Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A case of discrimination against the Hindus

When the Constitution of India was adopted, enacted and given to the people in the constituent Assembly on the twenty-sixth day of November, 1949 there was a great expectation that the alien laws and the educational system imposed on us by the British Government through its spokesperson Thomas Babbit Macaulay, would be completely altered and replaced by India’s own laws and modes of learning with suitable changes wherever necessary, but contrary to people’s hopes, not only Macaulay’s pernicious Penal Code was retained, but the educational policy framed by him with the evil motive of corrupting the minds of Indian Youths with materialistic western culture in order to perpetuate British rule here, was kept intact.

In our country not only law, both civil and criminal but also education has always been based on Dharma, a term which independent India’s policy-makers particularly those entrusted with the task of framing a new Constitution, could not properly understand and apply. They confused ‘Dharma’ with ‘Mazhab’ and mistook the latter for the former. They wrongly thought that if Dharma was taught in educational institutions it would create communal disharmony in the country and disturb public peace. Contrary to their false fears religious teaching based on the Holy Vedas and other sacred scriptures in educational institutions would have been of immense benefit for all students studying there. Had religious instruction in schools not been banned, the moral atmosphere in the country would have been far different from what we witness today.

In our country children were always taught noble things which are absolutely non-controversial and universally applicable, as for example, “Speak truth, honour mother, father and guest with utmost reverence” etc. They were never taught to hate or kill those who did not accept their religion. On the contrary the temples of learning in India had always inspired the pupils not only to love the people of the whole world, but also to be kind towards all creatures both big and small.

Quite early in their life the students in India learnt that the whole world is a family—Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. Can the same thing be said about the students studying in madrasas or schools run by the so-called Christian missionaries?

With a distorted vision of Dharma or religion the framers of the Constitution of India, put a complete ban on the teaching of religious precepts in schools and colleges and other centres of learning run by the Government. Article 28 of the said Constitution laid down:

“No religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of state funds.”

It should not be forgotten that the above constitutional provision was an assault on the Hindus’ right to freely give and receive religious instruction in educational institutions.

The above ban was totally unjustified. It was an attempt at whittling down Hindus’ faith in their own culture and traditional values. Confusing Dharma which has its roots in the Holy Vedas, recollection of Vedic aphorisms handed down from time to time, upright moral conduct and one’s own conscience, with Faith which is individual - centric, Ambedkar made a very unjust remark by saying that “… The religions which prevail in this country are not merely non-social so far as their mutual relations are concerned, they are anti-social, one religion claiming that its teaching constitutes the only right path for salvation, that all other religions are wrong.”

While mazhab or faith being individual-centric can be non-social by being antagonistic to others’ religious beliefs, Dharma has never taught separatism. According to Mahabharat which is universally acclaimed as a great scripture and is regarded as the fifth Veda, a Dharma which opposes another Dharma is not a Dharma, but ‘Kudharma’ i.e. bad Dharma.

Wrongly justifying the giving of religious instruction in educational institutions Ambedkar as Chairman of the Drafting Committee put forward three reasons one of which was that public funds raised by taxes could not be utilized for the benefit of any particular community. He made the above statement with a frame of reference to erstwhile Article 21 whose provisions have now been incorporated in Article 27.

The words “for the benefit of a particular community” used in the original Article 21 are peculiar! Is any Dharma or true religion for the benefit of a particular community only?

Without addressing this question in earnest Ambedkar jumped to the conclusion that the teaching of Hindu Dharma in an educational institution would benefit Hindu students only! Can anything be farther from the truth? If Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Parasee and students belonging to other religious denominations studying in the same class of a school or college are taught to abstain from intoxicating drinks as it is one of the five deadly sins, will it benefit only Hindu students?

No true religion can ever be for the benefit of a particular community only. Dharma teaches love and tolerance not only for the whole of mankind, but also for non-humans like birds and animals. It teaches us not to be cruel even to those who humiliate us and are stubbornly opposed to our views about God and religion or in any matter.

The Veda which has several branches including the science of longevity called Ayurveda is the mother of all religions. The teaching of its noblest ideals would have benefitted and will benefit all irrespective of caste and community. Depriving students of religious instruction based on the Holy Vedas by putting a blanket ban on it through Article 28 of the Constitution has caused a great harm to education in our country.

The majority - minority syndrome in India is politically motivated and has nothing to do with religious instruction in educational institutions. It has its roots in the old British Policy of “Divide and Rule” which resulted not only in the thoughtless division of the country, but also brought no good either to the Hindus or to the Muslims.

The Hindu Dharma has never preached or practiced forcible conversion, nor has it ever prescribed one particular book for the purpose of enlightening one particular community. The word “HINDU” is more geographical than communal in its connotation. Anyone who believes in universal brotherhood casting down the barbarous barriers of caste, community, colour, creed or faith based on the personal views of a particular individual and has compassion for all creatures come under this denomination. How can the teaching of such a great and spotless Dharma be for the benefit of one particular community only as Ambedkar apprehended? The constitutional ban on the instruction of Hindu Dharma in educational institutions as contemplated by Article 27 and mandated by Article 28 is therefore, not only a spiritual but also a legal aberration.

What is most objectionable is the fact that while on the one hand the Constitution of India puts a ban on religious instruction i.e. instructions based on Hindu Dharma in educational institutions through Article 28, it grants fundamental right to minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice which obviously includes madrasas which in the majority of cases, have transpired to be factories of fundamentalism.

Article 30(1) of the Constitution states—“All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice”. Clause (2) of the same Article brazenly lays down—“The state shall not in granting aid to educational institutions, discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language.”

Article 30 read with Article 27 makes it abundantly clear that the framers of the Constitution wanted the Government to grant aid to educational institutions established and administered by minorities even if their object was to promote their own faith miscalled religion.

Article 30(2) does not prohibit giving of religious institution in the educational institutions under the management of a minority, neither does it restrain the state from granting aid to such institutions on that count. This being the position there is no justification in putting a ban on the imparting of religious instruction in any other educational institution wholly maintained out of the state funds. If, according to Article 27 no person can be compelled to pay any taxes the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination, why should Hindus or others be compelled to make payment to the state exchequer for the promotion or maintenance of a particular faith or religion through any educational institution managed and maintained by a minority within the meaning of clause (2) of Article 30 of the Constitution?

Article 29 was specially designed to protect the interests of minorities. Was there anything on record to prove when the Constitution was being framed, that there has ever been any danger to the distinct language, script or culture of minorities from the majority community in India? If not, why were such specific fundamental rights granted to minorities through Article 29 which, inter alia, mandates that “any section, of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same.” Why was not the same fundamental right granted to the Hindus?

Do the above anomalies not speak to the truth that “equality of status and opportunity” enshrined in the Preamble to the Constitution and “equality before the law” or “the equal protection of the laws” guaranteed thereunder are mere flowery phrases?

(The writer can be contacted at 207A, Kalyani Apartments, Sector-6, Vasundhara, Ghaziabad (Uttar Pradesh).)

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