July 25, 2008

Moving From Secularism To Religious Irrelevance

Filed under: opinions,Random,religion,Truth of India — Kaveeta Oberoi Kaul @ 1:52 pm
Tags: , , ,

Anjali Ashok writes for SACHINITI.

I read an article by Mr. Riaz on one of the blogs I happened to visit recently.

It was a great read and a very insightful analysis about the progress and evolution made by India in recent years. The author mentioned various reasons like the establishment of IITs, democracy, education system, the strengths of the Indian entrepreneur etc. Nevertheless, I felt one major point which Mr Riaz failed to point out was that besides the democratic model and a strong political system it is the secular fabric and the religious “irrelevance” which has been responsible for the progress of the country.

No doubt political parties try every now and then to use the card of faith to enrich their vote banks. Yes, I do feel the Gujarat riots are a blot on our fair name, yet you will agree that for a Nation so diverse in ethnicity, language and religion these things are exceptions and aberrations rather than the norm.  Every Indian adores icons like Salman Khan, Sharukh Khan or even Atif Aslam alike. We have a Prime Minister who is a Sikh, a Past President who is a Muslim and the ruling party leader who is a Christian. Religion is truly irrelevant when it comes to running a country and winning hearts and minds of people.

Some feel religion should just be confined to homes.  I think that is a very restrictive view also. True, the more we emphasize on religion and rituals in public life the more problems we create. I also agree that religion is for us and not the other way round. Yet, is it possible to greet each other a Happy Republic Day instead of Happy Diwali or Merry Christmas? The Russians tried it and failed. I feel we should view our religious background in a positive way of realising our deeper inadequacies. For example as a Hindu I am naturally inclined to tolerate filth in a temple of worship. Not being acquainted with the theory of Karma allows a Christian to be naturally more philanthropic. So, rather than oppose religion and its grip on our psyche, let us accept our constraints and yet look deeper and try to fathom our potentials.

The Hindus will be Hindus and the Muslims will be Muslims – may be the twain shall never meet, but that need not come in our way of working towards a more synergistic partnership. I feel the most successful model that works on these principles is the Hindi film industry. Rafi sang some of the best bhajans and Prithviraj Kapoor portrayed the best of Mughals, yet they were quite unabashed followers of their faith and never apologized as most seculars do. Mostly what is practised and taught today in the name of science is a fanatic religion and most pedlars of religion and spirituality are finding ways and means to sell their wares as science! That is not a synergistic partnership I am talking about.

So let us move from secularism towards religious “irrelevance”, where I can “Be” in spite of being a Hindu or a Muslim or a Catholic.


  1. Hi Kaveeta,

    I am spellbound by this post by Anjali. Hats off to her for putting into such easy-to-comprehend words, the exact feelings which run through the minds of millions of “aam-aadmis” in India everyday (regardless of their religion).

    This paradigm shift from secularism to religious irrelevance seems to be the best foot forward for the country. Not to mention it has also been one of the factors for the development of India in the first place.

    Looking forward to an India where religious tensions makes way for religious irrelevance. Jai Bharat.

    Comment by Kiran — July 26, 2008 @ 11:53 am | Reply

  2. Anjali,
    I admire India’s secular democracy. I agree with your sentiments about secularism. In fact, I concluded my own post that you refer to with these words: “Pakistanis and others should learn how to embrace diversity and pluralism from the Indian experience that encompasses a large number of ethnicities and religions, while shunning the evils of the caste system and discrimination against women and female infanticide that still plague India.”

    Comment by Riaz Haq — July 26, 2008 @ 7:07 pm | Reply

  3. Anjali

    Very well said.

    I have always argued that for any nation to become very successful (like USA) it has to be free, open and equal to all. Emerging nations will never attain a USA like position till there is equal justice, and equal access to opportunity to one & all. Clearly the first step in this pursuit is a secular public life. We may never agree with each other but we need to tolerate and respect each other.

