In last 70 odd years since Independence, due to multiple reasons like Partition of India along the religious lines, rise of Islamist terror, increase in the followers of leftist and socialist ideologies, appeasement politics, revival of Hindu identity, and others; we have seen our political discourse being completely hijacked by Secularism and Communal-ism.
If we look at the TV debates, political speeches, news reported, and even talk to people around, secularism seems to be the prism from which everything is looked at. And what is secularism? Well, sorry to disappoint you but this word was added in the constitution during the emergency without any discussions so we don’t have the fortune of referring to any material or quotes by any of the leaders of the time.
We can only look at the circumstantial evidence of last 40 years since that time and take help from the great leaders of the past to understand what it has come to mean.
Let’s, for a moment, forget about the blatant appeasement politics played by different political parties to create their vote banks by giving-in to all the demands of a certain sections of minorities like the Maulvis, Preachers, Missionaries, Religious heads; who had huge influences among their communities. Politicians usually tend to go with whatever can give them votes, forgetting about the long term consequences of their actions.
But if we look at the intellectual sphere and civil society, which is mostly dominated by leftists and people with vested interests, the situation is no better. Everyone is trying to propagate their propaganda and paint every action or decision as communal or secular.
Whether it is a murder of an innocent over seat sharing, or the deaths of cattle smugglers by the hands of angry villagers and farmers, or something as black and white as illegal immigrants; everything is painted from the brush of secularism. Whether it is something as small as vandalism at a religious place, or as big as Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), secularism is the only discourse people seem to be discussing about.
The situation has become so bad that this discourse and mindset is now percolating to the very roots of our society. Many of the people from the Muslim community can be seen repeating the rhetoric of “BJP and Narendra Modi being communal” without being able to give any specific example for that in these last 5 years. They admit that they have received benefits through government schemes and appreciate the governance provided but don’t want to see the current government come back to power because they see them as anti-Muslims. The same thinking seem to prevail in other minority communities and even in majority one, though to a very lesser extent.
But why is that the case? Why good work seems to evaporate in front of an imaginative secularism? More importantly, what do people understand by secularism and communal-ism?
India, being the oldest surviving civilization and a land of believers, has been the home for the people of different faiths, many communities which have been executed world over have found refuge and acceptance in India alone, has been the land where many ideologies and religions originated without any violence or persecution. This says something about the cultural and moral values, Sanskar, of the people of this country.
However, as it turned out, our rulers had too much contempt for ancient Indian values, so they turned their face towards the west to borrow their concepts to build a new India, after centuries of foreign rule. Secularism was one of them. In the west, it meant the separation of the state and the religion, made necessary due to the practice of running the state as a religious fiefdom by the religious heads, irrespective of the ruler on the seat of power.
In India, however, it manifested itself as anti-Hindu and in some cases, anti-India. This is what happens when you borrow a foreign concept which has no resonance among the general masses. Everyone starts to perceive it in its own way but nobody understands it, let alone relate to it through his life experiences which formulates the way of our thinking.
We need to move to the Indian concept of Dharma, if we want to get out of this mess. Dharma is not about religion, it is about social conduct. Everyone has a different Dharma depending upon the role he or she has in the society. Dharma is different for a ruler than for a peasant, it is different for a Brahman (knowledgeable) than for a warrior.
Dharma is not religion specific. It is about right and wrong, and deciding what is right and wrong irrespective of one’s religion, caste, gender, or any other identities.
Giving citizenship to religiously persecuted minorities from Pakistan and Bangladesh, is not about secularism, but about following Dharma. Supporting the law on Triple Talaq is not about meddling in one’s religion but about being on the right side of Dharma. Similarly, asking to build a Ram Mandir at Ram Janambhoomi is not asserting Hindu dominance over Muslims but about correcting a huge Adharma from the past.
Multiple school of thoughts and philosophies originated and flourished in India but none resorted to violence or threat of violence to enhance their acceptance or assert their dominance. The reason being it was seen as Adharma to do that. It had nothing to do with religion, or rituals, or practices. Dharma is about social justice and is not a religion specific concept.
Until, we get rid of these blindly borrowed foreign concepts and revert back to our old Indian concepts that have proved to be the most effective in building a just society, we will continue to see the people being divided along the secular and communal lines.