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Bunch of 'secular' thoughts

Bunch of 'secular' thoughts

Author: Balbir K. Punj
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: December 9, 2002
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/archive_full_story.php?content_id=14420

Both critics (Mani Shankar Aiyar in The Indian Express, November 26) of and commentators on Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani's recent speech in Parliament on Gujarat are missing the point when they assume that there's something new in his statement. Advani is credited with having said that India will never be a ''Hindu Rashtra'' when the text of his speech shows that he didn't use those words anywhere.

And as for his statement on the making of the Constitution, especially in the context of Partition, Advani said: ''Nobody said declare Hindustan a Hindu state. India accepted a constitution which does not have the secular word in it but the secular concept is there-respect for all religions, equal rights, status for Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Parsis.''

He then stressed that if ''this concept which can be called secular was accepted, unanimously at that, because Hindustan's ethos, Hindustan's culture never accepted the concept of a religious state: Our concept of Hindutva, our concept of Hinduism is the concept of Swami Vivekanandji.'' Advani also quoted the former Supreme Court Chief Justice J S Verma in a judgement: ''The words Hinduism or Hindutva are not confined only to the strict Hindu religious practices unrelated to the culture and ethos of the people of India depicting the way of life of the Indian people... We in the Government accept that meaning of Hindutva.''

Critics are fond of quoting Guru Golwalkar to pillory the RSS. They usually pick up a quotation from We Or Our Nationhood Defined as allegedly authored by Guruji in 1939 and project it as the authentic dissertation on RSS ideology. In fact, the book wasn't Golwalkar's original work but an English rendering of a Marathi book Rashtra Mimansa (Discourse on Nation) by G D Savarkar. Golwalkar later distanced himself from this radical work, a product of his formative days in the RSS and out of print since 1947.

Let me quote what exactly Golwalkar had to say on this issue. In Bunch of Thoughts, he went over the terms 'Hindu Rashtra' and 'secularism'. It may surprise my friend Mani Shankar Aiyar that Golwalkar supported a secular Indian state. He said: ''Indeed, our concept of 'state' has always been 'secular' and emphasising the secular nature of the state by the adjective 'secular' is redundant in our country.'' Secularism is a ''positive approach,'' he says, in that ''the king became the symbol of support and protection to all faiths and creeds and never negation of religion.'' The ''king'' in our case represents the ''state'' or its sovereign function. Golwalkar emphasises that ''the wide and all comprehensive view of life ingrained in the Hindu ruler made him to respect and even encourage every single religious thought... to grow according to its own genius''.

That is what Advani also said in Parliament: ''It is because of such language that you must again understand that Hindustan or Hindustan's people will never condone communal violence whether it is done by Hindus or Muslims. Mass communal violence will never be condoned.'' He repeated that he was ashamed of what happened in Gujarat, something he has said before.

This confusion arises because some people cannot distinguish between the 'state' and the 'nation'. The 'state' is a part of the nation-the 'state' may change, rulers may be replaced by others, the state may be taken over by an army and so on but the 'nation' lives on. The 'nation' has a much larger meaning, in that it encompasses the entire ethos of the people. Because of our history and culture, we are a Hindu nation with the majority following the Hindu way of life. That way of life has influenced and will continue to influence several other things -our literature, fine arts, music, sculpture, heritage, our values. Hindutva is a thread that runs though all these, uniting them and the people of different ways.

Golwalkar said: ''The wide and all-comprehensive view of life ingrained in the Hindu ruler made him to respect and even encourage every single religion and thought.'' Advani also says that people of all religions should feel safe under BJP rule. And because in Gujarat during the three months of rioting they did not feel so, he admitted a failure on the part of his government.

But it is the 'secularists' who are a problem. Aiyar finds an alibi for Pakistan pointing out that it is ''theocratic only in the sense that it calls itself 'Islamic', not in the sense that it is ruled by clerics.'' He even goes on to recall that until recently, extremist parties didn' t get more than 5 % of the votes. According to which political theory does a theocratic state need to be ruled by clerics? The character of the theocratic state is not that it is ruled by clerics, but that the state puts one religion above all others and considers its duty to propagate that religion in all state functions, even at the cost of other faiths.

Our self-styled secularists also fail to find out whether anyone other than Hindus is prepared to vouch by a secular state if the country's demographic character changed. Islam historically divides the world into two: dual Islam and dar-ul- harab. Aiyar must ask his ''secular'' friends what that difference means and whether conquering the non-Islamic world forms part of the Islamic mindset or not. Also whether it is not a fact that most Islamic nations are theocracies.

Aiyar must find out whether the concept of the Caliphate combining the political crown and theocratic ascendancy is not peculiarly Islamic, and whether much of the current global alliance against Islamic terrorism is because the mindset is widespread in the Islamic belt that it is the ''duty of every Muslim'' to work for destroying dar-ul-harab, the 'enemy' country. That is the great obstacle to true secularism.

(The writer is a Rajya Sabha MP and convenor of the BJP Think Tank)

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