Why secularism in India lost its meaning – David Frawley

Congress Secularism

Vamadeva Shastri / David FrawleyIndia’s secularism became a form of communalism in disguise. … India’s secularism became synonymous with the idea that everything Hindu is bad and everything anti-Hindu is secular and good, extending even to Christian missionaries or Islamic jihad. India’s secularism can accommodate the Shari’ah or the Vatican, but not the Vedas or the Gita. – Dr David Frawley

The era during which the Nehruvian idea of secularism dominated India’s political discourse and dictated the country’s national narrative is definitely over. This opens the floodgates to real insight, vision and exploration about what India truly is, its great civilisation since ancient times, and its possible leading role in the knowledge-oriented world today.

Belief

The idea of secularism in India was not necessarily entirely bad to begin with. That a country of such religious and cultural diversity should not be driven by an exclusive theistic belief—such as motivated European secularists to counter Christian theocracy—did not at face value seem wrong, particularly to educated minds in India who aspired perhaps more than anything to be progressive.

The problem begins with the fact that such an idea of secularism is out of context in India, in which the dominant culture has been pluralistic and never theocratic, hegemonic or conquest-oriented. Theocratic-driven and supported armies invaded India but never represented its indigenous culture or dominant civilisation. They were the basis of colonialism and foreign rule that came to an end with the Independence of the country.

India’s adoption of secularism began with this dissonant note of a secular agenda from Europe that only created confusion in the Indian discourse. India needed a full national awakening from foreign rule, freeing both the land and the minds of its people, and casting off the centuries long denigration of its civilisation that attempted to destroy its heritage.

Unfortunately, this new idea of secularism in India worked to continue the oppression of the Indic mind and heart that had spread from such foreign rulers as Mahmud of Ghazni to Queen Victoria. Secularism, as it developed in India, represented another form of Eurocentric thinking that perpetrated the Western cultural assault on India.

In India, secularism became opposed to an opposite idea of communalism, identified with everything bad, with secularism as the highest good. Again, the idea of rejecting communalism does not at surface value sound bad. It suggests standing against divisive forces driven by theocratic-based compulsions of conversion and conquest. But such a threat of communalism as in Europe and West Asia was not relevant to India’s dharmic civilisation either, with its syncretic trends and unbroken continuity of culture.

Also, unfortunately, Europe’s new secular states, like Britain, were happy to support conversion agendas as a matter of foreign policy as much as they might question religious authority in their own countries, a policy that has continued even from the US. Conversion was justified in promoting the “civilising” forces of the West.

Communalism

The result was that India’s secularism became a form of communalism in disguise. It continued colonial agendas of keeping Hindu, Buddhist and dharmic traditions divided, discredited and suppressed. India’s secularism became synonymous with the idea that everything Hindu is bad and everything anti-Hindu is secular and good, extending even to Christian missionaries or Islamic jihad. India’s secularism can accommodate the Shari’ah or the Vatican, but not the Vedas or the Gita.

India’s secularism was further recast in a Leftist format that had also its origins and more appropriate place in Europe, invented for countering imperialism of which India was a victim, not a representative. India’s secularism quickly became a subterfuge for a larger Leftist agenda, allied with communism, the erstwhile Soviet Union and Communist China as role models for proper secular nations.

Secular views of India’s history became a mask for far-Left distortions and an attempt to cut Indians off from their own greater civilisational ethos, to which was added the new defamation of India’s culture as being anti-secular, on top of the old charges of heathen, kafir, idolatrous and superstitious.

In India, it became a sin not to be secular, an idea that journalists and academics were particularly infected with. And being secular could also provide forgiveness for all other sins and shortcomings, something that corrupt politicians could use to redeem themselves and justify their scams.

Nehruvian

This means that a post-secular India is the same as India in the post-Marxist, post-Nehruvian era. Post-secular India is India in the time during which the hegemony of the Congress in the country is over.

