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I Am Confused: What Is Sickular?

The 'sickular' tag applies to anybody who argues for moderation in the face of extremism or anyone who advocates inclusive thinking

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India is a tolerant society. I disagree if only from a purely Indian context. Most Indians think in their mother tongue. This means when you translate "tolerance" into Hindustani (a mixture of Hindi and Urdu) you actually transliterate it to mean "bardaasht" … which when you translate back to English means "to put up with" or "suffer". But that is not the India I grew up in. We don't put up with anyone. We don't suffer them. We live side by side with people of different faiths and respect their festivals and cuisines if not also share in them. I do. I guess then that according to the right wing in India I am "sickular". Took me a while to decipher this unfortunate term. Sadly, given the numbers that use it today, the word might even make the Oxford English Dictionary. Like "prepone" - in perfectly ghastly contrast to "postpone". But that is neither here nor there. For the right wing types I am "sickular". What on earth can this mean? I am well and truly confused …

The "sickular" tag applies to anybody who argues for moderation in the face of extremism or anyone who advocates inclusive thinking. Most specially in things related to religion and belief. I am confused … isn't this what the Constitution of India is all about? I thought Article 15 and Article 25 of the Constitution of India guaranteed freedom of religion. In fact, according to the Indian constitution's preamble, India is a secular state whereby every Indian has the right to practice and promote their religion peacefully. Nowhere does it state that those who do are "sickular".

What happened to "unity in diversity"? In school, year after year we were made to write essays on this subject. Teachers like Mrs Robinson, Mrs Gracias and Mrs Fernandes assiduously dinned into us the values of moral science. When did schools stop teaching this wonderful non-academic subject? As a result when a Haryana politician proposes that The Gita be taught in schools, there is tight lipped silence. The protagonists wait for the "sickular" to oppose and the "sickular" wait for the right wing to propagate the idea more widely before taking court action. If we could be taught moral science why can't today's children? The lessons of the Gita - in and of itself a subset of the epic Mahabharata - is a treatise on winning a conflict. Not just physically but also philosophically and psychologically. I am confused … what is wrong with teaching children how to handle labels like "sickular" with panache?

Actually Diwali 2015 was a huge eye opener. Up until Diwali I was aghast to hear comments like, "we must control/manage Muslim population growing from 12% to 14%". This thought to me was repugnant. I vehemently opposed this genocidal line of conversation and my wife and I felt that we had won because a thick silence pervaded the room. I suspect it died down to rise when less strong opposition prevails. In fact, in the post Diwali gloom (all festivals leave you wishing they hadn't ended) I am surprised why we have heard nothing of the north Indian cow-belt bravado. No one is telling us what to wear, what to eat, whom to pray to etc. The outcome of the Bihar election has been a humbling stumble for a political juggernaut. There were those who told me the cow is their mother, objected when I called their mothers a cow. I was a little confused … and then Diwali came a few days early.

The whole point of a democracy is a strong opposition. I have faith in my country. There will always be a strong opposition in Parliament. The idea of India will survive. A secular state with unity in diversity. It will always be a heaving mess of conflicting ideologies. That is why I love my country. It's the only thing I am not confused about.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Deepak Mukarji

Deepak Mukarji, author, stage personality and management professional, has spent over 30 years creating the space for business to grow in India for various MNC brands. His last assignment was as Director and Country Head of Corporate Affairs for the Shell Group of Companies in India

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