As the Assembly Elections are approaching in Bengal, the conversations around the nooks and corners of the State, in the clubs and playgrounds among the youth is about who will win. The main point of any political discussion is that the youth of Bengal doesn’t want religion and politics to be mixed and that is why the educated young guys who are living a cozy life hate the BJP because they assert that BJP is mixing politics and religion – I ask which party doesn’t mix politics and religion?
Even I don’t like the mixing of religion with politics, but this is only possible in an utopian world.
There is a first time for everything and this fusion of religion and politics happened for the first time when Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi fused together a purely Nationalist political movement of Non-Cooperation with a purely religious movement of Khilafat – It has always puzzled me as to why a purely religious movement was amalgamated with a Nationalist movement. This also marked the beginning of Muslim Appeasement Politics in India.
The Ghost of 1947
The legacy of Khilafat carried on and rolled up into a demand for separate electorate for Muslims which then went further and within one-and-a-half decades resulted in the partition of India on religious lines. The leaders of Khilafat Movement(except Maulana Abul Kalam Azad) later went on to advocate for Islamic separatism and those who survived till the time of partition, migrated to Pakistan.
The Partition of India happened along religious lines and we have to adjust with this reality and thus any kind of fusion of religious politics that we see today, must be attributed to this grim reality.
Politics of Religion
When our very own Chacha Nehru became the PM, he bulldozed various societal reforms, all of which concerned only one religion – The Hindus. Popularly known as the Hindu Code Bill, these bunch of laws were made to override Hindu Personal Laws. But Nehru refused to touch the Muslim Personal Law. Why? Politics of Religion!
When our Chacha made 5 year Plans for India’s growth and every time we were found to be clocking an average growth rate of 3–3.5%. So, to lay the blame of such dismal economic performance on the Hindu society, one economist in late 1970s coined the term “Hindu Rate of Growth”, attributing the poor growth rate to the Hindu belief of “Karma” and “Bhagya”(fortune). This is another instance of Politics of Religion!
Shah Bano Case
A old Muslim lady was fighting for her right of financial assistance from her former husband and the judiciary of India stamped it’s authority on her right. But, in comes the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and other Muslim organizations and the Rajiv Gandhi government passed a law to overturn the judgement of the Court! Why? Politics of Religion!
Uptil the 1990s, religion was mixed with politics in a discreet way, the secularism of India was shredded in bit by bit. Now was the time to take this fusion of politics and religion to the grand stage – by establishing the Ministry of Minority Affairs. This Ministry only considered Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis and Buddhists as minorities, Jain were added only in 2006. Then our successive “secular” governments rolled out numerous schemes – from scholarships to loans for businesses – and all were based on religion. It was the height of pseudo-secularism, an insult of basic mathematics when Hindus in Kashmir, Punjab, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Lakshwadeep, inspite of being a Minority, were considered as a Majority! Why? Politics of Religion!
Muslims have the first right to our resources
In came an era where the Samajwadis, RJD, Left, Congress, all ventured into Muslim Appeasement Politics! They
- Organized Iftar parties on taxpayer’s money in CM’s bunglows and Rashtrapati Bhavans.
- Visited Maulanas and Maulvis to ask for votes. Sonia Gandhi went to Jama Masjid to plead to the Imam that ‘secular vote should not split’
- Provide monthly salary to Imams and Muezzins in Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and other states
- Provide religion based reservations in Kerala Public Service Commission, including Muslims and Christians in SC/ST and OBC to let them avail benefits of reservations
For the case of UP, Muslim-Yadav-Dalit was considered a winning formula in Elections and exploited by all so-called secular parties.
Our former PM, Manmohan Singh, went on to declare that Muslims have the first right to our resources .
Religion of Politics
Now having shown how the successive political parties have gone in pursuit of the Muslim vote bank and how things became overt post the 1990s, the main question is why does this happen? The answer lies in the inherent, exclusionary nature of the Muslim society. What started out as a separate electorate for Muslims, resulted in the creation of Pakistan. This demand for a separate electorate display the grim, exclusionary nature of the Muslim society. In the post Independence era, there was this nature that prevented Nehru from touching the critical and explosive subject of Common Civil Code – a basic law for any secular country. For decades the political parties have wooed the Muslim vote bank because of their unity, pertaining to their common religious identity while the lack of a common religious identity for the Hindus rendered them politically untouchable!
In the modern era, the BJP took advantage of this disgruntled Hindu society and tried to carve out a Hindu vote bank which transcends caste, creed, region and language. As the Hindu society realized it’s inability to affect politics due to the fissures of caste, creed and language, it started to move together to the platform of a common Hindu identity – a change which affected 2014 and 2019 Election results.
It is a necessity for the Hindus to form a vote bank to counter the Muslim vote bank. But, alas, the young men of Bengal aren’t aware of the political challenges that we have to counter nor are they aware of the potential communal fallout of our failure to form a Hindu vote bank and rally behind the BJP until other alternatives are found.
Since the ill-informed young men love to live in their own La La Land, they aren’t aware of the dark political history, of the harrowing historical context of such fusion of politics and religion and of the necessity of the Hindu society for marshaling their strength behind Saffron. We are simply left with no choice.
Lack of such knowledge is detrimental for us and lack of our religious identity is potentially problematic, the youth of Bengal lacks in both.