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Laïcité Is Another Country

The ostensibly ­secular Congress has a long and ambiguous history with religion

Laïcité Is Another Country
outlookindia.com
2017-12-09T11:17:59+0530
  • 1885: Womesh Chunder Bonnerjee, a Brahmin, presides over the first session of the Congress.Brahmins have played a significant role in the party ever since, with many serving as president—a great proportion of all Hindus to hold the post.
  • 1936-37: B.R. Ambedkar’s speech, Annihilation of Caste, in which he argues for the need to “destroy the religious notions on which caste is founded,” prompts Mahatma Gandhi to write a rebuttal titled The Vindication of Caste in his journal Harijan.
  • 1937: The Muslim League prohibits its members from concurrently being members of the Congress
  • 1938-39: During the presidency of Subhas Chandra Bose, the Congress bans dual membership with the Hindu Mahasabha
  • 1942: Indira Nehru marries Feroze Gandhi, a Parsi, in a Hindu ceremony at the Nehrus’ ancestral home
  • 1947-51: Patel visits Junagadh, pledges to restore Somnath temple. K.M. Munshi, who supervises the project, rebuts Nehru’s objections.
  • 1948: A select committee under Law Minister B.R. Ambedkar examines the first draft of the Hindu Code Bill. As more work is done on this in the following years, it draws opposition from many orthodox Hindus, including future President Rajendra Prasad. PM Jawaharlal Nehru, whose “secular and scientific” temperament would also clash with that of the President when it came to issues such as the head of state visiting places of worship, would struggle to pass the final bill.
  • 1948: Mahatma Gandhi is assassinated by Nathuram Godse. The RSS is banned.
  • 1949: Ram idol appears inside the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, starting a chain of events that would spiral out of control and seriously impact Indian politics in later decades
  • 1950: India becomes a republic, with Rajendra Prasad elected as the country’s first President with the backing of Sardar Patel
  • 1951: Law Minister B.R. Ambedkar quits the Nehru cabinet when his draft of the Hindu Code Bill, enshrining gender equality in inheritance and marriage law, is rejected.
  • 1951: The restored Somnath temple is inaugurated by President Rajendra Prasad over the objections of PM Nehru.
  • 1952: The first Lok Sabha elections are held. The Indian National Congress wins an overwhelming victory, securing 364 seats out of a total of 489.
  • 1955-56: Parliament passes a revised version of the Hindu Code Bill, broken down into four separate bills.
  • 1960: Feroze Gandhi dies and is cremated, with his ashes interred at the Parsi cemetery in Allahabad.
  • 1964: Nehru dies. Funeral is carried out in accordance with Hindu rites at Shantivan. Some of his ashes are immersed in Ganga and Yamuna, while the rest are scattered all over India by aeroplane.
  • 1966: Indira Gandhi becomes prime minister. Her yoga teacher is the controversial Dhirendra Brahmachari, from Bihar. In a break from her father’s stringent approach, she does not hesitate to visit temples.
  • 1966: A violent anti-cow-slaughter agitation in Delhi, with sadhus trying to storm Parliament. PM Indira Gandhi forms a committee on cow slaughter, with RSS chief M.S. Golwalkar as a member. It never reports and is wound up by the Desai government 12 years later.
  • 1975: Indira Gandhi imposes the Emergency. The RSS is banned
  • 1984: PM Indira Gandhi orders the storming of the Golden Temple in Operation Blue Star. She is assassinated in October, precipitating massive anti-Sikh riots across North India.
  • 1986: PM Rajiv Gandhi opens the gates of the Babri Masjid to allow Hindus to worship there. The verdict in the Shah Bano case, in which the SC upheld a decision to order a Muslim man to pay alimony to his ex-wife, is overturned by Parliament passing the Muslim Women (Protection on Divorce) Act.
  • 1988: India becomes the first country to ban the import of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses after Syed Shahabuddin and other Muslim leaders from all parties petition PM Rajiv Gandhi.
  • 1991: India becomes the first country to ban the import of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses after Syed Shahabuddin and other Muslim leaders from all parties petition PM Rajiv Gandhi.
  • 1991: P.V. Narasimha Rao becomes PM. His infamous “spiritual adviser”, the tantrik Chandraswami, builds an ashram in the Qutub Institutional Area in Delhi.
  • 1992: Kar sevaks demolish the Babri Masjid, sparking communal violence around the country
  • 1998: Sonia Gandhi is elected Congress president, having formally joined the party the previous year.
  • 2001: Sonia Gandhi at Kumbh Mela, takes  dip in Sangam
  • 2004: The Congress-led UPA coalition comes to power at the Centre. Under attack for her foreign birth, Congress president Sonia Gandhi declines to serve as PM, recommending Manmohan Singh ­for the post.
  • 2006: PM Manmohan Singh is quoted as saying with reference to minorities that “these must have the first claim on resources,” causing an uproar.
  • 2013: PM Manmohan Singh is quoted as saying with reference to minorities that “these must have the first claim on resources,” causing an uproar.
  • 2013: Gandhi visits flood-hit Kedarnath shrine
  • 2017: Congress VP Rahul Gandhi visits Somnath temple. BJP supporters  stir controversy by casting doubt on whether he is Hindu.

Compiled by R. Prasad & Graphics by Saji C.S.

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