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, June 07, 2008

All that hullabaloo over a 'secular' drop

by Dina Nath Mishra

The political world has another sensitive lexicon: 'Secular'. Adverse comments have flown in from all opposing quarters after BJP heavyweight Rajnath Singh said he wanted 'secular' dropped from the Constitution. While Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari, commented: "Rajnath Singh's statement is not an attack on secularism; it is an attack on the idea of India; it shows that he does not understand anything about India and that there is a district level mindset at work," CPI Secretary, D Raja spurned him stating, "secularism is the basic character of our democracy. Rajnath Singh's demand shows that BJP poses a serious threat to the secular character of India." Even advocate Prashant Bhushan said Singh does not understand the Indian Constitution.

What Rajnath Singh said is not at all flawed. From the first day of the Constitution till it was inserted in the Preamble, the word 'secular' did not exist. It was a gift of dictatorship of Indira Gandhi. The spirit of secularism was present even without a mention in the Preamble.

As per rules, a Constitution may be amended but not the Preamble. Does it mean that for over a quarter of a century, i.e. till the word 'secular' was added in the Preamble, India was not a secular State? In fact, India has been secular for thousands of years. Addition of the word 'secular' in the Preamble did not add an iota to the constitutional value. The evolution of the western concept of secularism was the result of struggle between the Papal authority and the King. Bloody wars were fought. The gradual reduction of Papal authority continued for nearly 200 years and then the western concept of secularism evolved.

India was never a theocratic State. Other religions were not only tolerated but were respected too. Christians, Muslims, Jews and Parsis were all welcomed. Kings gave them land. Barring Muslims all religions accept this truth. When a State's king invaded another, he went to the local temple to pray. In most cases, the tyrant king was removed and one of his relations was crowned. It was like a tradition. There was not even an iota of religious intolerance. The problem of secularism arises because there was no concept of dharma outside cultural India and also there was no tradition of Sematic religion in India which was prevailing and fighting in the name of religion.

In Christianity, Islam and Judaism, one book, one God, one Paigambar has been the matter of faith. In India, there are thousands of Gods, books and messengers and everybody has the liberty to choose, or not. The word religion and dharma are conceptually poles apart. One is the way of life, the other is individual's relationship with God. But, during the last century, Indian intellectuals made us understand and express religion and dharma as being synonymous.

That is the root of confusion relating to secularism that did not exist even during freedom struggle. For example, the core ideas adopted by various institutions emphatically establishes Hindu heritage: viz. the Government of India -- Satyameva Jayate, Lok Sabha -- Dharmachakra, Supreme Court -- Yato Dharmastato Jayah, All India Radio -- Bahujanhitaya, Doordarshan -- Satyam Shivam Sundaram, Indian Army -- Seva Asmakam Dharmah, Indian Navy -- Shan No Varunah, Indian Air Force -- Nabhah Sprisham Diptam, Delhi University -- Nistha Dhriti Satyam, Life Insurance Corporation of India -- Yogakshemam Vahamyaham.

This is not unintentional.

The original copy of the constitution contains pre-Muslim line sketches by Nandlal Bose. A few examples are Mohanjodaro seals, Vedic Ashram, Rama's victory over Ravan, Shri Krishna's propounding Gita updesh to Arjuna, Buddha delivering sermons, a scene from Bhagwan Mahavir's life preaching dharma in India and abroad, depiction of Hanuman, court of King Vikramaditya, seal of the university of Nalanda, a Hindu sculpture from Orissa, bronze image of Shiva Nataraj, Holy Ganges river. From Muslim period there are three line sketches that are of Akbar, Shivaji and Guru Gobind Singh. Apart from this the Parliament bears prominent reminders of Hindu heritage from Mahabharata, Panchatantra, Chhandogya Upanishad and Manusmriti. Had the Constitution been made today, all these would not have found place; for today's secularism would not have allowed it to happen.

What's the confusion about 'secular'? There are three main reasons. Nehruvian secularism had contempt for all religions; you may say non-discriminatory rejection of all religions. But, the vote bank politics tilted it in favour of Muslim and anti-Hindu. Secondly, religion plays quite an important role in the society. In U.S.A. the presidents from both the parties, Democrats and Republicans, visibly affirm Christianity. Articles 25 to 30 resulted in reverse discrimination against Hindus.


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