Vice-president Venkaiah Naidu says religion is a ‘way of worship’, don’t mix it with politics

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Vice-president Venkaiah Naidu has cautioned against mixing religion with politics, saying religion was “personal” and a “way of worship.” aHe was delivering the Sree Chithira Thirunal Memorial Lecture in Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday. Naidu said politics should not get into religion and religion should not get into politics and added that “religion is personal…it is a way of worship…we may pray to Allah..we may pray to Jesus Christ… we may pray Rama.. Krishna…Sai Baba…Lord Ayyappa”. “If we believe in vasudhaiva kutumbakam and the spirit of the country is to treat everybody equal, how can anyone discriminate against people on the basis of religion and caste,” Naidu asked.

Closing temples in the name of caste is “totally wrong” and against the dharma, culture and the visions of the country, he said. The vice-president said social justice and inclusion were part of the genesis of independent India and “we couldn’t have had a really free nation with a sizable unfree population”. In the socio-economic context of pre-Independence India, removal of barriers to social integration of the Dalits was a big challenge, he said. Naidu said there were Dalit movements demanding temple entry in different parts of India. Dalits had to force their way into Jagannath Temple in Odisha and Chamundi shrine in Rajasthan.

India cannot be called an ideal nation and an egalitarian civilised society, if people were divided like this, he said adding that the country had a tradition to treat everybody equally. “Why is Indian civilisation still strong, vibrant…because we believe in sarva jana sukhino bhavantu…vasudhaiva kutumbakam…the entire universe is one family..we believe in the welfare of everbody…we take care of the well being of our neighbours…,” he said.

 India has no history of attacking any country and it never believed in aggression, he added. Naidu said people should be elected and selected on the basis of four Cs–character, calibre, capacity and conduct, but unfortunately, some political fronts in the country go by three Cs–caste, community and cash. Detailing the responsibilities of administrators, the vice-president said a king or a democratic government has to be ever vigilant, ever watchful, and ever open to new trends.

“They need to be responsive to the changing needs and times if they have to stay relevant,” he said. Lavishing praise on erstwhile Travancore King, Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, Naidu said his historic Temple Entry Proclamation in 1936 was a “bold step”. “Sree Chithira Thirunal was a trailblazer in establishing sound systems of education and health. The erstwhile king was veritably an icon of good governance embodying the essence of “Indianness”.

“He visualised that socio-economic development must be inclusive. He knew that this would necessitate broadening the base of education and universalise access to good quality education,” the vice-president said. Naidu also urged people to draw inspiration from the great social reformer and work collectively to shape a vibrant, forward-looking India in the years to come. The 24th Sree Chithira Thirunal Memorial Lecture was organised by the state-based Sree Chithira Thirunal Smaraka Samithy at the Kanakakunnu Palace in Thiruvananthapuram. Kerala governor Justice P Sathasivam, state minister of cultural affairs AK Balan and members of the royal family attended the function.