Hyderabad: Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu on Saturday said the country does not need any lessons from others, as it is the most secular one in the world even as religious freedom is a fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution.
"Please remember that culture is a way of life and religion is a way of worship. Accordingly, I have the honour of asserting that India is a country built on the foundations of a civilisation that is fundamentally tolerant," he said. In India, religious freedom is a fundamental right guaranteed under Articles 25 to 28 of the Constitution, he said.
"We do not need any lessons from anybody. Some countries of late have started giving us 'pravachans' (sermons), forgetting what is happening back in their own countries. If at all, you have to grade number one, the most secular country in the world, is Indian civilisation, India, that is Bharat, our motherland," he said. Naidu was speaking at the Graduation Day-2019 of Muffakham Jah College of Engineering and Technology here.
Last week, the US state department, in its annual 2018 International Religious Freedom Report, had alleged that "mob attacks by violent extremist Hindu groups against minority communities, particularly Muslims, continued in India in 2018 amid rumours that victims had traded or killed cows for beef". It evoked a sharp reaction from the ruling BJP, which said it shows a clear bias against the Modi government.
Making his point, Naidu quoted the Indian concept of 'sarva dharma sama bhavana', which means respect for each others religion. The Preamble of the Constitution declares the country as secular so as to guarantee every citizen equality without any discrimination based on religion, though our country is predominantly Hindu, he said.
India is the birthplace of four major religions of the world Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism and significant population of three other religions of the world - Islam, Christianity and Zoroastrianism - live in India, he said.
In fact, Indian Muslims constitute the third largest Muslim population in the world, he said. In an apparent reference to incidents of lynching, he said some may happen here and there in a country of 135 crore people. But such incidents should be 'localised' and action taken against those responsible for them, instead of branding the entire country as if things are going wrong, he said.
"In spite of languages, in spite of so many religions, in spite of different political parties, we are able to live together with peace and trust. There may be some isolated incidents here and there. They have to be isolated. They have to be insulated. They have to be condemned and action has to be taken against those people..." he said.
Equality of religions as observed in all walks of life have enabled leaders from minority religions rise to hold the offices of President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Governors, Chief Justices, Chief Election Commissioners and Army Chiefs, besides making major contributions in other walks of life like music, culture, sports and films, Naidu said.
Certain "aberrations like looking at minorities as vote banks" may have had some undesirable socio-political ramifications, but the situation is changing as a new, young and aspirational India is emerging fast, he said.
The motto of 'Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas Sabka Vishwas' has its roots in the core principles of Indian civilisation, he said. "We believe in an inclusive India, wherein every citizen has the same entitlements, irrespective of his or her religious leanings," he said.
All through the ages, Indian philosophers and rulers and the modern political leadership have expounded and upheld the principles of equality and tolerance, he said. "The world can rest assured that India celebrates its religious diversity by upholding religious freedom. No other country matches India in respect of such diversity and the commitment to preserve such a colourful mosaic," Naidu said.
He deprecated discrimination based on caste, religion and gender and called for a bringing about a change in attitudes. On incidents of rapes and other crimes against women and children, he said a change of mindset, not just laws, was required.
He also emphasised on achieving academic excellence. "None of the Indian universities are there in the top 100 of the world. Why, is a question all of us should put to
ourselves," he said.
Expressing serious concerns over the time spent on social media, he urged students to instead focus on improving skills for a brighter future and serve society.
(With inputs from PTI)