Conceptually, the secularism insinuates equal treatment of all religions in India without endorsing or giving preferential treatment to any one by the state. For many years after independence in 1947, the successive governments endorsed the aforesaid concept largely driven by the needs and compulsions of two dominant communities in the nation i.e. Hindus and Muslims, without formally adopting it under the Constitution. Later, the term “secular” was included in the Preamble to the Indian Constitution through the controversial 42nd amendment in 1976 during ill-famed Emergency imposed by late Indira Gandhi but neither the Constitution nor any other law specifically defines the relationship between the state and religion. As against this, the Western concept of the secularism implies complete separation of religion from state. Notwithstanding, many Western countries such as Germany and England are officially known as secular countries though they have endorsed Christianity as the state religion. Accordingly, in Western social and political context, a secular spirit or approach is one that avoids reference of all forms of religious faith and worship, and the state dissociates itself from endorsement or dissemination of religious content or element through the public education and other matters of civil policy.
Thus, Indian secularism is radically different from the concept of secularism in the Western countries as the laws of the country implicitly direct the state and its institutions to recognise all religions, enforce parliamentary laws, and recognise and respect pluralism in the country. While conceptually the Indian position on secularism appears more rational and proactive but its application by the state has been a matter of abuse by many as some political parties are known to igniting the social and religious conflicts for selfish interests and take sides for consolidating their voters’ base to stay in power ignoring larger interest of the nation. To add fuel to fire, there is a clear dichotomy in the applicable code of law because Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains in the country live under the common law but the Muslim population has a separate Sharia-based Muslim Personal Law including the matters such as inheritance, marriage, divorce, alimony etc. Such inequality has not only created serious social issues such as polygamy, extrajudicial and unequal divorce rights, evil practices like Halala, unequal inheritance rights, improving the quality of education in religious institutions etc., but also encouraged divisive sentiments and a sense of being special among the minds of one minority community.
Indian Constitution with Paradoxes and Discriminatory Laws
The author has no intention to question or create controversy in the name of great leaders and freedom fighters of the pre-Independence period, many of whom later held important and crucial positions for years to write the future and fate of this great nation and civilization. Also it is not possible to say or write with conviction what exactly was in their minds when they accepted and retained certain controversial and contrasting features in the Constitution so often to the great disadvantage and discrimination against the original inhabitants and majority population of the sub-continent; more so because the leaders of the ever demanding minority community had already sought and achieve their proportionate share in the form of a separate Islamic state leading to fateful geographical and demographical division of the country. Notwithstanding, in the process to glorify and acknowledge their contribution, it would be another gross error if we try to deny or ignore that though many of them were indeed selfless and devoted to the cause of the nation and people but selfish motives and hunger for power of some others caused great damage too to the nation and vast Hindu populace as well.
It is apparent from historical records that interested people and groups indeed lobbied during the process of law formation, which led to certain controversial and discriminatory provisions being retained in the Indian Constitution. For instance, the Article 15 of the Constitution provides for prohibition of discrimination by the state on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth of any citizen as also that all Indians are equal before the law but the Article 30 introduces discrimination by granting certain minorities the right to managing educational institutions with stipulation “All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice”. Similarly, the Article 44 relates to the uniform civil code for the citizens of India with the stipulation “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”, yet the Muslim community has been allowed a separate Sharia-based Muslim Personal Law as already mentioned in an earlier paragraph.
At the time of the implementation of Constitution in 1950, the declared religious minorities were Muslims, Christians and Parsis, and later on Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains were also added to this list. The Constitution did not specify any parameters of population to determine minority; consequently, with approximately 200 million Indian Muslims, perhaps only next to Indonesia, they are still minority community in India. Some analysts believe that such provision was allowed in the Constitution under the influence of the minorities sub-committee of the Constituent Assembly but it was not possible without implicit or explicit consent of the top leadership. There was already such discriminatory provision and precedent in the British India whereby Indian Christians received preferential treatment with their own schools and missionary activities, and the said secular and liberal lobby under the top Indian leadership willy-nilly succumbed to this demand.
