It is high time that every Indian, whether Christian, Muslim, Sikh, or Buddhist, recognize that India is essentially a country based on Hindu ethos, even as people belonging to other religions are at total liberty to follow their religious dictums. Any objection to Modi following Hindu religious practices for inaugurating the new parliament is not appropriate. Modi has shown the way and blown away the unreal secularism phobia.
The new Indian parliament building was inaugurated with much fanfare, pomp and show by Prime Minister Narendra Modi befitting the occasion. While the magnificent building with several technological features was built in just over two years, the style and structure of the building have been acclaimed by millions of people who watched the inaugural programme. Those who saw this programme in person or on visual media could not miss the fact that the installation of 'sengol' ( sacred sceptre) was the hallmark of this elegant event. In India, historically, the sengol is considered to be the symbol of justice and good governance and used to mark transfer of power.
Amongst Vedic chants by Hindu priests, Prime Minister Modi performed Ganapathi Puja (devotional prayer) and prostrated before the sengol. He then sought blessings from a phalanx of Hindu priests and walked in procession carrying the sengol, while Vedic mantras were chanted and he installed it on the right side of the speaker’s chair in the Parliament.
Discerning observers see the sengol installation ceremony as a very significant event, indicative of the direction Modi would lead India in the coming years. After installing the sengol, Modi delivered a 35-minute address with his usual emotional eloquence, painting a very bright picture of a "New India" and indicating that this sengol would remind constantly those in power about the need for probity and honesty in governance and fair play to people at all levels of society.
While the habitual critics of Modi have panned the sengol installation ceremony as an anti-secular act that went against the Constitutuion of India, by and large the people of India have reacted with great enthusiasm and view the installed sengol with respect and hope. In India today, the word secularism is a much abused and misused term, where anything done in the name of Hindu practices is termed not secular and any religious activity among other religions are termed secular. In other words, those spreading Hindu philosophy and way of life are deemed to be lacking in secular credentials. In Indian democracy, where vote bank politics has become the central theme during the elections, many political parties try to corner the votes of those belonging to minority religions by calling themselves secular and progressive and at the same time decrying those who speak about the Hindu ethos.
In such circumstances, Modi has exhibited a high level of courage of conviction by not concealing the fact that he is a Hindu in letter and spirit, even as he respects other religions. At the parliament inauguration programme after performing elaborate Hindu pujas (services), all the other religious representatives were given time to offer prayers as per their religious dictum.
Modi breaks the mould
In the last nine years after becoming the prime minister, there have been several occasions when Modi has done worship in Hindu temples in full public view and one of the most important events was Modi performing puja as per Hindu religious practice during the foundation laying ceremony of Ram Janmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya. While such pujas were done in temples by Modi in the past, this is perhaps the first time that Modi has done the puja as per Hindu religious practice at a major official function such as the new parliament inauguration, an event viewed widely all over India and abroad.
The origin of Hindu religion is India and Hindu religion has been there in India for thousands of years. More than 80 per cent of Indians owe their allegiance to Hinduism. .
While in several countries, religious prayers are done at official events just as praying with Holy Koran in Islamic countries and Holy Bible in Christian countries, such practice has not been followed in India in any major official function. In Christian and Islamic countries there are many citizens who belong to other religions and they do not object to Muslim and Christian religious practices in official functions. If such practices are considered right in those countries, Modi following Hindu religious practice for the inauguration of parliament in India is right too.
While India can continue to be a secular country allowing freedom for all religions, similar to several other democratic countries such as the USA, Canada and Europe, adopting the worship practice of the Hindu religion in official functions in India should be considered appropriate.
Blown away secularism phobia
It is high time to recognise that many Hindus in India nurse a grievance that were being discriminated against by several government policy measures which benefited the minority religions in the name of secular principles. The immediate example is the Hindu temples being administered by the governments with considerable interference in day-to-day affairs and even diverting the income of the Hindu temples to several other purposes. The mosque, churches and gurudwaras are not under the control of the government but left to be managed by the leaders of those religions.
It is high time that every Indian, whether Christian, Muslim, Sikh, or Buddhist, recognizes that India is essentially a country based on Hindu ethos, even as people belonging to other religions are at total liberty to follow their religious dictums. Any objection to Modi following Hindu religious practices for inaugurating the new parliament is not appropriate. Modi has shown the way and blown away the unreal secularism phobia.
By installing the sengol in parliament, Modi has brought the attention of the nation to high principles that should be the hallmark of fair governance. He has ensured that the sengol would all the time keep the focus of the country on marching forward with principles of truth and honesty in governance.
(The writer is a Trustee, NGO Nandini Voice for the Deprived, Chennai. Views are personal. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)