Published On : Sat, Nov 26th, 2016

Why this imposition on the rest of us on Sindhi and Jain holy days? Aren’t we a Secular Democracy?

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We mean no disrespect to anybody, least of all Sadhu Vaswani, whose presence one still feels vividly in Pune. When Sindhis were ousted from Hyderabad in Sindh which is now in Pakistan Sadhu Vaswani and many others settled in Pune. His network of followers grew rapidly till a number of properties, including Heritage Jejeebhoy castle, was occupied by the Trust running in his name. The Mira School for girls used to run here – it also contains the ‘hut’ ( kutiya) where Vaswani lived out his last days which has become a shrine for his followers now. During his life time in Sindh, Pakistan and Pune, India Wadhu Vaswani did a lot for the education and financial and social upliftment of women.

But then, so did Savitri Phule and Mahatma Jyotiba Phule! In fact this couple began India’s very first school for girls in the same city of Pune… decades before Mira school began. They did a lot of social service for dalits and widows too. Brahmin widows specially, who were forced to shave their heads and live in misery. Then why don’t we have meat and chicken shops remaining closed in their birth anniversaries?

Same question goes for forced closure of meat shops for the Jain festival. Jains by and large are peaceful, harmony loving people and they would never impose their beliefs, radical though they may be sometime, on others. It was the doing of a BJP politician that this came about.

Why this special treatment to Sindhi ( who are not even a different religion) and Jain sensibilities? Isn’t India supposed to be a secular nation with all Religions getting equal respect?

As per our last sensex India now has 966.3 million Hindus, who make up 79.8 per cent of its population, and 172.2 million Muslims, who make up 14.23 per cent. Among the other minorities, Christians make up 2.3 per cent of the population and Sikhs 1.72 per cent. Jainism followers are less in number than Sikh.

Many Hindus fast during the two Navratris that come before Dashera and Ram Navami – so why don’t we impose this restriction then?

Muslims, who comprise about 15% of our population and are our largest minority fast during the holy month of Ramzan. They do not even drink water during the day. So, by the same logic as we follow for Paryushan, the Jain festival, why don’t we keep meat AND vegetable shops closed for the month?

Christians who make up 2.3% of our population do not eat non veg during the period of Lent, which is an approximately 6 weeks period when they are in mourning.

As a show of solidarity with them, why not keep abattoirs ( butcheries) closed for this period also?

We, by this means our elected governments, often forget that India has sworn itself to be secular. The exact words of the pre amble to our Constitution read :
WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN, SOCIALIST, SECULAR ,DEMOCRATIC, REPUBLIC and to secure all its citizens: Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

Explaining these four principles, Dr. Ambedkar said:

“it was, indeed, a way of life, which recognizes liberty, equality and fraternity as the principles of life and which cannot be divorced from each other: Liberty cannot be divorced from equality; equality cannot be divorced from liberty. Nor can liberty and equality be divorced from fraternity. Without equality, liberty would produce the supremacy of the few over the many. Equality without liberty would kill individual initiative. Without fraternity, liberty and equality could not become a natural course of things.”

Please note the words – Without equality, liberty would produce the supremacy of the few over the many.

Are we now seeing an age of supremacy of the many over the few? Or the many showing favoritism to a select few – the few of their choosing?

We must ponder over these important points when we blindly accept these ‘edicts’ of our elected representatives. We elect them to serve us, not lord over us and restrict ‘bans’ of all kinds.

The question is not just about food – when we can eat meat and when we cannot? Or eat what meat for that matter!
The larger principle of our adherence to our own stated ideals is at stake here.
Do we Indians, really cherish and follow the principles of our Constitution or not?
It was a constitution given to us by a very wise committee after months of deliberations, discussions and debate.
We, and our so called leaders, have no right to flout it at their whim and fancy.

Sunita Mudaliar
Associate Editor