Sunday 2 July 2023

In India, ‘secularism’ stands for the opposite of the concept (The Sunday Guardian)

 Just as in Turkey, Egypt, the US or the UK, there needs to be a Uniform Civil Code if secularism, equal treatment of those belonging to all faiths, is to be maintained.

Post-Independence India is where those who believe not just in the Two-Nation but in a Multi-Nation Theory consider themselves secular. For such individuals, there is almost nothing in common between citizens belonging to different faiths than their Indian passports. In every other way, each is looked upon as different from those of other faiths, a premise that is most prevalent where Hindus and Muslims are concerned. Even Barack Obama, hardly an IQ lightweight, believes that Muslims and Hindus in India belong to different ethnicities. He has imbibed the trope that has been fed into the minds of Pakistan’s youth by textbooks that claim their ancestry to be not subcontinental but a mix of Arab and Turk. Reading the history textbooks chosen in India by post-Independence governments for study by the young, millions of Indians believe that there was no effort at conversion of Hindus by the Mughal emperors, not even by Aurangzeb, whose intolerance finally initiated the collapse of the Mughal Empire. They further believe that it is a crime against “secularism” for Hindus to want the return of the three sacred sites of their faith, Kashi, Mathura and Ayodhya. Such “secularists” become apoplectic with anger at such a wish, forgetting that Kashi, Mathura and Ayodhya are as sacred to Hindus as Mecca, Medina and Al Aqsa are to Muslims or as the Vatican is for Catholics. In a country partitioned on the grounds of faith, those who initially ruled India since August 15,1947 ignored such a historical injustice, leaving the three sacred sites the way they were during Aurangzeb’s rule.
Another red rag to “secularists” as the term gets defined in India, concerns a Uniform Civil Code. A UCC is needed so as to make equal the treatment meted out in civil matters to citizens across all faiths. In the past and to a much lesser extent in the present, there are still a few Hindus who have more than one wife. Just as in Turkey, Egypt, the US or the UK, there needs to be a UCC if secularism—equal treatment of those belonging to all faiths—is to be maintained. Yet even some citizens in these countries believe that there should not be UCC in India even while it is law in theirs. Fortunately, those in the US in particular who have such an anti-secular view of secularism are on the wane, as witness their failure to either prevent or dim the significance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s just concluded state visit to the US. There are more than a few self-proclaimed Sanatanis who favour different regulations rather than a Uniform Civil Code. These pass off as champions of Hinduism, even while they are the polar opposite of what a believer in Sanatan Dharma favours, which is equal treatment to all faiths. It is those who believe that Hindus and Muslims have different DNA that anti-India, anti-Hindu groups across the world use to present a false case that India is a hotbed of Hindu fanaticism.

Unfortunately, there are some self-proclaimed champions of Hinduism whose unwisdom gets showcased as the norm, when in fact it is the exception. Some weeks ago, those across the world who seek to portray India as a paradise for hatemongers were ecstatic. A former minister in Karnataka belonging to the BJP was quoted as threatening that “every mosque will become a temple”. Whether this was what he said, or his words were deliberately garbled and quoted out of context is not clear, as the former minister seems afterwards to have entered into a state of maun vrat and taken a vow of silence. Did the former minister mean that every mosque is a house of prayer, and hence should be regarded by Hindus and those of every other faith with the respect befitting a house of prayer ? If so, he ought to have made that clear. If he were serious about seeking what was reported, that every mosque would be made into a temple, the fact that such an individual had been a minister in the BJP government in Karnataka provides a clue as to why the party gave a walkover to the Congress Party in this year’s Assembly elections. The fact is that only three sacred locations matter to the Hindu community, Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura. Should the three be restored to the glory they had before being demolished by the destroyer of the Mughal Empire, Aurangzeb, the pain caused within the pysche of Hindu community at such a historical injustice would be healed. The birthplaces of Lord Ram, Sri Krishna cannot be altered, and the Kashi Vishwanath complex has a tradition that was mentioned even during Vedic times. Many Muslims who oppose such a reversion to tradition of the three sites do so because they worry that such a return of the three would be the start of a movement by Hindus involving many other mosques as well. The former Karnataka minister has added to the list of opponents of the return of the three sacred sites to the pre-destruction (by Aurangzeb) period. He has done this by irresponsible utterances that damage the course of action favoured by the Prime Minister, which is “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas, Sabka Prayas”. The former minister does not seem to have heard of Prime Minister Modi’s wise words, and has as a consequence been among those whose words and deeds have played into the hands of foes of a strong and united country. He joins such company as those who sully the name of India and the Hindu faith by killing people whom they (usually incorrectly) think of transporting beef.

In the 20th century, Hindus and Muslims were sought to be divided through the Two-Nation theory. What is taking place in Pakistan today ought to be a cautionary tale to those who believe that any country can be stable, peaceful and prosperous were there to be discrimination between those of different faiths. We are all Indians, and it is our common history and our common DNA that should unite all citizens so that our march towards the status of the world’s third superpower gets accelerated rather than delayed.

In India, ‘secularism’ stands for the opposite of the concept

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