How do we define this post-secular era? It is not a new communal era, but the end of the secular promotion of communal divisions as electoral vote-banks. It is India completing its Independence movement by reaffirming its own civilisational identity. Post-secular India is the era of a New India, which is a renewed India or awakened Bharat. Such an India is beyond the right-left, secular-communal dualities of Western politics and reaffirms its own dharmic values and yogic culture.

Certainly there was a great effort to create such an awakened India during the Independence era itself by such inspired thinkers as Vivekananda and Aurobindo, but it fell short and became obscured by the Nehruvian secular socialist agenda that aimed to shut it down as an electoral threat to the new Congress dynastic rule.

As the darkness of this contrived and manipulative view of secularism gets removed, there is now space for India to emerge once more as a nation, culture, and civilisation in its own right, not a shadow of the very foreign ideologies and theocracies that have long been trying to subvert it. This is not only of tremendous value to the country but of inestimable value to the world that needs a different model of country, religion, and civilisation than current conflicting forms. The wisdom of India’s rishis and yogis remains relevant for India and for all humanity. – Daily-O, 8 September 2017

Secularism of Congress

 

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Nehru, not progeny, is the problem, Mr Guha! – Punarvasu Parekh

Jawaharlal Nehru was the archetypical Indian brown sahib

IconA society divided and unsure of itself, an economy grossly performing far below its potential for decades, a large but powerless nation in the world, a country at odds with its own roots—that is the legacy Nehru left, for which we are now expected to feel suitably indebted. – Punarvasu Parekh

President Ram Nath Kovind’s pointed omission of Jawaharlal Nehru and his progeny in his first presidential speech to parliamentarians has not gone down well with Congressmen and other secularists. Congressmen have availed of this opportunity to exhibit once again their loyalty to their first family, while some secularists have sought to remind us of Nehru’s greatness, such as it was. Court historian Ramachandra Guha  (“Rescue Nehru from his descendants”, The Hindustan Times, 30 July 2017) argues that Nehru’s legacy should be separated from mistakes and misdeeds of his progeny and respected properly with due gratefulness.

Essentially, the argument is that “Nehru contributed enormously to the making of modern India, by promoting universal adult franchise, linguistic and religious pluralism, and modern science. However, the actions of his descendants have deeply damaged his reputation.”

Guha is wrong on both the counts. Nehru’s contribution to the modern India is largely negative, and his descendants have only followed the lead given by him, though in a more crass and cynical manner.

Nehru’s biggest failure was his inability to appreciate the role played by Hinduism in defining and unifying India. He borrowed, through Marx, the colonial view of Indian society, Indian history and Indian civilisation. According to this view, Indian society is a loose conglomeration of disparate groups divided along every conceivable line (caste, community, ethnicity, language, religion, wealth and income, to mention a few) which is struggling to evolve some principle of unity. For him, this ancient land with a glorious civilisation running through millennia was a “nation in the making”. India’s history, according to this view, is a record of its conquest by successive groups of marauding invaders. To Nehru, Indian civilisation, at least at practical level, was a hotchpotch of irrational superstitions, empty rituals and meaningless metaphysics.

This view of India (now glibly flaunted as Idea of India) is not unexpected in a man who said that “by education I am an Englishman, by views an internationalist, by culture a Muslim and I am a Hindu only by accident of birth.” Nehru failed to see the cultural and spiritual unity reigning supreme over social divisions, a unity which makes it imperative to read Indian history as a vast and variegated narrative of a single people through the ages, and Indian civilisation as an elastic but unbreakable bond that held its people together despite their mind-boggling social diversity. No wonder he came to the conclusion that “to talk of Hindu culture would injure India’s interest. The ideology of Hindu Dharma is completely out of tune with present times and if it took roots in India it would smash the country to pieces.”

This suspicion of and disdain for everything that was Hindu propelled him to strenuously oppose India’s return to her roots after independence, saying that he did not want India to become a “Hindu Pakistan”, whereas, in fact, it was he who behaved like a Muslim monarch ruling over a Hindu kingdom.

