Every State has had its own legacies and baggage’s of history that forces or encourages it to embrace principles of secularism.  In India the baggage is particularly heavy and the legacy quite ancient. The all pervading, seemingly unending conflict of two schools of thought: Indic and Islamic brought to us the ugly partition of our sub-continent.  Considering the pre-partition political machinations and riots it does seem reasonable that a State machinery built for a post-partition India would make generous allowances for the minority communities. However, what makes such a constitutional arrangement ineffective and prone to allegations of rampant favoritism of State machinery towards the vociferous few is the Leftist-Nehruvian tendency to have taken the Indo-Islamic/parition legacy to silly, unreasonable lengths.

Today, when we discuss the merits and demerits of this rather ill-advised, less important issue of introducing Gita in Karnataka schools we  must go back to the faults of our Constitutional set-up we have inherited from the partition-era.  The Indian conservative though spends his or her time in attacking the Leftist-Nehruvian propensity to fully tolerate absurdities from radical groups of minorities while at the same time eagerly scoffing at issues of interest to Indic faiths. Not that doing this is wrong but ideally the discourse must not stop there.

Perhaps a complete withdrawal of the Indian State from religious affairs could be contemplated?

This would be a good idea if only need for social reform and intra/inter-sect conflict were non-existent. Slow pace of reform, lack of all-encompassing ecclesiastical organisation and a tendency to look upon the State as the patron of religion and religious affairs as it was in ancient India (a legacy even the English East India Company had to adapt to) have been cited as reasons for the State being able to ride rough-shod over legitimate objections of State interference.

For the minority communities too the present Constitutional set-up has done great dis-service. The legal status accorded to minority institutions and the Nehruvian pandering to radicals has not encouraged reform and progress. It has ensured that the leadership of these communities rests with the radical few that are dead against modernisation.

An ideal state of affairs would be where the State is prohibited from interference in all religious affairs except where the need for Reforms is felt. And such Reform can be progressed using anti-discriminatory measures and in the case of minorities by freeing them their institutions. What this means is that the State  need not and should not be bothered about how much Gita a school kid ought to know.

PS: Amidst all the outrage there are two issues that have escaped the attention of our friendly professional outrage production brigade. Point 1: Students are not forced to learn the Gita as they would have you believe, the course is optional. Point 2: the State is not funding this initiative. All the BJP seems to have got out of this is bad publicity.

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Amar Govindarajan is a management professional based out of somewhere in South India. He spends his spare time in bird-watching, dog keeping and reading Popular science. He is also a member of the CRI Editorial team.

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