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An Open Letter to Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh

June 24, 2011 by  
Filed under India, Madhya Pradesh, Persecution

Fr. Anand Muttungal

Fr. Anand Muttungal

24 June, 2011

To
The Hon’ble Chief Minister
Government of Madhya Pradesh
Syamala Hills, Bhopal

Sub: “Building communal harmony in the State and safe guarding spirit of the Constitution of India.”

Sir,

I wish to thank you for the efforts you have made to build communal harmony in the state from time to time. You have also set a fine example of communal harmony in the state by organizing religious festivals of all major religions in the Chief Minister’s official residence. However, I would like to make a few suggestions to you that will further help in strengthening your efforts to building up peace and communal harmony in the state and adhering to the Article 51A (e) of the Fundamental Duties enshrined  in the constitution of India. You may also recall that many occasions you have reaffirmed your firm commitment to communal harmony as describing it as the cornerstone for peace and harmony in the state. I have full faith in your commitment for peace and ability to translate it into reality as Chief Minister of the state.

Context of the Letter:  Each State Government in the Country is bound to uphold the constitution of India through its words and deeds. However, it has been noticed that one religion got predominance over other religions when it came to naming different government schemes under your stewardship.  Without any bias or malafide intention, I would like to draw your kind attention to the names of some of the flagship programmes of your government launched for the welfare of the people such as Ladli Laxmi Yojana, Balram Tal Yojana , Kapildhara Yojana , Vikramaditya Nishulk Shiksha Yojana , Anna Prashan and Surya Namaskar interalia etc. Nevertheless, I would like to add that in my brief study into the naming of flagship programmes of your government, made me to wonder how barring one religion all other religions in the state got ignored. Moreover, in Bhoomi Pujan/inauguration for government construction/programme barring one religion all other religions in the state are totally ignored or not represented, this I feel as blatant violation of the secular fabric of the constitution.

I also would like to take this opportunity to draw your kind attention into some of the provisions in the constitution of India that unmistakably underlines its secular characteristics in letter and spirit.

1. The preamble of Constitution of India clearly states that “WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC…”

I quote from the objectives described in the preamble of the Constitution “The word secular implies equality of all religions and religious tolerance making it amply clear that there is no official state religion in the country. One has, thus, the right to preach, practice and propagate any religion he/she chooses. The government shall not favour or discriminate against any religion. It must treat all religions with equal respect. All citizens, irrespective of their religious beliefs are equal in the eyes of law.” The Supreme Court in S.R Bommai v. Union of India held that secularism was an integral part of the basic structure of the constitution.

Therefore, there is no ambiguity that all religions are equal before the law and promoting one religion is constitutionally void by any democratically elected government.

2. Article 28,(1&3) Freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions

(1) No religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of State funds.

The Constitution of India does not permit religious instruction such as the Surya Namaskar, Bhojan Mantra,  introduction of Gita Sar (Content of Gita) and other sacraments of Hindu religion in the academic which curriculum violates the basic principal of Constitution. The Baghwat Gita is a Hindu holy scripture.

(3) No person attending any educational institution recognised by the State or receiving aid out of State funds shall be required to take part in any religious instruction that may be imparted in such institution or to attend any religious worship that may be conducted in such institution or in any premises attached thereto unless such person or, if such person is minor, his guardian has given his consent thereto.

Religious instruction about the tenets of one religion will prove to be against the basic principle of Secularism enshrined in the Constitution other than as a subject to introduce the children about a religion. It will not be out of contest to mention that your government brought compulsory practices of Surya Namaskar and Bhojan Mantra in school. When minority communities knocked at the doors of the court, you made it optional even then, it violates the secular fabrics of the constitution, as a section of the students is forced to practice their religious belief in a school totally or partially funded by the tax payers money. Giving insight into what is Surya Namaskar, Bhojan Mantra,  Gita Sar and teaching sacraments of Hindu religion in school is part of the academic curriculum, but making students to practice it in the premises of a school, needs re-consideration.

It will not be inappropriate to mention here that this kind of practice in the schools will gradually lead to religious division in the minds of children and communal disharmony as well. 

 3. Article 27 Freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion

No person shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination.

It would be better to bring to your notice that the state is not collecting any tax for the purpose of teaching any religion but spending the tax payers’ money in religious education, Bhoomi Pujan, running religious matters of a particular religion too is using the money of the tax payers who are from different religions.

4. Article 15 Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth

(1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.

The state promoting one religion is discrimination against believers of other religions. So it is always at the greater interest of the state to have basic values of all religions taught rather than promoting one religion through government schemes and education.

Appeal

1. Introduce good teachings of all religions as a subject in the academic curriculum instead of a particular religion. It will indeed help to promote harmony and peace.

2. It would be at the best interest of all religious communities to give equal chance to all the religions when it comes to christening government schemes/programmes one after another, if at all the government wants to continue with this practice. However, it would be better to avoid involving religion and religious names in the government programmes.

3. It would be nice to introduce an all religious prayer in inauguration, foundation stone laying ceremonies etc. in government programmes or programmes that utilizes tax payers money instead of the current practice of reciting the prayers from one religion, to uphold the secular values of the constitution, if at all the government wishes to have religious prayer. However, it would be more appropriate to evolve a purely secular form of inauguration/foundation laying ceremony.

I request you to take appropriate steps to uphold the secular credentials of the constitution for a prosperous future of Madhya Pradesh.

Thank you

Awaiting for your early reply,

For the Catholic Council of Bishops, M.P
Fr. Anand Muttungal

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