Former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh opined that is it vital for the armed forces of the country to remain "uncontaminated" from any "sectarian appeal".
Speaking at the Memorial Lecture in honour of veteran Communist leader, late A.B. Bardhan, Singh said: "Our Armed Forces are a splendid embodiment of our secular project. They have a glorious record of keeping away from politicians' manipulations and intrigues. It is vitally important that the armed forces remain uncontaminated from any sectarian appeal."
The senior Congress Party leader further said that the judiciary should never digress from its primary duty of protecting the Constitution.
"The judiciary as an institution needs never to lose sight of its primary duty to protect the secular spirit of the Constitution; this task has become much more demanding than before because the political disputes and electoral battles are increasingly getting over-laced with religious overtones, symbols, myths, and prejudices. The judiciary needs to arrive at its own enlightened view of its custodianship of the Constitution-irrespective of the irresponsible and selfish politicians who have no qualms in injecting communal virus in our body politic," he noted.
Singh also said that the Election Commission plays a pivotal role in preserving the secular fabric of the country and is the custodian for maintaining the integrity of the electoral process. It should, therefore, ensure that religious sentiments do not prejudice the electoral process, he added.
"I will be amiss if I did not mention the Election Commission and its role in preserving the secular fabric of the republic. As the custodian of the integrity of the electoral process, it is incumbent upon the Election Commission to see to it that religion and religious sentiments and prejudices do not get worked into the election discourse; the Commission must be thinking of rolling back the easy acceptance of over-manipulation of religious imagery," the former prime minister said.
Singh stressed that it is the duty of political parties to ensure secular values and practices are regarded as the highest virtues by the citizens.
Speaking of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, Singh said that the idea of a secular India did not die with the death of the father of the nation.
"As it turned out, some Hindu fanatics never forgave Mahatma Gandhi for his steadfast commitment to a secular state. They settled their score with this greatest son of Indian on January 30, 1948. The idea of a secular India did not die-and, could not die-with the Mahatma's assassination. It is necessary to underline that the idea of a secular state was very much familiar in our traditional statecraft practices," he said.
Quoting former prime minister late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Singh said, "Secularism is not an alien concept that we imported out of compulsion after Independence. Rather, it is an integral and natural feature of our national culture and ethos."
Singh also said that after the tenure of Jawaharlal Nehru - the first Prime Minister of India, the country's secular project came under renewed challenges from various quarters.
"Regrettably, it also became obvious that electoral practices and habits only tended to stoke religious passions and animosities. We should be unambiguously clear that any attempt to weaken the secular fabric of our republic would be an attempt to dismantle the larger egalitarian project.-a secular, progressive, democratic polity. And, the onus of preserving the secular robustness of our republic rests on all our constitutional institutions," Singh said.