    Comment by Shaan Khan — July 26, 2008 @ 8:35 pm | Reply

  4. Yes , even Bholenath, has left Amarnath, to Hawaii and become Hawaiinath. Even He in 1975 by enlightening the ” Self ” of an American, who later became Siva Subramuniyaswami and established a monks order. Some of my friends , who are genuine seekers , have visited this place, where wonderstruck at this spot. Some even shed joy tears to see Bholenath in His new Abode. These monks most of them Sivabhakts (westerners) have not been coerced to become monks. Their contribution to Sanatan Dharma is unique and their books and web site are a revelation. Some are best sellers. It speaks volumes of the secular character of USA.

    Comment by gajanan — July 28, 2008 @ 4:35 am | Reply

  5. Thank you Kiran for your generous praise. After the recent bombings in Bangalore and Ahmadabad, I am forced to add that the overdose of religion is causing the diarrhea of unrest.

    Thanks Mr. Riaz for reading the post. I wish to bring your attention to the fact that caste system in India is a social system and like so many other systems had worked well for many centuries and like every other system and structure it requires overhauling. This taking place politically. The emergence of Mayawati validates this point amply. She is taking the reform to the heartland and doing what urbanization has done in cities. Every society enforces a caste system. The shape form and character may be different but this is the reality of human psyche. Call it hierarchy, monarchy or pecking order. Today Asians are denied entry visas to the western countries, Keith Vaz may be elected as MP and appointed a minister but he can never become the King of the UK – not because the foundations of British democracy are weak or the society is unjust, but because of an accepted caste system (read royalty). Caste system is in for an overhaul not for any reason other than it does not work in the present context.

    Shaan, I agree with you that USA has come a long way and we have to learn to find the similarities rather than differences with each other so that we can create a refined and evolved society.

    Comment by Anjali RajGuru — July 28, 2008 @ 9:23 pm | Reply

  6. Anjali

    Perhaps I am wrong but I read your article and your sentiments to cover irrelevance of race, religion, ethnicity, as well as gender in public life (while allowing for separate toilets 🙂 ofcourse).

    UK is a poster child for the drawback of the lack of equal upward mobility to all. Although the monarchy is “just” symbolic, UK does have a whole range of inflexible hierarchy based glass ceilings. Hence, while it is possible in USA for a person of down trodden slave ancestry to rise to the top position in public life, the same is not possible in UK. Therefore UK’s growth, all things being equal, will always lag behind USA.

    Likewise the fallout from EU’s insistence to hold different member countries within their borders (as opposed to a complete non existence of borders between states in USA) will for the same reason never enable EU to be (all things being equal) another USA.

    Comment by Shaan Khan — July 29, 2008 @ 12:02 am | Reply

  7. Well said Shaan. You have put your point is across very succinctly with the US/UK/EU comparison. What the world has to learn from the US is how they moved from a slavery-accepting society to a nation on the verge of electing a black(ish) president. Mayavati is doing it her style by mobilizing the Dalits to move upwards, something which no NGOs, no evangelists and no social reformers could do as effectively.

    Comment by Anjali — July 29, 2008 @ 12:46 am | Reply

  8. Yes , Mayawati must do what she is doing without hurting others, just like K Kamaraj did in Tamil Nadu. Kamaraj did not pass even high school , but as my Tamil friend’s grandfather would say, he had the wisdom far superior to even Harvard Professors. I lived in TN for yrs and everybody incuding the Dalits, say we want to go back to the Kamaraj era ( I had recently visited TN, the view now). Kamaraj started about 20, 000 schools for pimary education , introduced free education for women and started the voluntary noon meal scheme in schools, which was made compulsory by MGR. He brought his community up ( I do not remember what his community is) , but he never hurt others and was very Gandhian to the core. Being a batchelor he had frugal needs. He was the Congress President. He refused to become the PM, after Lal Bahadur and Nanda, and made Indira Gandhi as PM as he himself, humbly, admitted that he lacked the ability to be PM. He used to talk very less, as he admitted that he had no power over words and a true Karmayogi. In fact he had warned that ” Do not vote for nachne aur ganewala, they will make even society look like theatre”
    (In the Tamil Language it is very limerickian. Many times translations do not work well and my Tamil is not good as my Hindi).

    His words have come true.

