By RAJEEV SRINIVASAN
The Orwellian distortion of perfectly fine and normal words is a trademark of Marxists everywhere, and of Nehruvian Stalinists in India. Marxists specialized in expropriating words like “democratic” and “republic” for their fascist hellholes like East Germany, North Korea, and China. Similarly, Nehruvian Stalinists in India have taken a word that was only meaningful in medieval Europe, which was dominated by an aggressive, violent Christian church. The concept of secularism was born there: a separation of church and state, so that religious considerations could be excluded from civil affairs and education.
Alas, the so-called secularism rampant in India is a perversion of that reasonable idea: in India it in practice means that the state supports certain religions (Islam, Christianity, and Marxism) and oppresses others (Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism).
Secularism in India is similar to what the British writer Bat Ye’or calls dhimmitude. This is the state of mind in which non-Muslims accept at face value Islam’s claims about its superiority and its right to traumatize non-Muslims. This is the secret of the animal called secularism in India, too: it is dhimmitude, extended to Islam, Christianity, and Marxism.
This discriminatory “secularism” has become the state dogma in Congress-run India, and it is regaining momentum now that there is Dynasty Raj again. An attempt to actually define secularism as “equal respect to all religions” was defeated by the Congress in the Rajya Sabha after it had cleared the Lok Sabha in 1978.
This is deeply ironic because even the true definition of secularism, that is, separation of religion and state, is superfluous in India, because none of the Indic religions interferes in the affairs of the state. There is a profound and deep civilizational tolerance inherent in India, which has been one of the reasons for its great success as a culture.
Historian Paul Johnson comments in Forbes magazine: “Under the socialist regime of Jawaharlal Nehru and his family successors the state was intolerant, restrictive and grotesquely bureaucratic. That has largely changed (though much bureaucracy remains), and the natural tolerance of the Hindu mind-set has replaced quasi-Marxist rigidity.”
Sociologist Ashis Nandy writing in Outlook magazine finds it absurd that an inappropriate European import is being forced upon India. Says Nandy, “To go to an Indian village to teach tolerance through secularism is a form of obscene arrogance to which I do not want to be a party.”
There is a crying need to rethink the entire idea of secularism. The current enthusiasm shown by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to rewrite history textbooks is an example of the extreme, and extremely harmful, effects of dogmatic secularism. Our history and our self-image have been negated so that the dubious flat-earth creed of secularism can be proved.
Rajeev Srinivasan wrote this from Singapore.
No, it is necessary in a diverse society
By S. GOPIKRISHNA
Is Dubya the new role model for the Hindu right?
Irrespective of the problem, Dubya invariably blamed Saddam Hussein. In his far from fertile imagination, the hands of Saddam could be seen in everything from 9/11 to bad weather.
It all seems laughable till one notices similarities between Dubya’s singular obsession and the Hindu right wing’s inflexibility in portraying secularism as the bogeyman for all of India’s ills.
Is secularism truly the “foreign” agent that it is made out to be? Is it really the regressive force that the Hindu right proclaims it to be?
While the expression “secularism” may have slipped into India by evading the roadblocks of the self-righteous Hindu right, the concept has a hoary history in India. Secularism was a cornerstone in the policies of Mughal notables like Akbar and Dara Shukhoh. Historians concur on how a secular approach to government contributed to Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s becoming the “Lion of Punjab” in the early 1800s.
Make no mistake, secularism is as Indian as the Ganga or the Kaveri.
More importantly, will secularism truly poison the well of Indian intellectual tradition?
In the late 1700s, France pioneered a religion-neutral approach to education as a way of separating the state and the church. Despite the short life of the French Revolution that ushered in the concept, the acceptance of secularism as the cornerstone of educational policy by the French brought about a golden era, equaled only by the Moorish era in Spain. We shouldn’t be surprised that the Moorish intellectual tradition had drunk deep at the well of secularism.
India’s own experiences with secularism have been no different. The economic power of Mumbai is rooted in the confluence of various faiths and people whose strengths the city drew upon. Kerala’s educational system, the envy of any developing country, draws its strength from respecting and reflecting a multitude of faiths.
On the contrary, it was the subjugation of education by religion that relegated the former princely states of Hyderabad and Kashmir to a state so pathetic that half-a-century of concerted struggle has not reversed the damage.
People deluding themselves about the merits of expelling secularism from the realm of education have to look no further than Pakistan. Ever since secularism became persona non-grata from Pakistani schools and heavenly djinns were introduced to explain the mysteries of atoms and molecules, Pakistani schools have transformed into mass production centers of wild-eyed, jihad-bound fanatics.
Unless Indians want to produce a generation of the ignorant and the arrogant, they should welcome, indeed venerate the institution of secularism in public life and education.
Toronto-based S. Gopikrishna writes on topics pertinent to India and Indians.