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India’s secularism and the Congress

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मनस्वी म्रियते कामं कार्पण्यं न तु गच्छति । अपि निर्वाणमायाति नानलो याति शीतताम् ॥

As there is nothing “Indian” about Nehruvian Secularism, the term “India’s” is used in the title of the article instead of “Indian.”

“Secularism” or “Dharma-Nirepekkha” is the most used word in Indian Politics. One has to prove his “secular” credentials in order to save himself from getting branded as a “Communal”. Since the eternal “Dharma” of this land was made “Nirepekkha” let us examine what the European scholars had to say about it. When European scholars in the 18th and 19th centuries (CE) began translating Indian literature into their own language, they encountered trouble with one word: “Dharma.” There was no single word in European languages that could adequately describe the essence of dharma. Depending on the context, “Dharma” has been rendered as religion, righteousness, law, tradition, moral code, and so on in English. T

hus European scholars confirmed the great saying of Bhishma Pitamaha in the Mahabharata: “Dharmasya gahna gati” (the dynamics of dharma is very deep). But the modern scholars in India did not face any such difficulty in the context of translation. They translated the word “Dharma” equivalent to religion in all Indian languages. First, the definition of “Dharma” was narrowed down and then the society was made to cripple by making it “Dharma- nirepekkha”.  The adoption of this word is a mere imitation of the Western thought-pattern. We had no need to import it. We called it a ‘Secular State’ to contrast it with Pakistan. There is some misunderstanding arising out of this. Religion was equated with Dharma, and then ‘Secular State’ was meant to be a State without Dharma. Some said, ours is a  (NiDharma – without Dharma), whereas others trying to find a better sounding word, called it  (Dharmanirapekha – indifferent to Dharma) State.

All of these statements, however, are essentially incorrect. Because a State cannot exist without Dharma or be indifferent to Dharma, just as a fire cannot exist without heat. When a fire loses its heat, it ceases to be a fire. A state that exists primarily to uphold the Dharma, to keep the peace, cannot be Ni dharma or Dharma Nirepekkha. If it is, (NiDharma) it will be a lawless state, and when there is lawlessness, where is the question of whether or not a state exists? To put it another way, the concepts of (Dharmanirapekshata – indifference to Dharma) and State are mutually exclusive. The only thing that a state can be is (Dharma Rajya – Dharma rule) and nothing else. Any other definition would contradict the state’s core raison d’être.

Congress And Secularism

It should be mentioned that secularism is a foreign notion in India. In the west, the secular state is the result of a long-running confrontation between church and state. There has never been a struggle like this in India before the formation of a secular state. In truth, the Church has never dominated the Indian state in the same way it has in the west. Our politicians employ the terms “secular,” “secularism,” and “secularist” without understanding their genuine meaning. Even the founding fathers of the constitution did not explain to the constituent assembly what they meant by the use of these words or how they applied to Indian social realities. It was written into the constitution’s preamble in 1976.

India’s politics, ironically, has become less secular since then. And the efforts of the party that has claimed to be the torchbearer of secularism throughout the years has only served to destroy secularism in the guise of defending it. The philosophy of a political party can be clearly articulated by the laws it passes while in power. The Muslim Women (Protection of Right to Divorce) Act of 1986 might be used as an example. This statute established the “communal” idea of religious law. The secularism can be well understood from the fact when Mr. Rajiv Gandhi who led the congress party at that time fought assembly election in Mizoram on religious line giving assurance that “their state would be treated as a Christian State”. To stay in power, the great defenders of secularism did not hesitate to form alliances with sectarian groups such as the Muslim League and the National Conference of Jammu and Kashmir. Even Pandit Nehru enabled his party to join hands with the Muslim League, which was in the forefront of the agitation for the country’s partition, under the presidency of his daughter Indira Gandhi. Joining forces with the Muslim League had a significant impact on India’s political discourse.

It aided the “Muslim League’s” re-establishment of credibility.  In it’s long term rule, it never implemented Article 44 of the constitution , and left the more anachronic  muslim personal law intact. However it did not hesitate to enact the “Hindu Code Bill” after independence, although opinion was divided and even former president  Dr. Rajendra Prasad opposed to it. Pandit Nehru showed great strength and courage in getting the hindu code bill passed but he accepted the policy of  laissez faire when the muslims and the other minorities were concerned.  

The respect it had for judiciary was so immense that even the former Union Minister in Rajiv Gandhi’s cabinet, Mr. Vasant Sathe and Mr. Arun Nehru have frankly admitted that  “Congress government’s decision to nullify the historic verdict in Shah Bano case as a part of the deal with Muslim Fundamentalist was a blunder”. It has been shouting from its palace that the sangh parivar has no respect for judiciary. Where was their own respect for the court when Sanjay Gandhi and his horde violently disturbed court proceedings. If their love for judiciary would have been true , the congress Karnataka government would have accepted the directives of the tribunal in the river water dispute with Tamil Nadu.

Any session of the parliament opens on Monday but the “Nehruvian Secularism” made the Prime minister and the Home Minister then to open it on Tuesday, Nov 24, 1992, because , as reported , some reputed astrologer from Andhra Pradesh predicted that November 23, 1992 was not an auspicious day. But they claim to protect the “Secularism” in India.

As the western philosophers looked into their ancient culture to question the church. India failed to look back to it’s ancient civilization. The Zoroastrians (also known as Parsees) were among the first foreigners to visit the Indian subcontinent, sailing from their country to India to avoid invasion. Between the eighth and tenth centuries, they arrived in India and settled in the western section of the country, where they were well accommodated. The Parsees became one with the rest of the Indian people after that, and they are still a part of the country today, contributing economically and culturally to the country’s success. The Vedas say: “May we look on one another with the eyes of a friend”.

In ancient India, the Vedas and its later interpretations in the form of smritis had the ultimate authority in both religious and social concerns. In this way, it may be inferred that the Vedic scriptures have aided in the development of the Indian people’s ethos, and so it is understandable that secularism is so deeply embedded in Indian society.

While adding secularism and reducing the scope of dharma did little to alleviate religious conflicts on the ground, it did offer politically motivated organisations with a delusory mist that could be thrown in front of minority to entice them into it. So, while our great Vedic wisdom decays, let us acquire secularism and communal peace from jewellery advertising that are “socially accurate” and “very secular.”

http://Roses in December by M.C Chagla
http://Krishna Kant, Secular Democracy, Page 16, 1989
http://Reform Of Muslim Personal Law: The Shah Bano Controversy And The Muslim Women (Protection Of Rights On Divorce) Act, 1986

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मनस्वी म्रियते कामं कार्पण्यं न तु गच्छति । अपि निर्वाणमायाति नानलो याति शीतताम् ॥
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