Thursday, 4 December 2014

Secularism : Modern India and Pseudo-Secularism

This is the second and concluding part of the article series on Secularism. The first part can be found here : Secularism

In the first part, we have seen the development of the two principal communities : Hindus and Muslims, albeit in a shortened and simplified manner. We noted the developments of the period 1757 - 1947, and their combined impact on the Indian society. At this juncture, let me clarify I used these two communities for the perfectly simple reason that the entire debate focusses most on these 2. For the adherents of other faiths, let me assure that I hold no bigoted views or assumptions, or that I hold their views in a lesser degree of importance, as I hope to make clear in this article.

From the above shortened historical perspective we can see that in 1947, and for sometime thereafter, there was no question of doing anything but what our leadership did. It was the need of the hour, and a justified response to the situation. Indian Muslims are Indians - need I remind everyone of Paramvir Abdul Hamid? 

The birth of Pakistan itself was on the basis of suppression of Muslim rights, and way of life, tenets etc. Had the reverse been done, in howsoever well-intentioned a motive, it would have fanned the fire, just after independence or at anytime after it. Therefore what you call pseudo-secularism is actually true secularism, whereby the majority community did in no way hamper Muslims in the practice of their religion. Had this not been allowed, it would have strengthened the case for the secessionists who went to Pakistan, who would then demonstrate that Muslims cannot co-exist with Hindus. 


If some segments were, in 1947 - as is an established fact - feeling the need to protect their culture, shouldn't the state provide it to them? Besides, that served to satisfy discontent, reassure that they were safe in a united India based on common adult franchise. Not doing so leads to discontent, and future trouble. Keep in mind that in 1947, this was the precise factor that led to partition, What other response was feasible, other than affording them protection? None! 


I have pointed out in detail how and why the steps taken by Panditji were spot-on accurate;  how on earth was it possible, just after the 1947 riots, to do anything else, thereby giving further strength to the anti-national sentiment? It was manifestly impossible! We are looking at it from a majority perspective, which is not admissible! India needed Panditji and his mature and balanced handling, due to which we avoided the pitfalls... 

This response was responsible for building the strong and vital India we see today - a land where everyone is free to follow his or her religion with full state protection... That is why I stated that the Historical perspective is needed to understand this. 

The very basis of Pakistan was Islam in Danger in a Hindu India! The moment we would have tried to ride roughshod over the sentiments of the minority community, we ran the risk of  creating an opportunity for external forces to foment trouble. This way, we could assure the minorities that they lose nothing in a Majority Hindu nation; they are free to follow the tenets of their religion! 

We may not agree with their practices - but it is their religion! We, as outsiders to their religion, have no locus standi on this. They are Indians, who have sacrificed for the nation as well. If a segment of the community needs a comfort and protection for a separate set of personal laws within reason, where is the issue? This is not appeasement, it is democracy pure and simple! It is also smart, as this prevents any chance of anyone fomenting trouble.

The next key question is, has the situation changed enough to warrant a shift from the status quo, by steps such as a shift to a Uniform Civil Code, to take one pertinent example, an example that is repeatedly quoted by people?  

To that, my response is, how can we the Majority Religion determine that? This is something that can only be ascertained by gauging the feelings of the Minority Community! Which is why I stated the minority perspective, and gave no credence to the majority perspective, who have no locus standi on this issue. 


Put the entire picture together : from that, it becomes eminently clear that what some people state is manifestly impossible. If even a few disaffected elements are created, if even a minor fisiparous tendency is created, then we have the potential of trouble on our hands. This in no way means that the status quo is great, or that nothing should be done, as I deal with later!

While some segments of Muslims in India are ready for a UCC, this is certainly not shared by all. And these are not matters that concern Hindus, the best we can do is stay out of it, and trust the Government and The SC to sort it out! Intervention by unrelated majority community is not the need of the hour! 

As recently as July 2014, some elements of the All India Muslim Law Board had strenuously objected it. While some elements are in favour, there are others who are not in favour. This is a complex matter, which can give rise to needless tensions - given that there is no consensus. Simply put, this is a matter of faith for Muslims, Christians, Buddhists etc, and Hindu intervention is not required. We are a democracy, they are citizens, and we have a Government, a legal framework and a constitution to safeguard these matters and direct them. 

As regards the other nations, not just Muslims but other minorities are also regularly rubbed the wrong way. As regards Muslims, note that terrorist - home grown variety- is now a reality everywhere, with Muslims from all countries being a part of it; this is now a major red flag worldwide. 


Except India, which has remained at peace, and has had only a few sporadic incidents, like the one from Thane. We dont need a ham-handed so-called reform movement in these times; we need mature careful and considered handling... Again, given the international and security perspective of a rising Islamic fundamentalism, do we want to give rise to reasons for disaffection within our own nation, at a time when we are winning the battle by keeping our nation calm? How then, do we proceed should be the key question!

This is a matter of Muslim Minorities, and the Government. And the fact is that some sections of the minority community are not ready for it. Do you want to enforce it, and leave open the door for external elements to exploit the resultant feeling of hurt? As it is, the community in general is under stress due to increasing violence and fundamentalism across the world. 


There is a vast difference between actions undertaken on a majority community and a minority community; you cannot equate the two! Not in an atmosphere like the one we currently have, with a nosey neighbour watching our every move, and not with the history of partition. Even without this, we have enough trouble. Even though it is possible that the majority of Muslims might favour it {I dont know this, just a supposition}, the fact remains that this is a classic sign of majority intolerance. We have to show our tolerance, and let things settle themselves by the concerned minorities. 

There are elements within the Muslim community that do not accept the Uniform Civil Code; to say nothing for other religions. This is best left out of the public discourse, and limited to the Government and the Courts to sort it out, discussion with the concerned community leaders and schools like Deobandh etc so that the general people are behind them. People like you and me, who are from the majority community have no locus standi on this matter. We are not welcome; this is not a matter where we should intervene. This is a matter that can arouse needless debate and claims-counterclaims... 


Furthermore, given the vast difference between Sanaatani thoughts and Muslim thoughts, it is far better for us to keep silent. The norms, societal and religious expectations and basics are at complete variance; and are nearly incompatible in their details. Sanaatan Dharm is massive, to be frank; and accommodative; that is why interventions in it were acceptable, and did not create much of an outcry beyond the ones you and I mentioned. It is not as per our practices to enforce change, which is what you suggest tantamounts to. And this also classic secularism; no enforcement of religious dictums from above. Sure we would like to move to a UCC; in fact, there are voices from among Muslims themselves that are calling for it... but it is for them to call for it in a secular atmosphere, not for the majority community to dictate! Both views are before the courts : for and against, indicating the difference within the community. 

And though it pains me to state so, but they are not Sanaatan Dharmis, who are accommodative; they are of an entirely different thought process and religious norms - a religion, some of whose constituents might just take otherwise to intervention. We as the majority community had better keep out of it; we have no locus standi on it. Let the Courts and The Government decide, alongwith the concerned minority communities! That is classic secularism, one which understands the differences between communities and governs accordingly!

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