Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Pseudo-secular minority report

by Rakesh Sinha

Followers of Islam or other non-Hindus have shown reservation with Hindu philosophies, culture, traditions and intellectual contributions which had existed much before their birth/advent in this country. The advocacy of Hindutva primarily reinforces this fact. However, any such advocacy is termed as communal today. Cultural integration is a pre-condition for the survival of secularism. One instance can make the concept more clear: Buddhism came into existence and expanded as a revolt against the Vedic religion. But it did not expound separate nationality. The contrast between Buddhism and Indian Islam throws light on this very significant fact. Unless religion accommodates culture, it cannot become the vehicle for national integration.

In India, even after Partition, measures were not taken to protect secularism from the onslaught of authoritarian religions. Hinduism is a democratic philosophy which permits co-existence of other religions, philosophies, splits in sects and benevolent revolt against the hegemony of any philosophy or religion. It allows transformation of religious codes and cultural values. This is why Indian culture is described as rich, despite many ills in its society and religious traditions. Semitic religions do not tolerate the existence of other religions, culture or traditions. They perceive other religions not only from a competitive perspective but also as an opportunity and challenge for aggression.

The report of the Niyogi Commission formed in the early-50s to investigate religious conversions in the tribal areas of Madhya Pradesh is a testament to this fact. The commission pointed out the methods adopted by Christian missionaries to convert tribal Hindus to Christianity. Even they had problems with the opening of Government schools which the missionaries considered as their competitors. Madarsas were allowed to hegemonise education of Muslim children. Their curriculum is incompatible with modern education. Any attempt to curb the madarsas is considered an attack on Islam, while the Muslim elite count the number of Muslims in the civil services and Government jobs.

Constitutional integration is the minimum requirement for the creation of civil society. However, the Indian situation gives a gloomy picture. What is the rationale behind the special constitutional provisions (Article 29 and 30) for separate minority institutions? Does it not presuppose the presence of majority-dominated educational institutions? It shows that Indian leaders were either not confident of enforcing equal treatment of minority students in state-run educational institutions or they deliberately and consciously made such provisions to win over the minorities. Appeasement is another name of self-destruction. It is a virus which multiplies and remains always hungry. The protagonists of minority special rights do not give any unambiguous answer to the question as to what special purpose Jamia Milia or AMU serve, and how do they help in strengthening secularism.

Another premise of a liberal democratic society is gender justice. But this is hardly applicable on Indian Muslims. They have not allowed even the judiciary to introduce changes. In the Shah Bano case, the present form of secularism proved hollow. The logic that change should come from within is deceitful. Not only the Muslim elites but even the Indian Marxists, whose mental understanding can be described as the "Red-Green Club", do not permit even a discussion on the Uniform Civil Code. This constitutional provision (as a part of the Directive Principles of the State Policy) is considered as potentially divisive by them. It is this mental make up and outlook of Nehruvian secularism that has weakened the secular resilience of society and state.

Hindutva aims at correcting the aberration in secularism and liberalism. It defines nation in the context of culture and professes to integrate minorities on both constitutional and cultural planes. The secularists' understanding of Hindu society is illusionary. They quote Swami Vivekanand, Dayanand Saraswati, Raja Rammohun Roy and others to differentiate between saffron Hindu and secular Hindu philosophies. Polemically it suits them. Hindutva takes its energy from the above-mentioned Hindu philosophers and reformers. After all, Raja Rammohun Roy raised the question of gender justice and confined himself to Hindu society. Does it not mean that he was aware of the limitations posed by Islam? He is regarded as the father of Indian renaissance. On the basis of secularist parametre, he can best be called a prophet of Hindu renaissance.

The BJP must re-articulate its programme and agenda based on its unambiguous philosophy of Hindutva. The pseudo-secular governance of the UPA is bound to give Hindutva the centrestage again.

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