Mangaluru, Jan 22, 2015: Proper democratic functioning in a multi-religious country like India is possible only when secularism is an important component, said Prof Romila Thapar, noted historian and Professor Emeritus of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.
She was delivering a talk on “Indian Society and Secularism” at the BV Kakkillaya memorial Oration-2015 held in the city on January 21, Wednesday under the aegis of Hosathu, Bengaluru, MS Krishnan Memorial Trust, Bengaluru and Samadarshi Vedike, Magnaluru.
Prof. Romila Thapar further took strong exception to the encouragement of religious extremism by some groups and added a secular society is impossible in the presence of such sort of religious extremism.
She also strongly advocated a new civil law which is equally applicable to all citizens. There should be equality of all people of all religions, she stressed.
Prof. B Surendra Rao, former professor of History in Mangalore University presided over the function. Dr Srinivas Kakkillaya, eminent physician was also present.
Points raised by Prof. Romila Thapar at her talk at Mangalore on 21st Jan,2015
1. Secularism is very essential for a democracy to be functional.
2. Democracy developed in the west and along with colonialisation the concept also spread to other parts of the world which got independence later on.
3. The censuses which were taken at the end of the 19th century and later gave the idea of numbers of each community in the society and concept of majority and minority.
4. Nationalism has to treat all communities as equal.
5. Secularizing the society is not a process of making it anti religion but a society where social and political identities are based on citizenship and not on community, religion, language or ethnicity.
6. For a democracy it is essential to understand that the universe functions without any divine intervention and religion does not enter civic society. Laws are made by men and women without the need for any divine sanction.
7. There cannot be mlechs or kafirs in a democracy the laws of marriage and inheritance should be common for all communities. There is a need for change in the civil laws.
8. Two questions were raised: The first was whether we are westernizing in the name of secularism and the second was whether we can draw any earlier links from the past.
9. Can religion be applied to all aspects of life when different forms of worship exist in different castes. Conflict between Brahmanism and Shravanism- the worshipping and the working castes exited from pre colonial times. Then came the Bhakti movements which took the gods to people and worship was in the language of common people.
10. The emergence of temples was in around 5 CE. Before that there were no places marked for worship. Sacrifices and yagas could be done anywhere. As temples grew wealth accumulated and they became landlord, businesses. Royal sponsored temples also became centers of power.
11. Hinduism has no central dogma, no authority, no central book.
12. Conversions into Hinduism came into practice only in the 20th century until then one could only be born as a Hindu.
13. Hindutva is again a 20th century invention- the first mention of which is in Anandmath a novel by Bankim Chand Chatterjee.
14. What can be called as Hinduism started purally and those came in were added to it.
15. Islam first came into India particularly the west coast and Sind through trade and administrators-Bohras, Khojas and Moplahs are examples of these.
16. Turks and other Muslim were the invaders who came in later on who invaded, looted and destroyed. Actually temples were looted by Hindu kings also Kashmiri kings had officials called as Deva Utpadana Nayakas who used to loot money from the temples to be added to the treasury of the king.
17. Religions can be used as a social segments and subjects of worship.
18. When conversions took place it was only change in the subject of worship- the converts carried their castes into the new religion to which they were converted.
19. How can we encourage secularism- particularly in the society which experiences extremisms of religions of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs and that all religions have a male dominated attitude towards freedom of women.
20. Secular India means all citizens are governed by the constitution with equal rights and equal status under law. A new civil law should be applicable to all citizens.
21. We have to uphold the rights of the judiciary to be independent.
22. No religious state can be democratic.
23. Most Indians have a personalized religion and no religion can be allowed to interfere in the basic fundamental rights of the citizen.