Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people —Karl Marx
The rise of intolerance, widening distrust between communities, incidents of lynching, and killings of Left-leaning writers, the latest being Gauri Lankesh, all are attributed to the alleged imposition of Hindutva, which has made people more religious. And India being a Hindu majority country, it is their religion that is in the dock.
Under the umbrella of protection by the right-wing government at the Centre, the Hindutva (wrongly mixed with Hinduism) is being imposed, charge the Left, which is manifesting in deeper religiosity, and consequently greater intolerance against any and everything not in sync with the Hindutva ethos. The spurt of violence by self-declared cow protectors, spate of killings of Leftist writers in Karnataka and the opposition’s charge that minorities are living in fear of the majority community, presumed to have become aggressively religious, has brought up to the fore the question was India not religious before the advent of Modi Government at the Centre? Was India secular then, and if so what was its concept, Nehruvian?
The BJP and the RSS under the ‘secular’ regime of Nehru and his successors have always been disparagingly described as fundamentalists, divisive forces and communalists. They have been the favourite whipping organisations of the Left, intellectuals and secularists in the mould of the Nehruvian secularism.
It came as no surprise that within a few hours of Lankesh’s murder Rahul Gandhi unequivocally declared that the BJP and RSS were responsible for the murder.
But it is interesting that while Rahul doesn’t tire of blaming the BJP governments for promoting religiosity, he has suddenly started catering to the religious sentiments of the majority community. He has been visiting temples and praying during campaigning in Gujarat. While in Ayodhya, he prayed at Hanuman Garhi, which is visited by hundreds of thousands devotees every year.
What is his motivation, better still his compulsion? He is trying to erase the image of his party as pro-Muslim, having realised that if the majority community gets completely alienated his party could soon be history. But a tilt away from the minority community will mean a paradigm change from the Nehruvian concept of secularism. However, Rahul is left with no choice, his agenda seems to be dictated by Modi and Yogi.
Modi and Yogi, designated by the Left and those who benefited from Nehruvian secularism as torch-bearers of Hindutva, are being berated for promoting Holy places of Hindus. Prime Minister Narendra Modi prayed at Kedarnath and laid foundation stone of a net-work of all-weather roads to Chardham, a popular name for the famous Himalayan shrines located in Uttarakhand including Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri.
Facilities for visiting pilgrims were announced along with a slew of plans to develop it so that it becomes more accessible and pilgrims can come throughout the year.
Yogi Adityanath celebrated Diwali in Ayodhya where 178,000 diyas were lit (Ayodhya’s population is 178,000) along the Saryu. Yogi promised that like the Rajya during Ram he would try to establish Ram Rajya in the State. He has planned to put Ayodhya on the world map for international tourism while connecting all the Dhams through train network.. Both Modi and Yogi promoted two Hindu pilgrimage centres but not just because they are Holy places for Hindus but aimed to make them a favourite destination for foreign tourists as well.
Can such promotion of religious centres as tourist destinations be berated as promoting religiosity? Only those who are still hankering for the Nehru’s concept of secularism will accuse the Centre of making Indians more religious. Kyoto in Japan, Jerusalem in Israel, Mecca in Saudi Arabia and the Vatican are continuously equipped with latest infrastructure to provide better facilities to tourists. All this is considered tourism promotion. And in the view of the fact that over 12 crore pilgrims and tourists are expected to attend Ardh Kumbh in Allahabad in 2019, it makes economic sense to develop facilities at all the Dhams for visiting tourists.
As to the main question is India, read the Hindu community in particular, becoming more religious under the patronage of the BJP government, the answer is a definite no. The fact is that Indians have always been religious, be they of any faith. Both Hindus and Muslims have been for ages observing their rituals and celebrating their festivals freely and fearlessly, whatever party might be in power at the Centre.
It is a fallacy fanned by the Liberals and the Left that the Hindutva imposed by the BJP has made Hindus more religious and as a result the majority community has developed streaks of bigotry and are now intolerant and tend to be violent with those who don’t follow their religious ethos.
In reality, neither the Hindus nor the Muslims have become more religious than they were, except may be the loony elements on the fringes in both the communities.