Nehru is said to have promoted pluralism through secularism. However, Nehru’s secularism was an alien concept borrowed from the West, divorced from Indian tradition of respect for other viewpoints. Owing to his defective view of Indian society, history and civilisation (not to mention vote bank politics), secularism turned into a united front of anti-Hindu ideologies (Islam, Christianity, Communism) and became a powerful tool to suppress Hindu aspirations.

Nehru’s admirers project him as a world class visionary. They should explain why his foreign policy was such a disaster. His handling of the challenges posed by Pakistan and China was inept, to put it mildly. His quest for glory on the global stage led him to set up a talking shop of beggars better known as the Non-Aligned Movement and isolated India from countries that could and would have helped her in areas that mattered. It was no surprise that after four decades of that foreign policy, India stood friendless, voiceless and insignificant in the comity of nations.

As the late Girilal Jain observed so perceptively in his The Hindu Phenomenon, under Nehru’s influence we mis-defined the nature of the Indian state on several fronts. “Nehru saw himself as an arbiter between rival camps in the Cold War in disregard of the horror that was communism, just as he saw himself as an arbiter between Hindus and Muslims in the country. Obviously, the cost on both counts has been quite heavy. If non-alignment has meant isolation of India from true centres of power in our era, secularism has meant the moral disarmament of Hindus. Pakistan and China could not have posed the threat they have to our security if we had made common cause with the West and the Muslim problem would not have remained wholly unresolved if we had not mis-defined the nature of the Indian state”. (p.13)

Modi’s India is struggling to correct that mistake, however clumsily and ineptly, and that has rattled the secularist class.

Guha suggests that universal adult suffrage was Nehru’s gift to India. That is like suggesting that the sun rises because the cock crows. Nehruvians have long flaunted their democratic credentials. But their record is one of nepotism and lust for power. Their stranglehold on Congress has vitiated our polity.

The manner in which Nehru managed to sideline Sardar Patel to become Congress president in 1930 and prime minister in 1946 should put paid to his love for democracy. No doubt as prime minister he showed respect to his party colleagues, but then they were stalwarts in their own right, having risen from the ranks and passed through the crucible of the freedom struggle. They did not owe their rise and survival in politics to Nehru’s sufferance. Also, Nehru never missed an opportunity to cut his potential rivals to size. Witness the Kamraj Plan.

Nehru’s social policies have proved divisive and disruptive. Even at the height of his popularity, this votary of modernity did not oppose caste-based reservations. Nor did he dare touch the Muslim personal law while driving the Hindu code bill. Like an ordinary politician, he chose the line of least resistance. That is the not the mark of a visionary.

Nehru nurtured a deep hostility to private enterprise. In an effort to control this “evil”, he handed over the economy to control-minded planners and corrupt bureaucrats. The planned economy stifled innovation, discouraged enterprise and punished initiative.

Many people credit him with promoting science and scientific temper, but the bureaucratic state and restrictive policies suffocated growth and prompted migration of people of talent, either in industry or science. Indians prospered everywhere except in India, and Nobel Prize in Science was won by Indians who had left the country for good years ago to pursue research.

Nehru’s economic policies inspired by half-baked Fabian socialism kept the country poor, backward and underdeveloped in spite of a large, young and highly talented population, vast territory, rich mineral resources and willingness of other countries to help and cooperate. Followed faithfully for four decades, they drove the country to the brink of default on international loans.

It is not an accident that the country embarked on a high-growth path only after Nehruvian policies were dumped. And, that course correction is still hobbled by two pillars of Nehru’s approach to economic problems: state control and populism (mai-bap sarkar).

Nehru created an interventionist state which claimed to know better than the people what was good for them and sought to mould society, economy and polity in a pre-determined structure. The project was bound to fail since the conceived structure was anti-growth and alien.

The Babri mosque of Nehruvian edifice had three domes: secularism, socialism and non-alignment. Socialism kept us poor and backward in the name of growth with social justice. Secularism kept us divided and distrustful of each other in the name of communal amity. Non-alignment rendered us ineffective and friendless in the comity of nations. A society divided and unsure of itself, an economy grossly performing far below its potential for decades, a large but powerless nation in the world, a country at odds with its own roots—that is the legacy Nehru left, for which we are now expected to feel suitably indebted.

