Secularism and India

The other day, I poured out my displeasure at the way artistic freedom was being trampled in India. After writing that post, I was tag surfing and came across Satyameva Jayate. The blogger, B. Shantanu, blogs about many things, one of them being how Hinduism has been maligned over the years (I read a few posts – most of them related to artistic freedom. Anything religious, I always swallow with a pinch of salt). And it struck a chord with me because I am an atheist who previously followed Hinduism (I still have a soft corner for the religion, particularly its mythology), and I too have been noticing the manner in which mainstream political parties, media and a whole bunch of people have defined secularism. That is the reason behind this post.

India is a secular country. Its constitution says so. And secularism is normally defined as something that is non-religious (secularism). But the Indian definition – that of mainstream political parties, significant portions of the media as well as a small but influential section of educated people (I have my doubts as to whether they are really educated) – has changed over the years to anything that is anti-hinduism. The BJP and other saffron parties have coined a term for it – pseudo-secularism. And as much as I hate saffron politics, I have to say that I am in complete agreement with them on this issue.

In every election, the Congress, Left parties, the remnants of the erstwhile Janata Dal (which itself was a remnant of the Janata Party) and various regional satraps will band together to fight against a ‘communal’ BJP whose only consistent allies have been Bal Thakrey’s Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal. Congress & Co. don’t see eye to eye and are mortal enemies of each other at the state level. But when keeping out the BJP is the preferred result, the age old proverb – your enemy’s enemy is your friend is applied.

Hindus, in spite of accounting for over 80% of the billion plus population, are not a homogeneous populace. The age old caste system (supposedly) based on The Laws Of Manu (which are irrational to the core I must add. If these laws were applied today, every single Hindu would have violated at least ten of them. The lack of an authoritative text, like the Bible for Christians and the Koran for Muslims, has always been a curse – or a possible blessing – for Hinduism, because everything is in the air. While there are the vedas and upanishads, and laws and treatises written by various people – Chanakya’s Arthashastra being a very interesting one, there is no single book that dictates this is what a Hindu should do. The Bhagwadgita is the closest one can come to it. So people did what they thought was right at that time) and the resultant Brahmin vs. Kshatritya vs. Vaishya vs. Shudra duels have resulted in a fracture that runs deep. It is a fact that the lowest castes and out-castes have been denied their rights for too long. And it continues in unenlightened parts of rural India. But it has resulted in the politics of caste which effectively prevents a combined Hindu vote.

The BJP has been able to work around this issue at the state level in some of the northern states. The one time it did come to power in the centre, it did so under Atal Behari Vajpayee who is a well-respected statesman, and by shelving its Ram Temple agenda which was what led to the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 (and the subsequent riots and terror attacks in Mumbai). The Babri Masjid fiasco has irreparably damaged the saffron colour as every party that even hints at working for the welfare of Hindus in general automatically becomes communal. Other parties, meanwhile can solicit Muslim votes, Dalit votes and votes based on many other criteria without being tainted. Sometimes, this discrimination is used to good effect by the BJP which can approach people claiming double standards (best example being Gujarat 2002). This is the truth of ‘secular’ India.

The thing that amuses me is this – none of them are satisfied. The Brahmins feel discriminated against because of the reservation policy applied by successive governments. And they do not enjoy speeches given by leaders of various Dalit and other caste based parties which target them. The Dalits and other backward castes are not satisfied as they feel they have not been given their due in spite of continued efforts. Hindus resent the government’s pussyfooting on the issue of Islamist terrorism. Muslims feel threatened in spite of forming such a huge part of the population because of terrorism being connected with Islam as well as because of the feeling that they are still made to swear allegiance to the country even 60 years after partition. The only people who seem to benefit are the politicians. But even they have been targeted on numerous occasions (the attack on parliament in 2001 being one of them). Considering all this, any rational person would mend his ways. But since politics and religion thrive on irrationality, expecting them to change is a waste of the time.

A secular country will not make decisions based on a person’s religion and the citizens of such a country will be free to practise any religion of their choice. While the second part is more or less true in India, it still has a long way to go as far as the first part goes. It would be nice to see the change happen within my lifetime. But I am not holding my breath.

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Comments

  • Cameron  On December 4, 2007 at 2:49 am

    It’s ironic but I have just read a piece from the U.K. where a special Hindu faith school is, or has been bulit. The requirements to attend the school are such that various groups are fighting over those “terms of entry”. The problem you describe goes way beyond Indian borders.

