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HVK Archives: Secularism: Fact and Fiction

Secularism: Fact and Fiction - Mainstream

V. V. Paranjpe ()
12 October 1996

Title : Secularism : Fact and Fiction
Author : V. V. Paranjpe
Publication : Mainstream
Date : October 12, 1996

This article is from an earlier data. It is being sent to
indicate the thinking of the author at that time.

Hindutva and secularism are the two burning topics of the
day, ranged against each other like two anti-poles.

Secularism is the new fashion word. While Hindutva is
made to sound like an outmoded belief. Hindutva can be
likened to the old-fashioned wife of an arranged marriage
whose existence is generally ignored and only grudgingly
accepted; secularism, on the other hand, is the seduc-
tive, new lady-love whose taxing demand and many faults
and frailties are silently suffered.

What do they really mean and how much different are they?

To start with, the two share some common features. Both
words are of foreign origin with no equivalent word in
Sanskrit or in Hindi. The term 'Hind' was given to India
by Greeks or Persians. The word does not exist in Sansk-
rit. 'Secular' comes from a Latin word; it had no equiv-
alent word in Hindi.

Both words are loosely used leaving much room for doubt,
discussion and different interpretations.

Both words, though much-used today, are also much misused
and even abused.

TAKE the word 'secular', for example. It originally meant
'non-religious'. But in post-independence India the word
has come to acquie a meaning which is totally opposed to
its original English meaning. In India today the word is
made to mean 'respect for or accommodation of all reli-
gions which is practically the opposite of its original
meaning. Strangely enough, the word was hardly used or
heard in the first half of this century. In the twenties
and thirties Jinnah's Muslim League, under British insti-
gation and blessings, loudly and shamelessly clamoured
for a partition of the country on a communal basis to
create the Islamic state of Pakistan. One would have
thought that the word secular' would has been most appro-
priate and meaningful in that context. The word should
have met a natural death with the birth of Pakistan.

Pandit Nehru used it occasionally but in its original
sense. Neither he nor Ambedkar thought it necessary or
important enough to include the word secular' in the
Indian Constitution.

The honour goes to Mrs Gandhi who had a gift for using
elegant and high-sounding words to hide her foul inten-
tions and actions. It was in the heyday of her infamous
'Emergency' that Mrs Gandhi introduced the word 'secular'
in an amendment to the Constitution in 1976. No reason
was given for it; but it is not far to seek. It was
evidently used to woo the Muslim vote. While hounding out
and imprisoning thousands of Hindus on communal grounds,
she was anxious to create a Muslim votebank and the
'secular' Congress under her leadership thought nothing

of seeking on alliance with the communal Muslim League to
grab state power.

The Indian National Congress throughout bent over back-
wards to placate the Muslims in India and outside. The
Muslims received a favoured treatment. While the Hindus
had to submit to monogamy and a new Civil Code and family
planning, the Muslims were free to practise bigamy and
talaq, and being free from family panning restrictions
they could multiply their number in geometrical propor-
tions. Restrictions an responsibilities were orb,,
heaped on the Hindus. To be a Hindu had virtually become
a humiliating disability. The Congress' attitudes and
actions served to concretes Gandhi's prophetic words of
lament: 'Hindus are in a minority in India!'

Rajiv and Narasimha Rao continued Mrs Gandhi's legacy.
To please the minorities they introduced a wasteful and
expensive measure of giving holidays on all important
religious festivals of the minorities led by the Muslims.
When a nation should have devoted all days of the week to
work and grow stronger, the government was happily swell-
ing the number of holidays and letting people go idle.
To give the measure further sanctity, the President and
the Prime Minister.both started to send meaningless
messages of greetings on such occasions which would re-
ceive conspicuous coverage on the government TV network.
Instead of divorcing the state from religion the govern-
ment was it in religion in the.-name of secularism/.

But Narasimha Rao still failed to get the minority vote-
and more particularly, the Muslim vote-and was soundly
defeated in the Lok Sabha elections of - 1996.

