- Secularism, minority clarification
Courtesy: Narayanan, Kalakad
THE PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS BY JUSTICE K.T. THOMAS DELIVERED ON THE OCCASION OF GURU POOJA AT T.D.M. HALL, ERNAKULAM ON 01.08.2011
Respected Mohanji Bhagwat, other respected men on the dais and respected members of the audience, I was wobbling in my mind as to whether I should speak in the language in which the proceedings were being conducted thus far or in a language in which my speech would be understood by our honorable guest. I have chosen the latter. Because, if I speak in English, in a State like Kerala where the literacy rate is so high, the audience will be able to follow and our honorable guest will also be able to follow. I deem it as a real honor and privilege that I am invited to preside over this highly venerated function, Guru Pooja. You know from my name that I am a Christian. I was born in that and I practice that religion. I am a Church-going Christian. But my advantage is that I learnt many things about the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. I developed an admiration for this disciplined core of this country as early as 1979 when I was posted as Additional District Judge of Calicut. The Principal District Judge was Mr. A.R. Sreenivasan. Anyone who knew him will agree that his honesty was hundred percent, his integrity was transparent, his scholarship was unparalleled and his commitment to the country was unquestionable. Above all, the discipline he followed in his life was also very admirable. On his retirement, I took over as the Principal District Judge. But immediately Mr. A.R. Sreenivasan became a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. We used to communicate and converse many things. That occasion gave me the advantage of jettisoning many things which the smearing and simmering propaganda made by interested persons outside about the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Such notions could be eliminated from my mind. I became a real admirer of this organization. I regard many things on the objectivity point of view.
Prejudice is a weakness of human being. Human being is not prepared to accept a thing without objectivity. When objectivity is applied, the smearing propaganda earlier that RSS is responsible for the murder of Mahatma Gandhi, appears to be unjust and uncharitable. I learnt more about it. Of course, the mere fact that the assassin happened to be once upon a time a member of the organization cannot make the disciplined organization responsible for the murder of the Father of the Nation. Had it been so, can you say that the entire Sikh community of India is responsible for the murder of Indira Gandhi? Can it be said that merely because Jesus Christ was crucified by Roman soldiers at the orders of a Roman Judge, that the whole Roman people at that time committed the murder of Jesus Christ? There should be objectivity in approaching these things. And I, therefore, went and read the judgment of Justice Khosla in the Mahatma Gandhi assassination case and I found that the learned judge of Punjab High Court has completely exonerated Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh as not having anything to do with the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. I say that this smearing campaign must end in this country. Otherwise it will really be unjust on the part of anyone. With this approach, I have seen this organization from a distance. I happen to travel with the predecessor of our honorable guest today. Mr. Sudarsanji was with me in the train from Chennai up to my home town station. We could communicate many things that time. It is amazing to learn about his great scholarship and how he insisted on a simple living. And I found out that this is a hallmark of the members of this organization: Simple living and high thinking. And thereafter, I want to tell you, that for every Christmas he used to send me a Christmas greeting card which contains a quotation from the Gospel of the Bible and a precept from Bhagavad Gita. I used to reciprocate in the same way as he did. For me, it gave an opportunity to learn more and more about this organization. And the best test in my life about this organization is during the dark months of Emergency when Indira Gandhi declared Constitution suspended - on the major portion - and when the whole country became benumbed before the whip swished by Indira Gandhi. The only non-political organization which worked fearlessly in the subterranean sector was the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh with the result that this country that is Bharat could be liberated from the pangs of a dictator. We owe very much to this organization for sacrificing many lives and many of the pleasures in life for regaining what our leaders had gained for this country, namely, the fundamental rights of this country. Now I am disturbed in seeing that for the sake of vote banks, the security of the nation is compromised in many regards. Article 19 of the Constitution is a catalogue of freedoms for the Indian people. But every such freedom is restricted to one thing - that is reasonable restriction of a common factor - that is the security of the State. The Constitution makers were very insistent that primordiality should be given to the security of the State because we have to live in the State. When I come across with many official activities - governmental and political - where the security of the State is given less prominence than the vote bank, I am really disturbed. That is a matter in which the country should stand unanimously and uniformly and with a strident voice declare that we will not tolerate such a policy to be followed. The propaganda that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is anti-minority is a baseless propaganda. After all, what is a minority?
