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.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Secularism and security

Balraj Madhok

A lot of fetish is made in India about secularism. Like socialism in the days of Nehru, secularism has become a sacrosanct word, but unlike socialism few people in India understand what secularism really means. The word 'secularism' came in vogue in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries in the wake of renaissance and reformation which gave thinking people in Europe the courage to stand up against the Pope and the domination of Church, not only in matters pertaining to religion and sprit, but also those pertaining to state and political affairs. The popular meaning of secularism in those days was the separation of state from the church and non-discrimination between citizens on the basis of religion and forms of worship.

As time passed the concept of secularism too began to be redefined. The concept of secularism prevalent in the West, including the UK and US, in theory and practice, has come to mean three things which are now considered to be the basic postulates of secularism. They are: One, non-discrimination between citizens on the basis of religion. Two, uniform laws for all citizens. Three, equality of all citizens before law.

The UK, which is the model for the Indian political elite, has now come to be considered as a typical example of secularism. The UK is still a declared Christian state. One of the titles of its ruling monarch is "Defender of Faith" and all important state functions including coronation of the king and opening of the Parliament are preceded by Anglican prayer under the guidance of Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican Church.

But unlike its pre-secular period, when Roman Catholics could not get government jobs or seats in prestigious universities of Oxford and Cambridge, now the UK Government does not discriminate between not only Roman Catholic and Protestant but also between Christian and non-Christian citizens including people belonging to different sects of "commonwealth of Hinduism", Islam and Judaism. The common laws of UK apply to all of them and no citizen can claim separate law for him in any matter because of one's religion. As a natural corollary to this, all citizens of UK are equal before law. The same is true, more or less, of other European states.

India is one country in the world in which no non-Islamic state has ever been theocratic in the sense in which Christian states were theocratic before the advent of secularism. Muslim states have been theocratic since the advent of Islam and continue to be so till today. The Vedic concept that "God is one but wise men call Him by many names" and "He can be approached in many ways" does not permit any kind of discrimination between devotees who call God by different names and worship him in different ways.

That is why Sarva Panth Sam Bhav has been guiding the conduct of the Hindu states and rulers all through history. Even when Islamic theocracy had become the rule in its worst form during Aurangzeb's reign, the Hindu Swarajya set up by Shivaji did not discriminate between Hindus and Muslims. The same was true of the Sikh kingdom set up by Ranjit Singh after 800 years of Muslim rule over Lahore and West Punjab which now constitute Pakistan. The use of the word "dharma" for religion is not only incorrect but also mischievous. There is no word for dharma, which refers to code of conduct and value system and not loyalty to any particular god or book or forms of worship, in Persian, Arabic or European languages. At best, religion can be translated as panth. That is why in the official translation of the Indian Constitution the world "secularism" has been translated as Sarva Panth Sam Bhava and not Sarva Dharma Sam Bhava.

As things stand, the Indian state today is anything but secular. It does not fulfil any of the basic postulates of secularism. Articles 30 and 370 of the Constitution which discriminate between Indian citizens on the basis of religion make the Constitution a promoter of communalism instead of secularism. Article 44, which enjoins upon the state to have uniform laws for all citizens of India, has not been implemented so far in spite of repeated reminders by the Supreme Court. There is no reason why a common civil and criminal law should not apply to all Indians including Muslims, like Goa, which continues to follow the law and practice of the Portuguese government before its liberation and integration into the Indian Union. In the absence of uniform laws for all citizens, equality of all citizens before law is not possible. It is time India was made a secular state in the true sense of the term and as practiced all over the non-Islamic world.

To make things worse, secularism in its distorted form is being used to weaken internal and external security of our country. Quotas are being demanded and given in the matter of recruitment to security forces in the name of secularism, and traditional Indian symbols and slogans which arouse the martial spirit of the soldiers are being discarded to placate Muslims. Do our policy-makers realise what havoc such policies can play at the time of a crisis and war particularly when our "main enemy" is Pakistan and will remain so, as long as it exists? According to Islamic fundamentals of Millat and Kufr, Dar-ul Islam and Dar-ul Harb and jihad, no true Muslim can co-exist with a non-Muslim even if they happen to be blood relations. This is specifically mentioned in a Quranic Aayat.

According to these fundamentals, it is the religious duty of every Muslim to side with a Dar-ul Islam country like Pakistan when it invades a Dar-ul Harb country like India. Even the Soviet Union- which claimed to be a model secular state from where not only religion but also belief in God had been banished-could not secularise its Muslim soldiers when they came in contact with and got influenced by Islamist jihadis and deserted in thousands, and which became a major cause of the debacle of Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

It is time the Indian secularists, apologists of Islam and policy-makers faced the facts, drew lessons from the past and recent experience, and stopped undermining national security in the name of secularism. They should not forget that India was partitioned in 1947 on the basis of religion because Jinnah, the President of Muslim League, had declared in his presidential address at the annual session of the Muslim League held at Lahore in March 1940 that no Muslim could co-exist with a Hindu in a composite state. That was the crux of the resolution of the Muslim League which demanded partition of the subcontinent. They should also not forget that not only the civil services, but also the Armed forces and prisoners in jails were divided and exchanged on the basis of religion which lay at the root of Partition.

In this context, I would like to remind India's policy-makers, particularly the Defence Minister, about the experience of war with Pakistan. I was an eye witness to the desertion of almost all the Muslim soldiers and officers of the Army of Jammu and Kashmir State during the Pakistani invasion in October 1947. As vice-chairman of the study team constituted by the Indian Government in 1967, I along with other members of the team had the opportunity to visit most of the military cantonments and interact with officers of the Armed forces including the three Chiefs of Staff.

During our visit to Pune, headquarters of the Southern Command in-charge of Indo-Pak border in Rajasthan and Gujarat sectors, I asked the top officer of the Command about his experience of Muslims in the border areas. The commanding officer first tried to evade the question, but when I insisted on a candid answer, his short and crisp reply was: "Exceptions apart, we can trust no Muslim."

Things have become worse now. A network of Islamic madarsas has come up all along the Indo-Pak border and also on the border of Bangladesh and Nepal wherein new generation of Muslims is being indoctrinated in jihad and other fundamentals of Islam. The impact of these teachings on the mental make up of students and their loyalty to India can be well imagined. It is, therefore, urgent and important that the security of the country is not endangered by subordinating considerations of security to false notion about secularism, which has become a euphemism for policy of Muslim appeasement and the politics of vote-bank.


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