Nita Deerpalsing has had the courage and the merit to take head on some of the socalled socio-cultural organizations which exist only to promote the interests of their office bearers. She persisted in asking through a PQ whether we should not include the term ‘secular’ in the Constitution of Mauritius.
It is high time politicians of all parties realize the harm being done to our social fabric by kowtowing to Presidents of socio-cultural bodies in return for their political allegiance. This is encouraging the setting up of “sociocultural” groups on the basis of caste, regional origin and what not. One of the Presidents had even the nerve to pontificate that Rama and Krishna were politicians and diplomats to justify his own actions!
Religion, as Tagore would have said, has lost its way in the dreary desert sand of dead habit. How many people really understand the meaning of their religion whilst being lost in the rites and rituals imposed on them? Religion, unfortunately, has, to a large extent, been hijacked by people who misuse it for their own benefit. But it has been a great force for good in the past, and continues to inspire many people seeking solace. We must not also forget that, throughout history, it has given strength to human beings to fight for their dignity and hope for the future. Mahatma Gandhi used his faith in the Bhagavad Gita to show to India and the world at large the strength of non-violence without cowardice. He used this strength to sustain himself and to tell Indians this is the path they have to follow to regain their self respect, and, through that self respect, to achieve political independence. He was called a saint among politicians and a politician among saints. Long before that, Christian missionaries were behind the fight for freedom and equality leading to the abolition of slavery.
When Sookdeo Bissoondoyal tabled a motion in the then Legislative Assembly, some sixty years ago, to ask for subsidies to be granted to all religions practised in Mauritius, little did he know that the subsidies would be used for the purchase of duty free cars, for overseas travel and for other privileges and non-religious activities! Coming to the term ‘secular’ to be inserted in the Constitution of Mauritius, it may be indirectly understood by many people that Mauritius is a secular state. But it has to be spelled out in the Constitution of a country to make it absolutely clear. We will then be able to have a healthy debate about whether subsidies to religious groups and the Best Loser System are in order in a Secular State.