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.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Secularism: It is a fraud on the Hindus

By M.S.N. Menon

How do we live in a multi-religious society? By suppressing all but one religion? This is one way. It is the way opted by the Semitic religions. They are still on the same course.

Hinduism chose a different route. It chose freedom—freedom to think and worship, which gave rise to tolerance.

For a thousand years, the sword and the cross ruled over Europe. It was marked by religious tyranny and intolerance. They call it the Dark Age.

Europe revolted against this tyranny and brought about the separation of religion and politics. From then the State became secular. That is, it never again allowed religion to invade the public domain. But Islam continues to be under religious tyranny even after 1400 years!

The Hindus have always kept their religion and politics separate. They paid a heavy price for it. But they enjoyed their freedom. What is more, there was peaceful co-existence among people.

The Yajur Veda says: “May I look upon all beings with the eye of a friend!” And the Prithvi Sukhta of the Atharva Veda says: “O Mother Earth,…. May we speak sweetly with one another.”

Ashoka, the great Buddhist emperor, exhorts his own sect (Buddhists) to revere other sects. (Rock Edict No.12) “By doing so”, he says, “a person exalts his own sect.” He calls for equal respect to all religions (Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava). Perhaps this is the model that Nehru chose for his policy of Secularism. But, alas!, he and his followers have made it an evil thing. Our tragedy is that we have to live with it. A revolution to over-turn it is long a-coming.

Nehru was an agnostic. He was against organised religion. He writes: “Often in history, we see that religion, which was meant to raise us and make us better and nobler, has made people behave like beasts…In the name of religion, thousands and millions have been killed and every possible crime has been committed.” True!

We should naturally expect Nehru to bridle the religious frenzy. But, no, instead, he became a reckless promoter of minority intransigence.

It was to appease the minorities that the Congress Party gave up nationalism. But nothing could appease the Muslims. They had their pound of flesh—the Partition of the country. But Partition did not solve the Hindu-Muslim problem. For which we have to thank Gandhi and Nehru in particular. By introducing Secularism (Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava), Nehru assuaged the Muslims of their fears and promised equal respect for all religions. But Nehru was the first to violate his own promises. How? I have two stories to show the kind of man he was.

In his book “Pilgrimage to Freedom”, K.M.Munshi writes: “When Junagad fell, Sardar Patel pledged the Government of India to the reconstruction of the historic Somnath temple.” The Central Government agreed. But Gandhi advised the Sardar to use private funds. This was accepted. But, says, Munshi, “Jawaharlal more than once criticised me for working for the restoration of the temple.” Why? Because restoration of Somnath would cause anxiety among Muslims.

As Sardar was dead by the time the temple was complete, Munshi invited Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the President of India, to inaugurate the temple. He agreed. But Nehru made violent protest against it. His objection was to the involvement of a secular state in matters religious . The real reason was that he did not want to offered the Muslims. But what about the sentiments of the Hindus? Did they not want the restoration of the temple? Did they not want to worship the deity of Somnath? Nehru was indifferent to Hindu sentiments. In the event, Dr. Prasad ignored Nehru’s objection.

This very same Nehru introduced the Haj Bill in Parliament in 1959 in order to subsidise Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca! The subsidy has now grown into a major drain on India’s exchequer.

Apart from this, State governments incur various expenses in connection with Haj. And Mumbai and Bangalore are the two cities which set aside substantial funds for the Haj. The point I want to make here is this: even Muslim countries do not subsidise the Haj!

The concepts of democracy and secularism can in theory threaten to disrupt the Muslim community by encouraging individualism. They can pose a challenge to Ijma. But there is no real threat. It is at present an intra-Hindu debate.

It is true the Muslims do not openly object to secularism. That is because they are compelled to obey the Constitution. They cannot challenge the very Constitution which guarantees them special rights.

Dear Reader, all these one can understand. But what is one to make of the fact that the Muslims consider Secularism as the worst evil? This is what Maulana Maududi, the founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami says. By its very nature, he says, an Islamic state is the very anti-thesis of a western secular democracy. Muslims as a community do not and indeed cannot accept secularism as a legitimate doctrine for the public domain For them, the public domain is not separate from the religious domain. Was Nehru not aware of this? He was! Which is why I call it the greatest fraud perpetrated on the Hindus.

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