Selective secularism

Jawaharlal Nehru introduced the Haj subsidy. He did this to give Muslims confidence in India’s secular ideals and not for any votebank considerations.

Today, we have a larger English-speaking population in the US followed by India than in Britain. American English has features different from Queen’s English. Not only are its spellings and intonation different, it lays less emphasis on grammar and has injected new words and idioms. India has followed suit but not in spellings.

We have changed the meaning and connotation of certain English words, like secularism.
“Secularism” stands for complete separation in the powers of the Church (religion) and the state. A secular state is not supposed to have any religion or show any bias for any religion. Today, heads of state and government in secular countries, except the sovereign in Britain, are not administered the oath of office by a religious functionary. In India, our heads of state are administered the oath of office by the Chief Justice of India. Heads of state administer the oath of office to the Prime Minister, chief ministers and ministers. The individual has the choice of taking the oath by his/her religious book or without it, and without any reference to God, as per his/her choice.
Jawaharlal Nehru, basically an agnostic, used secular policy to heal the wounds of Partition holocaust. The resentment of Hindu fanatics had to be kept in check and Muslim fears of being treated as second-class citizens in truncated India had to be laid to rest irrespective of what was happening to minorities in east and west Pakistan. At that time, celebrated Muslim actors like Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari had adopted Hindu names to become more acceptable in India.
Nehru introduced the Haj subsidy, which is not given even in any Islamic country. He did this to give Muslims confidence in India’s secular ideals and not for any votebank considerations. At present, Muslims and people from other minority communities have reached top positions on the basis of their merit in various industries, films, politics, judiciary, military and government departments. This is a legacy of the secular policy promoted by Nehru.
In July last year, we witnessed a Hindu President of India being administered the oath of office by a Parsi Chief Justice in the presence of a Muslim vice-president, a Christian leader of the ruling party, a Sikh Prime Minister, a Sikh Army Chief and a Christian Air Chief. This is unique, the like of which has not been seen anywhere else in the world. Six of our states have had chief ministers from the Muslim community when the population of Muslims in all these states is only about 10 per cent. In five states where non-Hindus are in majority, we have never had a Hindu chief minister. All this underscores our secular credentials.
The Congress and some other political parties pursue the policy of appeasement for votebank politics behind a façade of what they call secularism. Nehru’s secularism did not include holding iftar parties at public expense. This is now standard practise. State functions for other religions are not held. Little concern is shown for four lakh Kashmiri Pandits who were subjected to ethnic cleansing and have been living like refugees for over two decades in their own country. They are officially called migrants and as such are not eligible for aid from UN refugee funds. Thirty thousand non-Muslim refugees who came to Jammu from West Pakistan in 1947 are now over one lakh. They are denied citizenship rights, while hundreds of Tibetan Muslims (now in their thousands), who came to Srinagar in 1950 on China occupying their country, were given full citizenship rights. The non-Muslim refugees who came from elsewhere in India were immediately given full citizenship rights. Two of them became Prime Ministers and one deputy prime minister. Information regarding vandalisation of a hundred Hindu temples in Kashmir during ethnic cleansing in 1989-90 was virtually kept under wraps, while the condemnable demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 continues to be exploited for political gains to this day.
During the late 1960s, B.K. Nehru, a cousin of Indira Gandhi, was the governor of Assam and B.P. Chaliha, a veteran Congressman, was the chief minister of the state. They recommended action to stop illegal migration from East Pakistan into Assam. This was changing the demography of the state, affecting state politics and posing a threat to national security. They were not allowed to take action. In his autobiography, B.K. Nehru laments that whereas the old Congress gave priority to national interest, for the new Congress party interest was supreme.
The UPA government has been going a step further by not only continuing with its appeasement policy for votes but also virtually adopting an anti-majority policy. Forming of coalition governments at the Centre and in states with an avowedly communal party like the Muslim League, which has exclusive Muslim membership, is acceptable to it. At the state level, the Congress has had communal parties like All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) of the Owaisi brothers and All-India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) of Maulana Badruddin Ajmal as coalition partners. These two parties openly preach hatred against the majority community.
The BJP is condemned as communal and treated as untouchable, even though it has some Muslim members with few holding key positions in the party. Whereas a `22 crore Haj House was constructed at Dwarka in Delhi in 2008, a lease of 1,000 square yards of barren land at Baltal, on payment of `2.2 crore for providing temporary shelters for Amarnath pilgrims, was rescinded. Narendra Modi, newly appointed chief minister of Gujarat in 2002, was faced with the gruesome carnage in the Sabarmati Express at Godhra, which led to ghastly killings of Muslims by Hindu mobs.
The state administration failed to prevent the massive outburst and ghastly massacre of Muslims for two days. The Army was called on the third day. The Army and the police opened fire at mobs, killing both Hindus and Muslims before peace was restored. Legal action is still taking place against the guilty. Some Hindus and Muslims have been convicted and punished. So far, despite prolonged inquiries, Mr Modi has not been found personally guilty. Yet he continues to be demonised.
After Indira Gandhi’s assassination, Rajiv Gandhi addressed a public meeting and said that when a big tree falls, the earth shakes. This encouraged Congress goons to go on the rampage for four days. They massacred double the number of Sikhs in Delhi than the casualties in Gujarat. The police remained a silent spectator. Neither Rajiv Gandhi nor his much experienced home minister P.V. Narasimha Rao called for Army assistance for four days. Once the Army was summoned, the situation was brought under control without any firing. Nearly 20 years have passed and hardly any action has been taken against anyone for the carnage in Delhi.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has declared that Muslims will be given priority on the resources of the state over all other communities and is vigorously pursuing this agenda. He should, instead, in keeping with the Preamble of the Constitution, ensure that all economically deprived people, irrespective of religion, are treated alike. The nation needs genuine secularism.

The writer, 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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