  • subhash sirur  On December 11, 2007 at 7:15 pm

    Secularism is a word coined by the Congress Party.The day India became Independent,it became a tool in the hands of the Indian Political fraternity.Rules were made for the political masters and were trod upon by the very same people when the rules did not suit them.Now it suits them to divide the people of casteist and religious lines,to get votes,even it means polarisation of the indian populace.From the day India got Independence,the govt then was controlled by only one party and that was the Congress Party.And that was the time to find ways and means to try and change the pattern of caste and creed in the country.But,even then it was politics,Nehru politics,Jagjivan Ram politics,Indira Gandhi politics,neverthe less politics but not as bad as it is today.Today,we call India a democracy,just becaause the govt is elected thr’ballot boxes.But,in reality,it is not.It is a country controlled by the politicians of all hues,whose intention is not janata seva,but their self aggradisement.The goons have taken over many states.The politicians use goons to retain power.The police are sold to the goons and the politicians.So where is the law.Law can only see the evidence that is provided.But the evidence is never allowed to come to the table of the judges.The illgotten money of the politicains is going out of india thr’ hawala and comes back into stock market thr P-notes.Thousands of acres of land are taken over or bought over from farmers at a pittance and sold to builders and infrastructure developers at huge sums.And who are these politicians who buy and sell these lands thr their dalals or agents.They are the cabinet ministers in the state or central govt who give speeches on helping the down trodden.In short what i am trying to say is that in the coming years,it will only be the corrupt rich and the hapless poor.Caste creed will have no place in society.

  • Swabhimaan  On November 21, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Hindus (including Jains and Budhists) who are tired of pseudo-secular governments and media are invited to join Swabhimaan – a movement launched to unite Hindus of India and protect their interests. For more details please contact Swabhimaan2008@gmail.com

    STRENGTHEN US WITH YOUR PARTICIPATION

  • Aristotle The Geek  On November 22, 2008 at 12:07 am

    Pseudo-secularism is a pita; so is the BJP’s borderline fascist mentality. Any groups out there fighting for the rights of the individual in India?

  • you12  On November 22, 2008 at 1:06 am

    The only viable solution is to derecognize religion at official and public level and in private organizations. No government should conduct any “demographics” surveys.And no one has to mention religion in any government or private forms,schools ,passports etc.

    Its funny how despite ending official Racism ,First World Countries still conduct ‘Demographics’ and population growth estimates for “Majority” and “Minority”.

  • Aristotle The Geek  On November 22, 2008 at 1:46 am

    “The only viable solution is to derecognize religion at official and public level and in private organizations.”
    If we do that, how will the politicians survive?

    As far as secularism and pseudo-secularism is concerned, Cho’s the man.

  • you12  On November 22, 2008 at 10:04 am

    haha,and how is that a concern? Ever had your hands on Thoreau?

    ‘That government is best which governs not at all”.

    Henry David Thoreau

  • yet_another_hindu_infidel  On November 22, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    reality check!!!
    in the east, everything is about religion. it saves some while it kills others. i’ve been a pseudo-secular myself. but not anymore. i’m a convert from a follower of gandhi to a man of sense and rationale.

    secularism and pacifism are nothing but a bunch of retarded “alice in wonderland” philosophies coined by power hungry megalomaniac d1ckheads like karunanidhi trying to fool a sea of minorities and intellectual hindus to vote for them. as did many geeky philosophers who hardly stepped into hell where people get killed for religion. though they never fail to comment on such issues with there AIW philosophies. fuCkin hippocrates.

    the problem with hindu’s is that there’s no unity within them. congress is a good example for it. it’s supposed to be this huge brigade of hindu intellectuals who still believe in the gandhian theories and other AIW theories. the only thing congress has is manmohan singh.

    keep poking the rabbit but you have no idea how deep the rabbit hole goes. the sadhvi pragya case is just the tip of the ice berg. simple rationale. ideologies cross all borders. institutions and academies are blind in front of them. after all these are the same institutions that fought pakistan and bangladesh in several war’s. two states that parted ways with india on “religious” grounds. like i said. religion has everything to do here. those who think religion needs a back seat has no idea what he’s talking about. for he’s yet another AIW philosopher in the making.

  • Aristotle The Geek  On November 22, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    “secularism and pacifism are nothing but a bunch of retarded “alice in wonderland” philosophies coined by power hungry megalomaniac d1ckheads”
    I agree with you on pacifism – its a stupid idea, but not on secularism. Societies that put religion ahead of everything else will always keep burning – like India, and Pakistan. Religion is a form of collectivism, and collectivism is always violent.

