Vice President Hamid Ansari on Tuesday said that secularism implies that a state shall not have a religion of its own. His statement comes in the backdrop of an ongoing row between political parties over an advertisement issued by Information and Broadcasting Ministry which carried a picture of the Preamble to the Constitution as it appeared before the 42nd Amendment, without the words ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’.
“What do we understand by the word secularism? The ground reality is that we are a society, in which people of different faiths live side by side…The challenge is to accommodate (everybody)…In terms of a state, secularism means that a state shall not have a religion of its own,” Ansari said during an interaction with students of Wilson College in South Mumbai.
“The state shall not differentiate between citizens on the basis of religion. When it comes to dispensation by way of development programmes, scholarship, the state shall judge on an objective criteria, and not on grounds of religion, sex or creed,” he said.
Discrimination on the grounds of sex is an ailment the society suffers from, the Rajya Sabha Chairman said, adding that the issue needs to be addressed socially.
“Discrimination on grounds of sex is prohibited by law. But, as we all know, our society suffers from various ailments and one of them is discrimination on grounds of sex… This challenge has to be addressed socially and not necessarily legally. Legally we have done all that could be done. We have made laws, we have prescribed penalties for discrimination. But we find this is not producing the desired results,” he said.
It is the duty of every citizen to remain faithful to the spirit of the Constitution, Ansari said.
“The vision of the Constitution is laid down in its text. The task that each one of us as a citizen has to undertake and discharge is to remain true and faithful to the letter and spirit of the Constitution,” he said.
Replying to a query, Ansari, who was also served as Vice-Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, said that students, as citizens of the country, should participate in public life without worrying about being right or wrong.
“Students are citizens and it is the duty of citizens to participate in public life. It is not a matter of choice. If you are a citizen, you should discharge your duties of being a citizen. There is nothing that does not affect a citizen. Everything that happens in society affects a citizen and you should therefore participate and take interest in public life as per your own views and perceptions. It is not important to be right always,” Ansari said.