I decided to write this article after I argued with an ex-classmate who very blatantly refused to acknowledge, let alone accept, the fact that there has been a sudden rise in racism, communalism, and oppression of the minority communities in India in the past five years. According to him, it is people like me who are responsible for causing tension in the country. Those who are responsible for mob lynchings have nothing to do with it!
Does having a friend belonging to a minority community or someone who practices a different religion makes you secular? The answer is no! Not as long as you fail to see their oppression or refuse to accept that there exist issues like racism, communalism, and oppression, and to have blind faith that the hate crimes based on religion cannot be perpetrated in India because India is a secular state. For such people, it’s not the Black people who were oppressed, but It’s the whites who face racism in South Africa.
The term ‘Hindu’ culture, in my opinion, has become synonymous with ‘Indian’ culture, and it only reflects how inclusive people are of different cultures and traditions which India is home to. Indian culture does not solely represent Hindu culture, but it is a combination of diverse religions, cultures, and traditions. Racism and oppression in India, I have seen, also extends to the people from the Northeastern and southern regions of the country as well. Racism in India is not only deeply rooted in religion, caste, and gender but is also based on having the ‘wrong’ skin color.
The term ‘secularism’ was introduced to the Preamble of India’s Constitution in 1976. The Preamble asserted to the Constitution that India is a secular nation. But what does it mean? In a general sense, it implies that the State will impart equal treatment to Indian citizens irrespective of their religion. Secularism in India also implies that the State and religion will not exist together. However, in my opinion, religion has been the agenda of state policies for the last few years.
People are not even aware of what secularism in a state implies. Secularism is a term that is often confused with atheism, that people don’t follow any particular religion but are accepting of every religion. True, secularism was introduced to ensure that the State will impart equal treatment to individuals of every religion, but that does not make a secular individual non-religious.
However, my question wasn’t what makes India secular, but what is it that makes an individual secular? Does living in a secular nation ensure that every individual is secular? Having said that, how many people are aware that Article 15 of the Constitution of India “prohibits discrimination based on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth.”?
Coming back to the original question, some people put forward an argument that because they socialize with people who follow and have faith in a religion different from themselves makes them secular. I, until quite recently, wasn’t aware that socializing makes you secular!
I strongly feel that anyone who is secular does not dismiss the existence of oppression just because they haven’t witnessed it firsthand. Even when presented with facts and that too from credible sources, I feel that pseudo-secularists reject it claiming its ‘fake news,’ when they fail to see the actual ‘fake news’ being disseminated which favors a certain political party and its ideology. I think it is not too difficult to look for facts and information on the internet.
Secularism and democracy go hand in hand, right?
More than 90 cases have been reported of mob lynchings in India since 2015. Data shows how Muslims form the major chunk of those who have been targeted by cow vigilantes. Hardly any action is ever taken, and in fact, perpetrators are praised. People of the minority communities in those areas who would have witnessed such lynchings still live in fear. So, there must be a reason why people nowadays are living in fear when it hasn’t been so for so many years, right?
If there are people who still believe that there has been no increase in the hate crimes based on religion, and who outright refuse to accept racism as an issue in India and pass it off as fake news, I cannot be friends with them. I have seen how there still exist people who think it is all right to oppress people who are different from themselves, based on religion, caste, sexuality.
I’m Muslim, and Muslims are in the minority in India, and when I and others like me speak up against racism, hate crimes, religious intolerance, it is not to vilify any individual practicing a different religion from ours because not everyone believes in the oppression of the minorities! We do so to support the oppressed.
Secularism in India has lost its meaning and is threatened. I think it’s about time to stop pretending that there is no racism in India. The rising racism in India is a serious problem that needs permanent fixing.