An erudite person once said – there is complete separation of church and state in America, there is no separation of church and state in Britain and in India we are somewhere in middle. This peculiar situation in India has done much harm to the Idea of India as time and time again religious forces have tried to assert their will into Indian polity with the aim of expanding their religious dogmas.
One such display of religio-political agenda is done by Church of South India moderator Bishop Thomas K Oommen, the supreme head of the church. The bishop issued a public letter in a call for unification of anti-NDA forces in the country to counter, what in his words, is ‘right wing hindu fundamentalism’. He also made references to Gandhi Ji’s dandi march. The palpable audacity of a church leader to compare a democratically elected government of India to Britissh Raj is egregious and highly inflaming.
So, according to Bishop Thomas, the current regime is occupying and colonizing India with democratically elected governments in 21 states and after being the single largest party in Lok Sabha. Bishop Thomas also mentioned how especially in the last 4 years the plight of minorities and poor have reached new nadir. This is being stated when central government schemes for entrepreneurial and poverty alleviation has reached new heights with schemes like MNREGA getting twice the fund allocation than previous years and Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojna provided roof for millions of poor people around the country.
“The Central Government that follows the Hindutva supremacist ideology seems to have consciously discounted all the rights stated in the Preamble of the Constitution,”
– Bishop Thomas K Oommen.
The finer print here is one of division. When Bishop Thomas accuses the central government of being ‘Hindu supremacist’ or whatever that means, he is actually undermining the verdict of people of different caste, creed and faith who voted for this government. They no longer are Indians, they are muslims, hindus, Christians and so and so. This is the tragedy of Indian politics. People talk about abolition of caste but then turn around and replace caste with religious division.
Bishop Thomas is well within his rights as a citizen of India to oppose the government but when he uses his religiosity as a platform to propagate political ideas, he himself practiced something that he so ferociously opposed the, constitutional norms. Indian constitution clearly states that there should be no intersection between politics and religion but Bishop ironically preached about constitution, unconstitutionally.
The church of South India is the second largest Christian denomination in India and has a significant presence in the south. One cannot help but notice the correlation between Karnataka elections and this statement, where the church has a significant presence.
The Bishop ended the letter by expressing his solidarity towards recent Dalit agitations and reiterated the need to implement recommendations of Sacchar and Ranganathan committee on rights of Dalit, Christians and Muslims. This is a perception of India, which is not of a citizen but one of identity and divisiveness, where a person is defined by his or her caste, creed and religion. India can do without such agenda driven religiosity and I hope we as a nation and society can cut off this cancerous spread of religio-political sentiment which not only undermines Indian democracy but also the idea of India itself.
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