Secular countries with a dominant adoption of a specific religion are rare in this world.
I can think of only two prominent examples in Asia. One is Indonesia, which has a predominantly Muslim population but remains as a secular country to this date. The other is India, which has a majority Hindu population (though divided amongst itself in a thousand ways with multiple religions – there is no one single Hindu religion which offers a pathway to all Hindus) and is also constituted as a secular nation.
One expects to see irrational behaviour in a monotheistic or non-secular country, against the minorities. Examples abound, but given the sensitivity of people towards their religious faith, I don’t think it is prudent to list some of these examples. Of course, everyone talks about such examples or incidents with a total disconnect to the same, as these are not controllable or manageable in any manner. Governments do not even wish to comment or even mildly protest when one of their citizens has been grievously impacted in such a non-secular country. The rationale behind is that no government wants to affect “bilateral relations”, which is hogwash and a way to hide behind language semantics and not do anything.
However, when intolerance rises in secular countries, there is serious cause of concern not only in those countries, but around the world. This is because Secularism is a strongly conceived and well-established philosophy to afford equal treatment to ALL religions in the eyes of the government. The two key thoughts in this sentence are “equal” and “all” – there is no religion for a government or even a party which contests elections in a democracy. When these ideas get damaged by action or inaction of elected governments, then the only conclusion is that the constitution has been violated.
Secularism can only be protected when the freedoms to assemble and to express one’s thoughts without fear or favour, are protected by the government. If the government fails in its duties to protect its citizens who exercise their rightful freedoms, then that would mean the government is taking sides with someone involved in the conflict against the freedoms being exercised. And, in turn, the principle of Secularism would come under threat – when the thoughts being expressed do not conform to the expectations of someone else, and in some way are considered to be against the dominant religious faith in the country.
These are complex issues, and the only way to ensure that situation does not get out of control is to mandate that secularism is the way forward and there is no change in that official philosophy. When that kind of forceful imposition of the constitution does not play out publicly, then the divisive forces will gain ascendancy in their will to impose fear and uncertainty.
India is a great country and is now firmly on the path to becoming a superpower with the fastest growing economy in the world.
We should protect the gains made by India over the past couple of years – this is critical for economic and social reasons.
18th October 2015