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Jain monk case: AAP’s Ashutosh says mixing religion with politics is against the spirit of constitution

New Delhi, News Nation Bureau | Updated : 30 August 2016, 12:32 PM

Jain monk Tarun Sagar may have forgiven Vishal Dadlani for his controversial remarks on Twitter but, the controversy doesn't seems to die soon. Now, AAP leader Ashutosh Kumar has shared his views on the matter where he claims that politics and religion should not be mixed.

Ashutosh made claims that the bigger issue is the presence of religious guru Tarun Sagar in Haryana Assembly.

The assembly, being an arm of the state, should keep itself away from the religion, religious practices and religious gurus. Here is the full article posted a news website:
 
Twitter is creating more controversies than real media these days. The latest casualty is one of the foremost music composers of the present era, Vishal Dadlani. His comment about the Jain Muni (monk) Tarun Sagar-ji brought public embarrassment to him and also to AAP. Though he immediately regretted his remark and apologized, and also announced his exit from the party, it was too late. His tweet had already gone viral on social media which invited angry reactions from the Jain community. This episode has many dimensions. One: the issue is related to insulting a religious guru; two, the role of religion in politics; three, it is about the comment where the Jain muni compared the relationship of religion and politics to that of a husband and wife. The monk said that he believes that politics should play second fiddle to religion, like a wife to a husband, which was construed as misogynistic.

I was surprised to see the matter snowballing into a big controversy. In my opinion, once Dadlani and Arvind Kejriwal tendered an apology without any conditions, the matter should have ended. In Jain tradition, a much higher value is attached to apology - that of kshama (forgiveness). In Jainism, a particular day is celebrated as Kshamavani or "Forgiveness Day", a day of forgiving and seeking forgiveness.

On this day, every member of the Jain community seeks forgiveness for his or her faults or mistakes from everyone. This is considered to be the first step towards salvation or Nirvana. In the Jain tradition, forgiveness is an exalted form of non-violence - "it benefits both the forgiver and the forgiven." Tarun Sagar-ji was gracious enough and said there is no need for apology, that he is not angry. Yet the matter was politicised by the BJP and others. A protest was organised. Ill-will was harboured against Dadlani and AAP, where as in the great Jain tradition, the Michchhami Dukkadam (if I have caused you offence in any way, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, word or deed, then I seek your forgiveness), once Dadlani asked for forgiveness, it should have ended. But then such is the nature of politics in our country, every issue becomes political.

A much bigger issue is should a religious guru like Tarun Sagar-ji be invited by the elected Haryana assembly to address legislators in the house? It is said that the Indian state is a "secular" state and religion has no place in the business of state; the assembly, being an arm of the state, should keep itself away from the religion, religious practices and religious gurus. It is said that the founding fathers of the Indian constitution deliberately adopted a secular state. The Indian constitution is secular in nature, though originally the word "secular" was not inserted in the name of India despite a very passionate argument put forth by the likes of K.T. Shah.

Shah vehemently advocated, "We have been told time and again, from every platform, that ours is a secular state, and if that is true, if that holds good, I don't see why the word (secular) should not be added or inserted in the constitution itself." He was of the opinion that the word secular will remind the state and its functionaries that no injustice should be done to its citizens in the name of religion and it would remain neutral and impartial.

The Constituent Assembly did debate this but decided against it despite the presence of such luminaries as Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel and B.R. Ambedkar. There is no denying the fact that secularism is a western concept which clearly establishes the dichotomy between the Church and the State. Nehru did not find much value in adding the word secular if it was not practiced in reality. Our founding fathers did not want to adopt a western concept of secularism which thrives on the negation of religion. Indian leaders believed in secularism as being equidistant to different religions, based on equality and justice to all religious groups, to both the majority and the minority. But there was consensus that religion should live in the private space. Gandhiji said on 15 July 1947 - "Hindus, Muslims, Parsis and Christians, all are Indians. Religion is a private matter."

If religion should be in the private space, then religion should not enter the corridors of power. India is a multi-religious society; it did not opt for a state religion. According to the constitution, the Indian state observes tolerance towards religion, but does not allow it to eavesdrop in the business of state, it does not permit religion to dictate the functioning of the administration. it gives respect to religion but it does not allow it to interfere in statecraft. It is in this context that the invitation to Tarun Sagar-ji to address the Haryana Assembly violates the very spirit of the constitution.

As a religious guru, he has every right to preach and propagate his religion outside the precinct of the assembly. He can address legislators outside the periphery of the assembly, the temple of democracy, at a private place. As private citizens, legislators can receive religious preaching from any religious guru or saint. But once they enter the assembly, they are no longer a private person. They become the state and the state can't be seen to be entertaining religion. Religious gurus are also private citizens when they don't don the mantle of a religion. As private citizens, religious gurus like any other citizen can become members of the assembly and can then address legislators on secular issues like poverty, unemployment, women security, gender equality, drunkenness and other issues of development and social upliftment.

India opted for a secular state unlike Pakistan. Pakistan succumbed to the charm of religion and now everybody can see the price that Pakistan is paying for the same. The strange cocktail of religion and state has made Pakistan a failed state. Mohammad Ali Jinnah was aware of the dangers of a theocratic state, he uttered the need for a secular Pakistan, but his untimely death hastened the process of Islamisation. Secularists like Ayub Khan and Z.A. Bhutto were not far-sighted. They could not withstand the pressures of religion and (initially) minor space conceded by them to religion turned Pakistan into a den of radicals and a place of bloodbath where a normal life is not possible. We the people of India should not commit the same mistake. Let religion live in our hearts. It should not dictate our public life.

With all due respect, I would like to listen to Tarun Sagar-ji, not in the assembly, but in our homes. It will be great for India if religion is not allowed to meddle in politics and functioning of the state.

(Disclaimer: No editing has been done in the original article posted on a news website)

First Published: Tuesday, August 30, 2016 12:15 PM
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