Principles of faith need to be segregated from contours of culture, Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari said today even as he questioned if a more complete separation of religion and politics might not better serve Indian democracy.
Quoting set of judgements in Bommai case, the Vice President said, “The principle so laid down is emphatic. Despite its clarity, however, different interpretations were placed on it and there is no real consensus within the Court on what secularism entails. It has been opined that what the Court said is different from what it did.
“Observers have noted that subsequent pronouncements of the Supreme Court have effectively vindicated the profoundly anti-secular vision of secularism of some quarters. For this reason, it has been argued whether a more complete separation of religion and politics might not better serve Indian democracy,” Ansari said while addressing 16th convocation of the University of Jammu.
“The difficulty lies in delineating, for purposes of public policy and practice, the line that separates them from religion…Since a wall of separation is not possible under Indian conditions, the challenge is to develop a formula for equidistance and minimum involvement.
“For this purpose, principles of faith need to be segregated from contours of culture since a conflation of the two obfuscates the boundaries of both and creates space to equivocalness. Furthermore, such an argument could be availed of by other faiths in the land since all claim a cultural sphere and a historical justification for it,” he said.
He said few years ago in a volume published on the occasion of Golden Jubilee of the Supreme Court, two eminent jurists had observed that “as we transit into the next millennium, the Supreme Court has a lot to reflect upon and not least on how to protect the minorities and their ilk from the onslaught of majoritarianism”.
He said unless the court strives in every possible way to assure that the Constitution, the law, applies fairly to all citizens, the court cannot be said to have fulfilled its custodial responsibility. “Is it therefore bold to expect that the Supreme Court may consider, in its wisdom, to clarify the contours within which the principles of secularism and composite culture should operate with a view to strengthen their functional modality and remove ambiguities that have crept in?” Ansari said.
Political scientists and sociologists have written a good deal on the Indian perception of secularism. The three generally accepted characteristics of a secular state, namely liberty to practice religion, equality between religions as far as state practice is concerned, and neutrality or a fence of separation between the state and religion, have been invoked but ‘their application has been contradictory and has led to major anomalies.’