Such provisions in Constitution have created several paradoxical situations enormously adverse to the majority population of this country even after over seven decades of independence. In the name of minority rights, thousands of Madrassas and umpteen missionary institutions are operating in different states with the main purpose of imparting religious education with many such institutions engaged in allied activities including covert conversion drive. Another paradox is that Hindus have now become minorities in almost six north-eastern states and Kashmir with the majority Christian and Muslim population, respectively, but they do not enjoy any privilege of being minority because of the all India population being Hindu majority. Similarly, Sikhs constitute about 58 per cent of the population in Punjab but are considered a minority for the purposes of Article 30 because on all India basis they are minority. Somewhat similar analogies exist in the context of linguistic minorities too. For instance, a Gujarati-speaking Hindu in Maharashtra would be considered a linguistic minority because the state has Marathi as the official language.
Ironically, the concept of majority and minority created by the British to ‘divide and rule’ was merrily adopted in our Constitution while such a concept does not exist even in that country. In fact, the very idea of granting special concessions to minorities, not applicable to the vast majority, do not exist elsewhere in the world so for as this author is aware. The saga of disservice and discrimination done to the majority community camouflaged under of secular and liberal ideas by some Indian leaders and parties in league with leftist parties, ideologues and media, and consequent damage, is immense and long but not the main subject of this write up. However, the impact of just one discriminatory Article 30 is briefly enumerated for illustration to make the position clear. It provides that the schools, colleges, medical college, management institutions, institutions imparting pure religious teachings, and so on, opened by the classified minorities shall be treated as minority institution provided the religion or language of the management body is of minority nature.
The Right to Education Act (RTE) enacted by the Parliament in August 2009 providing for free and compulsory education to children inter alia describing the modalities of screening and fee structure is enforceable on majority institution while the minority ones are left out of its purview. Government guidelines for the selection and appointment of the principal and teachers including on religious considerations is applicable to the majority while minority institutions enjoy full autonomy in these matters. Similar position exists in respect of infrastructure needs, composition of the management committee and fee structure of pupils but minority institutions are free to use discretion in such matters. And top of all this, the minority institutions are allowed religious teachings; in fact, thousands of Madrassas across the country including government funded are primarily engaged in the religious teaching only. On the other hand, the majority institutions are not allowed such content in the course curriculum; consequently, the students are deprived of even the basic knowledge of own civilization and culture, which is oldest in the world.
The list of discriminatory practices is pretty long evolved and implemented under the Nehruvian legacy in the name of secularism and liberalism. Some other areas include a common civil code for Hindus and other minorities but a separate Sharia-based Muslim Personal Law for the Muslim community, management of religious shrines/places, pilgrimage facilities, and so on. This raises a stark reality and question if there is any other country in the world where the majority community has been so blatantly discriminated against and is constantly on defensive with minorities. Another paradox is that if any body raises these issues, he or she is outrightly declared as communal by the vested interests in politics, academia and media, while the need of hour is that the impunity granted under the Article 30 in the country must be debated and corrective action taken.
Narratives That Give A Nauseating Feeling
In fact, the seeds of misplaced interpretation of secularism and discriminatory treatment of the majority Hindu community had started growing since the independence in 1947 itself. Under the first Prime Minister of India, a legislation was promptly brought for the administration and acquiring the immovable properties of the Hindu temples and Mutts but similar action was not taken for Muslims and other communities. On the contrary, the same political dispensation was instrumental in facilitating the annual Haj pilgrimage for Muslims initially by the private ship owners to ply their vessels to Saudi Arabia, and later by introducing Haj subsidy in form of discounted Air fares in 1959 through the Haji Act under his regime. Similarly, thousands of Madrassas were started with the state assistance/subsidy to impart religious education to them but majority schools were deprived of the learning of the ancient cultural and civilizational values and practices. The trend started by late Jawaharlal Nehru was endorsed and escalated further by successive regimes, which many analysts and intellectuals have interpreted as a conscious but unwritten appeasement policy of some politicians and political parties to garner mandate of minorities to stay in power. Some such instances are cited in the following paragraphs:
(1) Haj House in Kolkata
After partition of India in 1947, West Bengal had nearly 18 percent of Muslims population which increased to over 27 percent by 2011 census, a considerable population increase is on account of illegal immigrants from the neighbouring Bangladesh. Out of 19 districts in the state, about a dozen of them have significant minority population of about 25 percent or above with three districts, Murshidabad, Uttar Dinajpur and Malta, now having more than 50 percent Muslim population. Consequently, the Communist government for over three decades in the past and now the Trinmool Congress government since 2011 has continued appeasement policy to minorities, mainly Muslims, to stay in power so much so that a large section of the majority population feels discriminated, or even threatened in certain parts.
The state government built spectacular Hajj House (Medinatul Hajjaj) at the estimated cost of Rs 1,000 million was inaugurated by the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in January 2016. The 12-storeyed building also houses a mosque and an auditorium along with all other modern amenities and assistance to haj pilgrims and can accommodate about two thousand people at a time. Along with the Hajj House, many other facilities at the state expense such as the second campus of Aaliya University, AK Fazkul Haque Muslim Girls’ Hostel, and permanent refugee shelters in Baogachi and Kashipur were also commenced about same time. Per se there is nothing wrong in creation of the religious and educational facilities for any community but the motive behind it and discrimination against other community on the same subject is something which makes it questionable, whereunder significant amount from the state exchequer is spent to woo one community depriving others in the name of secularism and liberalism.
(2) Conversion and Killings of Kashmiri Pandits
It has been nearly three decades now and perhaps the majority of Indians, with their short memories, have forgotten or reconciled with the fate of Kashmiri Pandits who were terrorized, killed and forced to en masse to convert or abandon their homes and belongings in the Kashmir Valley to take refuge in Jammu and elsewhere in the country in order to save their lives from the fanatics and jihadi elements in the Kashmir Valley in early 1990s. On that fateful night of 19 January 1990, thousands of fanatic Kashmiri Muslims came in open into the streets, markets and open spaces in Srinagar and elsewhere in the Valley, ranting and trumpeting 'death to India' and ‘death to Kafirs’, and giving option to Hindus and Sikhs – “Ralive, Tsaliv ya Galive” (Convert to Islam, leave the land, or perish). Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference in state and the Congress government in Delhi hardly took any substantive measures for the safety of Kashmiri Pandits leading to worst ever exodus within the same country. The present Narendra Modi led government has taken some steps for them but their miserable plight largely remains unaddressed.
Perhaps India would be the only country in the world, where the mainstream oldest political party, left and other left-centric political parties, and a large section of media, intellectuals and human rights activists are found more concerned and vocal in legitimizing the stay and human rights of thousands of illegal Rohingya immigrants and millions of Bangladeshi nationals settled in Assam, Bengal and elsewhere since 1970s than ever caring for own countrymen Kashmiri Pandits and/or tribal from the north-east forced to live in refugees camp in own country for decades. In the name of secularism and liberal ideology, their heart throbs for the millions of the illegal settlers in the country, but most of them avoid even a passing reference to the legitimate issues and problems faced by the hundreds of thousand uprooted Kashmiri Pandit families. Perhaps driven by the same ideology and sentiments, the very set of parties and people have not only opposed the recent Citizens Amendment Act (CAA) and proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) but also misguided and incited the Muslim community to create ruckus on the roads.
(3) Iftar Parties
In India, lavish iftar dinner parties are thrown by the key leaders of many political parties (secular?) every year in their palatial bungalows in Delhi’s Lutyen zone or in five-star hotels. Iftar is an Arabic word, meaning ‘break of a fast’, is actually the evening meal with which Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset which is coterminous with the evening prayer. In Muslim culture, it is a way to feed a person who has fasted for Allah the whole day. However, now the occasion is used by many to show off or for political motives. On many occasions, hosts of such parties are those leaders and celebrities who consider themselves as some sort of brand ambassadors of secularism in India; it is, however, a different matter that their definition of secularism is limited to wooing only a certain minority community with substantive vote bank. Some prominent non-Muslims and political leaders throwing such Iftar parties are Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Mamata Banerjee, Nitish Kumar, Mulayam Singh Yadav and his family members, Lalu Yadav’s family, Arvind Kejriwal, and the list is rather long. However, most of these distinguished secularists and liberals do not deem it necessary to have similar get-together on festivals like Holi, Navratri or Guruparva to foster bonhomie and brotherhood among other communities too.