    The number of premier institutes , industrial estates and very good labs , were started during his Chief Ministership. Whatever TN is today is due to seeds sown by K Kamaraj. Many will deny this, but it is a fact.

    Maywati should follow Kamraj’s style of working ( talk less and not hurt others) and if she continues for a long time, then UP and many states will reap the benefits in the future.

    Comment by gajanan — July 29, 2008 @ 5:23 am | Reply

  9. Yes Gajanan, I agree her methods are uncouth and unrefined, yet we must accept her as she is the part of the process

    Comment by Anjali — July 29, 2008 @ 10:37 am | Reply

  10. Agreed, even MJ AKbar, the journaist , good fellow , who quit Asian Age and started his own ( has acknowledged Mayawati. A bit of Gandhi-Kamaraj-Shastri style will go a long way for her success.

    Comment by gajanan — July 30, 2008 @ 4:26 am | Reply


    Comment by gajanan — July 30, 2008 @ 4:28 am | Reply

  12. Dear Kaveetaa and Anjali

    Sorry so much for this highly delayed reply. I would like to share some of my experience and discussions regarding secularism, Islam and Pakistan. I was always curious and eager to have a discussion on these topics with any educated muslim, particularly from pakistan. I think that most of the educated Indian muslims share the views of a common Indian on these topics. Few days ago when I got the chance of a project in Denmark, I also found a Pakistani, pursuing a Phd degree in a reputed technical college. We introduced ourselves in a cordial environment, and all the hesitations of the border were lost. We shared a good relation, and after a few days I discarded the hesitations left for a prolonged discussions.
    I asked him that Pakistan should be a secular state or Islamic one. He replied that religion is for the good of human beings, so the constitution should not be separate but be based upon religious principals. And so pakistan should be Islamic. He said that Muslims are a majority there, so its quite ok that they rule there. I felt sorry that subsequently he had to agree that India should be ruled by Hindus alone. He could not separate between the duty of a religion and duty of a state.
    I asked him that whether the partition was right or wrong. He replied that situation was bad, so it was justified. I again felt sorry for him, as subsequently he had to agree that creation of Bangladesh was also fair. I further asked him that whether India and pakistan could unite. He said that let the bygone be bygone. But he seemed optimistic about union of Pakistan and Bangladesh. And the reason he said that Muslims all over the world were one. Then I asked him that if that was true, then all the muslims of India should go to Pakistan.
    I asked one more question regarding marraige. That was it fair that a man could marry four, and could a women marry four men. He replied that in muslims, the population of women was more, so it was a necessity that men have to marry more women. And it was also good for caring of children. I asked him that if hypothetically the number of men become mroe, then would it be acceptable for a women to marry more than one one. But he could not agree to it, on the pretext of caring of children.
    This discussion gave me a look in the thinking of educated class of pakistan. He was a nice guy, and I discussed these things with him frankly, without any fear. Only the thing that made me sad was that the narrow mindedness which is so wide spread, is creating some distortions in the thinking o educated people too. And they are not read for some positive changes in their thinking. They need some leader like Mustafa Kamal pasha, to lead them to a new path.

    I will write on this further in a later comment.

    Comment by prabhat — August 3, 2008 @ 10:56 pm | Reply

  13. Prabhat,

    It was quite an interesting comment from you.. It is a indicator of how pakistanis think about religion etc.. But I feel such type of thinking comes from the school education which one receives.. In india if you see, the education doesn’t stress on any religion and the basic tenets of equality from our constitution are taught.. I have read that textbooks in pakistan contain distorted facts about history and there is an element of religion in that.. Next thing is I feel that under dictatorships the media was not enjoying the appropriate degree of freedom which they should have so reporting must have been distorted.. I did not get an opportunity to talk with a paki face to face but have had discussions with some of them on various blogs.. The one thing which shocked me most was their impression about kashmir.. Over years the govt. there has projected the image that india’s army is doing something like a genocide type stuff in kashmir.. We all and rest of world also knows that no such thing has happened.. Its sad to see this..But I fear with this type of impression the kashmir thing may never get resolved atleast in our life times..

