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.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Don’t divide, find the common bonds

Divide and rule, the politician cries; unite and lead, is watchword of the wise.
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
German dramatist, novelist, poet, & scientist (1749 - 1832)

Rising fundamentalism, separatism, terrorism, conversions, unease in Kashmir - on every front it seems that India’s democratic unity is continually at risk. The success of a federation depends upon its ability to win and retain the loyalties of its constituent groups. In the light of preceding statement, one wonders as to what the fate of a nation could be, where the government itself pits one community against the other only to secure votes—A deliberate and unscrupulous playing of communal politics in the garb of secularism! The holy & the religious seem to become divisive and the word ‘secular’ derives a new meaning altogether! When the Prime Minister states that “Muslims should have the first claim on the country’s resources”, one can’t help but question the hypocrisy of pseudo secularists. How can a “secular” government appease one community at the cost of trampling on the rights of all others?

For any social principle to be accepted universally it must apply equally across all communities. It should neither privilege one, nor disfranchise another. One community cannot be expected to practice exemplary behavior towards another all the time, it must also receive reciprocity. To preserve the secular principle in India there cannot be duplicity in application of these principles.

The handling of the Ram Sethu controversy as opposed to handling of controversies regarding Taslima Nasreem and Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad shows the double standards of the secular elite - the majority should learn to take it on the chin but we must be very careful not to offend the minority! The separatist demands of those who wave Pakistani flags in Kashmir are glorified by the self serving politicians, but the tragedy of Kashmiri Pundits who have lost their home and hearth is conveniently brushed under the carpet.

Every time secular India has demanded that the system of personal laws based on religious directions should be done away with, a countervailing cry has gone up, alleging that it is an assault on the identity of minority communities. Sadly even today, retrograde personal laws that discriminate on grounds of gender are a part of the Indian legal system. Its shocking that in a democracy there are millions to protect the unjustifiable rights of divisive groups but not many voices to speak up for the rights of Muslim women. The Muslim personal law remains unaltered in sum and substance. The government accepts it lest it upsets India’s progressive, secular activists.

Although the Constitution prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, the minority communities feel threatened by the majority and struggle to retain their exclusive identities. This feeling of insecurity is exploited by the privileged secular fundamentalists who in a race to consolidate their vote banks divide communities. Recently when anti-national forces voiced their protest against counter terrorist operation, some of the political parties swiftly followed suit lest their conscience be counterproductive to their voting bank.

It is a matter of serious concern that after multiple terrorist attacks, more than 1200 casualties later, it is the integrity of anti-terror squad that is questioned. The self proclaimed liberals condemn act of terrorism and ironically in the same breath demand a probe into the Jamia encounter questioning the martyr’s loyalties. It is appalling that although the innocence of a terror suspect is to be presumed, allegiance of security forces has to be proved.

Today India is not at war but going about everyday’s mundane tasks is no less fraught with danger, there is always a lurking fear of another bomb blast. After every blast our immaculately dressed home minister sympathises with nation and on false assurances we get on with our lives. Sadly, the government still continues to deliberate whether protection of lives of its countrymen is worth risking its vote banks.

After the recent terrorist strikes it is apparent that the domestic Jehadi fundamentalists are well protected. revealing the vicious designs of traitors of this great nation requires the kind of commitment that is shown in the US which enacted the PATRIOT Act post 9/11 imposing certain restrictions on civil liberties. Then why is there a delay in evolving a comprehensive legislation against terrorism in India. The answer lies in the “vote bank” mindset of the government.

The real danger in practice of playing “communal constituencies” is that it inevitably transforms into a camouflage to mask the Mujahideens. The groups, who gave a clean chit to SIMI, were quick to protest against Bajrang Dal. Are not such compensatory politics of matching the banning of terrorist groups with that of Hindu organisation undesirable? What needs to be understood is that an anti-majority stance is not synonymous with secularism. There are benchmarks on which organisations should be assessed rather than talking of compensatory banning.

Today India is at cross roads. On one hand, there is a feeling of anxiety and helplessness at the prevailing levels of corruption, terrorism falsehood and mistrust between communities. And yet, on the other, there is hope, even certitude, that India will regain its position as a significant contributor to mankind. If India wants to establish itself as a force in the world order it needs to find ways to weld together its large and heterogeneous population into a common force. Today India is about equality and the transcendence of social barriers not about narrow dividing walls. In our fight against terrorism we cannot alienate any one community. Every secular space in the country should teach a lesson of patriotism, however the concept of nationalism cannot differ on religious lines. One question that all Indians need to answer today is that, whether they are Hindus, Muslims or Christians who happen to be Indians or whether they are Indians first, who happen to be Hindus, Muslims or Christians later.

(The writer is a senior practicing lawyer and national convener All India legal & legislative cell BJP.)

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