(4) Stone Pelting on Army in Kashmir
Ever since the Pakistan sponsored separatist movement gained momentum in Kashmir Valley with simultaneous increase in the terrorist activities unleashed by the outfits like Hizb-ul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, a new form of criminal assault by stone pelting on Army and paramilitary forces had also gained momentum. Basically, the separatists would entice and pay petty money to so often poor and unemployed youth to indulge in such activities, and many of them would do it because the forces exercise extreme restraint and self-control while dealing with such incidents involving local youth, and at times women and children too. In the local language in Kashmir valley, it is termed as "Kanni Jung" that implies fighting with stones and the stone pelters are known as Sangbaaz.
Though there has been many incidents of stone-pelting during the past three decades but such occurrences increased phenomenally after the year 2008. On many occasions, innocent civilians, tourists and even school buses have been stoned. The worst part about it has been the support of local politicians of two traditional political parties from valley, the oldest national party, leftist parties and a group of acamedia and media men to the stone pelters calling them innocent and misguided Kashmiris, while some others brand them as freedom fighters. A major controversy was created by an alleged historian Partha Chatterjee in 2017 at the national level through his article “In Kashmir, India is Witnessing its General Dyer Moment”, wherein he drew a parallel between the Jalianwala Bagh Massacre by the British Indian Army in Amritsar in 1919 with the solitary incident in valley wherein a stone pelter was tied on the bonnet of a jeep by a small army contingent to save the lives civilian officials and police jawans stuck in a polling booth ransacked by the unruly crowd and stone pelters.
These very Indian politicians, academia and media men appreciated terrorists Burhan Wani and Afzal Guru as martyrs and favoured unrest caused by the separatists and stone pelters in the Kashmir valley following their death. The paradox is when the stone pelters cause ruckus or terrorists kill innocent civilians and soldiers of the army and police, these torch-bearers of secularism and freedom of expression don’t even bother to pay even lip sympathy to their families but they merrily declare that the secularism and democracy is in peril if any militant or terrorist is killed by the security forces. However, the shop of these self-proclaimed Indians secularists and liberals is now almost closed with the abrogation of the Article 370 by a massive two-third majority in both the houses of the Parliament on 5th August 2019.
(5) Pakistan Jindabad Chant
On many occasions, we hear the chant of ‘Pakistan Jindabad’ in India; though there is nothing wrong per say in chanting “Jindabad or Long Live” but it is the motive and sentiments behind that make it appreciable or objectionable. It is well known that the main cause of the partition of India was the communal divide and religious bigotry and succesive leaders of Pakistan have lived with the same agenda against "Hindu India" for the last seven decades. India and Pakistan have fought three regular wars in 1947-48, 1965 1ne 1971, and a localized war at Kargil in 1999; besides a constant proxy war is also waged by the same neighbour through a sponsored separatist movement and cross-border terrorism in addition to vicious political and diplomatic offensive at various global forums. In such a background, if a person or group of Indian origin resort to chanting of ‘Pakistan Jindabad’, it’s obvious that their credentials and patriotism shall be questioned.
Recently, in the rally of Asadaddin Owaisi, president of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), on 20 February 2020 in Bengaluru, pro-Pakistan slogans were raised by a young woman named Amulya Leona in the presence of AIMIM chief. The rally was organized to protest against the CAA by Owaisi and a case of sedition under the Indian Penal Code was registered against the woman. However, this is not a solitary event in the recent times; instead, such slogans have been raised on many occasions in the university campuses, political rallies, election victory processions and during communal conflicts. The other illustrative cases are anti-India slogans by student leaders in Jawaharlal University in 2016, election rally of Navjot Singh Sidhu in Punjab in 2018, and anti-CAA rallies and Delhi riots in 2020. Some secularists have justified these anti-national chants as freedom of expression, while others called it ill-conceived criticism but not the sedition.
