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Secularism V/s Pseudo Secualrism

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Mohnish Bagree:

Dr. Samuel Johnson, an English author once said, “Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth and every man has a right to knock him down for it”.

Call it ignorance or innocence that I considered Indians as Hindus until 12th when one of my friends said he was not Hindu but a Jain. That really came as a shock and since then it still persists. But the more important question here is, are we as a nation practicing secularism in the right way? Or it’s once again another tool to pool the vote bank of politics? The obscurity of Indian politics also keeps a murky darkness over the two big terms-Secularism and Pseudo Secularism. The word “secular” was inserted into the Preamble of our Constitution by the 42nd Amendment in 1976, during the Emergency in India. It implies equality of all religions and religious tolerance. In other words, India does not have an official state religion. Every person has the right to preach, practice and propagate any religion they choose. The government must not favour or discriminate against any religion. It must treat all religions with equal respect.

Now the question is, how can the term pseudo secularism evolve; when you pretend to be something and preach something different. It is the state of implicit non-secular trends in the face of pledged secularism. The term is used by groups who perceive a double standard exhibited within the established secular governing policy towards culturally different groups. Salman Rushdie rightly said, “Secularism in India, is not just a point of view, it is a question of survival”.

The Hindutva brigade too never misses an opportunity to use religion to suit their vested interests. From Advani’s disastrous Rath Yatra in 1990 to build a Ram Temple in Ayodhya, to the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 and the 2002 communal pogrom in Gujarat, the proponents of Hindutva played the villain role to the perfection. Even though there were credible intelligence reports, which were released later in which Advani was quoted as saying, “A temple of Rama Lala, who represents the religious beliefs of Hindus, will be constructed at any cost through kar seva. No power can stop it”. In any real secular country, a person, who is under the oath office and insults a religion and acts as a source of misunderstanding between communities, would have been prosecuted. The case against L K Advani hasn’t so far seen the light of the day. Even under the Indian laws, Karunanidhi he had violated Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code which states “Deliberate or malicious acts intended to outrage the religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” by saying-Ram was a drunkard; which according to him never existed.

We are indeed passing through turbulent times because it is not clear to us what the moorings of our culture are, and also what kind of India we want to build. But the good thing is that the pandemonium among politicians over religious issues has lesser effect on young minds especially in colleges. Call it more tolerance towards such fragile subjects or realizing the breed of insensible politics. It is to be apprehended that we cannot live a religious life unless we identify ourselves from the whole mankind. A true secularist does not know any religion apart from human activity.

It’s on us to root out the ideological warfare between secular and pseudo-secular groups and build one India.

The writer is an Intern at Youth Ki Awaaz.

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  1. pallavi ranjan

    Dear Mohnish, be prepared to earn accolades as well as ire for a piece on such a “politically incorrect” issue!

    i have a couple of points to make in this regard.
    i too, confused Indian – ness with Hinduism. until, when in 7th std i went to a boarding school. i instantly became friends with a vivacious, insanely funny girl. Then came the revelation that she was a Muslim. i asked her why she wasnt dressed in a black burka. when she finished guffawing, she retorted “for the same reason that u don’t wear a ghaghra choli to school!” i felt like an idiot, an relieved at the same time, that it wasn’t a huge issue as it had seem. the episode took place during prep and of course, the 2 of us got thrown out. an hour later, with my friend still giggling, our matron (she could twist iron is she wanted) made my entire dorm sit together in the tennis court, and shoot questions, to each other, we had about our religions. she concluded the session by threatening to “skin us alive and chew our bones in to cud if we ever differentiated anyone on the basis of his/her religion”
    my point is that secularism, like all practicing qualities, begins at home, and then in school. if every child were to get that base, we wouldn’t be wasting time as adult citizens squabbling communally over “religious rights”, and be progressing as a nation in stead. here lies our answer to why we are still “developing” after more than 60 years of gaining independence.
    another thing is that we, as a race(Indians)perhaps, are way too intolerant and love to take insults personally. i wish, when Karunanidhi called Ram a drunkard, someone from the Hindutva brigade would’ve have called him a drunk gibbon with the intellect of a pigeon. and ended the matter there.
    my father was an infantry officer in the army. i wonder how many people know about the concept of “sarva dharm sthapna” in the army battalions. their places of worships have concepts/ deities etc from all the religions that the jawans of that battalion represent. if the Mohammedans are in significant number, then a mosque is “established” separately too. secularism is reflected in the fact that, no non vegetarian food will be served in the mess on a Tuesday, but at the same time, goat definitely will be cooked on Id.
    i am a practicing Hindu, who has close friends who are Muslims, Christians, Jains, Buddhists and Parsees. we’ve lived and eaten together. we may not call up each other for months altogether but will remember to do so on our festivities. frankly speaking, we love the fact we are diverse yet good friends. it takes leg pulling to a whole new insanely funny level.

  2. Kishlaya

    I believe the writer has done a good job , bringing out the facts and forming a right pattern to reach the point .

    Well , Mohnish how can you call the Gujarat riots a pogrom ! we really don’t know what it was . I would agree that it was a communal tension but not a preplanned massacre. Anyhow , both concludes with a demoralizing end.

  3. debojit

    The hooligans were abetted openly by Modi and if you still do not consider that a pogrom than, ‘pogrom’ has varied meanings for varied people.

  4. Mrittunjoy Guha Majumdar

    Firstly, as an idea your piece touches the topic but does not deliberate on either of the points: secularism or pseudo-secularism.
    Secondly, I got a whiff of indifference in a few of your statements.

    ‘But the good thing is that the pandemonium among politicians over religious issues has lesser effect on young minds especially in colleges. Call it more tolerance towards such fragile subjects or realizing the breed of insensible politics. It is to be apprehended that we cannot live a religious life unless we identify ourselves from the whole mankind. ‘

    Involving religion in life is legitimate and a way of life in India. But as soon as it surfaces in politics, it is insensible from the word go. Is this how one gives blanket statements without having a dialogue. To go by the literal meaning, secularist political formations are against any form of religious involvement in politics. But what one observes is the dilly-dallying of the so called secular individuals in India for the appeasement of a few. And that too in the name of secularism. If that is not pseudo-secularism then what is? This ideological blindfolding of people is sickening. And I expect you to address this issue.

    And I strongly feel you are wrong with that last paragraph Mohnish. ‘A true secularist does not know any religion apart from human activity.’? How do you come to that conclusion?

    Lastly, ‘It’s on us to root out the ideological warfare between secular and pseudo-secular groups and build one India.’? How can you ‘root out the ideological warfare’ between communalism and secularism or the warfare of principles of marxism and capitalism…aren’t they contrasting ideas? By definition, either you root out the concepts or there always remains a certain amount of contrasts due to the two. By rooting out secularism, you would give rise to communal ideas in isolation or atheism. The latter gives rise to a debate that has long continued. However, my personal view is that religion at times can be a good driving, moral force, if interpreted correctly, for the masses. The whole idea of religion arose not due to divinity but due to social reasons. And by rooting out pseudo-secularism, you would be presenting a subjective definition of what has been rooted out, and thereby in turn be giving rise to pseudo-secularism. It is all about perceptions, my friend.

    Hope you clarify on some of these points. Thanks.

  5. Mrittunjoy Guha Majumdar

    Clarification: I mean religion arose not due to divinity alone.

  6. Mrittunjoy Guha Majumdar

    Sorry again…I meant spirituality throughout. Sometime you get stuck on that one word. 🙂

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