Monday, March 27th, 2023 22:18:00

Hindu Ethos be the Axis to Preserve Secularism

By Prof. Suresh Kumar Agrawal
Updated: January 31, 2023 10:39 am

In the strictest sense of the term, Secularism means separation in entirety of Church and State. Accordingly, in a Secular nation, the government must stay away from anything religious.  The most noticeable fact, however, is that the word ‘Secular’ was not the part of the Preamble to the Indian Constitution when it was originally adopted. The question, therefore, is-“Why was such an important word left out? Obviously, the omission was deliberate. Surprisingly, the two persons who guided the drafting 0f  the Preamble of  the Constitution were BR Ambedhar and Jawahar lal Nehru, whose secular credentials were unimpeachable.  To be secular in the truest sense, the Indian State would have to stay out of the religious ambit completely.  And this did  not seem to be possible.

Several question crop up- How could Indian Courts recognize Sharia-based Muslim Personal Law while claiming to be secular? How could Central and State governments take over the management of Hindu Temples if they were secular?  How could a secular government provide financial assistance to educational institutions run by religious organizations? How could a secular government codify and modify Hindu Personal law? How could the Central and State government extend the existing caste-based reservations to minority religions if it were secular?

The actions mentioned above and many more of the like would clearly fall outside the remit of a secular nation. The Makers of Indian Constitution were aware that the term ‘Secular’ be not used if it cannot be executed with honesty. But then, the Emergency was declared on June 25, 1975, and most of  Indira Gandhi’s political opponents were thrown in prison. It was during the Emergency that a number of Constitutional  Amendments were passed – many of these were extremely controversial not only because they  were passed as ordinances but also because of the sweeping powers that they invested in the Prime Minister. Nestled among other sweeping charges was the insertion of the word ‘secular’ – and also ‘socialist’ into the Preamble of the Constitution. These changes have raised a plethora of questions – Did the insertion of ‘secular’ imply that India had not been secular before 1976? Or had the omission of the word turned India into a  Hindu Rashtra?

By keeping the word ‘secular’ out of the Preamble, the framers of the Constitution were making it incumbent on Hindus to remember their commitment to the dictum of Vaisudhavia Kutumbakam – that the World is one family. The exclusion of the word ‘Secular’ also implied that the Indian ethos was essentially Hindu in character but that ethos carried an ingrained respect for and tolerance of all faiths. Thus, secularism in the Indian context would mean maintaining equidistance from religion, and not staying away from religion. Unfortunately, the test of secularism in India has been whether India’s minorities perceived an action as secular or not! For instance, the government has given itself little day-to-day control over the Central Waqf Council or over any other minority institution such as Christian institutions but exercised incredible control over Hindu temples and places of worship. During the regime of Nehru were passed the four Hindu Code Bills and thus the objective of a Uniform Civil Code was deliberately abandoned. Even in Politics, seeking Muslim Votes by appealing to the Imam of Jama Masjid was considered smart but appealing to Hindu seers was perceived communal. Speaking up for minority rights was noble but speaking up for Kashmiri Pandits was not.

This ‘Selectivity’ (not secularism) could achieve nothing. It was through this Selectivity that a majoritarian blacklash was created and became a permanent burden for every Hindu to continuously prove their secular credentials, to constantly apologise for actions that could be perceived as non-secular in this country. Further,  can the collective victimhood of years  on Hindu civilisation by Muslims and Christians be ever forgotten? Three of the holiest sites of Hindus – Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura – were all destroyed and rebuilt as Mosques.  In Delhi near Qutb Minar, the Quwwat-Ul-Islam Mosque proudly announces that the Mosque was built using remnants recovered from the demolition of 27 Hindu and Jain temples. Death was often preferable to slavery, particularly sex slavery. Ahmed Shah Abdali’s army captured Maratha Women for Afgan harem; these Women were impregnated. As a consequence, they were left with no choice but to convert themselves to Islam. When Muslim armies surrounded Rajput forts, Hindu women within  would commit Jauhar (an act of throwing oneself into open pyres) to save themselves while their husbands were slain on the battlefield.

Jizya imposed on Hindus was an institutionalised humiliation and punishment. All these cruelties were perpetrated on a population that prided itself on providing  refuge to others. History is replete with such examples – Zoroastrian refugees fleeing Muslim persecution in Iran were provided a home in Gujarat by a Hindu King, Jadi Rana.  St. Thomas’ Christians were provided a home in Kerala. The Jewish refugees settled over two millennia ago on the Malabar Coast, and a second wave arrived pursuant to their expulsion from Iberia in 1492. When Buddhist monks were being butchered by the China Army, India welcomed the Dalai Lama along with thousands of Buddhists. The Country has accepted millions of refugees from Bangladesh during the 1971 genocide. As a matter of act, the spirit of refuge is intrinsic to India’s Dharmic values. It is through perseveration of this spirit, that secularism can be preserved in this country.


By Prof. Suresh Kumar Agrawal
(The writer is Professor & Head, Department of English, Maharaja Ganga Singh University, Bikaner.)

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