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Is secularism in India a myth?

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill or CAB, which grants citizenship to the non-Muslims from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, was passed recently by the Rajya Sabha and the Bill will now go to the President for his consent. With this as the backdrop, NT KURIOCITY asked a few Goans how secular India really is

India, as we all know is a democratic and a secular country and over time it has always thought about different opinions related to its citizens. CAB provides grants of Indian citizenship to six non-Muslim communities. The main crux of this Bill is that it has reduced the mandatory 12-year stay in India to just five years to possess citizenship even if they have no documentation of their own. I feel that this step has been taken with some cooked plan in the officials’ minds. How do we determine whether India is secular in reality? We have also seen a lot of confusion over the years when it comes to religious tolerance, country’s origin, date of entry into India, place of residence in India, Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cancellation, etc. It still remains hypothetical and contradictory because a lot of people have been complaining about CAB. It surely can be a great step for some but it also depends on how the citizens are affected too. India is not really secular in reality. I hope the necessary steps are taken for a better and more secular India. Someone has rightly said: “A nation suffers when popular opinions become more important than values and justice.” Let justice prevail in our country so that the whole nation can be secular as well as a democratic country.

Kenneth Lobo, St Xavier’s College, Mapusa

India is a multi-ethnic society and a growing economy with a predominantly young population that has aspirations for a bright future. India can work towards a brighter future only when all citizens, irrespective of religion/ethnicity, can have a sense of equality before the government. But by introducing CAB, which in many regards is a bit arbitrary in nature, the Bill offers less insight as to who it classifies as a ‘persecuted minority’ or what are the long-term intents of such a law. Such open ends give rise to fear and insecurities which do not ensure citizens of their right to equality and undoubtedly affect the secular aspect of our society adversely.

Sarvesh Choushetti, resident of Mapusa studying at IIT Guwahati

The Bill excludes Muslim immigrants; being the majority in the concerning countries. The proposed legislation applies to those who were “forced or compelled to seek shelter in India due to persecution on the ground of religion”. It is a well proven fact that minority communities regardless suffer conversion and persecution in Muslim dominated countries. It aims to protect such people from proceedings of illegal migration and provide them with basic rights on humanitarian grounds, which their country can’t provide. In my opinion regardless of the morality or the constitutionality of this bill, it will have no effect on how secular this country is! This bill will have no affect on any section of the society currently residing in this country, irrespective of their religion. Apart from some opportunistic politicians and political parties politicising and communalising the issue to play their dirty vote bank politics, completely disregarding the merits of this bill. India was, is and always will remain secular.

Mayuri Mangesh Gurav, Panaji

The term secular was added to the preamble of India by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act. India as a nation doesn’t need to be tagged as secular by some mere group of so called modern people because India has been a secular nation for thousands of years as it has benevolently let different types of religious grow, flourish and thrive. CAB has nothing to do with secularism of this country rather it is more about human rights of minorities, and the protection of their United Nations fundamental rights of freedom from slavery and torture and discrimination based on religion. So the Bill doesn’t pose any threat to the actual secularism of this country.

Kishan Mangeshkar, Don Bosco College of Engineering, Margao

The topic of secularism has become questionable. Comfortable elimination of one community as in this bill is a precursor to many more biased and prejudiced laws present in the drawing board. At such a point, we hope the Supreme Court takes a neutral stand, as the faith of the country’s citizens now lie on it. Dwelling into the technical aspect of this Bill, it doesn’t take into account the refugees of all the neighbouring countries, and so the purpose as to why such a premature bill was formed in the first place is enigmatic.

Z J Dias, general practitioner, Margao

CAB which has been passed in both the houses has caused an uproar in many parts of the country, some including violent protests. The Bill safeguards the minorities persecuted in the Islamic nations. But excluding one religion makes it seem prejudicial, which according to me isn’t so. It needs to be understood that these are Islamic nations and chances of Muslims being persecuted are slim, but the prospect cannot be completely negated. But if so, then why deny it? Is it to increase the vote bank to further solidify the goal of Hindutva? Or just protect the nation from more influx of Muslims who perennially seem to have a tag of terrorists attached to them?

Sanford Mascarenhas, assistant professor, Don Bosco College of Engineering, Margao

India is a developing country with citizens belonging to different religious groups. I think to some extent the passing of CAB is good for the illegal minority community, but leaving out one religion (Islam) will create problems in the future –  increase in unemployment, population and terrorism. In the future, I can see an image of India splitting into parts, pain in democracy and a dumping ground for illegal migrants.

Teejay Costa, Benaulim

India is declared as a secular nation by the constitution, but in recent years the emergence of different political ideologies revolving around religious beliefs has led to the questioning of this very declaration. India is better quoted as ‘pseudo-secular’ considering it as a sweet term for ‘non-secular’. The recent passing of the CAB proves this very point as it discriminates the migrants on the basis of their religion. This, in my opinion is taking our nation towards being less tolerant towards different religions.

Anish Kulkarni, Agnel Institute of Technology and Design, Assagao

Secularism now exists just as a mere word in the constitution and preamble of India. Secularism basically refers to the separation of religion and state. Clearly, India with its various law codes for the different religious communities fails to qualify as a secular nation. All religious communities have their separate laws for marriage succession and divorce. There are different laws for majority and minority schools. Communal violence is rampant. Thus, in reality India is nothing more than a state run by religion.

Darina Lobo, Aldona

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