The Communist Party of India-Marxist has said the party was opposed to communalism not religion, and faith was no bar for anyone to join the party if he or she was willing to work in accordance with its programme and constitution.
What CPI-M opposed in the present Indian context was not religion but communalism that was sustaining on religious identities, party general secretary Prakash Karat said in an article in the party daily Deshabhimani. His comments came in response to the debate sparked by resignation of former Lok Sabha member K S Manoj, a devout Catholic, from the CPI-M in protest against a recent party directive to shun religious rites.
Manoj, a former party MP, quit last week holding that being a believer he could not agree with the recent directive that members should shun religious rites and ceremonies. It was issued as part of party's "rectification" process. "Even when the CPI-M upholds materialist outlook it does not prevent believers from joining the party...The party has no difficulty in joining hands with believers and religious leaders in the struggles for the uplift of the poorer sections, especially the working class," Karat said.
Manoj's resignation has triggered a debate on faith at a time when the CPI-M is trying hard to strengthen its support base among minorities. Significantly, Manoj's resignation came within months of former CPI-M MP A P Abullakutty, who was also projected as a minority face by the party, quitting it. Abdullakutty, who joined the Congress later and gotelected to the assembly through a by-election a few months ago, had embarrassed the CPI-M leadership by openly acknowledging his faith.
Referring to the points in the "rectification" document regarding faith, Karat said an important aspect was to educate the party members to shun social, religious and casteist practices that would not go with the Communist ideals. "The party does not ask its members to give up their religious belief or practices. At the same time, they are bound to take up firm positions against practices like untouchability and discrimination of women even if they have religious sanction," Karat said.
What the rectification process demanded from party members was that they should shed rituals and ceremonies that would lead to discrimination based on caste, gender or social status, he said. A second aspect of the process concerned prominent members, functionaries and elected representatives of CPI-M. They had been instructed not to organise religious functions and refrain from performing rites and ceremonies.
They should also avoid extravaganza during weddings of their kin and should renounce giving or taking dowry. This category of party members, who function in the state, district, zonal or area committees, were expected to uphold progressive values in their personal as well as public life, he added.