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.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

One Nation, One People

By R Balashankar

The successful launch of Chandrayaan-1 is a historic moment. It is yet another milestone in India’s march to a world power. We salute the ISRO and its dedicated scientists who have many great success stories to tell. A nation is built on such commonly shared proud memories. Our long history has bestowed on us many such glorious moments. Our scientists developed indigenously, a world-class science and technology mission despite the sanctions that dogged us for over three decades. A matter of greater pride and satisfaction is that they were all made in India. Not foreign educated, as has now become mandatory in many other areas.

Chandrayaan, India’s Moon Mission, like the other prestigious Golden Quadrilateral highway project and the ambitious Udhampur-Srinagar Rail link was conceived when AB Vajpayee was the Prime Minister. These are modern-day marvels uniting the country both emotionally and geographically.

The essential unity of the country is the theme here. As one of our contributors, Radha Rajan points out, India is not an idea. It is a reality, a live and dynamic spiritual entity, worshipped and nurtured through ages, that is ever changing yet ever the same eternal force. This reality is cast in concrete, carved in granite, etched in stone in the innumerable symbols of India spread along the large land mass, above all in the conscience of every Indian. It is celebrated in our tradition, sung by our poets, recited in rituals, relived in festivities, rededicated by great saints and leaders of men. It is preserved in our temples, cultivated in our custom and imbibed through the ages. Every folklore in every village tells this unending romance of the Indian with this land. This is an endless saga beyond time.

“In India the core culture goes beyond time. It precedes the arrival of Islam; it precedes the arrival of Christianity. The early Christians, like the Syrian Christians of Kerala, have retained their Indianness with admirable determination. Are they less Christian because their married women wear the mangalsutra? … What we need today is a vision for the nation which can bring unity. It is when we accept India in all its splendid glory that, with a shared past as a base, we can look forward to a shared future of peace and prosperity, of creation and abundance. Our past is with us forever. It has to be nurtured in good faith, not destroyed in exercises of political one-upmanship.” These are the words of APJ Abdul Kalam, (Ignited Minds, Page 115-116), one of the most respected Indians of today.

This unity of India, this cultural mosaic of the nation is under attack as never before from terrorists, evangelists, separatists promoting identity politics and blasé ideas of regionalism and caste. This Deepavali Special has its theme the oneness of India as a geographic, cultural entity and the need to develop the Bharatiya (Indian) personality above all divisive, sectarian conflicts.

But there are some who believe it profitable to suppress the unity of India. Their strategy? Deny, deny, deny. Never admit one fact or one piece of evidence that would indicate that the country is one. The Constitution of India is the product of the will of the people. As Abdul Kalam says, the Indian Constitution bestows on all the citizens total equality under its protective umbrella. “What is now cause for concern is the trend towards putting religious form over religious sentiments. Why can’t we develop a cultural—not religious—context for our heritage that serves to make Indians of us all?”

Contrast this with what in the name of Marathi, Raj Thackeray and his MNS thugs are doing. Mumbai is what it is today because of the money and labour of all Indians. Is he really helping Maharashtra? He is destroying the state and the country. He is being lionised by the media. With a different political ideology, with equally destructive ideas, the Marxists did the same to Kerala and West Bengal. They created class hatred. Stood in the way of development. And made the states under their influence barren. Industries fled for safer locations. If the stock markets, industries and Bollywood start looking for safer, more conducive and cosmopolitan centres, what will happen to Mumbai? Every Indian has a right to live and work anywhere in the country. Like Bhindranwale in Punjab in the eighties, MNS is also a creation of the Congress. That is why it is kid-gloving in the face of such sectarian violence. Any doubt? Listen to what Narayan Rane, a cabinet minister in the Congress-NCP government, is saying.

Batla House in Jamia Nagar is the latest pilgrimage centre for the secularists. Again deny, deny and deny. Raise as many questions and create doubt. So that any inquiry against the terror network, any progress toward exposing the mastermind is defeated. Cabinet ministers with dozens of criminal charges against them defend SIMI. Doubt the police and the Home Minister. And communalise any action against terrorists.

There is a deliberate attempt to divide the people and foster separateness. It was shocking, unbecoming of Mushirul Hasan, the Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia, a public-funded central university to assert, “we owe no explanation to anyone except ourselves and to our faith”, in the context of the university fighting legal battle on behalf of a terror accused student admitted to the university on fake certificates. This is the travesty. As a public servant taking a salary from the tax-payers’ money the Vice Chancellor cannot have this luxury. He is duty bound to explain his conduct. He can take a political stand after resigning.

