The decision of Noida administration prohibiting the offering of Namaz in public place (Parks) has created an uproar. A section of people is beating chest alleging that the decision is an assault on the religious freedom of the Muslims. It is also being said that secularism in the country is in danger. But why it is that people ignore some responsibility that goes with freedom of religious practice. It appears that the word ‘responsibility’ has lost its relevance.
As the issue became hotly debated, the leader of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) Asaduddin Owaisi did not miss the opportunity to make a venomous statement. He kept adding fuel to fire. He said that the Police of Uttar Pradesh shower flower on ‘kanwarias’ but see offering Namaz as a threat to peace and law and order. Instead of appreciating the action of U.P. Police, the force is being criticised. Is anything wrong in implementing the order of the Supreme Court of India? The apex court in its order in 2009 has clearly stated that any event of religious nature or holding of prayers and congregation need prior permission of the local police. In the light of the Supreme Court order, it is surprising that people have dragged politics to drain. Little wonder it is ‘gutter politics’.
India is an undisputed country where freedom of religious practice and faith has got so much freedom where people of all faiths can indulge in religious practice without any restriction. People have complete freedom to run and manage their religious institutions and place of worship.
Offering Friday ‘Namaz’ on streets, bazaar, and parks is a common sight in India. Since the preamble of the Constitution of India added the word ‘secular’ during the national emergency of 1975, there was no question of challenging or stopping Namaz being offered in public place. The right to practice religious faith has not come from any court or government. It is a Constitutional right. But it does not mean that any temple can come up under the tree of Peepal or people can offer Namaz on streets and parks. If parks are used for offering Namaz or staging Ramlila, we will not have enough space for children to play.
There is another shameful aspect of the current dispute. After a ban was imposed on offering ‘Namaz’ in Sector 58 of Noida, there was a volley of protest. However, when Police imposed a ban on holding “Bhagwat Katha’ in a public place in Greater Noida, not a single voice of protest was raised. People even did not discuss the matter. The anti-encroachment squad of Greater Noida authority even pulled down the shamiana in Sector 37 but no protest was held. The authorities said that the programme was being held without the permission of the Police. Well, where is secularism now when it hurt the sentiments of the Hindus. Is secularism not in danger when Hindus religious sentiments are offended?
What one can see nowadays is that some people who are active on social media are encouraging ‘intolerance’ in the society in the name of secularism. Actors like Naseeruddin Shah who shoot their mouth off on religious intolerance have the support of this section of the society. Who will tell them that ‘tolerance’ is embedded in the soul of ancient Indian civilisation. Under Hindu civilisation religions like Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and Islam are flourishing in India.
India is secular because the majority community or the Hindus are secular. Those talking of ‘religious intolerance’ should turn the pages of history to see things with open eyes. India has welcomed people from other countries with open arm. No country has given so much religious freedom to its citizens that India has given.
Jews had arrived on the seashore of Malabar way back in 542 B.C. Since then, the Jews in India are living peacefully. Christians started arriving in India in 52 A.D. They first landed in Kerala by sea route. Then came the Parses; they landed in ships saving their life from the Islamic nation of Iran. Parses first came on the seashore of Navasari in Gujarat in 720 A.D. The Muslims also came from sea route in Kerala first. But Muslims had not come to India to make this country their homeland. They had come with an evil design to loot the country and then rule it. They were ruthless aggressors.
The last aggressors to enter India were Britons. They won the battle of Palasi in 1757. But clever and intelligent Britons were more diplomatic than others. They realised that converting Indians into Christianity would not help Great Britain to expand its empire. They can lay the foundation of the British economy and its industrial revolution by taking away raw material from India.
Britain which is a Protestant nation hardly resorted to conversion in India. It is because of this that Protestants are fewer in number.
In India, Catholics are in large number. They were converted to become Catholic by Irish, French missionaries and missionaries of Portugal and Spain. Most of the converts were Dalits among the Hindus who were lured by the missionaries.
If we talk of Hindus converted to Islam, it was done by four ways — first by giving wealth to the deprived and poor, second, by offering a position in Mughal courts, third by exempting them from ‘Zajia Tax’. The last resort they adopted was to kill those who refused to embrace Islam. Can anybody challenge these facts? None!
The real spirit of India is “सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः, सर्वे संतु , सर्वे संतु निरामया”.
Just look at the plight of minorities in the neighboring countries of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Then you will realise that minorities in India live in heaven. But if someone tries to create unrest and harm the nation, the government has to come with an iron hand to tackle such elements. No individual is greater than the nation.
(The author of the Column is a Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha.)
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