The ‘scare’ has been created and all communal ills and violence, including killing of Gauri Lankesh is imputed to the rightists by Liberals who have been having nightmares, albeit without any logical basis, that ‘we are creeping into the kind of religious intolerance that we see in Pakistan. With BJP at the helm in centre, they claim that secularism is under threat. TV channels debate this ad nauseum.
What is lost in the noise is an honest and open debate on secularism itself.
The concept of secularism, as we know says a columnist, was first introduced by Nehru. He had his own romantic idea of secularism that he wanted to overlay on India. Though he was not a historian by any stretch of imagination, he penned “Discovery of India” in which he characterised Harappa civilization as a secular society. It is not clear how he arrived at this conclusion as one does not see presence of multiple religion or strong influence of organised religion in governance during that time. But Nehru went on to imagine this secularism and extended it to the India of 1947.
If he had stuck to the French version of secularism, all religions are equal and their faithful free to practice their beliefs, Indian society would have been truly secular and the privileged class of Liberals and Luteyns would not have spawned.
But ironically, the secularism Nehru finally adopted, was heavily tilted towards the minority community, because for some inexplicable reason he came to regard the majority community dangerous. The outcome threatened the harmony between communities, the very objective of secularism.
Dr. Ambedkar who was more pragmatic than Nehru refused to buy into Nehru’s interpretation of secularism and refused to incorporate it into the constitution. In fact, his other contemporaries C. Rajagoplachari, Dr Rajendra Prasad and even Dr S Radhakrishnan were unhappy with what came to be known as Nehruvian Secularism.
Most funny is the fact that the Liberals who swear by Nehru never saw (or knowingly ignored) how he got around or simply distorted the principles of secularism he himself enunciated if he thought it politically expedient. He even let religion be exploited in elections.
A blatant instance of religion influencing politics with Nehru’s knowledge….was the bye-election in the Amroha constituency of parliament. The independent candidate, J.B.Kripalani had secured the support of the combined opposition parties. Noting that Muslims formed 37 per-cent of the voters, the Congress party put up Hafiz Mohammad Ibrahim against Kripalani, and brought in Muslim high priests from Deoband and Ajmer to, incite the religious sentiments of the Muslim voters which turned the cam-paign into a holy crusade.
But Nehru’s aura and emotional regard for him was so immense that no one doubted him or dared to tell him that he erred. The heavy bias towards minority community deprived the majority community of several benefits and privileges and downgraded them to be second class citizens in their own country. But they could do nothing, the Nehruvian secularism was until 2014 backed by state power.
With the right-wing government at the Centre, and Modi enunciating his kind of equality of all castes and communities, the core of secularism, in his declaration, Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikas, the majority community which as it is has had enough, is now aggressively demanding equality and is refusing to be lorded over and told what is right and what is wrong by the over-bearing Liberals and the Left. And it is now giving it back if its faith is disparaged.
Considering the inequalities the majority community it suffered merely because of its faith, one is reminded of Karl Marx who considered religion as an expression of material realities and economic injustice. Thus, problems in religion are ultimately problems in society.
The majority community in its present avatar, aggressively defiant of the Leftists, is intolerable to them. So the Liberals are countering by accusing the Hindutva ethos for creating an atmosphere of intolerance. Anupam Kher had put it well that “we have to tolerate these intolerants.”
India is not getting more religious, Indians of all faiths are not getting more religious, only the majority community is forcing Nehru’s biased secularism out and that has scared the Left Liberals, who have been self-appointed sentinels of Nehru’s tilted secularism.
They may scoff at the neutrality of Modi, but facts can’t be disputed.
Has there been any complaint of discrimination on the basis of religion, in the implementation of Jan Dhan Yojana, Mundhra Bank scheme, or in fitting power metres and in distribution of gas cylinders.
India, once the majority community has got what it is entitled to, is poised to be more secular, rather than religious to the discomfiture of the minorities.
It is noteworthy that the people who have been orchestrating intolerance and intimidation by Hindutva brigade and claim that Muslims are in constant fear are almost all of them are not Muslims. In the countryside where real India lives, its still Abdul chacha and Mahato mama culture that prevails.
Its time for self-appointed guardians of minority community to shut up.
By Vijay Dutt