India cannot regain its rightful place in the world until Nehru’s legacy is undone and forgotten. That process has been on for some time now. President Kovind deserves to be complimented for according formal recognition to it.

» Punarvasu Parekh is an independent senior journalist in Mumbai.

Jawaharlal Nehru and Hindi Chini Bai Bai

Is BJP bringing back Macaulay? – Bharat Gupt

Thomas Babington Macaulay
Dr Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan

Dr Bharat GuptA concerted effort needs to be made to reinstate the arts as a creative, therapeutic and moral force in our educational system and print and electronic media. – Prof Bharat Gupt

The government has appointed a nine-member committee under space scientist Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan’s leadership to prepare the final draft for the New Education Policy (NEP). The panel, which has been asked to begin work immediately, includes members from across the country, but does not contain a single Sanskrit expert, artist, musician or philosopher. The exclusion of the not only arts but also humanities is complete.

What could be the reason for this exclusion? It is difficult to believe that the omission is by oversight. Most likely it is part of the thinking of the policy makers who have a fascination for modern gadgetry and scientificity, which is just another garb for the “scientific temperament” touted for too long by the Nehruvians. Information technology is a mere tool, a skill, not a knowledge system. It can keep transparent accounts and data but not make honest accountants. For honesty, you need no laptops, but a sense of dharma.

Where is then the consideration for traditional systems of knowledge and the indigenous ways of thought that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has always upheld as its banner? How does this reconcile with its vision of “cultural nationalism”?

Education without arts was Macaulay’s master stroke

To uproot the modern Indians from their heritage, Macaulay adopted the simplest way. He devised a system in which vidyaa-vihiina-pashus were elevated to govern the “jewel in the crown”. Nehru retained the system to look after and serve the jewels of crowd.

In contrast to Macaulay-Nehru dispensation, the first line of the Indian book of statecraft, Arthashastra, defines vidya as four fold: Aaviikshiki trayii vartaa dandaniitishca iti vidyaa. Philosophy, vedas, commerce and law are called vidyas or education.

The biggest prejudice against arts in India has been generated by its modern educational system that inculcates a diametrically opposite attitude to their worth as posited in the traditional Indian psyche. So-called makers of modern India, assiduously preserved the schooling system left behind by the British and only allowed the American educational jargon (propagated mostly by PL480 money-financed professors) to modify the shape and size of textbooks, leaving the content untouched. They have also maintained the hegemony of the printed word, the paper exercise book and the written examination over all other means of instruction and evaluation.

Reading print and reproducing it in examinations remain the hallmark of our educational methodology. Our modernists have been so enamoured with it that they are scared to consider another method, such as vocal expression, capacity to conduct reliable work projects, teaching of junior students by senior students and so forth. As a consequence, in this culture, where the spoken word, intonation and gesture, signs, symbols and rituals had been developed as superb media of communication for thousands of years, now mere reading, cramming and reproducing prevails as the only method of passing examinations from nursery classes to the Indian Administrative Service. If the arts, except for music that still rests upon traditional training and Hindu ethos, have not touched great heights in free India, the sin lies at the doors of our education ministers.

Ancient respect for creativity

The prime purpose of education is to ensure creativity in individuals. It is the best way to subdue their destructive instincts. When the ancient poet Bhartrihari said that a person without education is an animal (vidyaa-viheenah pashuh), he was not disparaging the animals, but showing the difference between the mentally innovative homo sapiens and the instinctively driven animals.

Societies with their immense variety are products of man’s mental creativity, not just of the gregarious instinct also found in lions and fish. Hence it was said by Aristotle, “man is a cultured creature” (O anthropos politikon zoon) wrongly translated under the impact of materialistic behaviourist theories, as “man is a social animal”. Man the cultured creature continuously creates using his past for his future. Education is the methodology that ensures this creativity. Societies, which are less emphatic about creativity, or are scared of it, such as ours at the present moment, tend to define learning in terms of short-term objectives. They value education systems by the materially productive work its students are likely to accomplish. They project role models of glamorised achievers and preach competitiveness and survival of the toughest. Its jingles are: jo jeetaa so sikander or “whosoever wins is Alexander” and “nothing succeeds like success” and so on. The skepsis about means and end is already considered futile.

