Haryana violence and Modi’s Mann Ki Baat

While on one hand, Modi warned against violence in the name of faith, he also stated that our “sanths and saints” are true Messengers of God

PTI Photo by Vijay Verma
PTI Photo by Vijay Verma

Charu Soni

In his Mann Ki Baat, the monthly address to the nation, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday – without mentioning Haryana – that violence in the name of faith will not be tolerated.

“While on one hand the nation is celebrating festivals, the news of violence from another part has shaken up the country. Our country is the land of Buddha and Gandhi. For generations our country has emphasised ahimsa parmo dharma,” he said adding that in his Red Fort address he had mentioned that violence in the name of “astha” (faith) will not be tolerated.

The Prime Minister’s reiteration comes after the Haryana High Court pulled up the government for its failure to contain the situation after the followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh unleashed a wave of violence, leaving 36 people dead and thousands injured.

“National integration and law and order are above everything. We are one nation, not a party nation. Politicians need to understand that the nation is one. It is the Prime Minister of India, not BJP,” the HC bench said at a special hearing on Saturday.

On Friday, the Haryana HC held Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh guilty of rape. The quantum of punishment is 10 years in prison that the judge pronounced at a special hearing in Rohtak where the godman was air lifted after violence broke out in Panchkula.

While during the rest of the 35th edition of the Mann Ki Baat, the Prime Minister exhorted people to continue Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (effort) saying that the biggest tribute the nation could pay to Mahatma Gandhi on his birthday, October 2, was to practice “Swatchta hi sewa hai” (cleanliness is service), he also made reference to S Radhakrishnan’s emphasis on secular ethos of the country.

On August 12, 2017 noted historian, Irfan Habib, in his public lecture in Delhi had criticised the meaning of secularism as espoused by Radhakrishnan, the philosopher and India’s second president, in his 1956 book “Recovery of Faith”.

Quoting Radhakrishnan, he said, “When India is said to be a secular state, it does not mean that we reject the reality of an Unseen Spirit or the relevance of religion to life or that we exalt irreligion…. We hold that not one religion should be given preferential status or unique distinction.”

This defination stands in contrast to the original meaning of secularism where religion has no role to play in state matters.

“Radhakrishnan’s defination was his personal opinion. As we have seen, secularism all over the world is invoked to ensure that religious beliefs are excluded from affecting the policies and laws of the state, while Radhakrishnan insists that “religion” still remains a “relevant” source,” he pointed out.

As things would have it, it is not the international sense of secularism but the one asserted by Radhkrishnan that has been accepted by state and more importantly, the judiciary. This is illustrated by the Supreme Court’s judgment of 2003 that supports imparting of “religious instruction” by state even though this is clealry restricted by Art 28 of the Indian Constitution.

The three-judge bench of the Supreme Court in 2003 claimed that most of our essentual values have come from the mouths of “sanths and saints”.

The events that transpired in Haryana this week bear the repercussions of taking such a position. The PM’s Mann KI Baat this month, is a double-edged sword. While on one hand, he has warned of violence in the name of faith on the other, he has also sent a message that our “sanths and saints” are true Messengers of God.

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Published: 28 Aug 2017, 6:11 PM