Distorted Secularism of Congress Party?
Recently, there were media reports that the Congress party is worried about its anti-Hindu image. In fact, not just the Indira family owned Congress but all so-called champions of ‘Secularism’ in India have reasons to worry about their deceptive and dangerous game of ‘secularism’. And the reason is quite obvious: their own distorted understanding of ‘Secularism’ to indulge in mere minority appeasement for “vote bank” politics.
The disgraceful defeat of the “self-certified” secularist Congress and its allies in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and rise of the BJP (whom they have habitually label as a “communal” Hindu Party) to power on its own strength has certainly exposed their anti-Hindu mindset under the mask of secularism. If some leaders in Congress party have finally realised that the party has alienated Hindus over the years or decades it is a much belated realization. It merely shows that its long nurtured minority appeasement agenda has gone too far while its Royal leadership has been busy enjoying “Raag Darbari”!
To their credit, the Nehru-Gandhi royal family has faithfully preserved the anti-Hindu flavor of ‘secularism’ as handed down by the White colonial rulers who purposefully created an atmosphere that Hindus can be taken for granted. It was an exploitation of Hindu community’s tolerant and accommodative nature in which they were aided by self-serving congressmen like Nehru who proudly claimed that they were “Hindu only by birth”. No wonder, the ‘secularism’ of Congress – which open minded people call “pseudo-secularism” – started off with the “ignore Hindu and appease minority” mindset. It slowly turned anti-Hindu when they started calling Hindu organizations and Hindu leaders “communal” in order to corner minority votes.
“Pseudo-Secularism”, “Minority Appeasement” and “Vote Bank” Politics
If some rare independent thinkers of the Sonia Congress are worried about the failure of its minority ‘vote bank’ politics, they are unlikely to have any impact on party’s policies because its owner family has only flimsy roots in Indian social fabric and only bookish understanding of Indian culture and ethos. If they are pensive about party’s long nurtured ‘pseudo-secularism’ it is more of a reflection of its fear of the phenomenon called Narendra Modi whom it has demonized since turn of the century – by portraying him as a “Hindu Monster” who eats Muslims for breakfast and lunch! Its leadership (Italy born Sonia-amma) has been too dumb to realize that it was an intellectual offence to both Hindus and Muslims.
After the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, Sonia went to the extent of calling Modi “Maut Ka Saudagar”. This nasty trick to polarize Indian society on communal lines, however, stands exposed now. But it is a dangerous game of ‘vote bank’ politics in a democracy of 80 percent Hindus who, fortunately, don’t have the habit of looking at everything through religious lens – as Muslims habitually do.
It is not hard to understand why Italy-born Sonia never used the phrase “Maut Ka Saudagar” for Islamic terrorists of mumbai attack of 2008 who massacred 166 innocent people. Incidentally, it was her late husband Rajiv who in the 1980s set the worst example of Muslim appeasement in the “Shah Bano’ case”. He went to the extent of amending the Constitution in order to overturn a court decision that went in favour of a woman Shah Bano, after Muslim clerics opposed the verdict as assault on Islamic way of life. He was criticized by the whole country but he proved that ‘vote bank’ is more important than justice to Muslim women and their empowerment.
The secularists badly misjudged Modi: his spotless personal integrity, his well-groomed leadership qualities, his ability to communicate directly with masses and inspire them, and more importantly his remarkable grasp on larger issues country is facing. If Modi all along talked of development and filled people with hope, the Congress and its ‘secular’ partners stayed glued to the single point “malign Modi” and malign-Hindu agenda. The endless smear campaign blocked their sense of rationality and the Modi-Amit Shah duo outsmarted them in every way. The best indication came from UP where the BJP won 73 seats out of 81; remaining 8 seats went to two elite families of Sonia Gandhi and Mulayam Singh. Remember, UP is the state of Mulayam Singh who is among the biggest players of Muslim vote bank politics.
