Pseudo-Secularism

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.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Gujarat votes against “Sonia secularism”

By M.D. Nalapat

The UPA has with zest implemented policies that divide the majority Hindus from the other faiths, and penalizes them for having been born in the majority community in India.

Such religion-based policies have created in India the system of ”Partial Secularism” which is in fact a negation of the very term. Thus, while Hindus are expected to be be inclusive, procedures and customs of an exclusionary nature done by individuals and institutions belonging to minority groups not only goes unpunished, but, especially since 2004, gets rewarded. Such policies have sharpened the long-prevalent anti-Hindu edge of state policy, and therefore deserve the label of “Sonia Secularism”. In other words, a comprehensive system of laws and policies that excludes, baits and seeks to divide the Hindu community

It is because he is a follower of “Sonia Secularism” that Laloo Yadav made a supple ex-judge claim in effect that those who were burnt to death at Godhra were themselves to blame for the train murders, or when the the Planning Commission earmarks 15 per cent of Plan funding for “Muslim-only” schemes. What does such bedgeting mean, if not another embrace of the policies of M A Jinnah? Does Montek Singh Ahluwalia imply that Muslims will not be allowed to use the roads, schools and hospitals built with the residual 85 per cent of funding, or is this 15 per cent added to the rest of plan outlay? It is a deadly blow to the unity of India to bifurcate a project on the basis of religion. Muslims, as with other Indians, ought to benefit from schemes that are non-discriminatory and not from perversions of policy that reproduce the mindset of the Malaysian Wahabbis, who have introduced a “Muslim Cola” and even a “Muslim Car” into the vocabulary. Apart from the fact that the 15 per cent figure represents a Jinnah-style mindset of setting apart the Muslims from the rest, the reality is that there are at least 300 million desperately poor people in India, not all of whom are Muslims. In fact, the overwhelming majority of whom are not.

Discrimination is evil, whether it be of Brahmins in Tamil Nadu, Hindus and Buddhists in Kashmir or Muslims and Christians. A truly secular government would focus on the billion-plus people of India as a whole and help them irrespective of community. A regime that practices “Sonia secularism”, in contrast, divides Indian from Indian on the criterion of faith, and instills a separatist mindset amongst members of minority communities. Another example of Sonia-style “secularism” is her consistent effort to divide Hindus by caste. In the recent Gujarat assembly polls, for example, Sonia pursued a caste-based policy of seeking to win over groups such as the Kolis and the Leuva Patels by enticing key elements of the community into her camp. That the voters in Gujarat saw through such divisive moves is another matter. Pity the good man Manmohan Singh. He knows that in a globalised world, only policies that are inclusive and non-discriminatory ought to be followed, but needs to obey the orders of “Madam” to retain his presently-devalued job

But change is on the way. The voters of Gujarat have on December 23, 2007 given the first signal that the majority community is no longer willing to accept the underclass status that Maino-style policies have sought to confine it to. The differential response of the Nehruvian establishment in India (including the media) to the destruction of places of worship illustrates the distortions that have come into a polity where Partial Secularism is state policy. When a disused Shia place of worship was brought down in Ayodhya in 1992, there was a crescendo of protest, a lot of which was orchestated internationally as well so as to paint India as a land of fanatics. However, even after dozens of functioning Hindu temples have been vandalized and rendered non-functional since 1989 in Kashmir, there has not been even the hint of protest by the ”secular” establishment. When a few makeshift churches were targeted, numerous delegations were sent across the world to portray India as a country where Christians are persecuted. The testimony given by several India-hating Indians to numerous committees of the European Parliament and the US Congress on the alleged “fascist” nature of India speak for themselves. That this attempt to claim that India is a land populated by Hindu fanatics who (according to their testimony on record) routinely rape, butcher and expropriate Muslims, Christians and other minorities serves only the interests of China and Pakistan does not seem to irk Sonia Gandhi or her government, who treat the calumniators with honour and sympathy

As an admirer of the Christian and Muslim faiths, this columnist has been saddened by the profusion and misdirected passion of several individuals and delegations who visit European and North American capitals every month to retail before a diversity of audiences tales that purport to show that Christians are persecuted in India, so as to turn western public opinion against India. In much the same way, some “Muslim” groups travel to countries where Islam is the state religion with the same message: That India is an intolerant land where “Muslims are not safe”. The reality is that Muslims are much safer in India than, for example, in Pakistan, where those who are not Sunni Punjabis face discrimination that can be severe, and where Shia places of worship are routinely attacked by Wahabbis, while Christians in India are a respected and thriving community free to pursue their faith. In today’s era of the internet, the calumny that such individuals heap upon our common motherland cannot be concealed from view in India, and has created a sense of outrage in some sections of the majority community, who wrongly blame the entire community for the lies spread by a few. However, Christians and Muslims need to call to account such anti-India elements, the same way as their Hindu brothers and sisters do against those who seek to see members of the minority community as being less Indian than they themselves are.

