“‘Secularism’ divides the people of India by focusing on religious and caste identities. For example, in Faridabad two children died in a fire but secular journalists wrongly presented it as an attack on Dalits by upper caste Hindus. Secular journalists kicked up a storm over the killing of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri as he was a Muslim. But they were silent when Taslima Nasreen was attacked in Hyderabad. … Indian secularists defend Islamists by adopting silence.” – Tufail Ahmad
On November 2, the Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan said: “Not being secular in this country is the worst kind of crime you can do as a patriot.” Indian journalists interpreted Shahrukh Khan’s statement as such: you cannot be a patriot without being secular. He also said, “People put words in the air even before thinking.” It means Shahrukh Khan made his statement after careful prior thinking. So, let’s take a serious look into this issue. In this essay, I take a position opposite of Shahrukh Khan’s and argue that you cannot be a patriot if you are secular.
In academic books, ‘secularism’ has primarily two meanings. One, it denotes a movement of scientific and rational ideas that gradually removes the excessive role of religion from society and helps us live our daily life in a meaningful and rational way. In this meaning, ‘secularism’ is a movement of ideas and counters religious orthodoxies. Two, there is a constitutional meaning of ‘secularism’ as per which the Indian state will maintain distance from religion in making policies for its citizens. In these two meanings, all Indians should adopt ‘secularism’.
However, there is a third, practical meaning of ‘secularism’. At practical level, ‘secularism’ rules over the personal and public lives of Indians. It influences the mindsets of journalists, politicians, intellectuals and common people. It is the practical meaning Shahrukh Khan was talking about. Practically, ‘secularism’ determines the Indian state’s policies even when such policies hurt people’s interests. Notably, Rajiv Gandhi’s secular government passed an anti-women law in the Shah Bano case, opened the Ayodhya locks and banned Salman Rushdie’s book, The Satanic Verses.
‘Secularism’ divides the people of India by focusing on religious and caste identities. For example, in Faridabad two children died in a fire but secular journalists wrongly presented it as an attack on Dalits by upper caste Hindus. Secular in Dadri as he was a Muslim. But they were silent when Taslima Nasreen was attacked in Hyderabad, a Muslim woman was killed along with her Hindu husband at Hapur in Uttar Pradesh, or reformist Islamic scholar Chekannur Maulavi was killed by Islamists of Kerala. Indian secularists defend Islamists by adopting silence.
For a more clear view of ‘secularism’s habits, let’s take a historical look on how ‘secularism’ influences Indian leaders. In the 1920s when the Islamic caliphate fell in Turkey, ‘secularism’ influenced Mahatma Gandhi to join hands with the Ali Brothers, the global Islamists of the time, in defence of the Khilafat Movement, a bloody version of which is implemented in current times by Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria. The Khilafat Movement, along with the Aligarh movement which emerged as an unintended consequence of Sir Syed’s movement for scientific education among Indian Muslims, led to the partition of India in 1947. ‘Secularism’ divides India.
Indian ‘secularism’ played its divisive card again in 1969 when the communist leader and Kerala chief minister E.M.S. Namboodiripad created the Malappuram district by including Muslim-dominated parts of Kozhikode and Palakkad. It was done under the influence of the Muslim League, which was part of Namboodiripad’s coalition government. Even now, despite that lower caste Muslims already get reservation benefits, secular Hindus like Nitish Kumar promise separate quota for Muslims, as M.A. Jinnah demanded separate territory for the believers of Islam. ‘Secularism’ loves Islam, not Muslims.
‘Secularism’ tells Indian Muslims: I will give you ‘secularism’ and 5% quota in jobs and colleges. It doesn’t tell Muslims: I will give your daughters mathematics, economics and science from Grade 1. If secular Hindus started teaching Muslim girls mathematics from primary schools, their politics will die. Maulvis also do not want Muslim girls to study mathematics and science. Secular Hindus and maulvis are in love of each other because secular Hindus do not criticise burqa, triple talaq and polygamy. Both are anti-women, anti-progress and anti-human rights.
Indian ‘secularism’ loves terrorism. Secular intellectuals resent when Naxalites and jihadis are arrested. ‘Secularism’, in power for over half a century, has co-existed with Naxalite terrorism. ‘Secularism’ thrives in the peaceful nature of Indian people. Secularists do not shed a tear for Indian soldiers who are killed by jihadists in Kashmir. Secular lawyers like Prashant Bhushan knock the Supreme Court’s door at midnight to save the life of terrorist Yakub Memon. Senior writer Minhaz Merchant tweeted on November 2: “Since he’s a patriot, I am sure Shahrukh Khan has at some stage issued a statement condemning Pakistani terrorism against India. Would be nice to see it.”
Secular journalists are anti-national. They love to invite General Pervez Musharraf as if a teenager has just fallen in love. By any definition, Musharraf was the terror mastermind of the largest jihad against India in modern times, in Kargil in 1999 and at a time peaceful Indians led by A.B. Vajpayee were working for peace. To look secular, secularists find allies in the enemy camp. In October, journalist Zakka Jacob invited former Pakistani defence minister Ahmed Mukhtar for an interview which was presented as world exclusive. Secular journalists will interview even if Pakistani leaders spit at India. Mukhtar said nothing new in the interview that could be described as of journalistic merit, but Jacob wanted to look secular.
‘Secularism’ is destroying India from within. In the 1940s, secular Hindus thought: let’s give away a piece of our territory to buy permanent peace, thereby creating Pakistan in 1947. In West Bengal’s Birbhum district, at a village called Kangla Pahari, secular Hindu officials have banned Durga puja to buy peace with local Islam. It is not “minority appeasement”, it is appeasement of Islam. We are left wondering if we are living in Pakistan. President Pranab Mukherjee has issued multiple statements recently for peace. He should urge the secular Hindu officials to allow Durga Puja.
Shahrukh Khan sahab, you are India’s biggest actor and you certainly know this: the image works; Bollywood is also a media. In Dainik Jagran of October 15, I wrote in great detail about the double standards of Indian ‘secularism’. I hope someone gives a copy to you so that you understand how ‘secularism’ is essentially: counter-nationalist, half-Pakistani, half-Islamist, and not even a quarter-Bangladeshi. When a secular journalist’s camera rolls in front of you, please keep this in mind: being secular in this country is the worst kind of crime you can do to the people of India. My key argument is this: Indian ‘secularism’ is counter-patriotic. While ‘secularism’ divides the people of India, patriotism unites them. – Swarajya, 8 November 2015
» Tufail Ahmad is Director of South Asian Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute, Washington D C. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A version of this article appeared on November 7 in Dainik Jagran, the largest Hindi-language newspaper in India.