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Wednesday, Mar 27, 2002

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Southern States - Kerala-Thiruvananthapuram

`Democracy impossible without secularism'

By Our Staff Reporter

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM March 26. K. N. Panicker, historian and Vice-Chancellor of the Sree Sankara University, has said that the biggest challenge to secularism in the country is communalisation of administration.

Participating in a discussion on `Challenges to secularism in India', organised by the AKG Centre for Research and Studies, Prof. Panicker said the gravest threat to the secularism of the country warranted a joint struggle by secular forces and believers in the democratic principles.

According to him, the communal carnage is Gujarat is a classic instance of the administration intervening on behalf of one community and against another. Prof. Panicker felt that while Mahatma Gandhi evaluated secularism as a societal phenomenon, Jawaharlal Nehru sought to incorporate the outlook at the administrative level. However, today, secular values had crumbled at both the societal and administrative levels, he said. Democracy, according to Prof. Panicker, is impossible without secularism.

Most participants at the discussion echoed the call for a unified campaign by secular political parties and leaders of religious communities to thwart the threat of communalism.

Swami Saswathikananda of the Sivagiri Math, said the new interpretation of nationalism purveyed by the BJP-RSS combine had heightened the need for a united counter by secular parties.

The increase in communal tensions and clashes was the result of the failure of secular parties to bridge their religious differences and rally jointly against the canker of communalism, Swami Saswathikananda said.

According to Swami Saswathikananda, truly secular outlook and thought as enshrined in the cultural ethos of the country or envisaged by architects of the Constitution had not seeped into the national psyche. Tolerance and amity were the bedrock of Hindu religion, which was never exclusionist as was sought to be interpreted by political parties exploiting the name of religion, he said.

Sheikh Mohammed Karakunnu pointed out that never in the history of communal divides in the country had religion been the core issue. No religion sanctioned the killing of innocents, including women and children, he added.

According to him, the U.S.-led imperialist forces to further their vested agenda in the post-colonial world order have engineered the rise in fundamentalism.

Fostering inter-border tensions, whether it was along boundaries in Korea, Yemen, Iran and Iraq or India and Pakistan, was a ploy to sustain the arms industry of developed countries like the U.S., he said.

Unity among secular forces and the religious leadership was vital for resisting communalism and defeating imperialist designs.

Religious leaders had to take the initiative to disown and expose those who had distorted the principles of faith for fascist ends

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