    Comment by Rajeev — August 4, 2008 @ 3:48 am | Reply

  14. Males have one Y chromosome and one X chromosome, while females have two X chromosomes. Now if you go by this XY and XX chromosome. X seems to be more. Intuitively , reproduction would result in more girls being born than boys, if there is frequent procreational activity. This is due to high amount of X chromosome in the primordial mix due to frequent procreational actvivity. Of course chance and randomness may lead to males.

    Albeit due to wars ( men getting killed, resulting in more women population) in Middle East , for that period , it might have been relevant to have more wives. No one knew that time that there is chromosomal functions to decide sex. It must have been good for that time , but still now not realising the biological aspects ( great strides have been made in science of reproduction and sex determination) of reproduction and sticking to earlier social strictures is very riduculous.

    Comment by gajanan — August 4, 2008 @ 12:04 pm | Reply

  15. @ Prabhat

    I do not know to what extent this “Pakistani” represents Pakistan and or Muslims, OR even if he is real or fictitious. I do not know if his views have been diluted, and or corrupted, to fit a narrative. Nonetheless, I do know that one cannot uphold secular values by tarnishing any religion. Your post makes a case for secularism in a way you may not have intended.

    @ gajanan

    It is not the scope of this post to discuss all that can be discussed about Islam or four wives but you need to know that Pre-Islam, everywhere in the world, men had access to unlimited wives. Islam abolished this practice (It LIMITED men to just four wives) and established the concept that this practice was wrong. . We are having this discussion thanks to Islam. Back then , people attacked Islam as being unreasonably hard and unfair to men.
    In any case, please note that in order to be a Muslim, it is necessary and imperative to be honest + tolerant + just + non-oppressive etc etc , but there is no religious requirement for four wives (although it is highly recommended that one does marry once). Having four wives apart from not being a religious requirement, also does not qualify for some brownie points at any level, or enhance one’s status in the hereafter. Having multiple wives is at best subject to conditions. One is required to be fair and equal to “say the least”. Hence, an overwhelming majority (we are not talking about a mere 51%) throughout the Islamic world, and even in Saudi Arabia have just one wife. This Arab-American (born in India) is still looking for one compatible educated feminine woman (being pretty is an imperative requirement).
    Clearly reading the Quran I got the impression that my limitations do not even permit me more than one wife. It appears that the “permission” is firstly a limitation and not a license, and secondly, exist just so that in events where it may become necessary, people can use this option. In olden days war created such an necessity. In modern times, some Muslim men did take over the responsibility of a Bosnian women (i.e. married them ) to save them from becoming destitute. Who know what events in the future may make this qualified permission (not a license) a blessing.
    Lastly, in order to make this point clear please note that Islam “in a similar manner” also allows one to eat “Pork”, the forbidden food, if survival is at stake. This too like the four wives is “conditional”. Perhaps one can argue the condition for the consumption of Pork is more defined and stringent, but have no doubts that Islam forbids Pork. Equally have to doubt that Islam “does not encourage” four wives.

    Comment by Shaan Khan — August 4, 2008 @ 8:03 pm | Reply

  16. Dear All
    I missed some points in the previous comments. He did say that the percentage of people marrying more than one women was very less, he said around 1%. He didn’t seem to be proud of this custom, but he was not ready to accept that this law should be changed or modified. He was also very critical of the mullas and maulvis and said that they are giving Islam a poor name by their arbitrary decisions.
    I also asked him about the word kafir and its implications. He said that there was nothing derogatory about this word and it simply implied non-muslim. But he said that it will be better if the world has one religion. He asked me that I ask about one nation(India and Pakistan), so why not one religion(he obviously meant Islam).
    So there is so much narrow mindedness that they can’t even accept other religions. I only hope that they remove the word kafir and accept all non-muslims heartily some day.

    Comment by prabhat — August 4, 2008 @ 9:03 pm | Reply

  17. Dear Shann
    I don’t know from where you are. And I felt pity when you want to convey that the Pakistani was ‘fictitious’.
    The blog is for serious discussion, and you are trying to spread mistrust by your words. Whatever I have written here is to participate in free and fair discussions. And no one can convince people like you that one can have such discussions with someone. There is no need to do that. Because if you will meet such muslims or pakistani yourself; you will say that he is not a real muslims, or give any such similar crap arguments. No one can drive people like you out of your well.

