Obama’s comments about Gandhiji being offended by the rise of religious intolerance in India has stoked another controversy which many political parties have latched on to take on the current Government. Of course, in reality Gandhiji would be more offended by many other things like the rise of alcoholism and the Pink Revolution in the country were two things that were equally close to him and these happen in volumes significantly higher than the religious intolerance incidents. Now let’s take a look at the concept of religious intolerance and see how this discourse has got skewed in the last two decades.
The concept of secularism is that all religions have equal opportunity and are treated the same in the eyes of the law. They are also given equal chances to shine and prosper in the society. Now in Indian context, the most basic aspect of this that every religion will be treated the same in the eyes of the law cannot be fulfilled. The reason is that we do not have uniform civil code in the country. The pseudo secularists have gone ahead and tried to paint anyone who asks for a uniform civil code as an anti-secular person who is infringing on the rights of other religions with their own laws. So now that the very basic concept of secularism has been violated by the pseudo-secular parties and distorted to have a completely different contour, let’s look at other aspects that have emerged.
The second most disturbing trend is the question of reservations based on religion which is something Mr. Owaisi is raising in his forums. The very concept of reservation is a violation to secularism as it provides more opportunities to one religion to prosper and hold important positions than others. The argument that goes around is they should be given a chance to voice their concerns and opinions. That is all fair, but in reality these should not really be needed in a secular country because the laws are not based on religion, right? Economic reservations can be understood to some extent, but beyond that all other reservations give one particular group or community a better chance to survive than other and will lead to breaking of the society more than bonding. Unfortunately, the political gains of breaking the society up is much more for the politicians than to take everyone together and thus this has been happening openly for the past three decades and the media has been happy to play along!!
Another very interesting comment from our ex-Prime Minister and one that really seemed to alienate the pseudo-secularists was the statement that “Minorities have the first right over India’s resources!!”. On the outset, this is blatantly un-secular as the basis of secularism is that everyone has equal right. So who is this secularist who is depriving 80% of the country from access to the resources in its own country. Do the majority need to become a minority in some other country to have access to these resources? It was at best a irresponsible comment, at worse it betrayed the pseudo-secularist view that we had embraced over the past few decades.
Secularism is at best an equilibrium usually established by the ethos of those in majority. If they respect the feelings of the ones in minority the society becomes secular. All the professed secular countries in the West usually have in their preamble, the Christian state of <Country Name> which clearly indicates who the majority is though they profess to a secular credential. On the other hand, all the Islamic countries, simply impose their laws and views on the minorities even charging an minority tax on the minorities for letting them live in their country.
Once this equilibrium is disturbed as it has been in past 30 years in India, the repercussions can really be dangerous and in some cases even disastrous. So both political parties and media need to be very sensitive when they carry a narrative in this regard. I think the underlying strength of India’s secularism is one of the key reasons that despite nearly 3 decades of pseudo secularism, we are still pre-dominantly secular and have still not descended to the depths of what is happening in our neighbor Pakistan or in West Asia where the minorities within the same religion itself are getting massacred and butchered in alarming numbers. Because once you start discriminating in terms of religion, then the next argument will be which sect of that religion and so on so forth. There is no end on this path of evolution, so better to stop at the very start!!
I think time has come for the youth of the country to have a national debate and discussion at all levels of the society to really define Secularism and to embody the real meaning of secularism into their daily ethos. That would serve the country more than these occasional outcries in the backdrop of pseudo secularism or whether the word retains a place in the preamble!!