Of Sanatana Dharma
Justice N. Seshasayee, who passed the order on September 15, also remarked that Sanatana Dharma is such a philosophy that covers “a whole lot of duties,” which include “duty to the nation
In a recent order, the Madras High Court made a very significant observation about Sanatan dharma. In the or-der, which has come amid a heated debate emanating from certain comments of senior DMK leader and minister Udhayanidhi Stalin, the Madras High Court has observed that Sanatana Dharma is not any religion as such but “a set of eternal duties” that can be gathered from various sources relating to Hinduism or from those who are prac-tising the Hindu way of life. Justice N. Seshasayee, who passed the order on September 15, also remarked that Sanatana Dharma is such a philosophy that covers “a whole lot of duties,” which include “duty to the nation, duty to the King, the King’s duty to his people, duty to one’s parents and Gurus, and care for the poor.” The High Court’s order assumes greater significance because of the ongoing debate between those who support and practice San-atana dharma and those who are vociferously critical and opposed to it. According to Justice Seshasayee, the court is conscious of “the very vociferous and at times noisy debates on pro and anti-Sanatana dharma,” and thus it could not help pondering over them with genuine concern for what is going around. It is significant to note that the High Court has also observed that “somewhere, an idea appears to have gained ground that Sanatana dharma is all about, and only about, promoting casteism and untouchability.” Going further, the court said untouchability in a country of equal citizens cannot be tolerated and remarked that “even if it is seen as permitted somewhere within the principles of Sanatana dharma, it still cannot have a place to stay since Article 17 of the Constitution has declared that untouchability has been abolished.” As the court has pointed out, it is important to note that since it is the fundamental duty of every citizen to “abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institu-tions” under Article 51A(a), untouchability, whether within or outside Sanatana dharma, can no longer be consti-tutional, though sadly it still exists.” The Madras High Court observation came in the wake of hearing a petition filed by a citizen challenging a circular issued by a local government college asking students to share their thoughts on the topic “Opposition to Sanatan” as part of the birth anniversary celebration of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK party founder CN Annadurai. A section of leaders of the opposition alliance called ‘IN-DIA’ has of late launched a tirade against Sanatana Dharma with the intention of attacking the ruling BJP, which has evoked strong reactions across the country. The BJP, for its part, has described the tirade of the Congress al-lies against Sanatana dharma not just as a criticism of the ruling party but also as an insult to India’s ancient civi-lization. It will now be interesting to watch whether the opposition will be able to sustain this tirade, especially in the wake of the High Court passing a significant observation on Sanatana dharma.