    “congress is a good example for it. it’s supposed to be this huge brigade of hindu intellectuals who still believe in the gandhian theories”
    The Congress party is a bunch of Janus-faced opportunists; they will take whatever position will bring them the most votes. Rajiv Gandhi’s policies – Shah Bano, Ayodhya, anti-Sikh riots – are a perfect example of the Congress ideology.

    “keep poking the rabbit but you have no idea how deep the rabbit hole goes. the sadhvi pragya case is just the tip of the ice berg.”
    I know that there is resentment on both sides, and the atmosphere is explosive, but some of it can surely be attributed to a persecution complex.
    The saffron organizations should nip the ‘terror monster’ in the bud. Going around in groups with trishuls in hand is one thing; snooping around and setting of bombs is something else. The first is intimidation, the second – terrorism.

    Read what Agnivesh, the Arya Samaji, has to say on Hindutva and fascism.

  • you12  On November 22, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    I think we all are communicating on a different level.

    I never denied the over-importance of religion in this part of the world ,it is really and truly sad and even more so as we are still blinded by the AIW promises of religion. What I am simply trying to say is that I as an individual I can be a “pacifist”,Hindu extremist or Jehad Lover, it doesn’t matter until the vote bank starts to exploit it.

    But by not letting the government know what I think, they won’t be in a position to exploit it.Have I explained myself properly or not.

    Y.A.H.I, I would like to know what your defination of “pacifism” really is.

  • Abhishek Merve  On May 10, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    when there is such a diversity in religon cast race wealth and power there is always a bit of chaos…. everybody wants a say, everybody wants the share.
    I feel India has always been compared unfairly with some other countries. I beleive India does define secularism much better than any other country. Secularism in india can not be judged just by political structure, has to looked at a broader sense.

    Indeed political system need some cleaning up but i am pretty hopefull it will happen in its own Indian Standard Time!!!

    • Aristotle The Geek  On May 11, 2009 at 2:13 am

      You are too optimistic. Unless the State stays out of religion completely, the country is not secular. On this count even the US isn’t. But we are far worse.

  • Leopoldo Hernandez Lara  On November 22, 2009 at 6:25 am

    I wrote the book “Unmasking The Bible”. Its name says it all!

    In it, I demonstrate that The Bible is not a sacred book, since Yahweh orders ethnical cleansing wars to wipe out all the nations that lived in the Promised Land long before the arrival of the Jews. Like all the local gods of the neighboring countries, Yahweh is a very human god; therefore he is full of anger, hate, revenge and ready to punish who ever disobeys his orders. He only loves his Holy People, the Jewish nation. No one else!

    Jesus, the god of the New Testament, is not recognized by Yahweh, who claims all the worship for himself. Jesus is called the Christ, the Messiah, but both are human titles that the Jews of yore gave to their kings and High Priests, once they were consecrated. I unmask one thousand irregularities that have been (expertly?) hidden for several centuries.

    The book is already on sale at Amazon.com as a print book and on Powells.com as an ebook. Would it be possible to promote this book among your affiliates? Can you put a banner mentioning the book in your web site? If you wish I can send a picture of the cover of the book, or even the banner itself.

    How can we work together? We are on the same track!

    Once we demystify The Bible, we will open the door for secularism and tolerance.

    Best regards.

    Leopoldo Hernandez Lara
    leoherla@aol.com

  • Rajiv  On December 15, 2010 at 9:48 am

    In India one can’t live without religion. If you are ignoring this fact you are making a big mistake.
    As far as “saffron” communalism is concerned there is nothing like that. BJP is winning in Gujarat and recently in

    Bihar. BJP is currently governing in more states than Congress. And this is because people are now realising how

    they have been fooled in the last 63 years of independence. The Italian lady must be sad about that.
    Another fact is that with the increase in literacy rate the effect of Congress on general public is varying off. More

    people now understand that Islam is NOT The Religion of Peace.
    Brahmans are discriminated, yes, even after getting 85% one can’t get a job while a Dalit can do by securing 50%.

    This is Discrimination.
    You said “Muslims feel threatened in spite of forming such a huge part of the population because of terrorism being

    connected with Islam as well as because of the feeling that they are still made to swear allegiance to the country

    even 60 years after partition”.
    Their involvement in terrorism is no fake, its real. As far as they fear riots is concerned its always Muslims who start

    riots, not Hindus. And lastly they are doing nothing to prove that they are loyal to the Indian state.

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