Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back
Obsessive secularists

Obsessive secularists

Author: Rakesh Sinha
Publication: The Hindustan Times
Date: May 30, 2002
URL: http://www.hindustantimes.com/nonfram/300502/detpla01.asp

Atal Bihari Vajpayee's speech in Goa last month was unequivocally slandered by the 'secularists' as 'intemperate and provocative'. A senior Congress leader even went to the extent of demanding his arrest under POTA! Was there any transformation in the secularists' logic that the unity of the NDA is based solely on Vajpayee? Or that the NDA's disintegration hinged on undoing his image as a 'good man'? The PM's Goa speech was cooked in the secularist kitchen to produce a desired result.

Vajpayee had praised Islam as a peace-loving, tolerant religion while denouncing its jehadi face which has been causing trouble in various parts of the world. Then he vouched for India's age-old tradition of secularism. He said: "No one should challenge us about India's secularism and no one should teach us about tolerance. We were secular even in early days when Muslims and Christians were not here. We have allowed them to do their prayers and follow their religions."

What was so terrible about these utterings? 'Secular' vision, however, is limited. The cultural nationalists schematically present India as a nation before the arrival of the Europeans in 1498 (Vasco da Gama's arrival in Calicut) and consider the cultural contributions of the people before the advent of Islam as national.

From the secularist yardstick, the first victim would be none other than Jawaharlal Nehru who, addressing a majority Muslim audience at the Aligarh Muslim University in 1948, said: "I have said that I am proud of our inheritance and our ancestors who gave an intellectual and cultural pre-eminence to India. How do you feel about this past? Do you feel that you are also sharers in it and inheritors of it and, therefore, proud of something that belongs to you as much as to me or do you feel alien to it?"

Wasn't Nehru here guilty of applying the 'we-and-them' syndrome so anathemic to modern 'secularists'? Or perhaps hinting at a difference between Indian Muslims and Indian Hindus? One wonders whether Nehru would have asked these questions if he had addressed, say, a convocation of the Benares Hindu University.

Similarly, Vajpayee did not echo majoritarian hegemonic feelings. If there is any difference between the statements of the two prime ministers, it is because of the perception of the latter in the media which is unyieldingly hostile against the Sangh parivar.

During the 1969 riots in Ahmedabad, the Pakistani establishment attempted to intervene in India's internal affairs. Pakistan campaigned against India at the International Islamic Summit at Rabat in Morocco leading to India's exclusion. Pakistan demanded permission from the Indian government "to depute an officer of its high commission in New Delhi to investigate the Ahmedabad incident". (The Hindu, September 24, 1969).

All political parties stood firmly against Pakistan. Moreover, the Communist Party of Soviet Union's official publication, Pravda, observed that communal riots were engineered by "reactionary elements", probably indicting the Bharatiya Jan Sangh. This was resented by the then Congress president S. Nijalingappa (The Hindu, September 26, 1969). The message was very clear: our competitive polity does not mean a divided national outlook.

No secularist, however, denounced the Pakistani remark on Vajpayee's speech - calling it "bigoted and extremist" - and its characterisation of the VHP, Shiv Sena and the RSS as "extremist and terrorist Hindu organisations" (The Hindu, April 15, 2002).

Vajpayee has been consistent in his views. Addressing the nation on March 22, 1998, he quoted the Tamil savant, Thrirmoolar Thirumandiram: "Ondre Kulam, Oruvane Devan" (We are all of one clan and there is but one god). He added, "In the Indian perspective, this is the only valid meaning of secularism."

Minorityism has been internalised in Nehruvian 'secularism'. Under the pretext of minority identities, even raising issues like modernisation, reforms and constitutional applicability for minorities became an 'anti-secular' discourse. The 'walled city' mentality is defended as progressive and secular.

Which is why nobody in the Lok Sabha objected to Kamarul Islam who interrupted Vajpayee's speech on May 27, 1996, when the latter brought before the House the issue of the need for a Uniform Civil Code. Islam stated: "I request the prime minister not to speak much on this topic. Islamic law is divine law. Personal law can not be brought in this House."

The dogmatic mindset of the Indian elite has its rippling effect in the revival of the spirit of the Hindu Mahasabha as evident in a section of the Hindutva movement. Recently, Vajpayee showed his displeasure with those who prefer using a communal discourse when he cautioned the Hindutva movement not to digress from the spirit and message of Swami Vivekananda. Suddenly, his castigations against the jehadi element of Islam makes him a dangerous shape-shifter.

Much too often in the past, a section of secularists' portrayed Vajpayee as 'a good man in a bad party'. However, it has neither diluted Vajpayee's ideological conviction nor made him toe the secularist line.

Back                          Top

«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements