Wednesday, 3 December 2014


                                             ( Narendra Modi as Aurangzeb)
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The nadir of India’s much vouched “Secularism” was evident to anyone with perspicacity to study it’s harrowing contradictions. But RSS-BJP’s political resurgence from near-oblivion in 2014, is rather not the cause but the consequence of it. No discerning mind can discord with the palpable fact that BJP causes schisms between communities, actually Hindu-Muslim & Hindu-Christians; but the larger matter of concern is that the edifice of Indian secularism is neither formidable nor are its “root arguments” pedantically constructed through debates. “Indian Secularism” , which we Indians ,mostly middle-class, vaingloriously present , was always mired with plethora of dichotomies. So definitely this is not the diatribe against Badshah Modi (who often reminds us of  Aurangzeb) but rather against the Secular Satraps of modern India , who are reminiscent of the indigenous feudal sardars of medieval India. [To finding faults will only result into writing a thesis but to save time , lets restrict it to a blog which will also mean certain intricacies will be omitted , contributors though can contribute further , if at all]. 

1)      Post-Nehru Congress’s Pseudo-secularism
Congress describes itself as the foundation of Secularism in India, as against BJP – the communal villain inveterate to expunge this foundation. This is but an illustration of “oversimplification”. This is not to say that Congress is a communal organisation, but then “communalism” is not an antonym to “secularism” but rather a “consequence” of its absence in a complex society like India.
The Indian society is a web of caste, religions, ethnicities, linguistic groups. These four parameters do not divide the Indian society into simply horizontal & vertical stices , but rather quite intricately like a web. In such a society, political stability thus comes at the cost of making colossal compromise. The Congress that formed India had to involve people from all shades , religious conservatives (many Hindu & Muslim clergies joined it for various reasons) , progressives (eg. Nehru & the Congress Left) ,pro-Muslim secularists like Azad *, pro-Hindu secularists like Patel *, even communalists like (eg. Tandon , Malviya ) , even many hard-core atheistic Socialists. Thus in this cacophony “Ideology of Secularism” was sacrificed by superfluous “populism”, though the Secular elite formed the head  of this party , its workers , activists ,politicians belonged to different shades on the Secular-Communal spectrum. This explains the large number of riots under Congress Rule ( Hyderabad , Bhagalpur ,Bombay , Babri Masjid) result of its unwillingness to restrain & punish its Hindu communal members & sometimes also its Muslim communal members, its lethargy towards debating Secularism , its declivity towards the stalled project of Hindu Social reforms  , its continuous appeasement of communal & conservative muslims causing foeticide of Muslim Social reforms (Shah Bano & Shariah), its policy of encouraging Sikh Fundamentalists (Bhindrawale) for political gains & their consequent ruthless action (Golden Temple ) on seeing their former allies become a threat , using Religion to incite a mob the avenge the Party leaders’s (Indira Gandhi) assassination (anti-Sikh riots), non-punishment of the perpetrators (Tytler & Kamalnath).
Congress needs to become more “intellectual” than populist weeding out obnoxious conservatives & communalists , punish the communalists within it , initiates the debate on Secularism pragmatical bridging the gap between theory & practice , supports social reforms across societies , until then Indian society will continue to remain in a limbo & remain hostage to all forms of fissiparous & obscurantist forces.

2)      The Alien Communist-Rationalist conglomerate
This “Left-Atheist-Rationalist “ conglomerate remains the only group that one can call as “closer” to Secularism .This group can be broken down into two : a) Intellectuals-cum-academicians  & , b) The ex-Hindu Nihilists.
Before we proceed discussing these categories, it should be remembered that both these sets of people belonged to the so-called Hindu socio-cultural communities, though all of them were atheists.
Academecians:  They were responsible for exclusively digging through history, folklores, shastras, sociology & anthropology of thousands of communities that inhabit this landmass. They , the people like Irawati Karve , Romila Thapar, M N Srinivas & D D Kosambi  are the ones who have persevered as the vanguard of social justice , secularism & truth in the Indian society.
Nihilists: They as social activists , like Dr Ambedkar, Periyar , Illaiah , Arundhati Roy , being quintessentially “revolutionary” , prioritised “agitation” , “didactics” & often on the extreme even rhetoric to attain a casteless , egalitarian & secular society. Like the following :

Such things are counter-productive.
The consolidation of Secularism in India & Communal harmony will require to re-debate history & refuting ideological based writing of the Indian history by not just the Rightists , but also by Leftists. Iam sure the Right will never do it but are the Leftists willing to review their writings??

