Is Indian secularism fading?

The way things are happening, fears are getting deeper!

In 1947 millions of Muslims decided to stay back in India against the two-nation theory advocated by some towering leaders of the community. It was a collective decision of millions based on an assessment of peace and prosperity as envisaged by certain section of the leadership and the people at large. The decision was taken keeping in view the constitution and overall mindset of collective leadership of Republic of India. It was a decision between the hypnotic call of faith and age-old bond of brotherhood. So, many preferred longstanding association with their roots.  Learned people like Abul Kalam Azad were the most prominent voices and advocates of Indian democracy and secularism. However, my vicarious imagination puts that Maulana Azad and people of that ilk on watching the contours of present state of Indian secularism will be turning in their graves with a sense of remorse!

In 1980 as a young student pursuing my graduation at Muzaffarnagar I have seen shameful Moradabad riots, but most of these riots were spontaneous with failure of the administration working as catalyst and providing best opportunity to criminals and antisocial elements from all sides to settle their personal scores. Later on the Hashimpura massacre in Meerut division that occurred in 1987 was a blot, but that too was an administrative fault where people of the country were not party to it. However, after a long silence on communal front a new trend of communal trouble overpowered the secular structure of India were people of one community ruthlessly killed and plundered their co-Indians whose elders choose India as their homeland against all odds. Mumbai, Gujarat and several other incidents remind the gory scene of sectarian killings and pillage. In a heterogeneous country like India with multi-lingual, multi-ethnic social setup such incidents can be set aside as bad dreams. But the religious intolerance and the subsequent incidents of selective killing, arson and mob lynching can neither be termed as flawed administration nor attributed to social heterogeneity of the country. This is either outright hatred against a particular community and religious group or an attempt to change the shape of the constitution gradually by coercion and active support of fringe elements within the establishment.

People and the political masters of this country should remember that personalities matter least before the nation and national interest. Myopic religious radicalism; ethnic and linguistic extremism propounded by some zealots should get no attention, because Nation is always ‘first’. India as a great nation with its glorious past, particularly its religious tolerance, and the principle of ‘unity in diversity’ should not compromise with fundamentals of its constitution. All Indians are not to be blamed for present scenario of defacing secular façade of the nation. But, yes many forces with considerable amount of authority are overtly or covertly involved in ruining the Indian ethos of “Jiyo Aur Jine Do” on which the foundation of constitution of this country was made to rest.

In a small and comparatively homogeneous country an ethnic or religious minority will easily opt-out because of unavoidable and hostile atmosphere, but millions cannot be made to bow-out. A nation cannot isolate one fourth of its population that too settled in almost all parts and regions of the country. An annoyed, pestered and coerced population of millions is the worst breeding ground of dissent. Occasional appeasement will not give them solace, but surely, absolute protection and safeguard of their rights as enshrined in the constitution of the country will install sense of possession within them.
 One more aspect, very important than the religious bonding of communes in India (rather the whole sub-continent) is ethnic and linguistic attachment. A Bhojpuri Muslim and Hindu are more connected with their Bhojpuri roots and to each other rather than their religious fellows in other regions and same holds good for other regions as well. Rewriting the age old philosophies of togetherness in Indian communities and regions on the basis of religion will never auger well for Indian as a nation. Persisting on any such ideology will obviously harm the basket full of apples collected by hard-working nationalist Sardar Patel and his comrades in 1947. Indian leadership from all shades—left, right and center should introspect and deliberate upon this issue more seriously and ensure complete protections to every resident of India irrespective of his cast, colour and religious faith: thus reinvigorating the confidence of its people in absolute secularism.