Adding salt to injury of the pseudo-secularists, Modi’s popularity did not drop with the Lok Sabha victory; he continued to win state after state in 2014. Recently, the BJP even captured Assam while in WB Mamta Begum retained power through her ominous Muslim appeasement politics.
The rise of BJP is a serious blow to the communal politics of the entire ‘secular brigade’ whose ‘secular’ status has so far rested squarely on maligning BJP and Hindu organizations.
Congress Prince Rahul, the future King of the party, doesn’t seem to feel at-home among the “mango people” of the “Banana Republic” – borrowing a phrase from his genius brother-in-law Robert Vadra whom Modi fondly refers to as “Damad Ji”. Defeat of Congress at the Center and in states like Rajasthan and Haryana also mean end of “Damad Ji’s” professional career in the land-deal business which grew like a fairy tale in last few years – thanks to the Congress CMs who kept him above the rules meant for the ordinary ‘mango’ people’ of India’s ‘Banana Republic’!
Like his mentor, Digvijay Singh who wants to hallucinate into thinking that the 2008 Mumbai terror attack was a ‘conspiracy of RSS’, Royal Prince Rahul too babbled that RSS was behind Mahatma Gandhi’s killing – and is now facing a defamation suit in the Supreme Court.
Modi Phobia in Other “Pseudo-secularists”
The spectacular acceptance of Modi on the global scenario as an international leader, his domestic and foreign policies and spreading reach of BJP across nation is already sending cold-shivers through the spine of other ‘ secular brigade’ of the country. Their collective desperation and Modi phobia forced Mulayam, Laloo and Nitish to merge their parties to create a so-called “Grand Coalition” of Janata Parivar before Bihar elections. However, everyone knew that the “grand Coalition” would soon succumb to the clash of the “Grand Egos” – and it did! It is another story that the BJP managed the Bihar election very badly – and ended up gifting victory to the gang of opportunists led by Nitish and Laloo.
Constitution Offers Equal Status to All
Since Pakistan was created to satisfy some power hungry Muslim politicians in the name of Islam, broad minded leaders of the then Whole-India-minus-Pakistan decided that India’s constitution would treat everyone equally: regardless of their caste, religion, race, faith or belief. This is sensible – because human equality is a universal principle – and a reaffirmation of the all-encompassing and assimilating mindset of the ancient culture that evolved in the era much before the Christ.
In fact, even without this written provision in the Constitution, India would have remained a secular State because the majority Hindus don’t have the habit of seeing everything through the microscope of religion. They practice a way of life which respects purity of conduct and saintly qualities regardless of where he comes from. Thus, Hindus have no problem respecting the Christ, Prophet or Sufi Islamic saints. There is nothing in their spirituality based belief system to encourage discrimination against outsiders or strangers.
Therefore, Hindus are inherently adoptive, tolerant and accommodative. Same goes for the other communities like Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism which evolved on the Indian soil through respect for saint-like persons. They all promote individual spiritual upliftment as the goal of life. People from none of these indigenous communities indulge in increasing their numbers through ‘conversion’ of others and have coexisted peacefully for ages through mutual respect. This is the true secularism, expected by the Constitution.
Nature of Minority Religions in India
The idea of discriminating people on what they believe and changing the religious labels of other people is a foreign concept that came to India with the arrival of the two newest religions – Islam and Christianity – over the centuries. Unlike the Indian born ideologies that focus on individual’s spiritual evolution, these two faiths operate more on the social plain and rest on believing a single book. These faiths distinguish between believers and non-believers of their holy book – and the wall dividing the two is really high.
As a result, there is high consciousness of their religious identity and a sense of illusory superiority over the non-believers. They also encourage ‘conversion’ of others into their ‘faith’ – “as a religious duty” which introduces elements of suspicion in the society. The silent majority of Hindus doesn’t like this game of conversion yet prefers to stay quiet and ignore it, but the deeply religious segment sees it as an undesirable adversarial activity and an assault on the community. They have no issues as long as Christians and Muslims practice their rites and rituals at personal level but the activities of Christian missionaries or Islamic fundamentalists meant to promote conversions in the name of religious freedom are not well taken.
