In its days of glory, the landmass of Hindustan had included several of its neighbouring countries with which it is currently sharing borders, to form a homogenous culture. It is home to the Sanatana Dharma and its offshoots of indigenous bodies of eternal religious faith. A unique system of spiritual and religious affinity prevailed among its people who freely moved around and intermingled with each other without any acrimony or animosity. Such an impressive socio-religious-cultural scene strode across a vast area spanning from today’s Pakistan on the West to Myanmar in the East as well as to the Hindu Khush mountain on the North to Sri Lanka on the South, transcending the countless kingdoms in-between.
What was unique about this one-of-a-kind phenomenon was that it was not enforced or imposed on the inhabitants of various communities by the sword or political compulsion. It was a natural and spontaneous outcome of the unity of thought and practices made possible by a mutual appreciation of each other’s right to worship. Religions from abroad that made their way to the shores of Hindustan were embraced with open arms. Those religions were either subsumed by Sanatana Dharma or allowed to take root and grow in Hindustan. There never was any kind of persecution of people on the basis of religion. Nor had there ever been a war waged by a ruler from Hindustan on the outside world in the name of religion. Atheists and agnostics were not discriminated against either.
Gilding a Lily?
Barring about a thousand-year period of subjugation by Islamic invaders and European colonial powers, the people of Hindustan enjoyed a commendable period of religious freedom and communal harmony unheard of in the Western hemisphere. As regards Secularism as a State policy, whoever had heard of gilding a lily?
Communalism and Partition
However, dark clouds of communal strife collected on the horizon on the eve of the country’s freedom. The country was partitioned in the name of religion. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who had thus far been part of the freedom movement, chose to align with the Muslim community who he claimed were not safe alongside a majority Hindu community in independent India. He aggressively pushed for the partition of India. A strategically planned attack on non-Muslims was choreographed, which resulted in the killing and perpetration of other atrocities involving several thousands of hapless victims on both sides and destruction of property on a scale unmatched in living memory.
While Jinnah aligned with the Muslims, the Hindus and minority communities of free India were left unrepresented by a leader of the stature to espouse their cause. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi chose to play neutral and even tilted the boat by supporting the cause of the newly-formed nation of Muslims. The other leaders of the Congress party were too engrossed in sharing the spoils of independence to champion the cause of the Hindus and other minority communities in Pakistan. The Indian leadership lacked vision and failed to strike a bargain with Pakistan for the mutual exchange of Hindus and other minority communities stranded in Pakistan with the Muslim community that chose to stay behind in India.
Failure of Indian Leadership
The failure of the then Indian leadership (read MK Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru) left the Hindus and other religious minority communities vulnerable to religious persecution in an enemy country that has vowed time and again to dismember India into fragments. Till the BJP-led NDA government came to power in 2014, granting Indian citizenship to the religiously-persecuted minorities fleeing Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan had not been a priority redressal measure for the Indian government. This pathetic state of affairs went on for so long that apart from causing untold human misery, the strength of our own people stranded in Pakistan and Bangladesh drastically dwindled over a period of time.
Even now, with the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Act by the Parliament to help out the victims of religious persecution of minority communities, we see sections of the Muslim community, safely ensconced in India, quibbling over the Act on communal grounds, indulging in hate politics and protesting against the government. No sooner had the protest started than it degraded into an anti-India campaign. In this dubious anti-national exercise, the trouble-makers enjoy the support of the frustrated Opposition parties, urban Naxals and other break-India forces including enemies from across the border.
Threats of another partition and subversive action against the Indian State and the government are voiced, making the protestors’ ulterior motive abundantly clear. The government is hard put to contain the trouble without prejudice to the law-abiding sections of the Muslim community. The ethnic cleansing of the Kashmiri Pandits by the Islamic insurgents on the payroll of Pakistan was but a fallout of the dense concentration of the Muslim community languishing under the false notions of ownership of territory and religious superiority.
State interference in the running of Hindu temples and endless litigations over matters of temple administration has resulted in a trust deficit in the government among the Hindu community over the years. Juxtaposed to the rancour and acrimony felt by the Hindus toward the partisan treatment meted out to them by the State in the name of Secularism, the Muslim community has been enjoying uninterrupted freedom to manage the running of its places of worship and educational institutions. Besides, the Muslims are the beneficiaries of the Sharia-based Muslim personal law in matters of marriage, divorce, inheritance rights, etc.
The benefits of preferential treatment accruing to the Muslim community under the garb of Secularism is in stark contrast to the constrictions and unfair treatment suffered by the Hindus. Furthermore, there are reports of an exponential increase in the Muslim population vis-a-vis a relatively stagnant Hindu population. Muslims who are allowed to practise polygamy, are exhorted by their clerics to have more and more children and increase their community’s population contrary to the State’s small family norms that the Hindus willingly adopt. Hindus could not be blamed for worrying about the lopsided demographic changes likely to emerge and their fear of getting reduced to minorities in a couple of decades. The question of the relevance of Secularism as a State policy has been engaging the mind of the Hindus who are convinced that they have been given short shrift.
The Central government, therefore, needs to take up India’s anti-Hindu Secularism for review to address the apprehensions of the Hindus across the country. All said and done, Secularism is not an ingrained part of the Constitution envisaged by the founding fathers of our nation. It is only an appendage, as the term ‘secular’ was added as an afterthought, to the Preamble of the Indian Constitution by a doddering Congress government in 1976. Stripped of its frills, Secularism stands reduced in realpolitik to a mere gimmick of minority appeasement. The only meaningful alternative to declaring India a Hindu nation would be to make Secularism non-partisan in effect by putting the majority and minority communities on equal footing and making nationalism take precedence over religious supremacy. Anything short of that would be political myopia and injustice to the long-suffering Hindu community.
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