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Perverting secularism

July 05, 2004 13:06 IST

The Orwellian distortion of perfectly fine and normal words is a trademark of Marxists everywhere, and of Nehruvian Stalinists in India. For instance, Marxists specialised in taking wonderful words like 'democratic' and 'republic' and applying them to their fascist hellholes like East Germany and North Korea and China. They thereby violated those words. Nomenclature terrorism, I suppose this could be termed.

Similarly, Nehruvian Stalinists in India have taken a word that is only meaningful in the nightmarish world of medieval Europe and have applied it in an inappropriate context. Medieval Europe was dominated by an aggressive, violent Christian church, which indulged in pogroms and continuous warfare. It became imperative to get its hands off the levers of power. Thus the concept of secularism was born: a separation of Church and State, so that religious considerations could be excluded from civil affairs and public education.

However, the so-called 'secularism' rampant in India is a perversion of that reasonable idea: in India it is contrived to mean the active involvement of the State in supporting certain religions (Islam, Christianity and Marxism) and oppressing others (Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism). Religion has become the primary consideration in all sorts of civil affairs: in anything from the reporting of news to running educational institutions.

'Secularism' in the Indian context is very similar to what Bat Ye'or calls, compellingly, dhimmitude. This is the state of mind in which non-Muslims, although not under Muslim rule, accept at face value Islam's claims about its superiority and its right to traumatise non-Muslims. In other words, they are bullied into accepting second-class citizenship or dhimmi status, just as though Muslims were in fact in power.

Dhimmitude, Bat Ye'or claims, is behind the apparent inability of many European States to manage their aggressive Muslim groups.

This is the secret of the animal called 'secularism' in India, too: it is dhimmitude, only it is with respect not only to Islam, but it has been extended to its Semitic cousins Christianity and Marxism as well.

This discriminatory 'secularism' has become the State dogma in Congress-run India, and it is regaining momentum now that old war-horses of the Nehru-family-retainer class are in high positions again. It is astounding that one man, Nehru, could single-handedly wreak so much havoc.

I was astonished to read in Arvind Lavakare's rediff.com column 'BJP needs killer instinct' that an attempt to actually define secularism as 'equal respect to all religions' was defeated by the Congress in the Rajya Sabha after it had cleared the Lok Sabha in 1978. The Congress clearly does not define 'secularism' as equal respect to all religions, but only to selected ones. All religions are equal, but some are more equal than others. Orwell would approve.

This is deeply ironic because even the true definition of secularism, that is, separation of Religion and State, is superfluous in India, because none of the Indic religions interferes in the affairs of the State. There is a profound and deep civilisational tolerance inherent in India, which has been one of the reasons for its great success as a culture.

Historian Paul Johnson comments ('Want to Prosper? Then be Tolerant,' Forbes, June 21): 'Under the socialist regime of Jawaharlal Nehru and his family successors the state was intolerant, restrictive and grotesquely bureaucratic. That has largely changed (though much bureaucracy remains), and the natural tolerance of the Hindu mind-set has replaced quasi-Marxist rigidity.'

Sociologist Ashis Nandy ('A Billion Gandhis,' Outlook, June 21) too finds it absurd that an inappropriate European import is being forced on India. Says Nandy, 'To go to an Indian village to teach tolerance through secularism is a form of obscene arrogance to which I do not want to be a party,' acknowledging that tolerance is an inherent part of the Indian character, something the professional 'secularists' find hard to accept.

You will almost never find any Indian journalist lauding the inherent tolerance of the civilisation: for they are true believers. They have accepted and internalised the doctrine of this fake 'secularism'. This is professional dereliction of duty, as it is their job to challenge the status quo.

Speaking in Bangalore recently (Deccan Herald, May 27), U R Rao, former chairman of Prasar Bharati, said: 'The time has come for the government to institute a watch-dog committee consisting of a few eminent journalists and citizens who should be empowered to warn, heavily fine and if necessary even revoke license to offending journalists.'

'If this is not institutionalised, the Fourth Estate would lose all credibility and possibly freedom also. Today, reporting news is propagation of dangerous falsehoodÂ… The social effects of reckless commercialisation of mass media has become a major concern in policy formulation.'

There is a crying need to rethink the entire idea of 'secularism.' The current enthusiasm shown by the UPA government to rewrite history textbooks is an example of the extreme, and extremely harmful, effects of dogmatic 'secularism.' Fifty years of education in India have been warped because textbooks, and policies, have been written by proponents of this falsification. It shows: this is why India is never able to stand up and demand its rights in international fora. For our history, and our self-image, have been negated so that the dubious flat-earth creed of 'secularism' can be 'proved.'

This is why I think the word 'secularism' has been so overloaded with inherent contradictions that it has become entirely meaningless. The smrtis, sutras and sutradharas of 'secularism' need to be exposed for the frauds they are.

Comments welcome at rajeev.srinivasan@gmail.com

 

Rajeev Srinivasan