The genesis of Bharat always stood on the principles of dharma as the bedrock philosophy of this great nation and derived its discipline on the lines of ‘Integral Humanism’.
Today our very dear independence turns 74 and it did see a lot of ups and downs in its lifetime.
Its 74th birthday comes in a time when India is comfortably claiming to shape the new world order and scrutinize the making of new global rules.
Terms like ‘Globalization’ and ‘Global Citizenship’ sure does empower an ordinary Indian but, how far will it be justified to entangle them in this vicious cycle?
Is India in a position to sideline the oriental stereotypes and march towards becoming a ‘global power’, when things are not right back home?
In an interview from 1984, the ex KGB agent Yuri Bezmenov explains the recipe of demoralizing a country. In the interview, he gave the example of the famous Hue city Massacre (Jan 30, 1968) in Vietnam.
It is one of the largest wars by the engagement of Urban Naxals, in which 80% of the city was destroyed.
The National Liberation Front or otherwise known as the Viet congress and other communist sympathizers were behind this preposterous act.
The situation looks very much familiar to the recent events of rioting across India. Just that, the ingredients used in the recipe of destruction here can be replaced by extremist outfits such as Popular front of India (PFI), Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) and various other communist sympathizers.
According to Bezmenov, it takes somewhere in-between 15-20 years to brainwash the population of your enemy country and infuse an ideology, which is anything but nationalism.
He emphasizes the power of manipulation of public opinion which can make people reject obvious facts.
Once this is established, perceptions take the center stage and facts become meaningless. He attributes it to the lack of moral standards in the Society.
So, here we will try to talk about a few historical events, both from the Pre and Post-independence era which shaped the sectarian politics of the nation.
The first dent on India’s unity and secularism were in the form of the infamous Minto–Morley Reforms also known as 1909 Act wherein for the first time a separate electorate for the Muslims was created and it was mandated that only Muslims can vote for Muslims.
Whereas, Hinduism always advocated for oneness, which was evident from the words of M.K Gandhi: “Hinduism believes in the oneness, not merely all human life but of all that lives”.
Sectarian politics reared its ugly head during the 1920s when the large scale Muslim agitation for the restoration of the Caliphate in Turkey was linked to the iconic movement for Swaraj by Mahatma Gandhi.
This event probably was the first instance, where Indians kept the sectarian divide aside and came together to fight against the British Raj.
It brought a number of urban Muslims into the nationalist movement, which had nothing nationalistic in it. This gave employment opportunities to a number of Left historians, who for the first time argued in support of Gandhiji.
Somehow the secular fabric was finally established for the first time since 1857, though it was not for the collective good of ‘Indian independence’.
Soon a few wear and tears started to surface on Gandhiji’s secular fabric as the Ali brothers never really reciprocated to the ‘collective good’ of the nationalist movement.
They were supine in the face of glorifying and implementing Mahatma Gandhi’s doctrine of non-violence.
The Khilafat leader Mohammed Ali while addressing a crowd made a strong comment that if the Emir of Afghanistan chose to invade India, it was the duty of Indian Muslims to support him.
The congress-Khilafat alliance soon broke down.
Now if we replace the collective good of the 1921’s ‘Independent India’ by India’s current objective of becoming a ‘Global Power’, we go nowhere but hit an impasse.
I say so because the social restructuring has widened the gap of sectarian divide more than ever.
There is a greater fragment of disbelief within the country. Pulling off another collaboration for the ‘greater good’ is nearly impossible in today’s world.
So, India rides solo in this journey of becoming a ‘Global Power’, sidelining the oriental stereotype of an India bogged down by sectarian politics.
Then, what about Secularism and the Secular Fabric?
While addressing a Christian Missionary in 1946, Gandhiji said, “I swear by my religion, I will die for it. But it is my personal affair. The state has nothing to do with it. The state would look after your secular welfare, health, communication, foreign relations, currency and so on, but not your or my religion. That is everybody’s personal concern.”