(6) Desecretion of Amar Jawan Smarak
In the neighbouring Myanmar, the Rakhine State experienced bloody riots in June, 2012 in a series of conflicts between the ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, after a sectarian dispute reportedly including a gang rape and murder of a Rakhine woman by some Rohingya Muslims. Next month in July 2012, riots erupted between tribal Bodos and Bengali speaking Muslims (many of them are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh) in India too. To show solidarity with the Muslim brethren in Myanmar and Assam, Raza Academy in Mumbai organized protest on 11 August 2012, which became violent leading to death and injury of many people including some policemen thrashed and policewomen molested. Rioters on rampage also desecrated and damaged Amar Jawan Smarak, a war memorial dedicated to the freedom fighters of the 1857 mutiny against the British rule. Needless to mention, barring few who spoke of their mind, the secular brigade of India remained tight-lipped about this desecration act.
(7) Burhan Wani Martyrdom
Burhan Muzaffar Wani, a dreaded terrorist and commander of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, was killed by the Indian Army in a shootout on 8 July 2016. This sparked a separatists’ sponsored unrest in the region for several weeks, which led to nearly 100 deaths and 19,000 injuries to civilians and security personnel. His body was wrapped in the Pakistani flag, anti-India slogans were raised during the funeral procession, which turned violent with militants attacking several police stations and army posts. Even the mainstream politicians from two parties in the valley called him martyr and his photos with some well known but controversial journalists and public figures kept circulating on social media for some time. Incidentally, his martyrdom was acknowledged by the same secularists and liberals, who remain silent when terrorists ambush and kill army and police jawans, and provide vocal support to separatists’ call to seceding Jammu & Kashmir from India in the name of freedom of expression.
(8) Anti-CAA Agitation and Delhi Riots
The aforesaid Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) of 2019 provides relief to the persecuted religious minorities in the three neighbouring Islamic countries namely Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan by one time granting Indian citizenship to refugee Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians. The move had not gone well with the mainstream opposition parties, secularists and liberals in the country because Muslims (persecutors in 3 aforesaid countries) were excluded, though many of them desirous of Indian citizenship are considered and granted citizenship on case to case basis. Consequently, on a call given by opposition and community leaders a nationwide violent agitation was started in December 2019 to pressurise the government to withdraw legislation.
Later the Shaheen Bagh in Delhi became the focal point of agitation with mostly sponsored women agitators blocking a trunk road between the South-east Delhi and Noida for months together. Many leaders of the opposition Congress and Delhi ruling Aam Admi Party made a common cause with protesters all along and the protest site itself, allegedly funded by Islamic organizations of dubious credentials. On one hand, they carried copies of the Constitution and national flag reciting even patriotic songs like “Vande Matram”, which Muslims are otherwise known allergic to; on the other hand, on the same venue they delivered fiery speeches like cutting Assam and other North-eastern states from the rest of India and raised slogans like “Chheen ke lege azadi (We will forcibly take freedom)” in Kashmir and other places, kill PM Modi, and so on. Some Congress leaders like Salman Khurshid and Digvijay Singh were also seen joining azadi chorus with these protesters. As India had already achieved freedom from the colonial powers way back in 1947; perhaps only such opposition leaders and secularists endorsing these protests would know what kind of freedom they are seeking now.
The stalemate on anti-CAA protests in Delhi continued till late February 2020 and the visit of US President Donald Trump to India materialized on 24 and 25 February 2020. While the Central Government and administration was busy in ensuring a flaw-less visit of the President, the anti-CAA protesters had other plans in league with anti-social and criminal elements. The rioters and criminals driven by communal frenzy unleashed unprecedented arson and violence in North-eastern Delhi. They indulged in a large-scale stone-pelting, shooting, stabbing, lynching, arson and vandalism on the roads, lanes, houses and religious places. Houses were put on fire, schools vandalized and burnt, shops and road side gumtis looted and torched, many small business establishments completely destroyed and vehicle – cars, motor cycles and scooters – were en mass damaged and destroyed by putting them on fire. By the time, the Delhi police supplemented by the paramilitary forces geared up to control the situation in the riot affected area, a lot of damage in the form of human casualties and injuries as well as heavy losses of private and public properties were already done. During all this pandemonium, the Congress, Aam Admi Party and some others in Delhi kept blaming Modi government, BJP and RSS for the communal frenzy.
