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Review: Sudheendra Kulkarni's essay in "Turning Point"
'Turning Point' is a book of essays by a range of authors which attempts to study Modi's India. The Hindustan Times of 26th March published an excerpt of one such essay, by Sudheendra Kulkarni, former aide to Prime Minister AB Vajpayee, which examines, quote, "Prime Minister Modi's discomfiture with Secularism!" End quote.

I attempt to review this article as I do not agree with it. In fact, I take exception to it. Sudheendra Kulkarni has based his essay/article on an interview that Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave to Shahid Siddiqui, editor of 'Nai Duniya', prior to the historic election of 2014. In answer to a pointed question, whether the Modi Government would retain secularism as a part of India's Constitution, or remove it, Shri Modi is said to have replied that secularism was an imported word.

The 'Thesaurus of English', published by Oxford University Press describes the term 'secular' as being 'non-religious, worldly, temporal', amongst other meanings, the 'antonyms' of which are 'holy, religious, sacred'.

However, in the Indian context, the word secularism substitutes for the term "Dharmnirpekshta" , or equality of all religions and faiths in the eyes of the state.

I quote from Shashi Tharoor's book, "The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cell Phone", chapter on 'Ideas of Indianness'.... 'but secularism as an Indian political idea had, in any case little to do with western ideas privileging the temporal over the spiritual' and, 'Indian Secularism meant recognizing that India had a profusion of religions, none of which should be privileged by the State'.

It is obvious that the term 'Secularism,' an English word, what it means in English language vocabulary and what it means in the Indian context are two different things. To put it simply, we, Indians hijacked this word and put our very own meaning into it. "Dharmnirpeksh" (No favoritism or partiality on the basis of religion) and Secularism, as known to the English language, are two very different things. There is no doubt that the words secular/secularism are not native to the Indian context and hence, are foreign and thus, imported !!!

The second issue is as to how secular are we, given that secularism (in the Indian context) means that the Indian State comprises many communities of varied religious affiliations, beliefs and faiths, all being equal in the eyes of the state, but none being privileged more than the others. However, does this definition hold good in practice; does it actually work, is the key question !

The idea of "Nationhood" presumes that all citizens would be equal in law and status, regardless of their creed, religion, caste, colour, conviction, culture, costume and custom and that in keeping with the true meaning of the term Secularism, no religion would be privileged by the State. The Government of India should have introduced a "common civil code" to bring all citizens at par with each other, in law, but it did not do so. Muslims were permitted to retain their "Personal Law", separate from the Country's Civil Code, thereby; again, dividing the citizenry of India into two, as far as the observance of personal law is concerned.

Article 44 of the Constitution of India comprises the chapter titled, 'Directive Principles of State Policy' which clearly states that, 'the State shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India'. This directive is yet to be enacted in law, and observed in practice. To make matters worse,the Government of India, for decades after partition, in its wisdom chose to, instead, guarantee security of the Muslims …..IN A SECULAR STATE ? !!!!!! The obvious presumption is that the Muslims had reason to fear the Hindus for their safety, (the other communities were too small in number to be of any consequence).

The Congress government, thereby pitted the Hindus against the Muslims, from the very inception of the new born India! Obviously, suspicions and ill-feeling were bound to arise in both the communities against each other. If this was not enough, Haj pilgrims to Mecca have been financed by the government of India since 1954. The Haj act in the year 1959 was specially enacted to facilitate this programme, which was supplemented by the Haj Committee Act of 1959, the duty of which was to assist Haj pilgrims on their way to Mecca.

Needless to say that no Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain and Christian gets any form of subsidy to visit their respective holy shrines. Such favoritism to one religious community is against all principles of "Dharmnirpekshta". Smt. Indira Gandhi, soon after the formation of Bangladesh, encouraged Bangladeshi Muslim migrants to settle in Assam. This was done through Fakharuddin Ali Ahmed (later, President of India) and Moinul Haque Chaudhary, both Assamese Muslims and Ministers in Government.

Hundreds of thousands of such immigrants settled on the plains of Assam, thereby distorting the demographics completely in their favour, while reducing the Assamese to 27% of the population in their Home State. This was pure vote bank politics and done with the blessings of the Prime Minister, otherwise such a large influx would have been impossible.

Shri Rajeev Gandhi, as Prime Minister was not to be outdone. The famous Shahbano case and the resultant amendment in the Indian Penal Code and its after effects, are well known.

My question to Shri Kulkarni is as to who precisely, has disregarded, rather abused the Constitutional guarantee of equality of all citizens, in law, and otherwise? Is it the RSS or the Congress government which has ruled India for over 60 years? Incidentally, I am not a member of the RSS, but I am also not a pseudo secularist!

Shri Kulkarni writes of the Sangh Parivar's extreme discomfort with the secular core of the constitutionally endorsed idea of India, in open defiance of the spirit and the text of the Indian Constitution. How much truth there is in this statement needs examination.

It is a fact that Hindus share a past, both historical and cultural with all other religious communities including the Parsis, Jews, Muslims and Christians who have been settled in India for centuries, particularly, as the forefathers of most of the Muslim and Christian communities were, prior to their conversion, Hindus.

Why should Shri Kulkarni presume that non-Hindus would be treated as second class citizens in a nation that is comprised of all religious communities, by whatever name this nation may be called; Hindu Rashtra, or Bharatvarsh, or Hindustan, or India, particularly, as it is the Hindus who not only recognize the value of the plurality of cultures, but also that of unity in diversity, as Vedanta and the philosophy of all our scriptures permit us this freedom of, choice. All religions are admirable and worthy of respect and salutations.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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