Judge thyself, Justice Sen

An injudicious averment

What happens to the psyche of India’s secularism when a judge of a high court avers between the lines of one of his judgements that “India should have been declared a Hindu country since Partition was on the basis of religion” and makes a partisan statement that ‘only this government under Shri Narendra Modiji will understand the gravity of India being made an Islamic nation?” Should we, the people, view such an averment as a sign of his ignorance about the fascinating multicultural legacies which are the birthmarks of India, which we Indians continue to cherish, or should it be seen as an indicator of his hidden affinities with the forces that propagate Hindutva?

It is disturbing that a few with such a bent of mind are part of the justice system. One wonders if this overture is part of the agenda of saffronising the jurisprudence of India. Conscientious citizens who feel for the country wonder, whither goes the country when aberrational averments, such as the ones mentioned above, come as part of court judgements. If not confronted and refuted, such fictitious averments could become part of orchestrated proclamations in the name of truth.  

Citizenry concerned about the wellness of the country feel appalled over the injudicious portion of the judgement in question. The judgement referred here is the one delivered recently by Justice S R Sen of the high court of Meghalaya on a petition relating to the refusal of domicile certificate to an army recruit. If the likes of Yogi Adityanath or another fanatic Hindutva proponent had uttered such statements, they could have been dismissed as political statements for the sake of votes.

But, can a high court judge afford to make such an injudicious averment as part of his otherwise fair and objective judgement? Where was the necessity to digress and indulge in such jaundiced and distorted views that are contrary to and hurting the inner soul of India’s secularism as ingrained and enshrined in the Constitution? He spoke as if he had been schooled in the fundamentalist ideology of Hindutva.

I wish someone appeals and brings it to the notice of the Supreme Court of India to annul such averments at the earliest. Otherwise, someone could cite this portion as a validated argument in a court of law to justify Hindutva ideology, which, in fact, has little to do with the noble truths of Hinduism or with national identity.

It should not be forgotten that India’s secularism has its roots in the socio-cultural legacies of pluralism celebrated as timeless values and appreciated and accommodated by Hinduism, the religion of the majority. Secularism nourished by the Constitution is a fine reflection of the legacies we, the people, have derived from our own cross-cultural trajectories and tributaries. True secularism is a principle that acknowledges that religion cannot be the basis of a citizen’s national identity. India is constitutionally committed to this principle.

It also embraces another value-principle, namely that national identity is a collective quest and endeavour ennobled by multicultural confluences wherein religion, of course, has a part. National identity, all the more in the era of globalisation and multiculturalism in which migration and immigration are viewed as signifiers of many-ness, is a multi-dimensional value connoting diversity and plurality. Therefore, our national identity has to evolve, be defined, expanded and enriched by virtue of our pursuit of diversity, accommodating differences and embracing plurality of values.

The secular dimension of our national identity is a great value-principle enshrined in the Constitution. It prevails in the majority of our neighbourhoods and among the masses in the rural hinterland. It prevails as a spontaneously valued and cherished legacy in the core consciousness of the majority of Indians who believe in and practise various faiths.

Religion and the masses

The masses in general, as long as they are not cajoled by ghetto-minded politicians, have no preference to exercise their voting rights based on their religious identity. The results of the elections recently held in the five states are a testimony to this fact. People, in general, prefer to live in harmony with all. This is a fact of life in India, part of the social conscience of India. It is an attitude that blooms and blossoms in the midst of mundane routines, chaos, societal and political hypocrisies and existential angsts endured by the people of India. This is the beauty of India.

Let us not forget or bypass the legacy that India was a forerunner then, and a frontrunner even now, in cherishing universal citizenship. The inscription in the United Nations headquarters, “Yaadhum oore yaavarum kelir” which means, “I am a world citizen, every citizen is my own kith and kin”, whose authorship is traced to the Tamil poet Kaniyan Poongundranaar of the Tamil classic Puranaanooru, may be an apt reminder to the honourable judge of the aforesaid high court that we, Indians, known and esteemed for cherishing universal friendships beyond our religious or ethnic particularities and affinities, do not subscribe to and cannot afford to be christened as ‘a Hindu-country’.

The spirit of Indic intellectual, cultural and spiritual traditions lies in its accommodativeness and pluralism. Former president APJ Abdul Kalam, addressing the European Union in 2007, cited the same inscription and commented that imbibing such a value “enlivens righteousness in our hearts, instils beauty in our character ushering harmony at home, and by extension, order in the country and peace in the world”.

Our approach to solving the problems of genuine refugees and immigrants living in India ought to be mediated by such accommodativeness to the extent we can. Our sense of human solidarity should resonate with the great legacies we cherish. Otherwise, our established credentials will be at stake.

(The writer is a Professor of English, formerly with the University of Mysore)

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Judge thyself, Justice Sen

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