The sequence of events and subsequent investigations revealed that the riots were actually planned beforehand with twin objectives to coincide with the visit of the American President so as to embarrass the Indian Government before the foreign dignitary and garner maximum publicity and support to the ongoing anti-CAA agitation by the particular minority community in India and abroad. The very agitation against CAA was totally irrational and uncalled for because, in fact, what to talk of Indian Muslims, it does not affect the citizen status of any of the Indian communities. Actually, through the Shaheen Bagh protests and Delhi riots, some opposition parties, religious leaders and pseudo-secularists with vested interests have successfully manipulated the minority community to embarrass the Government not only on CAA but also on other issues such as the abolition of Article 370 in Kashmir, National Register on Citizens, Ram temple – Babri mosque issue, triple talaq, and so on.
(9) Ram Janmbhumi Bhumipujan
Following the Supreme Court verdict on Ram Janmbhumi – Babri Masjid dispute on 8 November 2019, 5 August 2020 became yet another historical day when the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, laid down the first brick of Ram Temple at the ground-breaking ceremony in Ayodhya after the Bhumi Pujan ceremony. This is significant because the Ram Janmbhumi at Ayodhya has the same relevance for Hindus what Yerusalem has for the Christian and Jews and Mecca for the Muslims. Though all along during the court proceedings, the Muslim side had committed that the Supreme Court decision will be acceptable to the community irrespective of the outcome but contrary views had started emerging immediately after the verdict. Asaduddin Owasi, who considers himself as the leader and spokesman of the community, reacted on Bhumi Pujan that India was no more a secular country, and that with this PM Modi had laid foundation of a “Hindu Rashtra”.
Prime Minister Modi has been visiting religious shrines of Muslims, Christians, Jews, Sikhs, and so on in the past without any reservations or discrimination but, being Hindu himself, if he visits Ram Janmbhumi, the event becomes communal and secularism threatened in the eyes of the self-proclaimed secularists and liberals in India. Even before the event, many leaders of the left and left-centric parties, celebrities and intellectuals had criticized the very idea of his going to Ayodhya to attend the religious event. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board issued a hidden warning “situations do not last forever”, citing the nemesis of “Hagia Sophiya”, a 1500-year-old Orthodox Christian Cathedral in Istanbul, Turkey, which has been converted to Masjid recently by the current Turkish President. Yet another Maulana Sajid Rashidi from All India Imam Association declared that Prime Minister Modi has violated Constitution by visiting Ayodhya, and that ‘believers of justice’ will demolish Ram Mandir and rebuild disputed structure in due course.
The Nehruvian Legacy Continues
Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, is often credited with the laying down of the foundation of the secular and liberal thought in the modern India; however, many rational and logical thinkers find it difficult to imbibe or justify his commensurate ideas and actions. His liberal initiatives to facilitate Haj pilgrimage and religious education for Muslims through Madrassas with the government funding and subsidy is well known but perhaps few people know that he was against the initiatives of Sardar Patel and Babu Rajendra Prasad for the renovation of the legendary Somnath Temple in Gujarat. He is even known to have opposed the then President of India, Rajendra Prasad’s visit to Gujarat for the inauguration of the said temple in the name of guarding secularism. Further, under the Nehru regime the legislation was brought for the administration and acquiring the immovable properties of the Hindu temples and Mutts but similar action was not taken for the dominant Muslim community and others.
