Senior Congress leader A.K. Antony’s thinking aloud on the party’s wrong positioning on secularism might suggest the party is coming out of the stupor the Modi blitzkrieg blew them off into, but it would perhaps be too optimistic to think it would lead to any transformational repositioning. Firstly, because the party still refuses to accept that much of Hindu communalism is a reaction to the Muslim communalism it has promoted in the name of secularism. The RSS was the mason of the Hindu communal edifice but the Congress provided the sand and cement for it. The Congress continues to blame its rout entirely on Hindu communalism, without accepting any share of the blame. Was the vote entirely of Modi’s making? It was basically a vote for better governance but with a communal twist. A large body of Hindus saw the desperate wooing of religious minorities by Congress as a pathetic trick by a corrupt and inefficient government to return to power by bypassing them and ‘buying’ minority votes.
Post-Partition, the Muslim leadership was in the hands of feudal classes and the mullahs with whom Congress struck alliances. Will the Congress come out of its antiquated ‘secular’ alliance? In the more than six decades since, economic changes have pulled down the hierarchical structure of Muslims and thrown their cultural values into a flux. The Congress has already been isolated by the political embodiments of these changes among Hindus: the backward classes and Dalit parties.
Communalism did not begin with Modi in Gujarat. Under the regimes of Congress CMs Madhavsinh Solanki and Hitendra Desai too riots took place claiming many Muslim lives. But the Congress propaganda made communalism look like only a problem of Modi’s Gujarat. The Congress zealously worked to curb Modi for its political ends but it did not work to curb communalism. It did nothing to drastically reform the administration for effective intelligence, dispute resolution, communication to counter rumours, police intervention and logistics and for greater autonomy of action and accountability of officers to nip communal tensions in the bud, even if the chief minister wanted otherwise. It was in power in several states; it could have given us a model.
If secularism—such a beautiful concept of co-relationship of people of diverse faiths—appears like an empty, dirty word in India today, the blame goes entirely to the Congress. So much so that Hindu assimilationists are able to contend that the election mandate vindicated their claim as champions of true secularism. Ironically, their invitation to religious minorities for inclusion does not mean the end of their exclusion but the end of their exclusiveness, of their special rights and privileges. Their message is: “Shed your particularities and different ways of life. Come and be like us Hindus.” Is the Congress in a position to save the religious minorities from the cultural ‘jeziya’ demanded by Hindu assimilationists?
(The author is a senior journalist.)
Arun Sinha has hit the nail on the head (Common Cause). The dictionary meaning of secularism is a “doctrine that morality and education should not be based on religion”. What is surprising is that Nehru, though well-known for his command over English, deliberately distorted the meaning of secularism. The Congress continued with this policy for years with the last decade seeing the worst of this 'minority appeasement'. No wonder it was thrown out.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
'' If secularism—such a beautiful concept of co-relationship of people of diverse faiths—appears like an empty, dirty word in India today, the blame goes entirely to the Congress.''
'' Firstly, because the party still refuses to accept that much of Hindu communalism is a reaction to the Muslim communalism it has promoted in the name of secularism. The RSS was the mason of the Hindu communal edifice but the Congress provided the sand and cement for it. The Congress continues to blame its rout entirely on Hindu communalism, without accepting any share of the blame. Was the vote entirely of Modi’s making? It was basically a vote for better governance but with a communal twist. A large body of Hindus saw the desperate wooing of religious minorities by Congress as a pathetic trick by a corrupt and inefficient government to return to power by bypassing them and ‘buying’ minority votes.''
D L Narayan sir
"The Hindus, especially those from the Hindi heartland, are guilty of practicing gender discrimination, honour killings and caste chauvinism. Come, be like the Indians who have embraced modernity and have availed of the opportunities that become available by educating oneself."
I appreciate this. Apart from this you have stressed the need for education and women's
freedom to muslim community.
Black sheeps are there in all community. Only better education is the prescription.
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