What is Secularism? – Aloke B Lal

Letters the Editor (secularism)
My answer: Secularism is not mere tokenism. It is a philosophy of life. Any human being is programmed to have likes and dislikes. The educated minority becomes more aware. They understand what history has taught us. Their understanding of communities and sectors of population gets placed on a broader platform. They do not look at communities as \”we\” and \”they\” merely on the basis of faith which they follow. These educated/emancipated and knowledgeable people do not get air-dropped. They are all there amongst us. Unfortunately the rightist fringe then looks at all faultlines there are; they are bound to be there; and strike at the most vulnerable sections. Who are these most vulnerable members of the society? They are, to my mind, the less educated, the brain-washed and the ones who are not willing to accept that there is something outside their tunnel vision. This section of the population is easily swayed by attractive rabble-rousing rhetoric. They are then programmed to willingly turn a blind eye to the stark evidence around them. Such narrow-minded people are the ones who water down their understanding of secularism to just the question of religious communities. The \”we\” and \”they\” syndrome takes over. Political parties run extensive programmes to enhance such divisive tendencies, and then we witness The Meeruts, Muzaffarnagars, Godhras….the list is long. It is a shame that even after 66 years of independence of the country we still have to spend so much of our time discussing this. I find it ridiculous that when I speak for secularism, I am immediately labelled a supporter of a particular political party. Secularism as a concept is well above party politics. It is not a tool for electoral vote-banking. It has to be a basic human trait, to my mind the only trait which makes me a human being. My differences with others can be on ideologies, not on the basis of my religion. Anyone who begins politics with sectarian attitudes is actually a great handicap for the society and the nation at large. That is why I strongly oppose all the political parties and outfits which have a communal agenda for the petty electoral gains; for this is done at the expense of the best interests of the nation.

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