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Naveen Patnaik's Secular Credentials

By Satya Narayana Sahu | PUBLISHED: 14, Dec 2019, 21:15 pm IST | UPDATED: 30, Dec 2019, 19:52 pm IST

Naveen Patnaik's Secular Credentials

On 13th November 2019 the Chief Minister of Odisha Shri Naveen Patnaik met the representatives of Muslims from Bhadrak, Jajpur and Balasore in the context of the widespread protests in north eastern and other parts of the country against the Citizenship Amendment Act and its disapproval at the international level including by the United Nations. The meeting took place amid the apprehensions generated among
Muslims all over the country that they would be adversely impacted by the Act and the proposed nationwide National Registry of Citizens to be prepared as per the announcement of the Home Minister of India Shri Amit Shah would deprive them
of citizenship of India.

The representatives were satisfied with the assurances of Chief Minister Shri Patnaik that their status as citizens of India would not be adversely affected and he would not allow implementation of National Registry of Citizens in the State. The meeting of the Chief Minister with the representatives of the Muslims is not merely of optical value but conveys a profound message which should be seen in the context of history and
politics of Odisha which is steeped in secular values and culture.

It augurs well to uphold the cause of inclusive society which remains central to secularism and secular frame work of our society and polity. Even during the discussion in the Parliament on the Citizenship Amendment Bill it was stated categorically by Biju Janata Dal that its President and Chief Minister of Odisha Shri Naveen Patnaik always set an exemplary record of a leader who remained weeded to secularism and fostered a culture for promotion, enrichment and deepening of secular values which are integral to the society and politics of Odisha. It was also clarified by BJD that it asked the Union Government to address the apprehensions of Muslims on the Citizenship Amendment Bill, include Tamil refugees who came from Sri Lanka in the scope of the legislation and not to link the Bill with the National Registry of Citizens. Even though those points were not addressed by the Union Government, the stand of Biju Janata Dal. among others, for the cause of Muslims was made amply clear. It is now a matter of record that it took
up their apprehensions and the meeting of the Chief Minister with representatives of Muslims testify to his credibility manifested in his own statement some years back that every bone of his body is secular.

When neither the Prime Minister nor Home Minister of India met the Muslim representatives to dispel their fears and anxieties concerning Citizenship Amendment Act, the meeting of Odisha Chief Minister with Muslim representatives sends a
clear message that he and the Government of Odisha are with them to protect their rights and dignity as citizens of this country.

The meeting is also evocative of the writings of the founders of the Odisha who stressed on secular ethos of the State and passionately appealed to one and all to uphold it in all
circumstances.One recalls in this context the poetic expression of Utkalmani Gopabanduhu Das who in his masterpiece poem ''Bandira Atma Katha'' referred to the visit of Mahatma Gandhi to Bhadrak and reminded the Hindu and Muslim residents of the town that their hospitality for him was truly extraordinary and so they should set aside all differences and treat both the Vedas and Koran with equal respect. He then wrote with profound wisdom that for all Hindus,Muslims,Buddhists,Jains,Christians and Sikhs and for all other faiths, castes and sects India is the source as their mother and they have a common goal, common focus and share the same land as place of birth
and place for cremation and burial. He poetically urged Hindus and Muslims of Bhadrak to be mindful of the fact that the land in which they lived constituted their common place for work and so they should forge unity and stand together both in the context of prosperity and adversity. Utkalmani Gopabandhu composed those immortal lines embodying unity and understanding among Hindus and Muslims for the cause of a
way of life which would stress on our common roots and commonalities for achieving Swaraj.

The meeting of Chief Minister of Odisha with the Muslims from Bhadrak, Jajpur and Balasore makes us recall that loft vision outlined by Utkalmani in Bandira Atma Katha in the context of Bhadrakh. That vision is the embodiment of secularism which underlines the coexistence and fellow feeling among all faiths. On the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary we recall his ringing words, ''Hindus and Muslims and all other religious groupings have relationships stronger than that of the blood''. That was why he gave primacy to communal unity over all factors for achieving independence and engineering progressive social change. No wonder that Gandhiji had said ''I do not want India to be wholly Hindu, wholly Islamic, wholly Christian but wholly tolerant with all its religions coexisting and flourishing side by side''. It was an
affirmation of secularism and non-violence.

Shri Patnaik's advocacy for inclusion of non-violence in the preamble of the Constitution on the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi assumes
significance in this context. He thoughtfully said that progress cannot be achieved without peace and ''progress requires the defeat of those who divide society on basis of class, caste and religion''. His Government which built an impressive Haj Bhavan for Muslims, a first of its kind in the history of Odisha, inspires confidence among them and his assurances to the representatives of Muslims in a way captures the spirit of his
advocacy for the cause of non-violence and secularism.

.The author served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to President of India late Shri K R Narayanan and had a tenure in Prime Minister’s Office and Joint Secretary in Rajya Sabha Secretariat. Views expressed in the article are in his personal capacity.  

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