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How secularism got ingrained in Bengali psyche and how it is exploited to disturb communal harmony in India for political gain

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Very significantly under the English rule, the system of education in India including Bengal was thoroughly overhauled. The medium of instruction was Changed to English and such schools/colleges were mostly run by missionaries and western educated Indians. In these educational institutions, Hindu religion, rituals and culture were taught to be looked down upon and new western educated Indians learnt and saw only its distorted and darkened picturizations. This was all along aided and abetted by growing caste divisions in Hindu Bengali societies said to be resulting in oppression of lower castes by upper castes. It became such an issue that in early twentieth century Bengal, there was a movement against the so-called orthodox Hinduism and the Brahma dharma, as the liberal offshoot of Hindu dharma, was established. This happened mainly due to the resentment the modern and English-educated Bengalis felt against casteism and other so-called bad rituals and prejudices of Hindu religion and society. It was mostly confined to Kolkata, the home for this vocal section of the society.

Later in the post-partition days when the social and economic situation became turbulent due to large influx of refugees in West- Bengal, it was time for anti-establishment politics and left liberalism. The seeds of communism were sown and in two decades the communists came to power. People were told that the religion was the opium for masses. This was the time when Hinduism again appeared to be losing its sheen.

At the same time, the Congress and the Communists formed an informal alliance against all Bhartiya notions of culture and religiosity and secularism and socialism were incorporated in the Preamble to the Constitution. The left liberals, media, academia and intellectuals were given all sinecure positions, scholarships, foreign trips and plum postings and they started propagating and teaching the cause of secularism such that it was ingrained into the Bengali psyche. It was facilitated by the Congress and the leftists who then dominated Bengal politics, media and academics.

True secularism is justice for all and appeasement for none. But, for the opposition politicians it actually means appeasement of minorities because it is necessary for vote bank politics. To elucidate, let us analyse the controversy over Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). CAA seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan if they faced religious persecution there. The point to note is that these refugees were citizens of undivided India and they were forced to flee their own homes for saving their lives after being subjected to atrocities on the grounds of religion. They are different from the migrants who left Bangladesh / Pakistan/ Afghanistan for economic reasons. Every Indian should therefore welcome the grant of citizenship to all such people, taking into consideration historical reality and the humanitarian aspect. It must at the same time be clearly understood that applications for citizenship in India by Muslims have been and will continue to be entertained under the citizenship act. Moreover, CAA has nothing to do with the current citizens of India or the rights they are guaranteed under the Constitution.

This is what the politicians, intellectuals and academics should put forward before the masses especially the Muslims who have been incited by this false propaganda that it is discriminatory against the Muslims in India.

This false propaganda has created unrest among the Muslims in the country. This is very unfortunate in the context of prevailing slowdown in India, when the whole nation’s focus should be on how to revive the economy. It is, however, unlikely that national interests will override short time political gains in the calculations of our opposition political parties.

Instead, a Frankenstein has been created by opposition parties. They see this as their last and only opportunity to oust Modi. They have incited the Muslims into destructive and Shaheen Bagh like protests. They have created false fear in their minds that their citizenship will be taken away. The biased media deliberately helped in spreading this false notion among the secular public and the Muslims.

They don’t or, perhaps, do realize that this is creating a fissure between Hindus and Muslims and it will not easily heal. But either way they don’t care that this Frankenstein will destroy the peace-loving social fabric of the country.

The writer is a long-standing commentator on contemporary issues

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