So what exactly is Secularism in the Indian Construct?
It will be safe in assuming that the rampant violence due to the partition and the parallel riots taking place predominantly in the states of Punjab and Bengal had a strong influence on the framers of the Constitution.
For the purpose of yielding harmony, they went on to declare India as a country with no official State religion.
The foundation of this school of thought was laid by M.K Gandhi, where he said, “Hindu – Muslim Unity means unity not only between Hindus and Musalmans but all those who believe India to be their home, no matter to what faith they belong.”
And later in the year 1976 India Constitutionally declared itself as a Secular Country. After 25 years of India being a secular nation by ‘spirit’, it went on to become a secular nation on ‘Papers’ and the step was welcomed globally.
But the question remains as to what kind of secularism India gave herself to. From the work of H. S Sreenath, where the author divides Secularism into three categories namely: Restrictive Secularism of totalitarian communist countries like (China, Former USSR), Constructive secularism of enlightened democracies like (USA, France, and UK) and Destructive secularism of misguided democracies like India.
The author further goes on to argue that India is on the path of destructive democratic secularism because the government’s post-independence has always set one community against another and that as a result has destroyed the national identity.
Concurring on the same lines with the author it can be established that the appeasement politics played by a plethora of governments post-independence has diminished the sanctity of ‘Constitutional Secularism’ and has paved way for party-political secularism.
As per the constitution of India, Secularism translated into Hindi is called ‘Panth Nirapekshata’, which is to establish a respectful balance between all organized expressions of faith i.e. not being explicitly partial to any religion in particular.
The term is a western paradox which says everyone is equal under the law and all of them are subject to the same laws irrespective of his or her religion.
While in India, the term secular doesn’t imply separation of religion and state as India is under no obligation to not see them together.
Personal laws differ according to religions and this defies the very purpose of the term which was coined in the west.
The sentiments that arouse out of Minto-Morley reform was snowballed and went ahead to sow seeds for the unpopular ‘Two Nation Theory’.
While one of them proudly patented itself as ‘The Islamic Republic of Pakistan’, India choose not to have an official religion for the state despite Hindus commanding an overwhelming population of 84.1% (303.5 million).
There is a principle called, “Cuius region, illious et religio” which means, “To whom the region belongs, his is also the religion.”
Sharia law itself lays down the principle that Muslims in a non-Muslim land should follow the law of the land and respect the culture of the king of that land.
This is the principle which runs through the whole of Europe having a history of over four centuries now.
But in India, the state makes a distinction between the majority and the minority, which mostly deals with the arrangements of the majority and not touch the Muslim laws.
Discriminating against the majority is not secularism, particularly not according to what the westerners laid down in the principle of “Cuius region, illious et religio”.
Let’s understand the context-specific ‘Secularism’ through the social glasses of Indian intellectual class:
The intellectuals in India showcase their orientalist mindset but they often forget that the term ‘Secularism’ in the west also means alienation of religion from its state institutions. Eg; France.
The case in point has a totally different meaning in the India context. To get a ‘Secular certification’ from a ‘Secular Institute’ in India, the state has to give financial support to religious institutions and has to give nod to every religious law over its governmental priorities.
Sadly, any Hindu religious occasion like the recent Groundbreaking ceremony at Ayodhya fails to get itself on the ‘Secular Certification’ list.
The difference here is very small yet interesting. Preserving the denominational character of a religious institution through special guarantees for minority faiths in the constitution is an inclusive trait and is considered secular.
But the duty of the state to respect ‘religious pluralism’ and ‘multiculturalism’, which also includes Hindu ceremonial celebrations becomes an exclusive trait and is considered Fascist.
Interestingly, George Jacob Holyoake, the great British writer who coined the term ‘Secularism’ never really got into the advocation of a certain religion, neither did he dismiss or criticize another religion.
