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Sham secularism, feudal democracy

Author: S.K. Sinha
Publication: The Asian Age
Date: December 7, 2013
URL: http://www.asianage.com/columnists/sham-secularism-feudal-democracy-874

Rahul Gandhi barges into a press conference being held by his party spokesman justifying the infamous ordinance. In a rage, he calls it nonsense and wants to tear it. The entire sycophant brigade changes colour like a chameleon in a fraction of a second.

Secularism is a European concept. It stands for separation of the church from the state. It flowered among people who believed in the same religion, albeit from different sects. Our founding fathers adopted secularism as an article of faith for our multi-religious nation. It was embedded in our Constitution though the word secularism initially found no mention. Indira Gandhi got it incorporated through an amendment.
Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of secularism was based on pluralism, implying equality of all religions. This was in keeping with the genius of our nation. Nehru’s secularism was that of an agnostic based on the European concept. Nehru reached out to Muslims to ensure that they did not suffer from any complex in the wake of Partition and felt they were equal citizens of India without any feeling of insecurity.
No communal riot took place in his regime. Haj subsidy, not available in any Muslim country, was introduced in India to boost their morale and not for gathering votes. He and his party could easily win elections with or without their support.
The Muslims realised that they had got carried away by the Two Nation Theory wave which split the country. Muslim film stars Mehrunissa and Yusuf Khan adopted Hindu names, Meena Kumari and Dilip Kumar respectively for greater acceptability. We have come a long way since.
Our Muslim citizens or film stars no longer harbour any complex. Today, they have no hesitation in asserting their identity, much more than they did before Partition. It is pertinent that no one raised any objection to India adopting a national emblem, national anthem or national song more associated with the culture and history of the majority community. If these were to be chosen today, there would be strong opposition from so-called secularists and some religious fundamentalists.
Unlike her father, Indira Gandhi was not an agnostic and observed religious rituals. Her secularism was for building the votebank. Nehru never held iftaar parties at government expense but that is now done with a vengeance. No state functions are held for other religious communities.
National security and national interests are being compromised by sham secularists. Illegal migration from Bangladesh in Assam is encouraged for the vote bank. Similarly, a soft policy is followed in Kashmir and against jihadi terrorism. The plight of Kashmiri Pandits is ignored. The fact that about a hundred temples were vandalised in the Valley earlier is kept under wraps, while the reprehensible demolition of the Babri Masjid is kept alive even after 20 years.
The BJP with several prominent Muslim leaders is considered a communal party and is treated as untouchable. Exclusively Muslim parties with a communal agenda, like Muslim League, Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen and All India United Democratic Front, are honoured coalition partners of the Congress Party. The Prime Minister violates the provisions of the Constitution when he declares that Muslims are his first priority for the development bonanza. He seems to be not bothered about non-Muslims, no matter how disadvantaged.
Haj House was built by the government at Dwarka in Delhi in 2008 at a cost of `22 crore, while in the same year 100 acres of barren forest land leased to the Amarnath Shrine Board, with the latter paying `2.2 crore, was rescinded to appease fanatics. They came out with a yarn about the uninhabitable and snow-covered land for eight months in the year being used to change the demography of the Valley, like Israel did in Palestine.
Our two well-known top senior journalists spin similar yarns. One reported that the shrine board will build five- star hotels at Baltal. The other called the board a villain of peace. There are several examples of such antics of our sham secularists. Genuine secularism is justice for all and appeasement of none.
Another grave malady our country faces is dynastic rule. This destroys the root of democracy and injects feudalism into polity. Liberty, equality and fraternity are dumped to ensure the unquestioned supremacy of the ruling family. The nation has to suffer the rule of the family, by the family and for the family. The dynastic disease has spread like cancer to other political parties, too.
This is bad enough. But what is worse is that this promotes a feudal culture not only among rulers but all their underlings, including the bureaucracy. The latter stands now more enslaved than it was under colonial rule. The common man suffers more arrogance of power than he did under the British era.
Dynastic rule encourages sycophancy and courtier culture. The ruler can do no wrong. The rulers drunk on power are emboldened to adopt an “off with his head” policy. Durga Shakti Nagpal became a victim but could survive due to national outrage. The principle of collective responsibility of the Cabinet or individual responsibility of the minister does not apply in a feudal democracy. A minister may approve a proposal, accord written sanction but if it is found wrong, the bureaucrat is hauled up, not the minister. There was once a Lal Bahadur Shastri in this country, who was so different.
Rahul Gandhi barges into a press conference being held by his party spokesman justifying the infamous ordinance. In a rage, he calls it nonsense and wants to tear it to shreds. The entire sycophant brigade changes colour like a chameleon in a fraction of a second. The loud chorus of praise for the young genius reaches a crescendo. No one bothers about why this was done, the manner in which it was done or the timing. The ordinance had been approved by the core group of the party, by the Cabinet and was being strongly defended by all courtiers. He was in the know of all this and his silence over it was indicative of his concurrence.

Perhaps the reasons for his delayed wisdom was the reservation shown by the President, the Opposition appealing to the President not to sign the ordinance and the mounting disgust among people on the eve of elections. Such pedestrian thoughts lie buried deep.

Mahatma Gandhi rid the nation of what he called slave mentality and raised us out of dust to dignity and Independence. One does not know what the outcome of the 2014 elections will be. Let us hope that irrespective of who comes to power, he liberates the nation from the evils of sham secularism and feudal democracy.

The author, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as Governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir
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