Dangers of the “Conversion” Game
Indian history of past 800 years also supports their fear – first the Muslim invaders disrupted their society and forced conversions through threat and then the Christian missionaries under the patronage of colonial rulers played their ‘conversion’ game. History around the world also shows that both Christianity and Islam thrived on converting people into their sectarian belief. If the heavily funded Christian missionaries have targeted people in the tribal regions of India to increase their numbers, funds from the rich Gulf countries keep Islamic factory thriving elsewhere.
Incidentally, China is also seeing widespread missionary activities which authorities call ‘alarming’. Huge populations of India and China and the rather amorphous nature of their spiritual beliefs (not confined to the text of a single book) offer fertile ground for number games of conversion. As the community of ‘newly converts’ grow, the social dynamics changes. The new religious label creates a new identity that splits the hitherto homogeneous society. It also opens the possibility for cross-border advocacy – that’s what Chinese authorities, for instance, are worried about. Whenever the newly born Christian community faces conflict over some local issues the Christian West automatically gives it a “communal” flavour – typically, persecution of Christians! Also for example, look how easily Islamic fundamentalists from Pakistan or other nations start speaking for Muslims in India.
This is the danger Hindu organizations worry about when they oppose the conversion game. Of course, no one has any issue if someone willingly wants to adopt a certain philosophy or a way of life. It is an individual issue coming out of respect, and should remain so. This is what India’s indigenous faiths promote – respect all saint-like people and their wisdom. Look how spontaneously the respect for Saibaba, Sufi saints and so many other saints transcends religious labels in India without anyone promoting them.
It is relevant to mention that the tiny Parasi community in the West India that came centuries ago from Iran presents a healthy exception. Even though population of this highly influential community is shrinking and facing the dangers of extinction it has no tradition of ‘conversion’. They don’t look down upon people with different beliefs. In fact, the way they have conducted themselves and mingled into India’s diverse society is exemplary.
Origin of Distorted Secularism in India
In the truncated “Secular” India after the partition the activities of radical Islamic elements, who could not go to Pakistan during partition but remained in India as Pakistan sympathizer, remained an ever lurking threat to communal harmony. [Even today, the Imam of Delhi Jama Musjid wants to invite Pak PM but not Indian PM for a ceremony! It is height of perverted thinking.] It has also often triggered fundamentalism on the other side. The bitter memories of bloodbath following the partition served to sustain mutual mistrust in both communities. Their provocative or belligerent activities were largely ignored by the ruling Congress Party until forced to act – it was seen as unfair appeasement by the majority silent Hindus. In the later years, this appeasement mutated into ‘vote bank’ politics and distorted the ideal of secularism. It is the source of all communal troubles in India.
Consequences of Appeasement Politics
Being the largest religious minority (14% of total population) the Muslim community has been the prime target of political appeasement. If the intentions were honest, with so many champions of their cause Muslims should have been the most advanced community by now. But the reality is just the opposite.
Indian Muslim community has traditionally excelled in a variety of professional skills and cultural activities and occupied a special place in the country, but groomed as ‘vote bank’ for decades the community could not properly integrate into “new” national mainstream of ‘free and secular’ India. Simultaneously, it increasingly sank into poverty and hopelessness. Government funds for numerous schemes were generally siphoned off by the corrupt power brokers of the community. The ‘pseudo-secularists’ also started demanding “reservation” for Muslims in government jobs alongside dalits and other backward communities.
Yet, There is Hope!
It is possible to break out of this self-perpetuated vicious cycle of misery and hopelessness because the political discourse in India has changed now. Year 2014 will be remembered as the turning point in the Indian history and a beginning of real secularism and inclusive politics. It is time, particularly for the two biggest vote banks – Muslim and Dalit – to discard the politicians who have been fooling them and look towards joining the national mainstream.
I firmly believe that the era of distorted secularism and caste based divisive politics is over. Very soon the likes of Sonia, Laloo, Mulayam, Nitish, and Mayawati would find their right place – in the oblivion!
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