I have realized that according to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, whatever religion you belong to, you must be a full patriot. Your faith is immaterial. Whichever faith you follow, only insistence for you is that you shall not have any extra-territorial loyalties. I also realize that no one is entitled to tell somebody that 'my' religion is better than 'your' religion and therefore abandon 'your' religion and join 'my' religion. No person who has any knowledge of the fundamentals of his own religion can say that. The basic precept of one's own religion is that the other religion is not only equally important but multiplicity of religions sometimes is a gift of God to mankind because all religions have got weaknesses. And in order to replenish the weakness of one religion some benefits are given to the other religion. It is a country where a composite culture has been created; where faith is immaterial but your loyalty, your commitment and your patriotism is most important. I have a different concept about minority. I use to speak out this aspect on many platforms for which I had received more brickbats than flowers. Who is a minority in this country? - Only that section which has got minus features. Minority is discernable from Article 29 of the Constitution where any section of India can be a minority. It can be based on culture, script, language, etc. Any section which is suffering from any disadvantage can be a minority provided they are numerically less. Faith - wise minority recognized in Article 30 is only for one limited purpose. That is for conducting educational institutions without the steamroller- majority rolling over them. If a person is able to read Article 29 first, as a student of Constitution I will tell you, it does not envisage a minority based on religion or faith. When it comes to Article 30, this word religion is meant only with regard to the educational institutions. I was a member of the 11 Judges' bench of the Supreme Court first, which could not complete the argument in TMA Pai case. The point of view which emerged among the majority of judges at that time was that the education which is envisaged in Article 30 should only be secular education and not professional education. When we put this to Mr. Fali S Nariman, the great lawyer became angry and he said that it is an aspect which has been concluded long, long ago and the word education will cover anything even beyond, much beyond secular education. Unfortunately our bench could not complete the arguments and hearings and the judgment could not be delivered. Many years later, after my retirement, an 11 member bench was formed and there also Fali S Nariman addressed arguments and finally the verdict came accepting that education in Article 30 means education at any level. I am mentioning this for another purpose. That great lawyer who really is the author of this concept of the plenary meaning of the education has written an autobiography wherein he confessed that "today I intensely regret having adopted that attitude towards education." The whole disaster in this country in the field of education is on account of pioneering that aspect in this country which the Supreme Court accepted unfortunately. I wanted to mention this in some august place. I have chosen this assembly for bringing to notice that the education in Article 30, even according to the great lawyer who once pioneered this argument, is that it should be limited to the secular education. So, that is the only area where religion has something to say about minority. Otherwise, in a big country like India , minority should have nothing to do with faith. Faith could be changed by anybody. That was exactly what happened when a medical college was started by one Palaniappa Gownder in Tamil Nadu. Later when he found that because of some new legislation he will get more benefits, he converted in to Christianity and became Deivasahayam and he is continuing the medical college now. Anyone can change religion like that. You are making a law based on a faith! In a secular nation, in a secular republic like ours, that shall not happen. In a secular republic, religion shall not be your identity but your being an Indian shall be your identity.
That is what precisely Zakir Hussain, when he became the Rashtrapathi of India , said. He was congratulated by TVR Shenoy, the journalist. Zakir Hussain was a great scholar. He was a Vice Chancellor. When TVR Shenoy approached him and told him "Rashtrapathiji, I congratulate you because it is a great victory of secularism in India ." Zakir Hussain asked him in what way it is a victory of secularism. Shenoy said that a Muslim became the President of India is a great victory of secularism. Zakir Hussain looked at him and smiled. TVR Shenoy asked "Why Rashtrapathiji, you are smiling at me?" He answered - "Shenoy, I smiled hearing your notion about secularism." He said, and mark the next sentence - "Secularism will be achieved in India only on that day when you do not know my religion!” My dear friends take it from me - secularism has nothing to do with religion in this country. You should not know my religion in the same way I shall not bother about your religion. That is your faith. And whatever way you acquire it or develop it - it is your private matter. This is something very much I learnt during my travel with Sudarsanji from Chennai to Kottayam. He insisted on that. He told me that - "Sir, you can be a pious Christian" I asked him in what way he knows that I am a pious Christian. "That is a different matter"- He said. "But we are only insisting that whatever be your faith, your primary commitment must be to this nation, to this country." On that matter I very much admire I am a great admirer of this organization. The discipline exhibited everywhere - and even today - the manner in which the flowers were offered to the Dhwaj gave me the real impression that discipline has given real impetus to your working and performance. Discipline is needed for a nation and discipline is fundamental to the growth of a nation. Whichever nation has grown, you can see discipline is inculcated in the citizens. I think, on that matter, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is a model to me also.
Thank you very much.
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