In the Indian, or rather in the Asian tradition, the trained (samskrita) or the educated individual has been the cornerstone of creativity, and hence of action and leadership. The notion of rustic simplicity, or lack of training as a mark of purity and naturalness, of the “mute inglorious Milton” is a Euro-Romantic concoction. In India, “graamya” (crude) or “praakrta” (natural) was regarded as impure, being untrained.

Art, no more sacred

All this thinking has gone out of the modern Indian educational system. Art has come to be looked upon as nothing more than entertainment, whether refined or popular, highbrow or mass-mediotic. It is no longer sacred or liberating, shubhamor mokshadaa. We have lost a major cultural faith and the fountainhead of our sustenance. The ancient Greeks too, regarded the non-utilitarian arts such as music, painting, poetry, dance, and theatre as builders of ethos (moral fibre). For this reason they made these an essential part of their educational system even for soldiers. But the modern West chose to discard this attitude. This idea was not considered worthwhile when Europe drew upon the intellectual inheritance of classical Greece. The arts though not dispensable, were only ornamental in the post Enlightenment education.

This thinking was imposed on India by the colonial educationists. What was worse, it was reinforced by the so-called Indian Renaissance by its fabricated picture of ancient Indian educational values. Puritanism, abnegation, and aggression were valorised in opposition to satisfaction (tushti), abundance (samriddhi), aesthetic softness (laalitya) and joy (harsha), which are described as a citizen’s hallmark in our classical literature.

During the Independence struggle, and soon after, art was in effect, set aside by the puritanism of Gandhi, as much by the staunchness of Hedgewar, and the economic myopia of Jaiprakash Narayan, Lohia and other socialists. The Marxists with their anti-religious bias and their propagandist approach to art further damaged the traditional concept of sacredness and creative individualism in Indian art. Almost everybody presumed that India was too enslaved, poor and illiterate to think of art. Now that we are independent, the affluent among us are the crudest, even though the poor retain some traditional aesthetic sense.

Under the impact of Nehruvian scientific rationalism, the government agencies responsible for making policy, curriculum as well as textbooks, like the National Council of Education Research and Training have been promoting a wooden version of science.

There is an excessive emphasis on mugging “objective facts” about the physical world instead of imparting the skill of inductive logic. The quiz wiz-kids that every uppish school tries to produce are information-parrots only good for TV shows. Worst of all, in the name of modernity, contempt is planted in young minds for all the sciences and arts that prevailed before the Euro-Renaissance.

Consequently, our allopathic doctors have generally no dialogue with ayurvedic or unani practitioners; very few legal luminaries have acquaintance with ancient codified or customary laws; and not many physicists have studied ancient astronomy or music; hardly any modern psychologist has delved deep into theatre. The dichotomy between art and science, ancient and modern is made complete. Rabindranath Tagore and Sri Aurobindo, who presented healthy and exploratory methods to bridge this chasm, were systematically marginalised and denigrated as too aesthetic or too spiritual by Nehruvian iron-jacket modernity.

Pop art and performance

Since the nineties, a vast expansion of television, films, advertisement and fabrics has created a new performance industry. This performance business is largely conducted through electronic and digital media which could have wonderfully harnessed the new technology to spread education and emotional health to every nook and corner of India at astonishingly low costs. But the result has been the opposite. The films have descended to sensationalism, the television channels to misinformation, advertisement to sweet lies, and fashion shows to flesh mongering.

The Indian elite that manages this new media has no other interest than commerce. Education is furthest removed from the aspirations of this class. The whole enterprise apes the Western media and has failed to posit any values other than those of consumerism. It is like selling McBurgers with coriander chutney as the only Indian content. This failure is not of means, but of mind. Indians have come to accept the Western dictum that mass media can only have popular content, that is, it must descend to the lowest demands of taste. Any attempt to elevate and educate taste is considered anti-democratic.

