“Mahatma Gandhi advanced the philosophical perception of secularism into a political scenario by giving it a new explanation. He battled for inclusive nationalism, territorial nationalism and not exclusive nationalism,” said A. Marx, National Executive Member of National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation.

He was delivering the Graham Staines eleventh endowment lecture on ‘Mahatma Gandhi and secularism’ at Lady Doak College here on Friday.

It was organised by the Centre for Religion and Interfaith Relations of the college. Recalling the death of Australian missionary Graham Staines, who was burnt to death along with his two sons by Hindu extremists in Odisha in 1999, Mr.Marx said the incident would remain a stain in the history of independent India.

What was worse than the death of Staines and his sons were the remarks made by the judiciary and the investigating agencies which attempted to justify the act of the extremists, citing that the Australian missionary lured people to convert to Christianity.

“Not an offence”

“As per Indian Constitution, religious conversion is not an offence. The Constitution establishes that the lawmakers envisioned a secular India. Mahatma Gandhi preached secularism and lived a life testifying it. He was one of the pioneers who dreamed of making India a secular nation,” Mr.Marx said.

S. Selva Gomathi, deputy director of SOCO Trust, advised the students to exercise their voting rights with caution.

A. Mercy Pushpalatha, Principal, urged the students to follow the news and debate on elections for a thorough view on political events before exercising their franchise. “What we see in India today is not what was envisioned by leaders during its independence. We should accept and respect every race, community and case, and ensure that our country is truly secular,” she told the students.

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