The Need to Defend India's Secularism - Eastern Mirror
Wednesday, February 08, 2023

The Need to Defend India’s Secularism

By The Editorial Team Updated: Mar 26, 2021 12:36 am

Not long after Uttar Pradesh Assembly passed anti-conversion law called the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Bill, 2021, to curb religious conversions by “misrepresentation, force, fraud, undue influence, coercion, allurement or marriage”, two nuns and two postulants were harassed purportedly by Bajrang Dal members in the state last week, drawing criticism from various quarters. The incident happened when the nuns and postulants, who were travelling in a train from New Delhi to Odisha, reached Jhansi in UP. The nuns were accused of trying to forcefully convert the companions into Christianity. The accusation later proved to be false but not before undergoing plenty of trauma for no fault of theirs, as they were forced to deboard the train, detained and questioned by the police for hours based on mere claims of some people. The incident comes as a glaring reminder of how some laws can be misused and become a cause of torture if it falls into the wrong hands. It also makes one recall the horrifying incident that happened in 1999, where Australian Christian missionary Graham Staines was burnt to death in India along with his two sons, aged six and 10. He was also accused of luring the Adivasi communities in Odisha, with whom he lived with for more than three decades, into Christianity by some religious fundamentalist groups. The incident shook the entire country and wounded the collective conscience but reports of atrocities against minorities did not stop coming and many cases went unnoticed. Perhaps, the UP incident drew more attention because the nuns were from Kerala, where assembly election is around the corner, but it’s a matter the government of India should seriously look into and address before history repeats itself.

The nuns are harmless women and human beings who dedicate their whole lives in serving the society, be it in the field of education, healthcare or charity, without expecting anything in return. Mother Teresa was also one such nun who dedicated all her life in serving the poorest of the poor and the unloved. In this particular case, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had written a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, demanding strict action against those “who disrupt and impair the freedom of individual rights guaranteed by the Constitution” and tarnish the nation and its ancient tradition of religious tolerance. To this, Shah assured to take strong action against those who allegedly harassed the nuns. “I want to assure the people of Kerala that the culprits behind this incident will be brought to justice at the earliest,” he was quoted as saying while addressing a rally in Kerala. It was reassuring, especially at a time when debates on India’s religious intolerance are getting louder. This assurance should not be turned into another political rhetoric to win votes in the upcoming Kerala Legislative Assembly election but be turned into a reality with a genuine concern to uphold India’s secularism, the principles that the country’s freedom fighters stood for and that have withstood the test of time.

By The Editorial Team Updated: Mar 26, 2021 12:36:07 am