Being secular and the Supreme Court . . !



BE secular: Supreme Court on PIL for ban on parties with religious link, TOI, 1st Feb. “What’s the news in India?” asked my American friend, as I read an Indian newspaper in an airport in America. “A Supreme Court judge has asked a petitioner to be secular!” I said. “Ssshhh!” said my friend, “Secular is a bad word to some people here!” “Here?” I asked, “In America?”

“Yes,” whispered my friend grinning, “Many here think that America is a Christian country. True, it is inhabited by a majority of Christians, like your India has a Hindu majority, but our country is secular, as written in the constitution! In fact, Bob, we are credited as being the first explicitly secular nation!” “Doesn’t that make some of your people angry?” I asked. “That’s why I told you to say the word softly,” he guffawed, “Even here there are many who don’t realize that that’s the very reason the Christian Pilgrim Fathers sailed across the seas to America; to escape the tyranny of Puritan Christians in England!” “So, it was Christian against Christians!” I chuckled.

“Religion is something no one agrees about,” said my friend wisely, “First we assume it is one religious belief against another, like say a Hindu’s belief against his Muslim neighbour, but after getting rid of that Muslim, the very community that threw the other out, will find, one segment within themselves fighting another! Which is what happened when Cromwell and his Roundheads went after the other Christians in their country!”

I smiled and my friend looked at me curiously, “Did I say something funny?” he asked. “You reminded me of a community in Mumbai, who decided they’d live together and built a housing colony!” “Ah, like one society, one religion!” smiled my American friend. “Right!” I said, “But when the first religious event came along, there was a huge fight! One group wanted a priest from their section of the country and the other wanted one from their side!” “I can guess what happened,” he said knowingly, “they came to blows?” “Nearly!” I said, “Then they came to an understanding that one year it would be from one section and the next year from the other, but in the process, everything got divided! Every event, every AGM meeting, was one division against the other, and,” I said, “Imagine they were all supposedly from the same community!”

“Exactly what happened in Christian England, which is why they got on the Mayflower and sailed to Secular America!” he said. “Don’t say that word out loud!” I said, in mock horror. “Oh yes I will,” he said, looking around, “that’s the only way to live in this rife ridden world!” “Thank you, Your Honour!” I shout across the seas, “Thank you for your wisdom..!”