The Jammu & Kashmir High Court’s observation that secularism is actually dividing the country in narrow ghettoes of identities is remarkable in its approach and courage. It has taken the bull by its horns. While the word secular ensures right to practice and propagate religious freedom, justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar said, use of the word “secularism” has divided Indian society in pigeon holes of narrow “isms”.
He is right as no “ism” is full truth. Indian ethos accepts that truth never lies in any extreme. And any “ism” by definition tends to tilt towards extremism. Nationalism can degenerate into jingoism. People who profess a certain “ism” become a prisoner of it and willy nilly start the process of segregation within the society. Another problem with the “ism” is its inherent propensity to slip into a slogan bereft of any real conviction.
Ever since the word secular was introduced in the 42nd amendment of the constitution of India on 18 December, 1976, religious riots have increased in their intensity and frequency. The Moradabad riots in 1980, Bhagalpur riots, Meerut riots, Sikh riots of 1984, riots after 1992 Babri demolition, the most insidious of all the post Godhra riots in Gujarat and now the Muzzafarnagar riots in Uttar Pradesh are a testimony to the fact that the word secular hasn’t found any believer in any political party.
It is ironic that a modernist like Jawahar Lal Nehru’s grandson and Indira Gandhi’s, the prime mover of the word secular in the constitution, son, inadvertently became the man responsible for stoking communal fire. It was under his regime at the Centre that the Congress government in Uttar Pradesh gave the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) the permission to perform shilanyas (foundation laying ceremony) when there was no reason or compulsion to do so.
Rajiv Gandhi had 425 seats. He enjoyed an absolute majority and could have stopped the communal forces from rearing their ugly head. But he chose a softer option. By pandering to the majority community, he was told by the old guard within the party, they would ensure continued support of the RSS that had mobilised its cadre to vote for the Congress to teach the minorities a lesson that even Hindus can vote en block and blunt the edge of the minorities.
But as we know the pandering to divisive forces never pays. It didn’t pay when Chamberlain pandered and pussy footed Hitler and it didn’t pay in case of Rajiv Gandhi either who lost more than half of his seats in the next general elections.
His failure should be a lesson to all those who are soft on religious bigots of any faith. People should know that pandering to a bully never pays. They will keep bullying you and keep nibbling at your base till they have left you so weak that you can’t stand up to them. The creation of BJP can be traced back to that pandering. Similarly, Mulayam Singh will be better off if he understands that the gains he thinks he will accrue by playing into BJP’s hands will actually backfire.
Religious fundamentalism has to be dealt with iron hands. Those who believe in the supremacy on one religion over the other are especially effective in exploiting the democratic systems. They use the liberty and freedom offered by the system to propagate their ideology, create hysteria, polarise people and win elections. Once they start controlling the system then they thwart others’ rights to expression their views. They are basically usurpers and have no regard for the rights of dignity of a human being.
As in case of Egypt, where the Muslim brotherhood won elections narrowly with the help of Salafists later tried to do what they had been protesting against for seven decades. The Brotherhood was against the tyranny and autocracy of the army and had built up their case over seven decades to rally a large section of society behind the movement. However, once they came into the power, their president Mohamed Morsi passed a decree that no one could question his actions even in Supreme Court. This was akin to the tyranny that the army had been perpetuating for the last fifty years. The action showed that the new government had no intentions of removing autocracy, neither they were against it ideologically. All they wanted was to be on the other side of the table.
Similarly, in India if Narendra Modi led BJP comes to power they will bring in their brand of fanaticism, intolerance and autocracy. The corruption and economic policies of the present government, they are using as cannon fodder to project themselves as a decisive alternative, is all hogwash. Their policies are mirror image of the present incumbents while their social policies are overtly divisive.
The country would be well served to keep their sinister designs in check.
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