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, April 28, 2005

Secularism and national integration

Author: Subhas Chandra Goswami
Publication: Assam Tibune
Date: April 24, 2005

Recently deceased Pope John Paul II commented that it was not capitalism or communalism but secularism which was the real threat to mankind. He used the dictionary meaning of secularism, meaning non-religious, non-spiritual. However, in our constitution secularism does not mean irreligion. It means that there is no state recognised charts or religion. The constitution guarantees freedom of worship and religion as well as outlaw discrimination on the ground of religion. In the preamble of the constitution the clause "sovereign socialist secular democratic republic" was incorporated in place of "sovereign democratic republic" by the 42nd Amendment Act of 1976. This amendment was made during the emergency by the Indira Gandhi government, without proper national debate and discussion as most of the opposition leaders were inside the jail and the amendment was more or less a party affair. The amendment sought to tilt balance of power in favour of executive and away from the judiciary and legislature. Before inserting the word "secularism" in the preamble it was not as is secularism was not practiced in the country. The whole process was gone through with political benefit in mind and the secular lobby of the country continuing with the practice. In the same amendment, the words "unity of the nation" in the clause explaining "fraternity" have been changed into "unity and integrity of the nation". However, in practice, in the last 25 years or so, the actions of the fundamentalists and senseless abetment by a section of pseudo secular politicians, the integrity of the nation is once more threatened.

The integrity of the country was once disturbed earlier at the time of independence, when the country was partitioned on the basis of two nation theory. A section of the Muslims then believed that Hindus and Muslims are two different nations and majority Hindus will suppress the minority Muslims after independence and hence the creation of Pakistan with the Muslim majority areas. This is still the notion behind the Kashmir problem and if not attended to properly there is every possibility of a problem in Assam coming up much earlier than we perceive.

Recently there was a meeting in Guwahati of the Jamiat-Ulema-E-Hind which was attendent along with others by the Governor of Assam, the Chief Minister of Assam Tarun Gogoi and a former Chief Minister of the State Prafulla Kr Mahanta. They attended the meeting pretending that Jamiat is a secular, non-political nationalistic organisation. It is a fact that Jamiat opposed the proposal of partition on the basis of religion advocated by Muslim league of Md Ali Jinnah. But considering the recent outburst of the leaders of the Jamiat do we perceive that there is no change in the thought process of the organisation in the last 50 years. There is doubt in the mind of every patriotic secular citizen of the country that Jamiat is no more a secular nationalistic organisation. With time an organisation changes, so changes a person, that is history. Till 1936 Md Ali Jinnah was considered as a liberal and progressive Muslim leader. In the initial stage he was away from Muslim league. He thought that politics is a gentleman's affair and religion has no place in it. He even rediculed Mahatma Gandhi as a religious person. But with the passage of time due to various reasons and high political ambition, the same man became father of Pakistan based on communal "two nation theory". While demanding Pakistan comprising Muslim majority provinces in the west and Muslim majority areas of Bengal and Assam in the east, Moinul Hoque Choudhury, the then private secretary of Jinnah told Jinnah that he would "present Assam to him on a silver platter". Jinnah confidently declared at Guwahati that Assam was in his pocket. Moinul Hoque Choudhury after independence remained in India and became a minister in Assam as well as in the Central Cabinet. This is also a part of history. If we feel that the communal disputes ended with the partition of India on the basis of "two nation theory" we are wrong, specifically for the people of Assam. Much after the portion of the country Zulfikar Ali Bhutto wrote in his book "Myths of Independence", "It would be wrong to think that Kashmir is the only dispute that divides India and Pakistan, though undoubtedly the most significant one, atleast it is nearly as important as the Kashmir dispute, that of Assam and some districts of India adjacent to East Pakistan. To these Pakistan has very good claims". Today there is no more East Pakistan. Creation of Bangladesh has proved the falacy of two nation theory. But there is no dearth of people who still think that Assam can be made a Muslim State or part of a Muslim State. This is a very very serious matter for the country and in this situation political leadership of different hues should forget petty political gains for preserving the integrity of the country.

On 10th April 1992, Hiteswar Saikia, the then Chief Minister of Assam stated that there were 3 million Bangladeshi illegal migrants in Assam. But when some of the minority leaders threatened that they could throw out the Saikia govt in a couple of minutes, Saikia retracted his statement after two days, stating that there were no illegal migrants in Assam. We see the same type of blackmailing tactics by minority leaders in the recently concluded meeting of Jamiat-Ulema-E-Hind. It is reported in the press that Jamiat chief Moulana Asad Madani in presence of the Chief Minister of Assam served six months deadline to the Chief Minister to solve the problems of the minority or else his government will be thrown out. He also demanded reservation of jobs in govt organisations as well as academic institutions reflecting the population pattern. We have not seen any leader from any of the political parties attending the meeting to remind the Jamiat leadership that as per constitution of India no reservation can be made on the basis of religion.

Now let us discuss about some of the secular leaders. RJD Supremo Laloo Prasad Yadav, who is out and out a casteist and communal person is getting away behaving as if he is the only torch bearer of the secular politics of the country. Another Yadav, Mulayam Singh is another secular leader who advocates reservation of jobs for Muslims in the name of minority, knowing fully that such provisions are not there in our constitution. Another secular party of the country, CPM wants to form a secular third front within next three years with Mulayam Singh Yadav as its leader. Ram Vilas Paswan wants the next Chief Minister of Bihar to be a Muslim. Pray why? There is no bar for a Muslim to be a Chief Minister. In fact in the past there was an able Muslim Chief Minister in Bihar. But if somebody puts a precondition on the basis of religion and gets away as a secular politician, there is problem for the country.

Coming back to recently concluded Jamiat meeting at Guwahati, the Governor of Assam, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and a former Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta attended the meeting considering Jamiat a non-political nationalist organisation. Will these three gentlemen attend a meeting organised by RSS or Viswa Hindu Parishad, as these organisations also claim the same credential? Perhaps not and there lies the contradiction.

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