The undivided India had undergone a long enduring battle against the tyrannical rule of the British to attain complete freedom. Different people from different beliefs marched under the same flag of freedom. The British imperialist made every possibility of drawing the line and exploit the religious diversity, but the freedom movement did not tremble against the evil doers. Unfortunately, the freedom from the shackles of the century old rule gained on the lines of Partition. The British managed to demarcate the country on religious ideologies resulting into a bloodbath and massive migration.
Even after the gruesome bloodshed, India retained its diversity. The Framers of the Constitution cherished the principles of secularity by enacting the provisions ensuring freedom and protection of every religious belief. The visionary text, called the Constitution of India, freed the people from oppression and exploitation on religious lines. But, the dawn of a reformed and progressive democracy, bear the brunt of religious oppression. The Casteism amongst the Hindus, Unequal rights of the Muslim Women, the rift between Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians, Violent forms of discrimination against the Minority, etc had acted as a stigma to this progressive society. There are practices abolished and condemned, but there prevalence is still rampant. Taking the note of the current scenario, religious sensitivities in the form of attacks on Churches, forced conversion, honour killings, etc. The Framers of the Constitution envisioned that the right to profess, propagate and practice any religious belief to be a Fundamental Right, but they also limited its reach under “reasonable restrictions”. The Hon’ Supreme Court of India, acted as a true Guardian of the Constitution, by safeguarding the Fundamental Rights of the citizens. But, we in a progressive society, must have a broader thinking to value, safeguard and cherish every religious identity of our own peers.
Political Impediment against Religious Reforms
The democratic institution formed in 1950 with the promulgation of the Indian Constitution led to the rise of a vibrant pluralistic society. But, unfortunately, the dreams of the freedom fighters were not entirely fulfilled. Ideally, the independence struggle was led to establish a free society with different sects of people living harmoniously. This vision hampered due to frequent political disturbances. The Britishers cannot be blamed in entirety, it was the fight of the power-hungry politicians that led to the biggest nightmare of Partition. The Partition not only led to the loss of large scale lives, but also led to heavy economic losses. It jeopardised our growth as a progressive nation, as the scars of partition are still alive in many hearts pulling us back to those times. Not only, the episode of 1947, there are many other instances where the lackadaisical attitude of the legislators marred religious reforms. Such was the incident after the Hon’ Supreme Court of India, allowed maintenance to a Muslim woman under the purview of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The following observation was made in the Shah Bano judgment, which many public-spirited individuals viewed as a reformative judgment freeing the Muslim women from the exploitation. But, in the contemporary India, where religious practices, even if orthodox and exploitative are cherished over individual freedom and liberty. The country witnessed mass agitation from the Muslim orthodox sects, claiming it to be an impeachment in their religious affairs. The, then Government, despite of upholding the visionary judgment, followed the appeasement policy that completely destroyed the observation, and the following judgment of Daniel Latifi overruled the Shah Bano Judgment. This political move to retain the vote did not only pulled back the women back into the shackles and state of oppression, but also caused religious enmity. The demolition of Babri Masjid not only fuelled the fire, but also led to the nationwide riots leading to many deaths. The issue of Ramjanmabhoomi is pending before the Hon’ Court, but it is upon us as future leaders by comprehending upon the issue and evaluate the necessity of a Mandir or Masjid or rather something more valuable to the needy people with the common amicable efforts of both the communities. Whether the issue of maintenance or Ramnjanmabhoomi or many other current issues, the collective effort is required to amicably resolve these obstacles which will only fulfil the vision of our forefathers, but will also lead us to a more fairer, free and reformed society.
A New Dawn of the 21st Century
India and Pakistan started the race to establish their own identities from the same starting point. Nations are made of its people. Both the nation before independence together fought the arbitrary and tyrannical regime. The goals were common i.e. to attain complete freedom from slavery be their own masters. But, Pakistan lost its tracks due to orthodoxy and outmoded customs. The blasphemy laws rigidly followed has made the state intolerant to free speech and often religious extremism has taken a violent turn. Minorities communities of Pakistan such as Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Ahmadis have suffered irreparable losses both of life and property. India too is no indifferent from its neighbour. Religious intolerance have often reported in the country, but fortunately with the true guidance of eloquent policy makers and public spirited individuals, India has somehow managed to abolish the customs considered to be arbitrary in practice.
This above comparison can be further highlighted with the help of two case studies. Firstly, the issue of coparcenary was duly addressed. Before the year 2005, the women were not considered to be coparcenaries which entitle them of intestate property. But, this provision of the respective statute was duly revised, and after careful deliberations an Amendment was brought into effect entitling them over intestate property as coparceners. The Amendment not only empowered the Hindu women of self-dependency, but equally entitled them the right to say in the family, moreover the right to existence often taken away under patriarchy mindset of the society. Secondly, by the Hon’ Court taking a bold step as taken in the Shah Bano Case to grant entry to the women in the Haji Ali Dargah. This decision extended equal rights to preach to the women. The judgment was widely applauded, but also attracted condemnation from the orthodox sections of the society. The Hon’ Supreme Court of India has laid the test for “Essential Religious Practice” to determine whether the practice of the religious sect is protected under Article 26 of the Constitution of India. The ERP is although not defined under the Constitution, but have been interpreted on several occasions by the Apex Court. The decision in the Haji Ali case or the reformative amendments, both indicates that India still embolden upon the principles of equality and secularity.
Swami Vivekananda called the world as one big family, so we as Indians must also consider ourselves as one family. The family that lives together collectively cherish the ideals, and resolves the disputes. Therefore, we as Indians not only aim to protect our interest, but also selflessly protect the interest of the citizens belonging to different sects. A collective voice must be raised against any discriminatory practice or policy. We must endeavour to bring a change to the society. Every individual must strive develop a far-sighted goal of leading India to a greater path. Our religious diversity must be indicated not as our weaknesses which can be exploited by anyone, but as our strength that brings us together against all odds. And to uphold this, any lapses must be avoided to correct the ills prevalent in any belief.