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Can politics be separated from religion?

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LIVE BHARATH : The Supreme Court seven-member bench’s decision not to revisit 1995 verdict on Hindutwa and emphasing the need to delink politics with religion by framing laws to prosecute those who misuse ‘religion’ or ‘caste’ during election campaign may be a welcome move.

In fact, the debate was alive and kicking for more than two decades.  But, such a law delinking politics from religion possible in a complexed society like India where political parties just cannot survive without whipping up religious and regional, besides caste and other factors to grab power at every stage – from panchayat to parliament?

In fact, the purpose of religion, called dharma (ethics, morality, religious duty), is not different from that of politics.

And, politics is called rajaniti, the code of conduct followed by a ruler or ruling class. Rajaniti is always a part of dharma-shastra such as Manu-smriti or Yajnavalkya-smriti. Dharma-shastra are the books written by sages of India which delineate the duties of citizens according to various classes (varnas), such as educators, rulers, etc.

No description of dharma-shastra is complete without laying down the principles for the rulers. Dharma is meant to give ultimate welfare to society and politics is but a part of it.

Therefore, traditionally in India, dharma was never separated from politics. The rulers of India, the kings, were followers of dharma. In their student life they were trained in dharma. We do not find descriptions of atheistic kings in the history of India before it became a republic state.

Hence, dharma and politics go hand-in-hand. One of the major reasons that there is so much corruption in politics at present is that politicians are not trained in dharma, especially in rajaniti, or the duties of a politician. Politics without dharma is bound to breed corruption sooner or later because of human afflictions like selfishness, greed and other impurities.

In India some politicians have contested elections from prison, and there are many who have criminal cases against them. To avoid adharma in politics, there must be some basic requirement of character for a leader of society.

Similarly, without politics it is almost impossible for people to be dharmic. The role of religion is to make one righteous and loving, and politics means caring for people and their welfare. When religion and politics don’t coexist, politicians are corrupt and religious leaders struggle to teach dharma to society.

As a matter of fact, a religious person who is righteous and loving will definitely care for the welfare of the whole population and hence become a true politician. True politicians can only be righteous and loving. They cannot be anything but religious.

The problem arises when religious leaders restrict the freedom of people to follow their dharma. If such religious leaders gain political power, they ostracize members of other religions. This should not happen. When leaders allow religion to become all encompassing with full freedom to pray and worship in any manner as long as it does not interfere with others, it will bring righteousness and peace to people and will be suitable for any society. Then there will be no cause to fear such leaders. Indeed, such leaders are the need of the time.

In that backdrop, the apex court effort may prove futile.  Instead, what today, we require is that both religion and politics need a change. Religionists should be tolerant to allow freedom to everyone to follow the religion of their choice.

And politicians should be trained in the basic principles of dharma. If leaders are righteous and spiritual, the whole society can flourish and be uplifted.

LIVE BHARATH : The Supreme Court seven-member bench's decision not to revisit 1995 verdict on Hindutwa and emphasing the need to delink politics with religion by framing laws to prosecute those who misuse 'religion' or 'caste' during election campaign may be a welcome move. In fact, the debate was alive and kicking for more than two decades.  But, such a law delinking politics from religion possible in a complexed society like India where political parties just cannot survive without whipping up religious and regional, besides caste and other factors to grab power at every stage - from panchayat to parliament?…

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