No Work on Sundays for All
Assam’s Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has done well to insist on Sunday being the weekly day off for all schools in the State, including the madrasas. A country that claims itself to be secular, cannot follow the laws and traditions of other countries that have different norms. Those who claim that madrassas have been observing weekly holidays on Fridays from 1955 and that there is a government rule which says that the authorities will fix the holiday lists in the case of madrassas and the Sanskrit tols, must appreciate that there is need for abandoning a discrimitory rule now because India became a “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic” from a mere “sovereign democratic republic” through the 42nd Amendment Act of the Constitution with effect from January 3, 1977—22 years after the government rule of 1955. Someone should have taken the trouble of making the necessary changes to the 1955 rule in order to ensure the complete application of the secular principle to all rules. A secular country obviously cannot permit the laws of different religions to overrule or negate the existing laws. In a secular country there cannot be separate sets of laws for different religions. As such, there can be only one weekly off day or holiday for all schools and colleges. That a serious lapse in failing to change a discrimitory rule should have been attended to by an alert minister in 2016, does him credit. In India, we have frequently been in the habit of citing bad laws and rules as precedents and thus helping to perpetuate them. One can think of other anti-secular and discrimitory laws influenced by the laws of other countries and by political considerations. One of them relates to the right to polygamy that is reserved only for Muslims in India. True, the Sharia permits a Muslim to marry four wives. But in India we do not have the Sharia. We have our own set of laws that ought to be uniform and applicable to all citizens. This should have been the case at least after India became a secular republic with effect from January 3, 1977. Thereafter, all laws that were alien but had been allowed to continue in India on the faulty principle of ‘precedent’ should have been scrapped with citizens of all communities being required to fall in line with one set of laws. Today, quite a few Islamic countries have done away with polygamy. We have not been able to do this even though we claim to be a secular country. Likewise, the business of divorce has been made unusually and unjustly simple for Muslim men in India. They only have to pronounce the word talaq three times to divorce their wives. Muslim women have no such rights. And we still call India a secular country.