    Comment by prabhat — August 4, 2008 @ 11:05 pm | Reply

  18. And if my comments give any such indication that I am trying to tarnish any religion, then this is not at all the case. I respect all religions equally, and I dislike the narrow mindedness of the Hindutva organizations with the same intensity as I dislike the weak points of followers of Islam. To me, the different religions are just the different paths of the same goal, be it Hinduism, Islam, Christianity or whatever. So don’t get a prejudice against my comment

    Comment by prabhat — August 4, 2008 @ 11:11 pm | Reply

  19. Actually if you are very religious, the best tribute to your faith, would be to remain a bachelor and do good things in life. You will have no attachments and will not be materialistic [( provided you have self control ( conditions apply)] . Go forth and help the poor faithfully.

    Comment by gajanan — August 5, 2008 @ 5:50 am | Reply

  20. One question which has been bothering me for decades,is if God is Formless, then why have locations for heaven and hell.

    If heaven and hell have locations or locus and if God has a form, you have interesting geography and good geometry,

    Comment by gajanan — August 5, 2008 @ 6:21 am | Reply

  21. Prabhat

    Thank you for clarifying your disposition.


    Not all claim that God is formless. Some claim that he of a form unlike what we know and understand, for example, amongst other things, he is omnipresent.

    Furthermore, Heaven and Hell are a promise to humankind. Our final destination.

    Comment by Shaan Khan — August 8, 2008 @ 5:19 pm | Reply

  22. Hi Everybody,
    I missed all these interesting discussions taking place on Sachiniti. I was away on leave and have just returned back. I would like to add that to stir a storm we do not need a strong leader, but to make a more humane society we need one who will think beyond religion. The present crop of politicians who constantly thrive on the themes of religion are appalling and frustrating. We all heard the recent comments made by Lalu Yadav on SIMI and Sushma Swaraj’s comments on Ahmadabad bombs explosions – truly irresponsible statements.

    Recently I read somewhere this quote by Abraham Kuyper and it applies to all of us – “Just because the solutions of problems are not visible at any particular time does not mean that those problems will never be alleviated or confined to tolerable dimensions. History has a way of changing the very terms in which problems operate and of leaving them, in the end, unsolved, to be sure, yet strangely deflated of their original meaning and importance.” I hope that soon this religious animosity transpires into something better and useful.

    Any religion is formed keeping in mind the time and the culture of that time. Like any other institution it needs to undergo a face lift every now and then. Every religion has done it, be it Hinduism or Christianity. If we ponder on the more relevant question regarding the purpose of religion we will see that the primary aim of all religions is to provide people a sense of safety, liberty and identity under a moral umbrella. To some extent religions also provide answers to many intricate questions like how to triumph over death etc. And even when a religion of this kind has developed itself into monotheism, the God whom it worships remains invariably a God who exists in order to help man, in order to secure good order and tranquility for the State, to furnish assistance and deliverance in times of need, or to strengthen the nobler and higher impulse of the human heart in its ceaseless struggle with the degrading influences of sin.

    I sincerely feel it is futile to degrade each other’s religion because it is the heart and not the mind which believes in issues like religion. We do not choose our religions but we can certainly choose how to apply it to progress and evolve. So logically we cannot win these arguments. In my opinion, a person who truly understands religion finds all these arguments futile. Anjali.

    Comment by Anjali RajGuru — August 9, 2008 @ 3:19 pm | Reply

  23. Final destination ( The word destination itself means a locus , a location) has to have a location. The arguement is that nobody has reported this verbally or in written language about this promised location or destination.

    So as you say , God must be having a form.