A concerted effort needs to be made to reinstate the arts as a creative, therapeutic and moral force in our educational system, print and electronic media. In schools, arts should be among the main subjects of study and not a mere extracurricular activity. Five to six years of regular theatre classes in native languages can develop clear speech, healthy and graceful carriage, and a direct familiarity with literature, myth and poetry in an easy way. It is more gracious and delightful than the present system of cramming through print. It has been demonstrated that theatre, dance, painting, and music are the best instruments of personality development for children. Why can there be no marking, promotion and academic recognition for them? Why have they been relegated to the lower category of “vocational subjects” meant to be taken by duller kids?

When will we stop thinking of art as a handmaid of business, diplomacy, or infotainment and recognise it as an elevating experience that distinguishes humans from animals?

I sincerely hope that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will intervene and include in the NEP panel some experts with proven record from the fields of arts and humanities, especially those who are steeped in Indian systems of knowledge. – Swarajya, 4 July 2017

» Prof Bharat Gupt taught at the College of Vocational Studies of the University of Delhi. He is an Indian classicist, theatre theorist, sitar and surbahar player, musicologist, cultural analyst, and newspaper columnist.

Supreme Court has defined secularism, not Hinduism – Prakash Nanda

Supreme Court of India

Prakash NandaThere cannot be true secularism unless all the religions in India are treated equally under Indian laws and politics is liberated from the hegemony—not necessarily influence—of religion. – Prof Prakash Nanda

A constitutional bench of the Supreme Court hearing the case of using religion during elections to seek votes asked a question on Thursday (28 October) that should have been asked a long ago.

In our public discourse, we hear a lot about “secularism”. But can secularism remain aloof from religion?, the Apex Court asked, saying “ it will be difficult to accept as a proposition that a political party should have nothing to do with religion and those who have something to do with it must cease to be political parties”. But this was not all. The Bench then went on to ask, “Secularism does not mean aloofness to religion but giving equal treatment to every religion. Religion and caste are vital aspects of our public life. Can it be possible to completely separate religion and caste from politics?”

While an answer to the ticklish question that the Supreme Court has asked will be different from different parties that have approached (are approaching, something the CPM did on Thursday) the Court, the most notable component of that question happens to be “secularism”. The Apex Court now defines secularism to be “equal treatment to every religion”, a definition that has eluded the political and intellectual consensus in this country so far.

In my considered view, the absence of a clear definition of secularism in our political parlance has created two problems. One, it has resulted in a situation where we witness “communal politicians” becoming “secular” overnight and vice versa, with everything depending on the political convenience of the parties and their supporters. Secondly, the way it has been practiced in India, secularism has been reduced to be essentially anti-Hindu but pro-minorities viewpoints or measures. And this has been systematically promoted by what is known as Nehruism, the Left-Liberal framework that dominates Indian public discourse. Ironically, “secularism” has been never defined by its political and intellectual champions in India. Though the 42nd Amendment in 1975 by Indira Gandhi’s Congress government did incorporate the word “secularism” to the preamble of our Constitution, it did not define what secularism was. Ironically, her Indira GandhiCongress party, which dominated the then Rajya Sabha in 1978, foiled an attempt to actually define secularism as “equal respect to all religions” by defeating an amendment bill to that effect, the bill that had already been cleared in the Lok Sabha during the Janata regime of Morarji Desai.

It is instructive here to note that in 1949, Nehru had said that “to talk of Hindu culture would injure India’s interests”. He had admitted more than once that by education he was an Englishman, by views an internationalist, by culture a Muslim, and a Hindu only by accidental birth. In 1953, Nehru had written to Kailash Nath Katju: “In practice, the individual Hindu is more intolerant and more narrow-minded than almost any person in any other country.”

