Rethinking India: Need for thinking Indians


When the constitution makers were drafting the constitution of India they did not include the word Secular into the preamble, however, the nature of the constitution has always been completely secular. The idea of India is varied from Pakistan, and the very reason that Greater India had to settle for a partition, was because different pockets of the nation could not be identified as belonging to Muslims, or to Hindus. When Jinnah demanded Pakistan and all possibilities for reconciliation were exhausted; then M. K. Gandhi accepted partition with a condition that the leftover India will be completely secular.

Indian history has been a classical case where minorities have ruled the majority for thousands of years, yet the nation continued to be separated from any kind of polarization and peace prevailed. Indian subcontinent is a historical case of toleration, mutual respect for religion, and co-existence. The beauty of India is such that no force that tried to divide the nation on religious grounds could survive. Mughals survived for almost 317 years, but its decline began when Aurangzeb imposed Jizya, a tax on Hindus. The mighty Mughals declined from being worlds’ powerful force to emptied treasury. Then came the British, and when they started dividing the nation on the grounds of religion, the reaction was in form of “sepoy mutiny”. Though unsuccessful, but Muslims and Hindus fought together shoulder to shoulder.

Indian secularism is different from the secularism of the west. In the West, they are neither theocratic nor do they recognize religion. However, Indian Secularism is not Anti-Religious, rather a normative doctrine that seeks to realize a secular society that is devoid of either inter-religious or intra-religious domination. The Indian principle of Secularism states that a state must not only refuse to be theocratic but also have no formal, legal alliance with any religion. Indian secular state is committed to principles and goals that are at least partly derived from non-religious sources. Indian Secularism ensures peace, religious freedom, freedom from religiously grounded oppressions, discrimination and exclusions, as also inter-religious and intra-religious equality.

On the other hand, Communalism as an ideology fulfills its socio-economic-political ends by interpreting the religion in a manner that is exclusionary for a specific segment of population. Communalism got into the nerves of India during 1850s, as the British used communalism as a policy to divide and rule people. British ensured that they do not remain the common enemy of the Indians. British have not only divided people on the lines of caste, or religion, but also on the basis of region. Since then, India is gripped under religious polarisation and as a result, the social fabric of the country continues to be affected deeply.

It would be extremely unfair to say that any specific political party plays religious propaganda and polarization to win elections. Indian politics has never been clean and every party has used religion as a means to reach their political ends. Some are more voracious than the other, some play soft Hindutva, and some are voracious in their agenda of “Majority Rule” and dream for a “Hindu Rashtra”. It is now important why we must understand deeply why Dr. Shashi Tharoor warns against India becoming a “Hindu Pakistan”.

If we discount the comment coming from a politician; rather, if we try to understand its virility in socio-eco-political context, then we can understand the ill effects of having “religion” as a state policy. Husain Haqqani in his latest book “Reimagining Pakistan: Transforming a Dysfunctional Nuclear State” suggests that Religion as a state policy promotes a mindset of denial and victimhood. The impact of the dominance of religion in every sphere can be understood by the example that a leading Nuclear Scientist of Pakistan Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, proposed that all energy-related problems could be solved by taming the “djinns”(the kind Aladdin had) because they were made of fire. Many others lured by the limelight, delivered gems of medieval gibberish in the name of Islamic science. Pakistan is an intolerant state, which has the highest number of state-sponsored genocide against minorities; unequal treatments are meted out on minorities (both inter-religion, and intra-religion). Pakistan also ignores regions of Baluchistan and considers them as secondary citizens. Every wrongdoing in Pakistan is justified in the name of Religion. When Generals in Pakistan topple the government, they do it with the religious pretext, and the Pakistani’s do not revolt, as it is blasphemous to act against the wish of Almighty. Pakistan has immense potential, a great demographic dividend, rich mineral resource, and human resource, but all of it remains untapped, because the political masters do not use competition, but religion as a tool to win elections.  Monetary development can occur only in a condition of peace and serenity, communalism breeds a social climate of narrow-mindedness and viciousness that obstructs the growth of products and capital. The flow of work from profitable activities is redirected to inefficient activities; there is the huge devastation of public properties to spread the belief system that suits the political system. The foreign investments slowly get scanty as such polarized environment scare off investors.  No country in the history could develop economically while communal tensions are in vogue.

Minorities in India are increasingly attacked by those associated with right-wing organizations. There is a steep rise in the atrocities against Dalits. A report by Indiaspend suggests that there has been a 75% rise in case of cow-terror attacks, and an alarming rise in mob lynching, attacks by vigilantes, murder, attempt to murder, harassment, assault and gang-rape. Cases from Dadri, Dimapur, Chatra, Alwar, Jharkhand, Delhi, Pratapgarh, Thoubal, Jalwe, Srinagar, Una and other states have one thing in common, they are by self-proclaimed “Gau Rakshaks” and are associated with some or the other right-wing organization. There has been Violence over a Facebook name, a 13 year boy was beaten for wearing ‘royal’ shoes, Dalit boys were stripped, beaten and paraded naked by villagers in the western state of Maharashtra last week for swimming in a well that belonged to an upper-caste family, Two Dalit men were killed for sitting cross-legged, A Dalit from Madhya Pradesh was Threatened for riding a horse In most cases, the victims/survivors are chained, stripped, hanged or beaten. Observer Research Analysis shows that cow-related violence has spiked up dramatically from five percent of the total incidents (of Lynching or Public Disorder) to over 20 percent by the end of June 2017.  All of it is Alarming and is clearly a Law and Order issue. But, whose responsibility is to take care of law and order? Why have hate mongers become fearless? Our very educated Minister Shri Jayant Sinha greeted and garlanded lynching convicts and the national spokesperson Sambit Patra tried to defend the indefensible.

Is this the culture that present-day India should promote? The party in power questions our Nationalism, However, it fails to show patriotism. The basic difference between Nationalism and Patriotism is that the patriot is proud of the good things that the country does, while a Nationalist doesn’t use the differentiation between good and bad. Every action done by the country is good for a nationalist. A feeling of responsibility backs patriotism, and nationalism is often mixed with fake pride and arrogance. This includes the citizen’s responsibility to his country, a country’s responsibility to its citizens, and the responsibility of a country and its citizens to the rest of the world. Nationalism in its hyper form becomes jingoism, its a feeling that one’s country is superior to another in every aspect, on a contrary, patriotism is merely a feeling of admiration. Patriotism is passive and nationalism is mostly aggressive. It can be safely said that the freedom fighters of India were more of Patriots than Nationalist.

Pluralism is acknowledging the fact that multiple power groups should exist and compete in a free and open marketplace of ideas, from which policies and law are generated to govern the society. In simple terms, it can also be told by people with disagreeing beliefs live in the same society peacefully without disbanding their beliefs. Keeping in view of the pluralistic society and beliefs of the people, the constituent assembly came out with his Indian version of secularism that means equality of all religions. Thus secularism in India is a result of its pluralistic diversities and this is driving India for many years and continues to do so.

Our constitution is enshrined with pluralistic values, and equality forms the basic structure of the constitution. The judiciary will never allow the Parliament to amend the constitution in a manner that the nation becomes a “Hindu Rashtra” or “Hindu Pakistan”, so, the comments from Dr. Tharoor is irresponsible to least. While Crimes against minorities are at a rise, such irresponsible statements are appalling. As citizens, we must think every aspect deeply and must try to be more patriot than nationalists.

Shariq Us Sabah is a writer and economist and has published two books. His twitter handle is @ShariqUS


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