The Supreme Court of India has given a progressive judgement yesterday.http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Seeking-votes-on-religious-basis-a-corrupt-act-SC/article16977220.ece/amp
In this judgement Supreme Court through majority judgement declared that canvassing votes on the basis of religion, caste, race, community, language etc will amount to “corrupt practices” and the political candidates will be disqualified. In this judgement, Supreme Court says that religion is a personal thing between man and God. It is related with individual choice. If political parties are using religion as a tool to mobilise people in electoral process, it turns out to be mixing state with religion.
Certainly this decision is of great significance for Indian politics where these particularistic tendencies are used for larger political goals. It will try to check the polarisation of the masses on the grounds of caste, religion etc which often led to violence and arson in the society.
The court also held that secularism required the complete exclusion from public life and it is the bedrock of Indian democracy. Religion is something very personal between man and God and it has no place in secular activities like election. In fact, the intention of the court is noble. The court expects that electoral process should be free and fair.
However, it is of no denying that sections of society in India suffer from historic injustices and deprivation based on religious or caste identity. That is why the dissenting judgment given by the minority indicates towards the reality of the society. Political discourses based on these issues can be eliminated out rightly if they are looked in that perspective. In India, these identies have given salience to the groups who mobikise people for empowerment and emancipation through democratic process.
Not only this, the Supreme Court did not revisit the 1995 judgment given by former CJI J S Verma about the Hindutva. In that judgement, the Court has held that Hinduism and Hindutva are same and Hindu tva is a way of life. Candidates can’t be barred from asking votes on the ground of Hindu tva.
It is a difficult road ahead because it is certainly necessary to look for secular grounds for political mobilisation rather that narrow identities. However, it is also to go away from the social realities of the country. In India, people still identify themselves in multiple identities. These identities have given some people a way out for group formation and subsequent demand for respect and dignity. What I think is that our electoral process will be secularised when both the citizens of the country as well as the politicians vote and demand for votes on secular grounds respectively.