Why did this happen? Because the Muslim community had in
the meantime found a more ardent secularist camp and 'a
defender of faith' who was prepared to jail Hindus and
open fire on them to defend a hardly known mosque. This
secular camp had conveniently forgotten the barbaric
history of Muslim invasions When all Hindu and Buddhist
shrines were razed to the ground and their bricks and
stones used to build Muslim monuments.

Thanks to the softhearted Hindus,.the Muslims a spired to
have the best of both the worlds a communal state of
their own in Pakistan and a rightful place for themselves
in 'secular' India where they would enjoy more than equal
treatment and privileges. Strangely enough, while the
became more sought after in post-independence India, they
met a different fate in their 'Promised Land' of Pakistan
where the Muhajirs came to be treated as traitors and
receive the choicest Islamic blessings of arrest, torture
and death. One feels sorry for them.

Indian Muslims do deserve our sincere consideration A
majority of the Muslims in the Indian subcontinent were
ex-Hindus forcibly converted to Islam by the Muslim
invaders. They formed a part of the Hindu society. And
they are our kith and kin. It was the most deplorable
failure on the part of puritanical and negative thinking
Hindus to treat them as untouchables and throw them to
the mercy of the wolves; when the cruel Muslim invaders
forcibly converted them by putting beef in the mouth and
other atrocities. The Hindus need to make amends for
this inconsiderate act of injustice and rehabilitate them
as honourable members of the Hindu society, provided they

accept India as their motherland. It is in this context
that one can understand the very lenient and generous
attitude adopted by Gandhiji and Pandit Nehru towards the
Muslims. But we cannot forget that many of the Muslims
even in Pakistan and Bangladesh continue to observe Hindu
practices and make it a point to speak their native
Indian dialect derived from Sanskrit.

The band of new Indian secularists have today formed a
United Front to grab power even by accepting the support
of the Congress whom they condemned in the election
campaign. The 14 regional sectarian groupings had to
find some common unifying factor and they called it
secularism. But what meaning this secularism has, is
most unclear. They are all good Hindus at home and
Muslim-lovers outside. What really seems to bind them is
pure casteism. It is the Yadavs, Kammas, Kurmis, Vokka-
liggas, etc. who have come together to form an alliance
against the higher caste Hindus and the BJP is their main
enemy because the BJP to them represents the Hindu higher
castes and the Muslims are closer than the--BJP Hindus.

It was also claimed by some that the fight is not against
Hinduism in general but 'Hindu fundamentalism'. Here they
are allowing their ignorance to lead them into a major
pitfall. If they had understood the fundamentals of
Hinduism they would never have made the mistake.

HINDUTVA or Hinduism is the only religion in the world
which is most secular because d has no organised Church,
it does not insist on the worship of any particular God
head, or the mode of this worship. One may worship God
or one may not, one still remains a Hindu. One is not
condemned and done to death as a kafer or a pagan! One
may go to a temple or net, one still remains a Hindu.
One may call the God by any name, Shiva, Vishnu, Christ,
Ram or Rahim, he would still be a Hindu. For, in the
ultimate sense, Hinduism is a-theistic because it does
not believe in a personal God to be the Ultimate Reality.
The Ultimate Reality is One and has no gender. It is
Brahman (referred to as It and not as He and She)-which
means 'the expanding Universe'. This belief comes very
close to the thinking of modern science.

Hinduism has always been the most tolerant of faiths.
Its other-worldly outlook and spiritual values have made
the Hindus relatively indifferent to material power,
ascetic, passive and accommodating. That is why over the
centuries the Hindus accepted in their midst, without
prejudice or hatred, foreign communities like Scythians,
Maggies, Tibeto-Burmans and even Arabs and Persians.
There has been no other religion as secular as Hinduism.

Therefore, Hinduism is secular and Hinduism and secular-
ism are one.

(The author, a former diplomat, served for many years
in China and is a reputed Sinologist.)

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