IMSD stands committed to protecting and promoting the values and principles which constitute the bedrock of our Constitution, as also that of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), 1948. (See ANNEX 1)

IMSD’s commitment to the values enshrined in the Indian constitution is both a matter of principle and prudence. For minorities targeted by majoritarian, neo-fascist forces the only guarantee of life with dignity lies not in gaining the ‘goodwill of the majority’, as the RSS demands, but in defense of India’s Constitution that guarantees secular politics, democracy, pluralism, non-discrimination and equal citizenship rights. (See ANNEX 2).

To endorse the Indian Constitution is to defend the secular-democratic values enshrined in it; not only against Hindutva but against all sectarian, divisive, communal worldviews and forces. Communalists of different hues feed on each other. It is not possible to fight Hindu communalism without simultaneously fighting against Muslim communalism, or communal politics in any other garb.

IMSD’s prime responsibility lies within the community.

The history of all religions shows that any and every religion can be, and is, interpreted in many different ways. IMSD supports that strand within Islam which is in consonance with the values enshrined in the UDHR and Indian Constitution: justice, equality, free choice, wisdom and compassion. (See ANNEX 3)

  • Secular state

Secularism rejects the notion of a theocratic state – Islamic State, Hindu Rashtra or any other – since a theocratic state is by definition militates against the ideal of equal citizenship rights. For example, only those owing allegiance to the official state religion are eligible to the posts of President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice etc. The barring of women from occupying such posts on grounds of gender is another example.  A secular state is a state which has no religion. Such a religion-neutral (‘dharmnirpeksh’) state makes a clear separation between religion and politics, between matters of faith and affairs of the state. While all citizens are guaranteed the freedom of conscience, the state does not favour one religion or another.

  • Secular society

In our popular consciousness secularism means equal respect for all religions (Sarva dharma samabhava). This is the legacy of the Sufi and the Bhakti movements, our syncretic culture. As IMSD understands it, the word ‘secular’ is not synonymous with ‘atheist’. Nor is being ‘religious’ the same as being ‘communal’. To be secular is to affirm the inalienable basic rights and freedoms of all human beings, to respect all religions and cultures, even as we reserve the right to critique and reform them for the betterment of our societies. To be communal is to subscribe to the view that all followers of a particular faith have identical social-economic and political interests which are opposed to the interests of those of other faiths.

  • Democracy and Human Rights

Democracy is not only about elections, however free and fair. Given the logic of numbers an electoral process could well install governments with a majoritarian worldview. Herein lies the critical importance of the UDHR and the Indian Constitution, both of which guarantee certain rights and freedoms of all citizens; as also the rights of minorities, women, Dalits, OBCs, tribals and other vulnerable sections of society. Without these rights and liberties, democracy will be meaningless, in India or elsewhere in the world.

  • Fundamental Duties of Citizens

While standing by the rights and freedoms of individual citizens, minorities, women and other vulnerable sections, IMSD simultaneously endorses the fundamental duties of every citizen of India as spelt out in Article 51A of the Constitution. (See ANNEX 4)

We refer to the following Articles in the UN’s declaration:

Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status….

Article 5: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 7: All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 18: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

We refer in particular to the following Articles in the Indian Constitution:

Right to Equality

Article 14: “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”.

Article 15: “The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them…”

Right to Freedom

Article 19: “(1) All citizens shall have the right

(a) to freedom of speech and expression;

(b) to assemble peaceably and without arms;

(c) to form associations or unions…”

Right to life and personal liberty:

Article 21: “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”.

Right to Freedom of Religion

Article 25: Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion: “Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion”.

It must be noted that Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 guarantee rights to each individual citizen, not this or that community of individuals. Put differently, these are inalienable rights of the ‘ultimate minority’: the individual citizen. All citizens have the right to freedom of speech and expression (Article 19) and the right to freedom of religion (Article 25). In other words, it is every citizen’s right to be a Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, agnostic or atheist.

Articles 26, 29 and 30 which are also part of fundamental rights guarantee the protection and preservation of the religious beliefs and cultural practices of minorities against any majoritarian onslaught. As IMSD sees it, to rely on such constitutionally guaranteed community rights to deny the rights and liberties of the ‘minorities within minorities’ violates the very principle of universal human rights and is therefore unacceptable.

We refer to specific Quranic injunctions:

Pluralism and Diversity: O mankind! We have created you from a single (pair) of male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. (Surah 49: Al-Hujraat: 13); Had Allah willed, He could have made them one community (Surah 42: Ash-Shura: 8)

Right to Life: “…and do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden except for the requirements of justice; this He has enjoined you with that you may understand.(Surah 6: Al-An’am:151); “…whoever slays a soul, unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he slew all men; and whoever keeps it alive, it is as though he kept alive all men(Surah 5: Al-Ma’idah:32).

Right to Justice: The Qur’an uses two concepts: ‘adl’ (justice) and ‘ihsan’ (compassion).

O you who believe! be maintainers of justice, bearers of witness of Allah’s sake, though it may be against your own selves or (your) parents or near relatives; if he be rich or poor, Allah is nearer to them both in compassion; therefore do not follow (your) low desires, lest you deviate. (Surah 4: An- Nisa’: 135).

“O you who believe! Be upright for Allah, bearers of witness with justice, and let not hatred of a people incite you not to act equitably. (Surah 5: Al-Ma’idah: 8)

Right to Freedom of Conscience: The right to exercise free choice in matters of belief is unambiguously endorsed by the Qur’an: “There shall be no coercion in religion.” (Surah 2: Al-Baqarah: 256); “Let him who will believe, and let him who will, reject (it) (Surah 18: Al-Kahf: 29).

“Judgment (as to what is right and what is wrong) rests with Allah alone.” (Surah 12: Yusuf: 40).

“We have not sent thee (Prophet) as a ward over them. Thy duty is but to convey (the Message).”(Surah 42; Ash-Shura: 48).

“And if your Lord had pleased, surely all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them; will you then force men till they become believers?”(Surah 10: Yunus: 99).

“[Prophet] thy duty is only to preach the clear Message.”(Surah 16: Al-Nahl: 82).

“And if Allah had pleased, they would not have set up others (with Him) and We have not appointed you a keeper over them, and you are not placed in charge of them”. (Surah 6: Al-An’am: 107).

The Quranic dictum, “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” (Surah 2: Al- Baqarah: 256) applies not only to non-Muslims but also to Muslims. While those who renounced Islam after professing it and then engaged in “acts of war” against Muslims are treated as enemies and aggressors, the Qur’an does not prescribe any punishment for non-profession or renunciation of faith.

We refer to Article 51A of the Indian Constitution:

“It shall be the duty of every citizen of India –

(a) to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem;

(c) to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India;

(e) to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women”…

We refer to the following articles:

Article 38.1: “The State shall strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of the national life.”

Article 39: “The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing:

  • (a) that the citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood.”
  • (d) that there is equal pay for equal work for both men and women.
  • (f) that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.

Article 39A: Equal Justice and Free Legal Aid: “The State shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, on a basis of equal opportunity, and shall, in particular, provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.”  [Article 39A].

Article 41: Right to work, to education and to public assistance in certain cases.

Article 42: Provision for just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief.

Article 43: Living wage, etc., for workers.

Article 44: “The state shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.

Article 47: Duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health.

The IMSD Document is available for download in English , Hindi  and Marathi.