On January 26, 1950, for the first time in Indian history, we, believers and practitioners of diverse philosophies and religions, decided to also become the people of a single book. This book was the Constitution of India.
This was the only way to knit ourselves together into one modern nation.
Irrespective of how inadequate our Constitution might be, an enduring consensus exists that it provides a strong, secure foundation for an inclusive, dignity-protecting, and freedom-sensitive society.
It was devised by men and women of diverse faiths, speaking different languages and belonging to different castes; its basic structure is sound and needs no altering.
Religion and the State:
According to the Constitution, the state should not interfere in the choice of individuals or groups in their quest for ultimate self-fulfilment.
As a matter of fact, this is precisely what religious freedom means.
Secondly, the Constitution acknowledges the value of distinct traditions but simultaneously recognises that aspects of any tradition necessitate that they are reinterpreted, reinvigorated and refashioned. This is also true of religion.
The Constitution of India also demands a social revolution.
It signifies a break from unjustifiable hierarchical norms of the past to build a defensible egalitarian ethos in the present where everyone can live with dignity and respect.
The state needs not strict separation but principled distance from all religions.
The state disengages from religion or engages with it, engages positively (actively promoting religion) or negatively (intervene to inhibit it), and in order to treat all as equals, does not accord the same treatment but, as the occasion demands, helps or hinders one religion more than others.
As a consequence to this, without abandoning overall respect for Hinduism, the degrading practice of untouchability which was justified by certain Hindu texts, had to be abolished.
It is important to note that in 1956, thanks to the efforts of Ambedkar, Nehru and several progressive Hindus, Parliament partially reformed Hinduism by passing the Hindu Code Bills.
This saved Hinduism from decay by giving Hindu women a stake in their received religion. As a consequence, for the first time, Hindu women could remain Hindus and yet move towards greater equality and freedom. The majority of Hindus benefited from it even if a section of the Hindu orthodoxy was displeased.
In light of this, it is believed that abominable practices in our society need to be stopped.
For example, the practice of instant triple talaq is an abominable practice rejected by many Muslim countries.
This practice gives enormous power to Muslim males, and is deeply degrading to Muslim women.
It is believed that perpetuating this practice when other forms of civil contractual practices, compatible with both the Constitution and a more meaningfully interpreted Quran, are available continues an injustice to existing victims and disrespects the ‘holy book’ of democracy.