Tuesday, June 2, 2020
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The lament of pseudo-secularists

K.N. Pandita

The word "secularism" is of western origin. It emerged from the concept that the church is separate from the state. The parameters of democracy set forth by western political philosophers established that religion was a personal matter and should not be allowed to shape the political ideology of the people. Those who believed in it and also practised it were called secularists.

However, the connotation changed for the Indian nationalist leadership and the Congress ideologues who led the fight against colonialism. Finally, it went into the framework of the Indian Constitution and indirectly urged the Indian nation to compromise with the changed import of the word secularism. Congress was in no position to ask for separation of the church from state. The reason is that Islam does not accept the separation of religion from the state. It considers religion as the cornerstone of an Islamic State. The Congress did not envisage India becoming an Islamic state after the colonial rule ended; it focused on a non-religious state. Most of the Indian Muslims were supporters and sympathizers of Congress. Hence, it was obvious that the Congress would care for the sentiments of the Muslim segment and not interfere in their viewpoint of relationship between the church and the state.

This was something of an unwritten understanding between the two. Those Indian Muslims who did not reconcile to the unwritten understanding left India and formed an Islamic State called Pakistan. As a result of these developments, Indian Muslims began to be called secularists meaning those who reconciled to a state that is not Islamic in a literal sense but does not interfere in religious affairs of its Muslim population. Unfortunately, Indian constitution fathers gave unnecessary importance to religion by creating the concept of religious minorities within the Indian nation. This opened the Pandora’s Box called “Indian secularism”

The Congress, thereafter, went on trumpeting that the Muslim minority was in threat of losing its identity, culture, political clout and what not in India and that Congress would champion its cause by considering them a special category of citizens. This was the beginning of giving a vicious meaning to “secularism” which may be called Indianization of Secularism. The driving force behind Congress’ thrust was carving a vote bank.

The parliamentary election of 2014 somehow exploded that myth and Congress feels it has lost its dependable constituency. The loss happened not because of any special and extraordinary promises made to the Muslim community by the winning party (BJP) but because of the realization dawning upon the Indian Muslims that their welfare is closely connected to the welfare of the Indian nation as a whole. That is what BJP’s slogan of “ghar wapsi” really meant. Yogi Adityanath’s election as MLA from a constituency in UP with sizable Muslim vote is a clear indication that realization has dawned upon the Muslim community of India that it must stand on its own legs and shun the unsolicited crutches offered to it.

Now that parliamentary election 2019 is around the corner, and Congress is on the horns of a dilemma of how it would reach the Muslim constituency, it is reviving the old tricks, especially in segments where there is a considerable concentration of Muslims. A more amusing antics employed by Congress is that of prompting former J&K Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah to go to Lucknow and sing the dirge for the imagined death of "secularism" of Congress' definition. What are Dr Farooq’s credentials to raise the lament and in Lucknow? He talks in hyperbole just because he cannot walk the talk. He cannot forget that his party (NC) was an ally of BJP at one time and his son held a ministerial post in Vajpayee regime. Was BJP then secular and is it now communal?
Farooq laments that there is name changing of places and it is an attack on “secularism”. Where was this secularism when more than 2000 villages in Kashmir Valley were renamed with Islamic orientation in recent years under NC rule? Where this secularism was when Hari Parbat became Koh-i-Maran, Shankaracharya became Koh-i-Suleyman, Anantnag became Islamabad and Ompora became Muhammadpora? Where was secularism when Sharada, the a thousand yea old phonetically scientific script for the Kashmiri language, was abandoned and Arabic script was adopted, which is phonetically unsuitable? Which secularism does he talk about when in his own state and during his coalition government with Congress entire Hindu community of four lakh people continues to live in exile and his theory of secularism does not permit him to talk or plan for their return and rehabilitation. Dr Abdullah goes to Lucknow to preach secularism to his audience there but he will not go to downtown Srinagar and tell the people there what calamity the borrowed gun has brought to them and their future generations.

Farooq has no credentials to castigate Modi government on the self-styled charge of destroying secularism. Let him name a single right of the Muslims or any other religious minority of India that has been violated by the Modi regime and let him name a single right of the exiled Hindus of Kashmir which his government (when he or his son was heading it) has been promoted. Farooq is a senior leader and he should have resisted falling in the trap of Congress machination. J&K Governor is reported to have said that all leaders from Kashmir come to him with Pakistan agenda but it is only Dr Farooq who does not speak of Pakistan. This is despite the fact that at one time Farooq announced that he would be walking behind the Hurriyatis. The fact is that no leader of Kashmir but Farooq Abdullah has the vision of what would have been the fate of the people of the state if it had become part of Pakistan. We are amused why a leader of this vision should accept to become the spokesman of Congress or the Mahaghatbandan and become a detractor of Indian Muslims at a time when they are very close to turning a new leaf of the social history of post-independent India. My pain is that why Dr Farooq despite the vision he has refuses to shed fallacious theories aimed at seeking support from political obscurantisms.

(The author is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies of Kashmir University,Feedback- [email protected])

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