Thursday, October 19, 2006


Mr M C Chagla wrote, in his autobiography, Roses in December, as below:
"As a legal concept, secularism means equality before the law, and no distinction between one citizen and another as far as the application of laws is concerned. It also means equality of opportunity and a refusal to classify citizens into first class citizens and second class citizens. But in my opinion, secularism is much more than that. Secularism is an attitude of mind and a quality of the heart. It is a matter of temperament, of outlook, even of feeling. A man with a secular outlook looks upon all persons as human beings pure and simple, equally estimable or precious, not only in the eye of the law, but in the eye of God. You refuse to classify people according to the religious labels which you attah to them. You do not think of a man as a Hindu, a Muslim or a Christian, but merely as a human being. You make friends with him as a human being and you deal with him as a human being. You are not conscious of the religion he professes.

I remember when I went to the United States as Ambassador, when I was asked at my first Press Conference whether I was a Muslim, I answered, 'How is it any business of yours what my religion is? That is purely my personal affair. All that you have a right to know ndian and proud to be an Indian. When I meet an American I do not ask him 'Are you a Protestant or a Catholic or a Jew?' To me he is a citizen of the United States and I treat him as an American. I do not understand why you take this attitude when you are dealing with the people of India.'"

Not only are we now seeing such a viewpoint genuinely and fervently held by a person in India dismissed and rubbished as "pseudo-secularism".

Even in the US, the so-called "melting pot", they now have a USA PATRIOT Act (full text Wikipedia Entry) under which the vast majority of persons on the receiving end of its draconian provisions in the 5 years that it has been on the statute books so far, have belonged to a particular community, as BBC found out. Mr Chagla was indeed, deeply prescient, and clearly foresaw this happening. He wrote:

"Today, one great problem of democracy is to reconcile the rights of the individual citizen with the rights of the State. The citizen has to be protected against an all-powerful State. The citizens' rights have to be safeguarded by the judiciary, which has been constituted as a custodian of those rights."

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