3)      Nebulous Secularism
I had this comment by a friend ,best describing the story of the “idea of secularism” in India

Gandhian wish would have been “Sarva Dharma Sahishnuta“(equal empathy towards all religions) and Nehruvian would have been “Sarva Dharma Nirapekshata” (equal indifference towards all religions)!! Mercifully Mrs.Gandhi did not define “Secularism” when she inserted that word. What are we then? Indians are constitutionally built, as you say, for “Sarva Dharma Samabhav” (equal attitude towards all religions). Constitution, if it errs, does so in favour of religions of the Minorities & that is in the finest tradition of India. It appears paradoxical since special treatment to Minority religions would mean neither Equality nor Indifference. May be Empathy? This “favouritism” towards Minorities goes back to days of yore as evidenced in the 7th century Travelogues of Huen Tsang (Xuanzang) when a Hindu Harsh Vardhan ruled entire North Indian landmass and placed the Rights of Worship of Buddhists above that of even Brahmins despite attempts on his life by the latter right in the presence of the Guest. Indian style “Secular” credentials have been thus earned not merely by inserting a word or two in Preamble but by centuries of incredible ability of men like Ashok, Harsh, Akbar, Dara, Teg Bahadur & above all Gandhi to be Inclusive even at the cost of their lives. If left unchecked, present government, under the slogan of ‘appeasement of none and justice to all’ would like to alter the Constitution & go against that very Ethos of India. To my mind that means treason. That mustn’t be allowed.

 There is strong fatalism in his definition of Indian Secularism. Its longevity in this form will certainly also help increasing a feeling among the hindus that the entire Indian Secularism ( I mean all shadesis all about Hinduphobia. This will also prolong Hindutva. One needs to debate it.


Sadly , not just the Right-wing but also Centrist & Leftist  historiography often end up giving much importance to the Supercaste muslims than the uppercaste muslims (Indian uppercastes like Rajput,Jat,Gujjar) or lower caste muslims (Pasmanda, Kammis ,Momin Ansaris etc) . The Uppercaste muslims ruled parts of India directly like their pre-Islamic ancestors or Hindu counterparts , they spoke the local languages & were indigenous unlike the Supercastes who spoke Farsi & Turki. The dominance of the Foreign-origin Muslim narrative over the Native muslim narrative helped in creating the idea of “the other” between lower caste Hindus & lower caste muslims , upper caste Muslims & Hindus. For eg . Babur invades India . Rana Sanga leads a band of three Rajput kings & one Pathan king to fight this Mongol-invader. The wars & massacres became part of ballads of the Rajasthanis long after the war ( which is quite natural across the globe). The Hindutvavadis hijack the legends & folks to make this as Hindu vs Muslim war. The Left reacts by trying to glorify Babur as a great Indian & a benign invader (Babur was the same as Curzon or Clive , in fact far worse as Mongols are known for unprecedented barbarism ;Halaku Khan ,Timor ,Chenghiz were all ancestors to Babur). This only helps the Hindutvavadis.
Rather the Left should have highlighted the martyrdom of Rajput king Raja Hasam Khan Meo of Mewat &   Mahmood Lodhi- the Pathan feudal from Agra. Raja Hasan Khan is an ancestor to all Hindu Rajputs as much as Rana Sanga is , but how many do know about them .It is here that the Left could have used the same native folks to create a broader ethno-nationalism among the Rajasthanis ,West UttarPradeshis etc. Because Folks remain the best vehicle to propagate history.This in turn would have strengthened local unity among Hindus & Muslims of same caste , language, race have & Muzzafarnagars could have been avoided. As it is this local grassroots unity or strenghthening of Ethno-linguistic cultures ( that squashes both Hindu & Muslim nationalisms).