He always argued that secularism is not against any religion, it is just independent of it. So if we combine both Gandhiji and Holyoake’s way of seeing ‘Secularism’, we can safely conclude that secularism is not inclusive of religious rights but it is exclusive of it!
This is completely misinterpreted in today’s India, where the term ‘Secularism’ is selectively thrown into the ring to showcase their vibrant doctrinaire intellectualism.
The opposite of Fascism is Liberalism but the opposite of secularism is not a religion but intolerance, communalism and Xenophobia, something which only happens in India!
The only national party promising real secularism in the form of Uniform Civil Code (UCC), is the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) but sadly, the party is accused of being ‘A threat to Indian Secularism’.
While several sectarian gambles went unnoticed under the guise of ‘appeasement politics’ by the Congress.
Few of those disillusionments were, claiming the existence of Rama Seth, Ramayana and Valmiki Ramayana as mere ‘Pulpy Fictions’ and politicizing the Delhi Batla House encounter in the court.
On the other hand, states like Karnataka Celebrated festivals such as Tippu Jayanthi (An unpopular Islamic King who has conducted mass genocides on Hindus and the Kodava Community) and States like Andhra Pradesh where pre-poll promises mentioned reservations to Muslims under the State Government etc.
Martha C Nussbaum in the book (The Clash within a democracy, religious violence and India’s future: Permanent black; 2007) said,
“I argue that the real clash is not a civilizational one between Islam and the West but a clash within virtually all modern nations between people who are ready to live with other who are different, on the terms of equal respect and those who seek the protection of homogeneity, achieved through the domination of a single ethnic tradition”.
On moving forward in the timeline, we witness the newborn ‘Independent India’ struggling from various setbacks in the Post partition era, one of them is the fundamental question of the relationship between secularism and culture, which till date remains unsolved.
During the age of Nehruvian secularism and early congress days, Pakistan started to build a movement purely on the assumptions that the national movement in India has failed the Indian Muslims.
This sectarian politics by Pakistan should have been encountered during the early days of Congress rule but, they thought the ‘Strength Of Geography’ and giving them ‘Rights Of Citizenship’ would suffice to build an ‘Indian nationality’.
This didn’t work out as even today, our ‘Independence’ continues to suffer from Pakistan’s unmaintainable territorial aggrandisements on the princely state of Junagadh, Sir Creek, Manavadar, Ladakh and J&K.
Let’s talk about Junagadh, the land where the historical Hindu shrine of Somnath Temple is situated.
Restoration of this temple was completed back in 1951 and this episode holds a great significance in the Indian History.
Somnath temple, a living example of Iconoclasm like various other Hindu shrines in the country, helps us in busting Pakistan’s untenable territorial claims even today.
Then-Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru termed the event of restoring Somnath temple as ‘Hindu Revivalism’.
This reminds me of one speech given by our Ex-president Dr Rajendra Prasad, which he delivered at the inauguration of the Restored Somnath Temple.
He said, ‘By rising from its ashes again, this temple of Somnath is proclaiming to the world that no man and no power in the world can destroy that for which people have boundless faith and love in their hearts.’
This might just be another instance, which may not have made it to the ‘Secular Certifications’, but one thing that the left historians can’t play ostrich to is on that particular day, the speech given by the head of the state delivered a resounding message to the whole world.
The message which declared India as the custodian of global sovereign legitimacy and the guardian of integral humanism in the face of separatist sentiments.
A force which no mob, no Muslim ruler or no context-specific beleaguered intellectual can ever touch with their attrition.
We proudly celebrating the 74th Independence Day today is the proof of it!
Kamlesh is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in B.A LL.B (Hons), he has previously worked with respected government bodies such as the M.E.A, a research assistant for C.S.I.R.D.
A final year law student from University Law College Bangalore University. Advisory council member representing the National Service Scheme Bangalore University unit.
This Write-up Has Been Written in Collaboration With Other Writers.