The victory of Narendra Modi in Gujarat a few days ago has demonstrated the first major political fallout of the millenium-long policy of discriminating against the Hindus. Although it is doubtful if more than a few thousand members of the minority communities voted for the BJP, yet that party returned to power with a higher vote share than in 2002. The national english-language media was on the side of Sonia Maino in this assembly poll, while the BJP’s much-touted spin doctors proved unwilling or unable to ensure at least a trace of unbiasedness in the media coverage of the campaign. The villain depicted was in each case Narendra Modi, the heroine the saviour of the once-penurious Maino clan. The verdict came despite the hundreds of crores of rupees spent by Sonia secularists to foment a rebellion within the BJP. During the run-up to the campaign and till the date of counting of votes, to be a BJP functionary and oppose the chief minister in public was to find oneself rich beyond any fear of want, and all too many could not resist the temptation. Should a policy of exclusion of the Hindus from the rights and freedoms given to other communities be continued by her team, there is little doubt that the wave from Gujarat will blow across the entire country, if not by the time the next Lok Sabha elections falls due, then certainly before the next. Should voters across the country tomorrow react the way the Gujarat electorate did a few days ago, the credit will go to policies that deny Hindus the rights and freedoms enjoyed by the minority communities in India. Secularism in India can be protected only by following a genuinely secular policy of equal treatment to the followers of every faith.

Since the time of the Mughal era a millenium ago, Hindus have been discriminated against in India. After more than six centuries, the favouring of those of Turkic-Persian origin and to a lesser extent native Indians who converted to Islam got replaced during the two centuries of British period by policies that favoured only those of European extraction, denying even the most basic of human rights to the rest. Those who converted to Christianity during the rule of the British got relatively little benefit from their new faith, for to a much greater degree than the Turko-Persian Mughals, the exclusionary policies of the British were motivated by race more than faith.

After India won freedom from the British on 15 August 1947, and especially after the Congress-approved carving-out from its area of Pakistan, a frankly religious state where Sunni Muslims were officially placed above the Shia, women and those of other faiths, it was expected that the policies of the new government would be religion-neutral. Instead, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (who had been chosen by Mahatma Gandhi in preference to Vallabhai Patel) continued the Mughal-British policy of Hindu exclusion. For reasons that are presently opaque, Nehru discriminated against those who followed the Hindu faith, reducing their rights and freedoms as compared to those of other faiths. While changes were made in Hindu personal law (some of which were needed and welcome, such as affirmative action to raise the standard of life of the Dalit communities and the abolition of a few social practices that were anachronistic), those of the minority communities—even customs that were clearly reactionary, such as multiple marriages -remained unaffected by the Hindu-specific legislation passed by Nehru and continued by every successive government since his time. Thus, while Hindu places of worship remain under state control, churches, gurudwaras and mosques are free. Indeed, there are numerous cases where Hindu temples have been placed under the administrative control of atheists or non-Hindus, and where the funds raised from the offerings of the devotees have been sequestered by the state rather than spent on the welfare of the Hindu community

In India, if a Hindu sets up an educational institution,the same is burdened with restrictions that cut at the very substance of the freedom sought to be ensured by the Constitution of India. However, the same sorry fate does not afflict those of other faiths who establish similar institutions. They are given preference by remaining exempt from the constraint of procedures and policies framed solely for Hindu-run institutions. The difference between Nehru raj and British raj is that while the latter excluded both Muslims and Hindus (although this policy of equal discrimination against both changed by the 1920s, to a policy of separating Muslims from Hindus through preferential treatment, including the pernicious method of separate electorates) , Nehru and his successors have regarded only the Hindus as an underclass to be discriminated against. The rigour of anti-Hindu Nehruvian policies has been made even harsher since 2004, after the ineffectual Manmohan Singh was sworn in as the nominal Prime Minister of India .

Rather than be beguiled by the Pied Pipers of Sonia Secularism who are seeking to lead them along a divisive path that can lead to a common catastrophe, Muslim and Christian brothers and sisters of the Hindu community need to share the latter’s pain at the destruction of temples in Kashmir or the many national and state laws that discriminate against the majority community. They need to protest against those within their faiths who seek to create an entirely false impression of India in international fora. When India gets defamed and weakened, so does every Indian, whether Christian, Muslim, Jain, Sikh, Buddhist or Hindu. And when a priceless segment of our country’s heritage—the Ram Sethu—is in danger of being destroyed, they need to add their voices of protest to the millions who are seeking to preserve this physical link to India’s ancient past. For unless all Indians fight for each Indian, eventually, none of us will fight for anyone of us. The enemies of secularism are those whose policies divide Indian from Indian on the basis of faith, and who continue the millenium-long policy of discrimination against the Hindu community.

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