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Secularism, India style - The Times of India

Cho S Ramaswamy ()
February 6, 1998

Title: Secularism, India style
Author: Cho S Ramaswamy
Publication: The Times of India
Date: February 6, 1998

As a citizen of India, I am terribly agitated. The Marxists warn
me that the nation is facing the risk of turning communal. Sonia
Gandhi reminds me about the secular traditions of this country
and alerts me to the dangerous prospect of seeing it wrecked. All
the regional, district and municipal parties owing allegiance to
the front that was once united, have tipped me off about the
peril posed by Hindu fundamentalism which is perched on the
threshold of power at the centre.

Naturally, I am worried. I am anxious to convince all leaders of
secular parties that I too am secular. I believe that the state,
in the process of decision making, should rely only on worldly
criteria and not on religious doctrines or ecclesiastical
dictates. The administration should not be a monastic practice
but a temporal exercise holding the scales even between all men
to whichever persuasion they may belong. But I realise that this
faith of mine based on the concept of secularism as accepted the
world over is not going to convince the leaders of the various
parties whose secularism is an indigenous product.

Indian secularism demands more of me. I have to accept certain
postulates to get certified as a secular person by the Marxists,
the Congressmen and the constituents of the Front which was once
united. Let me in an honest attempt to accept this agenda, first
try to understand it.

The first item on the Indian secular agenda is the prevention of
the construction of a temple for Ram at Ayodhya. A temple where
there was a temple, is not as secular a concept as a mosque where
there was no mosque. Hence anyone who says that he would attempt
persuasion and all other legal and constitutional means to get a
temple built at Ayodhya is a fanatic out to destroy the unity of
the country.

The Indian secular agenda tackles next, the suggestion for a
common civil code. The idea that there could be one law governing
all citizens of the country is sure to divide the people. The
chapter on directive principles of the Constitution which
commands the state to endeavour to bring about a common civil
code should not be taken seriously. At best the directive
principles are a joke and at worst a fraud. To be secular one
should insist on different laws for different communities and
hence the idea of a common civil code should be jettisoned in
favour of a communal civil code.

Item 3 on the Indian secular agenda is the question of Article
370 of the Constitution. A secular person should be able to
appreciate the argument that continuing the special status given
to one state and treating it differently from all other. states
is the best way of ensuring the unity of the country. The very
fact that the framers of the Constitution termed Article 370 a
temporary provision should be enough to confirm it as a permanent
feature. Only a communalist would refuse to see the force of
logic in the argument that since Kashmir is part of India it
cannot be treated on par with other states.

Having tackled the temple, the law and the Constitution, the
secular agenda next takes on the Supreme Court. The highest court
in the land might have held that Hindutva is a way of life and
not a method of worship and ruled that it is not inconsistent
with secularism. But the Indian secular agenda overrules the
Supreme Court and holds the concept of Hindutva to be an
obnoxious idea. Christian values, Islamic ideals and Buddhist
ethics could at different times be secular concepts but Hindutva
is an out and out communal idea.

And to give the final touch the secular platform condemns the
slogan "justice for all, appeasement of none" as a perfidious
attempt to deny equality to the minorities. Appeasement of a few
and justice for none is a more secular programme than justice for
all and appeasement of none.

It is a formidable agenda indeed. I cannot hope to be certified
as a secular person unless I am going to agree on all these
points. But can I?

I have to forget tradition to oppose the claim that Ayodhya is
the birth place of Ram, bury the idea of an integrated nation to
condemn the calls for abrogation of Article 370 of the
Constitution, dispense with the concept of equality to protest
against a common civil code, develop contempt for the highest
judiciary of the land to hold Hindutva to be a communal idea and
sacrifice common sense to curse the slogan "justice for all" as
an attempt to deprive people of their rights.

It is a tall order. To be accepted as a secular Indian, by the
certifying authorities for secularism, the Marxists, the
Congressmen and the regional parties I have to practice
hypocrisy. No, I would rather be just an Indian. And I would
still be secular.

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