India is a large and populated developing country. India is called as subcontinent not only because of its distinct geographical features but also because of its religious, ethnic and linguistic diversity. It is very proud of its spiritual heritage, having given the world Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. India is a land of one of the earliest civilizations of the world that is Indus valley civilization, which is fully developed urban culture in proto historic times. Although India was a secular country, many political thinkers viewed the mainstream culture of Indian society is permeated essentially with ethos of Hindu religion which is believed, spiritually and morally superior to western culture, which is supposed to be materialistic, greed and lust for worldly goods.
“Spirituality is indeed the master key of the Indian mind; the sense of infinitive is native to it.”
“India of the ages is not dead nor has she spoken her last creative word; she lives and has still something to do for herself and the human peoples.”
Swami Vivekananda was a key figure in the introduction of the Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world] and is credited with raising interfaith awareness, bringing Hinduism to the status of a major world religion during the late 19th century. There are many prominent persons promoted spirituality, morality and religion in India but not at the cost of rationality among the Indians. In pre independence era and post independence era also many socio religious reformists try to promote rationality among the masse of India. They fight for scientific temper, secularism, freedom of thought and expression and defending reason and science, exposing superstition, blind belief, obscurantism, paranormal claims, and caste based social divisions. Rationalism cannot be merely taught in the classrooms, it has to become a way of life. Indian society was caught in vicious web created by religious superstitions and social obscurantism. Max Weber observed Hinduism as become a compound of magic, animism, superstition and abominable rites like animal sacrifice and physical torture had replaced the worship of god. In pre independence era many social reformers like Raja Rammohan Roy and Akshay Kumar Dutta etc take two important intellectual criteria for reform movements like rationalism and religious reformism. Raja Rammohan Roy affirmed the principle of casualty linking the whole phenomenal universe.
“Rationalism is our only preceptor” – Akshay Kumar Dutta.
Raja Rammohan Roy defender of basic and universal principles of all religions- Monotheism of Vedas and Unitarianism of Christianity – and at the same time attacked polytheism of Hinduism and trinitarianism of Christianity. Although pre independence era situation is different from the post independence era and especially post 1991 reform period India is a completely a different nation in world sphere. Now, India is one of the global economic powers and it is fourth largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power parity but still struggling to promote rationality among Indian citizens. India, it is evident, is far away from such thinking. Far too many of us, despite degrees in science and technology, despite education and learning, continue to put our faith in seers and pseudo-science like astrology, vasthu, believing black magic’s, tantrics, witchcraft self proclaimed Godmans. There is a practice of consulting astrologers is widely practiced in India, including among the highly-educated middle class and the country’s elite politicians, businessmen and Bollywood celebrities. There are many constitutional provisions to develop scientific temper and secular characteristics among Indian citizens like- Articles 25 to 28 of fundamental rights promoting secularism and One of the Fundamental Duties mandated by the Constitution is ‘to develop a scientific temperament’.
There is a widespread debate in India for promoting the rationality, secularism and freedom of speech and expression after the recent assassinations of rationalists like Kalburgi, Panasare and Dabholkar, who provoked the religious fanatics and sectarian elements in a deeply conservative society. Panasare and Dabholkar are assassinated for raising voice against superstitious beliefs and Kalburgi for his writings against religious beliefs. Often the threat of physical violence is held out against writers and intellectuals by casteist and communal groups, which are quick to take offence at anything that criticizes matters of faith. Dabholkar’s killing prompted the state government Maharahtra to enact the revolutionary ‘Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and Other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices, and Black Magic Act, 2013, but it is popular as the anti-superstitions and black magic law. We have seen a positive nod in the country and the people are now aware of the frauds committed by the fraudulent babas and swamis with number of recent registered cases against Nithyananda , Asaram Bapu ,Sant Rampal, Radahamai etc. Even the state of Karnataka drafted anti-superstition bill, which banned and made punishable wide range of practices like astrological predictions, black magic, witchcraft barring sections of people, including menstruating women, from entering houses of worship or living areas were included in the list of practices to be purged in the draft bill. Draft bill also dealt with the practices and beliefs that are indigenous to Karnataka region creating disharmony in society and promote discrimination like Made Snana (making people roll on leftover food) or the Ajalu system (making people eat human excreta, nails, hair etc, as is done in the case of Koragas, a Dalit community in Udupi and Mangalore districts).It marks the changing attitudes in India toward holy men who enjoy huge popularity and respect, and earn millions of rupees in return for promises of miracles and cures for illnesses.
“Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.”-Pope John Paul II
But the matter of concern was the irrational violence promoting against the rationalist thinkers and warnings to other writers and intellectuals who dare to question the established belief systems. Article 25 of the Constitution not only allows the free profession, practice and propagation of a religion of one’s choice, but also an individual’s freedom of conscience. Atheists, agnostics and rationalists have the right to propagate their views on religion as much as believers have the right to spread theirs. What Article 25 guarantees is not a collective religious right but an individual’s freedom of choice. Political mobilization along caste and communal lines gives such groups an enormous veto power, which strikes at the very root of freedom of speech and expression. However, communal and casteist groups have often asserted they have a right not to be offended by any writing or work. Article 19 of Indian constitution provides fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression for every citizen irrespective of caste and creed to every citizen. But we have seen many incidents like Perumal murugan whose writings were came under attack by caste outfits and finally he was forced to take up the extreme step of give up writing. So there is an urgent need to address concerns of writers and rationalists regarding freedom of speech and expression which indirectly helps to promote rationality and scientific temper among the Indian citizens.
There is need for national level act against anti superstitions similar to the lines of Maharashtra which will indulge some kind of rationality in people of India and act as a threat to atrocities and frauds committed by various individuals under the name of god and religion.