India is said to be a secular country as stated in the constitution. But there are some unnoticed facts about this country which surely puts a question mark on the concept of secularism.
What is secularism?? In technical language, It is a belief system that rejects religion, or the belief that religion should not be a part of the affairs of the state or part of public education. It is a belief that religion and ecclesiastical affairs should not enter into the function of the state, a position that religious belief should not influence public and government decisions.
In the state of Jammu and Kashmir, lies holy pilgrimage for a non muslim group, Hindus, amarnath cave and the vaishno devi shrine. Wondering why I have written the word non-muslim?? I have used the particular word because for visiting these holy pilgrimage the non muslims have to pay Jazia or jaziyah..
Jazia as most of us would know is a tax which is collected from the non-muslim in the Islamic caliphate ruled state.
The Amarnath Cave
- Toll tax is collected from the pilgrims upon entering kashmir.
- A levy of ₹15/- is charged from each yatri at the time of registration.
- ₹2800/- for trucks and buses and ₹2300/- for light vehicles per day is charged for carrying food supplies and pilgrims.
- Government has asked langar committees, which constitute religious and social organisations to deposit a non-refundable sum of ₹25000/- . At the same time, the area on which the langars are for run has been considerably reduced.
- Chief minister Omar Abdullah in one breath has done away the tax on houseboat owners and hoteliers in kashmir. On the other hand the non-muslim pilgrims will have to pay even for placing their shoes in the racks near the cave.
Shri Amarnath Shrine Board is the incharge of the yatra and money that devotees offer. The board has yet to declare clearly on how is the money being used. It should have been collected to be used for infrastructure development and yatri comfort; however typically the money is being diverted for the entertainment of kashmiri muslims. It is used in “sham of sufism” a sufi festival celebrated on the bank of Dal Lake where artists of pakistan and other places participate.
The Vaishno Devi shrine
The Jammu and Kashmir government has alao imposed 12.5% service tax to pilgrims for travelling to vaishno devi shrine by helicopter.
This move was slammed by various political bodies calling it ‘jaziyah’. “The decision was taken by the finance department without consulting us”. The accusation has been made by Sunil Sethi BJP’s chief spokesman.
The helicopter companies – Global Vectra and Himalayan Heli- operating from the pilgrim zone has increased the ticket price one way( katra to sanjhi ) from ₹1039/- to ₹1170/- and return ticket from ₹2078/- to ₹2340/-
Under Income tax Act 1961, income of all charitable and religious institutions are exempted from incone tax but under Hindu religious and charitable endowment Act of 1951 , government controls the hindu temples but not mosques, churches, and Gurudwaras. About 43000 temples in andhrapradesh alone is taken under government control and only 18% of the revenues has been returned for temple purposes and the 82% has been used for purpose unstated from these temples in Andhrapradesh.
THE Haj SUBSIDY
The haj subsidy is given to indian muslim haj pilgrims by the Government Of India. Since 2000, over 1.5 million muslims have used the subsidy; since 2008, over 1,20,000 indian muslims make use of the subsidy every year.
The haj subsidy includes an airfare subsidy, as well as assistance to reach specially designated haj departure airport terminals, meal, medical care and lodging assistance.
The airfare subsidy was about ₹ 73,526 (US$1100) per muslim pilgrim in 2008. Average non-airfare financial assistance was ₹2,697(US$40) per pilgrim in 2008. The total subsidy provided by the government of India was US$1185 per muslim pilgrim in 2008. Haj subsidy varies from ₹600 crore to ₹700crore in one year. However the subsidy is reduced gradually every year.
- Under the scheme for providing quality education in Madarsas- during the financial year 2011-2012 , ₹139.53 crores has been released to 9 states for honorarium for teachers, book bank/ science kit, computer, teacher training etc.
- During 2012-13 out if budget provision of ₹175 crore, ₹31.57 crores has been released for 1348 madarsas in 4 states. (Chhattisgarh, MP, UP and Rajasthan)
- ₹ 61.31 crores have been sanctioned for establishment of residential coaching academics minorities women/sc/st in Aligarh Muslim University, Maulana Azad national urdu university, Jamia hamdard, and Jamia Islamia etc. budget allocation in past by ministry of minority affair
The hypocrisy can clearly be seen in the above presented information. Where a particular group of people are taxed jazia for visiting their pilgrimage that too in a country which calls itself secular. On the other hand a particular group so much appeased that they are been provided with subsidy to visit their pilgrimage. Despite being in larger number compared to other minorities they are provided with extra funds.. The Jains are the minority group who has highest number of tax payers among them that means almost all of them are in a sound economic and literacy condition. The sikh community contributes to the 33% of total income tax paid in India which itself defines their economic status. The funds distributed by the ministry of minority affairs are polarised mainly towards a particular community. Even after so much of invesment some communities remain backward whereas all the other minorities have far away more contribution to the Indian economy and development. The government has all the way more concentration on this community and chooses to ignore the insecular acts of this community.
How far is this fair in a country which calls itself a secular nation not favouring any particular religious group. The data above is in itself a mirror to the secularism of this country!