    Now let us go to physics. There are two branches classical as well as quantum mechanics. Classical physics all seeing is believing. But in Quantum mechanics, the entity ( electron or sub atomic particle) has two states , one as a wave and the other as a particle, which means that two states exist. Now there is this string theory. which goes several steps further , saying that multiple states are possible. This if proved experimentally( very difficult to do, but expts are being are tried) , then science would prove that multiple states are possible , meaning an entity can be found in multiple states and that too a single entity can be present in many locations ( again location or destination). In my opinion physics and maths are the real subjects , which change the way we do things. The Internet is also a product of CERN a physics lab. Let’s keep our fingers crossed about the string theory expts.

    Now coming to simple logic of form versus formless , the if you try to hold water in your palm it will be difficult to hold , but soon it becomes ice , you can hold it in your palm. Ice is form and water, even though it has form , one cannot hold it like lce. Water can be regarded as formless , even though , you see it , but cannot hold it. Ice , you can see it , you can hold it, it is like having a form. Of course it depends on the persons ability to hold on ice for a long time.

    I would be better if we respect both ice and water, so that form and formless can get along well. Ice melts we get water, water freezes we get ice , both are interchangeble and acceptable.

    Now people say idol worship is wrong. Break ths idols etc. Well , you see , now, idols have decided to take shelter in the world wide web as images. You want any picture or form of your personal God , then type in Google ” Google , Google , on the monitor , show me my personal God” Lo Behold , you get many colorful web pages of your personal God” .

    There is no end to debating , but politicians as soon as they open their mouth , they create problems for society. They live to old addage ” Politics is the refuge for scoundrels” .

    One feels that , there should be rasgullas or gulab jamun kept in a box ready to be thrown into the politicians mouth as soon as he or she opens their mouth subjectively. Atleast he or she will chabafy these sweetmeat balls and stop talking for some time. This is expensive way, but you cannot throw stones in their mouth , because you would not like to be called indecent.

    Comment by gajanan — August 11, 2008 @ 5:41 am | Reply

  24. Gajanan

    Someone recently told me that wisdom is the fragrance while the brain is the flower. No book, no science can describe wisdom, fragrance, soul, and or God unless you experience it first hand. Our lack of knowledge of these matters does not prove its non-existence. Being a little puzzled by whether you are selectively denying God or comprehensively denying God, I would like to hear you use Classical Physics and or Quantum Physics to describe / validate, soul. Hopefully in this pursuit I will get my answer, moreover, perhaps we will all realize that science is subservient to God and not the other way around.

    Comment by Shaan Khan — August 12, 2008 @ 4:20 am | Reply

  25. When you see the body + soul , it is Classical Mechanics , because you see the figure with the naked eye.

    When the body vanishes, the soul exists, it becomes Quantum Mechanics, all at sub atomic levels, which the naked eye cannnot behold.

    In religious terms , you can say the Atma ( soul) has merged with Parmatma, when the body has vanished.

    There are some defects in science , specially the way it is done. You create nuclear fission for energy , but then all want it for defence and misuse which you saw in Hiroshima @ Nagasaki

    Then there is genetic modification of life forms. There is no long term study as to what will happen in future and to future generations. For example when a gene is modified by an external source, or rather forced , then you introducing some amount of disorder , which could produce defects in future generations. Nobody knows what will happen. May be the idea is to do it and wait and see what happens down the years. What if something happens and what if nothing happens?

    With Nature all is well, as it does its own way , very disciplined, very ordered. So all is well. Now suddenly you introduce a change altering the course of nature, is something to think about.

    By law of market forces all looks good , like featherless chicken , easy to handle , patented for profit , for high summers. But kya hoga khanewala ka , now and for future generations is still to be known.

    I must agree that scientists are arrogant and play tune to immoral market forces or some faltu govts, which converts their arrogance for the politicians selfish needs to stay in power.

    Comment by gajanan — August 12, 2008 @ 7:21 am | Reply

  26. thanks..

    Comment by izmir evden eve — August 14, 2008 @ 3:27 pm | Reply

  27. thanks

    Comment by opel yedek parçacı — October 17, 2008 @ 8:10 pm | Reply

  28. thanks

    Comment by olimpiyatreklam — October 21, 2008 @ 1:39 pm | Reply

  29. thanks..

    Comment by su kaçağı — October 23, 2008 @ 6:25 pm | Reply

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