Of course, Nehru did the right thing by trying to remove some degraded practices within Hinduism, but the problem with him was that he was not bothered about the similar reforms in other religions. Nehru codified the Hindu personnel laws (concerning Hindus’ diverse customs, rituals and practices) in 1956, but he backtracked on doing so towards Muslim personal law. No wonder why J. B. Kriplani, a veteran socialist, opposed the Hindu Code Bill on the ground that the Nehru government was “communal”. Kriplani had told Nehru, “If you want to have a divorce for Hindu community, have it; but have it for Catholic community also. I tell you this is the democratic way, the other is the communal way. It is not the Mahasabhites who alone are communal, it is the government also that is communal, whatever it may say. I charge you with communalism because you are bringing forward a law about monogamy only for the Hindu community. You must bring it to the Muslim community. Take it from me that the Muslim community is prepared to have it but you are not brave enough to do it.”

It is under Nehruvian secularism that the Government appoints trustees to manages Hindu temples (and maths) of Viswanath, Tirupati, Puri, Nathdwara and Guruvayur. But the same Government considers it “communal” to do likewise in the case of masjids, churches and gurudwaras. Secularism of the Nehruvian variety says that it is “progressive” to denounce a Hindu swami for trying to influence his or her followers, but it is “communal” to raise finger at those who issue fatwas and hukamnamas.

As Arun Shourie has pointed out in his book Religion in Politics, “during the freedom struggle, if you looked upon a Muslim as being someone apart, as being someone other than just a human being like yourself, the “progressive” was bound to brand you “communal”. Today, unless you look upon the Muslim as separate, that is, unless you see him as a Muslim rather than as just a human being like yourself, the “progressive” brands you “communal”. Fifty years ago when a Hindu scholar by his deep study perceived and wrote about The Essential Unity of All Religions—the title of Bhagwan Das’ famous work—that was looked upon as Bhagwan Dashumanist scholarship at its best. Today when a scholar points to the identity of what is taught in Granth Sahib and what is taught in say, the Hindu Bhakti tradition, it is taken as proof positive of a deep conspiracy to swallow Sikhism”.

In fact, India today is much more divided than what it was at the time of partition in 1947, thanks to the perverse manner in which secularism or for that matter “the identity politics” is being practiced in the country. The victims of any crime or injustice these days are being seen in terms of their religions and castes, not as normal human beings who are all equal under Indian laws. What is worse, depending on their identities, both the victims and the guilty must get “different” treatments, if we go by the demands of the so-called secularists.

And these “secular” double standards are seen in the politics of the country.

In fact, the Congress manifesto in January 1989 for the Mizoram election promised to promote “Christian socialism”. It stated “As Christians, it is our bounden duty to proclaim the gospel. To fulfill this irreversible responsibility we need secularism in letter and spirit…. It is but reasonable that the Christian should lend support to the Congress.”

Similarly, in his book Communal Road to Secular Kerala, sociologist George Mathew has described how late Indira Gandhi wooed the Church to issue directives to vote in favor of the Congress lead UDF in the early 1980s. The Christian bishops appealed for support to only those candidates who believed in God, with an obvious reference to UDF led by the Congress. And we all know how the Rajiv Gandhi government overturned the Supreme Court judgment on the famous Shah Bano case by bringing about a fresh legislation in the Parliament, with a clear motive to woo the Muslim electorate.

The moral of the story is thus clear. There cannot be true secularism unless all the religions in India are treated equally under Indian laws and politics is liberated from the hegemony (not necessarily influence) of religion. The Supreme Court has done well in providing a definition of secularism. In that sense, the ongoing case should be the referral point for defining secularism, not Hinduism. – FirstPost, 28 October 2016

» Prof Prakash Nanda is editor of Uday India, a national weekly, and Geopolitics a niche monthly devoted to defence, security and diplomacy. Previously he was a National Fellow at the Indian Council of Historical Research.  He has also been a Visiting Professor at Yonsei University, Seoul and FMSH, Paris.

Secularism of Congress

Has Modi Sarkar corrected these anti-Hindu inequities?

