Can India be a secular republic without being socialist?

modi ayodhya

The event of Bhoomi Poojanof of Ram-Mandir in Ayodhya on 5 August 2020 marks the beginning of the politico-social endorsement of majority communalism in the country. In the articles/news stories/editorials/party releases/comments etc. written with reference to the Constitution and the Republic of India on this subject, one common thing could be discerned. That is, no intellectual or leader has accepted even the subsidiary role of three decades of corporate capitalism behind this worrying phenomenon of Indian polity and society. They seem to believe that the fact of almost all-pervasive penetration of communalism is unconnected with the economic policies and the development model of ‘New India’, and will continue to be so.

Secular intellectuals have rightly called the August 5 incident as the demolition of the secular Indian Republic. Some among them have whipped up the RSS/BJP in expressing intense resentment; Some have blamed the English elite; Some have blamed the secularist parties, including the Congress; Some have blamed the communal masses of the Hindi belt; And some have put middle-class India in the dock, where communalism has been flourishing in the families. But none of them has, even indirectly, mentioned the role of neo-liberal policies while doing their analysis of the incident. Some good-intentioned people have believed that after the completion of the Bhoomi Poojan of the temple by the Prime Minister himself, an old and bitter dispute has ended. Now, by putting soil on the dispute, the task of making the country an economic superpower should be expedited. Such people have advocated to make the country an economic superpower only under neo-liberal policies.

Those who said that, by attending the Bhoomi Poojan as the Chief Guest, the Prime Minister had violated the oath of the Constitution, did not take any objection to the fact that indiscriminate corporatization/privatization has also resulted in a violation of the oath of the Constitution. Certain sober leaders of the Congress have criticized fellow-Congressmen for describing August 5 as the historic-day and reminding about the initiative and role of the Congress in making that day possible. While doing so, they have cited the secular heritage of the Congress, but have not thrown any light on the reasons for the deviation of the Congress from that very heritage. It would have been better if such Congress leaders had said that in 1991, when the New Economic Policies were imposed, the Indian Republic suffered the same setback.

This scenario clearly shows that secular intellectuals and leaders are not ready to learn any lesson from the neo-liberal experience of the last three decades, during which the emergence of majority communalism has gradually strengthened. The Bhoomi Poojan incident of August 5 is a culmination of the existing aggressive majority communalism. There is no need to go into too many details to understand that this halt on the path of communal politics has come due to corporate-oriented policies. The truth can be understood by just one example – Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have established a joint laboratory of Hindutva and Corporate in Gujarat. Now the whole country is becoming such a laboratory. It is not without reason that Mandalist politics, which was, at one time, called an antidote to Kamandalist politics, has bowed down its head in front of communal fascism of RSS/BJP. With a most backward Prime Minister and a Dalit President, communalism, which usually happened to be confined to the cities, has reached every village. In such a situation, it seems that the event of August 5 is not a final culmination (Purnahuti) on the path of communal politics. The country may witness some more intermediate finales.

Obviously, secular intellectuals and leaders are driven by the belief that the constitutional secularism can be maintained with policies of corporatization/ privatization. The intellectuals who are advocates of neo-liberalism believe this from the very beginning. But the intent of socialist/social justice intellectuals has also been the same in a circumlocutory manner. There is a difference between the two groups: Intellectuals, who are directly supporters of neo-liberalism, in their aristocratic mind, want a clean and presentable ‘New India’. They do not like the hood of communal elements in it; Whereas socialist/social justice intellectuals want to maintain the illusion in the minds of minorities, especially Muslims and Christians, that India can remain a secular republic despite the policies of corporatization and privatization. The secular leaders need to learn manners for this. That is why they argue that it was not the victory of the RSS/BJP on August 5, but a defeat of secular politics. The implication of this hypothesis would be that in New India, that is, India devoid of constitutional commitment to socialism/social justice, leaders do not have the manners of doing secular politics. If they learn this trick then they will not let the communal politics of RSS/BJP run. They have also presented a hallmark of this mannerism in the form of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and its brand of ‘revolutionary’ politics.

The reaction of secular intellectuals to the event of 5 August brings to the fore again the fact that in their eyes the policies of corporatization/privatization are not in opposition to the Constitution and the Republic of India, which the Preamble called ‘Socialist Secular Democratic’. The basic structure of the Constitution has not changed by imposing them. Seeing all this, it can be said that constitutionalism has remained for the sake of a name in India. In fact, the constitutionalists have got addicted to wanderings in the world of neo-liberalism developed in the last three decades under the policies of corporatization/privatization: As representative spokespersons for secularism in the country they take funds from the Ford Foundation and other foreign sources; Fetch big awards, preferably international, of large sums; Run agitations from World Social Forum (WSF) to India Against Corruption (IAC); Become members of governmental (knowledge) commissions and advisory committees set up to create a New India; Work to make regulatory institutions ranging from schools to higher education compatible with neo-liberal agenda of education; Prepare reports/books as experts on the predicament of those groups devastated by neo-liberal policies; Become professors and vice-chancellors in fast growing private universities in the country; Write articles and give statements in newspapers/magazines/channels, so on and so forth.

Needless to say that by not doing all this, they could have also waged a big fight against neo-liberal policies thus thwarting away the communal politics from the center stage. But they did not feel that task to be necessary.

However, the complex problem of communalism that has been going on since the colonial period has become more complicated in the neo-liberal period. The complex question of minority communalisms is also associated with majority communalism. Due to the dominance of majority communalism, minority communalisms cannot be suppressed. The news of the activities of Khalistan supporters keep on coming in the country and abroad. There were also reports that Khalistan supporters living abroad supported the Aam Aadmi Party to break the dominance of Congress and Akalis in Punjab politics. If it is a common consensus among the secular political-intellectual leadership of the country that constitutional secularism can be maintained with policies of corporatization/privatization, then it is their responsibility to explain seriously how this necessary task will be made possible?

(The writer is a teacher of Hindi at Delhi University and former president of Socialist Party India)



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