The social & cultural chasm between the Hindus & Muslims (esp. the middle-class)got augmented  during the British due to the different overal reactions from both the communities to Western ideas. Both had conservatives & both had liberals. But in Hindus the overall proclivity to reforms &  in Muslims the overall proclivity to "Safeguard of Identity" (for true as well as imaginary reasons) resulted in the former searching for pan-Indianism & the latter searching for pan-Ummahism. Thus the Hindu social reforms , not just reformed the different Hindu communities to certain extent but also deepened Indian nationalism. On the contrary , while there were reform movements among Indian muslims too ,they were always marred by the apprehension of "Muslim identity" due to birth of a more progressive Hindu middle-class (social-economic fear) as well as aggressive Hindu Rightists (political fear). This finally limited them to focussing on the "Muslim Past" ,both Indian & non-Indian.The Khilafat Movement as well as Sir Syed & Allama Iqbal are good examples. 
This only furthered the chasm between the communities. This also partly contributed to Social & economic downfall of Indian Muslims.
Today , not just that pro-rational reform movements have to revived among Hindus but also the civil society needs to trigger Muslim reform movements. Further , instead of pan-Indian Hindu Reformism , rather there is a need to conflate local Hindu & Muslim Reform movements.
This would not just sow the seeds of progressive thinking among the communities or improve their social conditions but rather create a stronger sense of brotherhood , that in turn can counterpoise & expunge Hindutva forces.


  1. Perceptive analysis, especially points 4 and 5. Secular forces have to do a deep re-think of their tactics and over-all strategy to counter Hindutva's vision of India. Promoting heroes like the ones you mention to fight against the "foreign muslim" invader idea that the right has successfully implanted is definitely one such tactic. You are also right to point out that the policies safeguarding the security of minorities (relgious, ethnic, etc) have been important in indian political history. The right will always call this favouritism and play the "resentment" card. But resist we must.

    That said, I would say that the biggest socioeconomic trend of post-independent India is the pauperization (loss of economic power), marginalization (loss of political power) and segregation and apartheid (muslim fear for safety due to engineered riots/deliberate socioeconomic discrimination by hindus) of Muslims throughout the country. These trends are ofcourse inter-related and criss-cross one another. So Muslim fears are hindu dominance are not just "fears" but very well substantiated realities. Caste Hindu dominance (cannot forget caste!), and ruthlessly deliberate use of state institutions like the police, judiciary, public housing, municipal services etc to ensure Muslim pauperization are much bigger factors that need to be addressed than just supplementing folk traditions of solidarity (necessary, but not sufficient). All the deeply rooted,syncretic ganga-jamuna tehzeeb could not save Ayodhya in 1992 when external forces swept in (and were allowed to do so by UP govt) to destroy Babri masjid. Of course, the same repressive state has squashed not just Muslims, but the NE, kashmir, naxalite dominated southeast india at various times. A radical decentralization and democratization of the indian state is what we have to fight for if we want people to live with dignity.

    thanks for a good critique, I'd just ask you to sharpen and deepen it, and of course put it into practice :)

    Some highly recommended readings :
    For the hindu muslim riots, read Paul Brass and Varshney papers reviewed here:

    For a sense of how economic and social factors criss-crossed in the case of Bombay, see
    Saffronisation of Shiv Sena Political Economy of City, State and Nation, EPW1995

    For the story of the collapse of the congress as a party system since the late 60's, its turn towards hindutva-lite politics in the 70's, and its increasing use of right-wing extremism to counter nationalistic movements in Punjab, Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland in the 80's , see the (well-founded) marxist critique of the indian state. For which see Perry Andersons " The Indian ideology"
    and Achin vanaik's supplement to the article:
    are important to digest.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I had read reviews about Perry Anderson's book before , but will make it a point to read it now.
      I would also like to add further that : While the Rationalists in India often make alliances with Muslim/Christian Religious Organisations , Dravidianists & even purportedly more progressive groups like Dalit Voice (all purportedly Davids) to fight Hindutva & Brahminism (Goliaths) , they should take their arguments & dogmas with a pinch of salt & not internalise them blindly. As these groups create their own capricious arguments & parochial dogmas that would always create bottleneck in forming a broader ,most importantly Rationalist , opposition to Hindutva .