As a reformist and leader with modern outlook, Nehru was critical of several Hindu practices and rituals citing it as superstitions of a backward community but he never dared or deemed it necessary to similarly raise his voice against the social evil practices of the minority communities. Similarly, under his regime the Hindu Personal Laws were framed and Hindu Code bill passed by the Parliament but he consciously avoided taking similar initiative and action for the Muslim community as if only Hindus needed reforms and Muslims didn’t have it. Secularism, in his purported view, conveyed the idea of social and political equality but ironically double standards appear to have been followed while dealing with two prominent communities. This dichotomy does not exist or fit in any model of secularism - Western or Indian. A national leader or party should either maintain equidistance in socio-religious issues of all communities or give equal treatment to all communities. The brand of secularism where one is reluctant to appreciate social and religious sensitivities of one community while going out of way to facilitate the other community is beyond imagination and comprehension.
At conceptual level, Nehru’s vision of secularism was broad and laudable but while translating the same in practice he faltered on many counts in his political life as can be seen from few illustrations in the foregoing paras. To quote it bluntly, it was like putting the Hindu majority population of India on the defensive, and predicating Indian secularism on certification by the minorities. Needless to mention if there is a weak and defective foundation, the entire structure is bound to be faulty and suffering in the long run. While India has dozens of national and regional parties but two national parties viz. Indian National Congress (INC or Congress) and Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) really matter in the present context for a sustained progress and development. But, ironically, despite the professed ideology of an equal treatment to all religious communities, while following Nehru’s legacy, the Congress brand of secularism has constantly failed to follow it in the letter and spirit under the long years of its regime.
The Party has been often accused of pursuing an appeasement policy by giving a preferential treatment to the minorities, particularly Muslims and allowing them to continue with Sharia based personal law treating them culturally and educationally different from other Indians religions and Christianity, consciously or unconsciously, as part of their electoral strategy. In fact, ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of the Congress party is on record to have said that the Muslims minority have the first and foremost right on the national resources of India; he, however, did not elaborate it, why? In the recent years, the Communists and regional parties with socialist makeup too tried to snatch the Congress agenda, and to a considerable extent they have succeeded too in various parts of the country leading to erosion of the latter’s electoral base among Muslims and Christians. Ironically, the followers of this legacy of secularism claim themselves as true secularists and liberals while opposing any reforms in the Muslim community or uniform civil code with lock, stock and barrel. In any person or party carries contrary progressive views, they are outrightly declared communal attempting to impose majoritarian Hindu sensibilities and ideals.
Paradox of the Indian secularists is that they merrily endorse diversion of the public money to facilitate Haj pilgrimage and religious education in state funded Madrassas but oppose similar education and religious facilities to the majority community. The magnificent 12-storied Hajj House constructed from the public money at the estimated cost of Rs 1,000 million in West Bengal is not an exception as other state governments too have been doing this. For instance, Akhilesh Yadav government in Uttar Pradesh had constructed and inaugurated similar facility for Hajis in Ghaziabad district in 2016 in utter violation of environment and biodiversity norms in Hindon river zone. The same secularist politicians, intellectuals and media persons under the influence of radicals oppose any reforms against the social evils like polygamy, triple talaq, halala, and so on, in the minority community. But when Ram Janmbhumi site is cleared after a prolonged legal battle and the temple construction is commenced with the money donated by Hindus households, the same secularists and liberals try to obstruct it and conclude that secularism in the country is endangered. This brand of secularism is indeed very nauseating and smacks of a blatant communalism under the mask of secularism.
By discriminating communities for selfish interests, these self-proclaimed guardians of secularism blatantly violate the very precept that necessitates equal treatment of all religions in India without endorsing or giving preferential treatment to any one of them. Long years of sustained rule of one party with particular ideology and unequal treatment of communities to stay in power has created a well groomed ecology of politicians on one hand, and elites and media persons on the other in a symbiotic relationship in different avatars and nomenclatures assuming jargons of secularists, intellectuals, liberals, historians, celebrities, members of civil society, and so on; many people in latter two categories are ones who have traditionally enjoyed patronage of the former for the name, fame and money; and in turn are ever ready to return favour with their strong presence and links in India and abroad in print and electronic media. The writings on wall is very lucid and clear: So long the majority community of the nation will remain divided on cast, creed, region and religion, the shady business of the pseudo-seculars and pseudo-liberals will continue to flourish unabated.