Similar rot is sweeping institutions like Aligarh University. According to a report in the Indian Express, a function to commemorate the 191st birth anniversary of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was turned into a platform for identity politics. The report said, “The audience jeered as a student’s dupatta slipped off her head while she was to stage a talk about Sir Syed. In her confusion the student looked around. Someone pointed at the dupatta. Only after she pulled it back did the audience let her speak.” This is the level of obscurantism and fanaticism being promoted in public-funded institutions. Hasan’s zealous activism was justified by the Union HRD Minister Arjun Singh.

In fact, the UPA and its allies have pledged their political fortune to the whims of fissiparous elements masquerading as secularists. Their work is to weaken the factors cementing the common nationality. This Minister is always in the lookout for gaining cheap popularity. His symbiotic relationship with the Left and communal elements have resulted in the academia becoming haven for all shades of primitive passions. Education could have become the most effective growth engine of the new century, but under Arjun Singh it took a decisive backward leap.

There is a systematic propaganda; in an effort to justify jehadi terrorism that there are Hindu extremists. This is laughable. They want to ban Bajrang Dal because it is supposed to be distributing trishul, images of Shiva, Ganesha and Kali and objecting to foreign-funded Christian proselytisation activities. This is supposed to be spreading hatred and should be banned according to our secular press and politicians. At the same time they invoke the Constitution and say that the Christians have a right to convert, arm the tribals to protect their rights, support and indulge in Maoist violence, ask for Maoist help to eliminate 84-year-old Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and his ashram inmates. This happens to be the gospel truth, as revealed by a Maoist leader, these anti-Hindu leaders and media are parroting. A Hindu nun was raped in the ashram, Swamiji was cut into pieces along with four others but there is no outrage in the media. And they are accusing Hindu organisations of spreading violence and reconverting the Christians. If under secularism Christians have a right to convert Hindus why cannot Hindus reconvert? They are asking for a ban on Hindu organisations for this. By the same logic the Christian organisations also should be banned. Why not a level playing field? Why is proselytisation de rigueur for Church but not for Hindus? And trishul is not a weapon as they propagate, it is the symbol of Shiva, in the same way as the kirpan (dagger)of the Sikhs.

To achieve national unity we have to eschew falsehood and find the common bond. Recently, some newspapers carried a report saying that Hindu gods are worshipped in office premises in Orissa and that there were some temples in the secretariat. There are any number of mazars and mosques in public places all over the country. Nobody objects. When I came to Delhi in the 80s almost all DTC buses used to have decorated idols or pictures of Hanumanji, Kali, Shiva and Durga. I have seen the drivers worshiping with flower and agarbatti on these pictures. Everybody took it in his or her stride. The secularism has taken a fanatic turn and all such pictures were removed under government instruction. But many DTC buses came up with Arabic written on them. It was common to break a coconut before launching a project. Now in the name of secularism they have been replaced with opening Champagne bottles. Should we change our history and a tradition in the pursuit of a common nationality? No nation allows it. And such unity will prove suicidal.

Few years ago a Muslim League minister in Kerala refused to light a lamp to inaugurate a school function. At that time it created a major debate in the state. Later a minister refused to be present on the stage when Saraswati Vandana was sung, as according to him it hurts his religion. During the NDA, Saraswati Vandana and Vande Mataram became controversial because the parties now constituting the UPA objected to their singing describing them as communal. In the Ignited Minds, APJ Abdul Kalam narrates a story about his grandfather who became a legend in Rameswaram, from where Sri Ram launched his campaign against Ravana. There is a famous temple believed to have been consecrated by Sri Ram. Kalam writes, his grandfather used to provide a floating platform for the annual celebration of Ram’s victory over Ravana in this island place for carrying the idol through the holy tank called Ramar Theertham. The tank is very deep and once the idol bedecked with gold ornaments toppled into the deep water. “My grandfather was witnessing the event… Without any hesitation or prompting he jumped into the tank and recovered the vigraha as the entire town watched. The temple priests instituted Muthal mariathai (first honour) for our family. There was a special prayer in the Rameswaram mosque to thank the almighty for the recovery of the vigraha… I have always considered this incident as a shining example of human brotherhood and harmony, specially significant in today’s context,” he wrote (Page 96-97).

Compare this with a recent happening in Hyderabad, where a Muslim bid the highest for laddu offered at the Ganesh Chaturthi 2008 celebrations. He was excommunicated by his mosque for participating in a Hindu event and he was readmitted into the fold only after he performed the prescribed penalty.

The emphasis is on the choice we make. Should we let the Aligarh mentality and Mushirul Hasans cloud our national vision? This is the question we are posing in this volume.

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