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Religious fundamentalism is 'frontal attack' on Constitution: Nayantara Sahgal

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Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Eminent author Nayantara Sahgal said Tuesday religious fundamentalism in the country was a "frontal attack" on the Constitution and a danger to those who disagree with it.

Speaking at the 24th Justice Sunanda Bhandare Memorial Lecture, she said despite the Constitution guaranteeing "equal citizenship with equal rights" and providing "the space for practice of all religions", fundamentalism poses an insult to religion.

"At Independence, our founding fathers had the wisdom to respect this diversity and to declare India secular and democratic... No other nation in the world gave its people democracy before development or its women the right to vote at the very start of nationhood.

"There is no room for religious fundamentalism among us, it is an insult to religion, it is a danger to all those who disagree with it and it is a frontal attack on our Constitution," she said during her lecture titled "Women under Religious Fundamentalism".

The lecture is delivered annually in the memory of Delhi High Court judge justice Sunanda Bhandare, who was a known exponent of women's rights and the weaker sections of the society.

In one of her famous statements, Bhandare believed that "a woman's place in society marks the level of civilisation".

Expanding on the late justice's thoughts, Sahgal said India in 2018 "did not deserve to be called civilised" as the vision of the country's founding fathers has been "degenerated into an environment where India is now seen as the world's most dangerous country for women".

"A society is only as civilised as the way it treats its women. No society has the right to call itself civilised unless its women citizens have the same rights and freedom as men have.

"It is a fact that Indian women, even little girls, are not safe in homes or on streets or in workplaces. And gender injustice is much too weak a phrase to apply to this shameful state of affairs. Added to the hangover of persisting age-old injustices and crimes against women, there is now a climate of lawless mob violence, which of course targets men as well as women and children," the author said.

Sahgal had received the Sahitya Akademi award in 1986 for "Rich Like Us" and later returned it in 2015 as a protest against "increasing intolerance in the country".

Commenting on the increasing number of rapes, she said women are the "worst sufferers" of mob violence which makes "brutal use of women's bodies to humiliate and assert its power over an entire community".

"Rape is central to the mob violence which we see today... This prevailing climate is different from anything that we have seen in India before, it is not merely criminal, or communal or divisive. It is a result of, and it has the authority of a mindset which is given free rein by political ideology," she said.

The lecture, which was delivered by historian Ramachandra Guha last year, was also attended by Rajendra Menon, Chief Justice, Delhi High Court, and A K Sikri, Judge, Supreme Court of India.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Tue, October 09 2018. 22:10 IST