Sensible people will keep religion in the temple or mosque or wherever their god resides. Mediocre people will insist on carrying their god to where the angels will dread to tread. Villains know how to subjugate others using religion and god.
Sensible people are rare in India like in most other countries. That’s why secularism never took roots in the country though many prominent leaders like Nehru and Ambedkar would have endorsed secularism a million times over theocracy. India was fortunate to have leaders like Nehru who were not religious and hence were able to redeem India from the clutches of bigots who would have made it another theocratic nation like the rival Pakistan.
Mediocrity insists on making people like their enemies. Hence the sublime vision of people like Nehru was doomed to fail in the normal course of time. The Congress party itself betrayed Nehru’s concept of secularism which gave equal respect to all religions. The ideal would have been to delink religion from the state altogether. But that ideal is not practical. Even in western countries where that ideal is upheld constitutionally, the actual practice is quite something else simply because majority of people are mediocre and they have to clutch their idols wherever they are.
The Congress party chose to appease certain religious communities merely for the sake of creating vote banks. The paucity of the Congress imagination cost the country much. It alienated the majority, an absurd thing to happen given the fact that the majority in India is a substantially huge population. Yet that absurdity reigned supreme in the country. Eventually that absurdity metamorphosed into a monster, the monster of communalism.
When the majority of a country’s people choose to clutch idols instead of obvious human values and moral principles, the country is headed for disaster. The magnitude of the disaster will be Himalayan when the leaders lack any vision except using the idols as weapons for establishing political power.
Religion has not saved any country from any evil so far. On the contrary, theocratic nations have proved to be much more inhuman than others. Secularism in its ideal form may be impractical simply because most people are mediocre and mediocrity cannot survive without its idols. But we can have a practical version of secularism: keep god to where he belongs and build up a strong legal system (Uniform Civil Code?) for managing actual social life in the country. This is what Nehru and others wanted. The tragedy is that India did not have leaders of their intellectual stature. It is the leader who ultimately defines a nation. So we need not be surprised if India has now become a nation of cows and cowards or cowherds.
PS. Written for Indispire Edition 177: #SecularIndia