a war between Good and Evil. Don’t be misled that this is about the destined destiny of this country, the making of a Religious State. Don’t let anyone tear apart the secular fabric of this country. The only way out for the politico-religious leaders should be constitutional. If they wish to establish a theocracy, let them change the Constitution through the established democratic process. Always remember that any State that has allowed Religion to overpower the Constitution has ruined its society.
You, as the citizen, as the voter, as a member of the society, hold India’s fate in your hands. Don’t let the country slip through your fingers.