Secularism compromised

IF the VHP and other fringe elements falling under the rubric of the Sangh Parivar have come up with fancy slogans such as ‘Ghar Wapasi,’ Love Jihad’ etc., and now pose a threat to the secular fabric of India, there s a need to reflect on the larger idea of secularism in this country. In Shillong, the State capital of Meghalaya the Secretariat building was decked up with lights on Christmas Eve and all through the Christmas season. This will probably continue up to the New Year. While such decorations are appropriate for private establishments which are self-funded, to invest public or rather the tax payer’s money on an extravaganza that marks the religious festivities of a particular section of the community, must be called to account. Many have in the past referred to Meghalaya or Mizoram as Christian states. While the latter might merit the name since about 99% of its citizens are Christians, Meghalaya is not homogenous in terms of religion. There are about 65 % Christians while the rest follow the indigenous faiths and other organised religions. Considering that religion itself is increasingly becoming the fulcrum around which conflicts are generated in this country, is it correct for the state to make an open display of a religious observance? What happens if tomorrow  some other religious groups demand that the Secretariat be lit up for Deepawali, Durga Puja, Eid or the Seng Kut Snem? Will the state oblige? And on what grounds can the state reject their demands?
Religion is best left as a personal faith rather than a corporate worship. Meghalaya’s economy at this point is not exactly a rosy picture. The State would benefit from fiscal prudence, which also means curtailing unnecessary expenditure. The churches all across the state are decked up enough for the occasion even while millions die of cold and hunger. Decorations are external frills and while lights and sound used to be associated with the Hindu festival of Durga Puja it now seems that this has become a good business venture. These external frills have reduced the birth of Christ- a birth that was so humble in its essence – to a pursuit for materialism. The churches and their leaders will not speak about this profligacy of the state. On the contrary they will rejoice in the fact that Christianity is being demonstrated from the roof tops of the State Secretariat. But someone has to call the bluff on secularism. Who but the media can do this without flinching!

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