What happened in the north east reflected complete bankruptcy of identity politics, said Subhashini Ali, vice-president, All India Democratic Women’s Association, at a seminar on ‘Strengthening India’s secular democracy’ organised jointly by the Islamic Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought, the Church of South India Inter-faith Dialogue Center and the Rajaji Center for Public Affairs on Thursday.
Discussing the dangers of creating one subsuming identity, she said the whole concept of identity politics was being widely propagated as a method of liberation for marginalised, exploited groups to gain equality and be a part of the mainstream.
“But nothing can be farther from the truth,” she said, adding, that instead of helping people find allies, it fosters animosity by creating an enemy of the ‘other’. Though identity politics existed earlier, it had been strengthened with the development of capitalism, she said, adding that the means had become more sophisticated.
Moosa Raza, I.A.S. (retd.) and chairman, Southern India Educational Trust, said for the nation to be secular and pluralistic, a lot rested on the effective functioning of the executive, legislature and the last bulwark of democracy, the judiciary. “For India to remain pluralistic and secular, all need to get justice, not just in the criminal sense, but also in the social sense,” he said. We need to develop a culture of respect, rather than tolerance, he said.
Father Patrick Gnanapragasam, head of department, Christian Studies, University of Madras, stressed on the need to develop a new way of looking at secularism. Talking about how the globalised world had brought forth new challenges, he said religion had largely come to the public realm from the private.
“We need to cultivate a new understanding where there is no iron wall between the State and religion. We need to see how people are practising religion and how it can be included in our definition of secularism,” he said.
In context of the recent Naroda Patia verdict, Javed Anand, vice-president, Muslims for Secular Democracy, said the verdict proved how justice could be achieved through the legal system.
The lesson we can learn from the verdict, he said was that the culture of impunity could be challenged. Though democracy was one of the best political systems, it came with an inherent risk of majoritarianism, he said.
“We should strongly condemn the menace of terrorism and corruption in our country at every level. We must promote the spirit of tolerance and national integration and not give any quarter to communalism and pseudo-nationalism,” said prince of Arcot, Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali.
Viji Varghese Eapen, director, pastoral concerns department, Church of South India, A. Faizur Rahman, secretary general, Islamic Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought, G. Narayanaswamy, president, Rajaji Center for Public Affairs, Maulana Ghulam Mohammed Mehdi Khan, chief Shia khazi, Government of Tamil Nadu, Baskara Bharathi, secretary, Rajaji Centre for Public Affairs, and K.V.S. Habeeb Mohammad, vice-president, Islamic Foundation Trust, were the other speakers at the seminar.
Keywords: secular democracy