Muslim personal law in India is retrogressive – N.D. Nalapat

Prof M.D. NalapatAccording to Nehruvian secularism, the “majority” can do no right and the “minority” no wrong. Hence, when laws designed to bring some of the traditional practices of those professing Hinduism into the 20th century, any effort at ensuring a similar modernising exercise on the Muslim community was discarded. … Such forbearance, which Nehru thought would prevent a second partition, has in fact furthered the conditions for it, by separating citizens of India into two boxes—“minority” and “majority”—that are in practical terms meaningless. — Prof N. D. Nalapat

Since 1947, India has practised a form of “secularism” that has served as a time-bomb primed to explode and once again shatter into fragments the unity of the country. Nehruvian secularism is unique in that it discriminates against the “majority” community, placing restrictions on it that are absent in “minority” communities. In the first place, even within the maelstrom of identity, the terms “majority” and “minority” are misleading. Neither the Hindu nor the Muslim (nor indeed the Christian or the Sikh) faiths are monolithic. Within these hyper-broad terms, there exist huge differences, and indeed, across many points of each sub-community’s cultural matrix, commonality may be more with elements of other faiths than with their own. Not that such a mixing of traditions and cultures is in any way objectionable. Indeed, the very diversity of India is what promotes an overall unity within the country, expressed strongly, for example, in situations such as war. Such tolerance of diversity has been under test recently, and not by those claiming to be the inheritors of Nehruvian tradition and practices. Ongoing efforts to introduce changes in diet or dress or lifestyle through the coercive mechanism of penal law are damaging to the future of India, for it is the tolerance for diversity that keeps the country united. Not merely beef but meat of any kind is, in the view of this columnist, “against the order of nature”, where human beings are considered. But the matter needs to be tackled through social conscientisation, not through the police, but through social reformers. If Devendra Fadnavis would like every citizen in India to stop eating beef, or if Nitish Kumar wishes a similar abstinence from alcohol, that is their right. But they are overstepping the boundaries set by democracy when they seek to enforce their personal preferences on the rest of the population through the police. Moral policing, food policing, alcohol policing are creating an image of an India in the grip of those who mimic the Saudi “Muttawa” in their approach to lifestyles. The Supreme Court has thus far retained its assent for certain Victorian laws which have been cast aside even in the country of their origin, but it is hoped that the Apex Court will in future—if it errs at all—err on the side of freedom rather than on the preservation of the repressive superstructure of the colonial state that has been retained since the time in office of that globally renowned prince of democracy, Jawaharlal Nehru.

According to Nehruvian secularism, the “majority” can do no right and the “minority” no wrong. Hence, when laws designed to bring some of the traditional practices of those professing Hinduism into the 20th century, any effort at ensuring a similar modernising exercise on the Muslim community was discarded. Since that time, much of the policies of the Indian state have had the unintended effect of distancing Hindus and Muslims from each other. Such forbearance, which Nehru thought would prevent a second partition, has in fact furthered the conditions for it, by separating citizens of India into two boxes (“minority” and “majority”) that are in practical terms meaningless.

An example is what is termed the “personal law” relating to marriage and divorce. In India, women who are born into the Muslim faith are subject to divorce in seconds, with all that is needing to be done by the husband being the repetition of the word “talaq” three times, in a manner wholly contradictory to the example set by Prophet Mohammad, who from the early days of his life treated women with the respect they merit as, among other virtues, the mothers of every human being on the planet. Despite the Wahhabisation that has continued in that country since the days of Zia ul-Haq, such a dismissive approach to the dignity and rights of a female spouse are absent in Pakistan. The personal laws as practised in India qualify to make this country among the most retrogressive in the world, a circumstance Shah Bano Begumwhich needs to change. At a minimum, Muslim women in India should be given the same rights in divorce proceedings as their counterparts in Turkey, the original home of the Islamic Caliphate, including in restrictions on the number of wives a man is legally entitled to wed. Islamic doctrine is meant to be dynamic, adjusting to changes caused by the efflux of time, and any Wahhabi-style effort to lock such doctrine into a static mode is to do disservice to its teachings.

Unfortunately, in India as in the US or the EU, “authentic” Muslims are regarded solely as those who are ultra-rigid in their views and practices. That only those with flowing beards and all-covering burkhas can be “good” Muslims, which is nonsense. Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister began his fall from popular favour when in 1985 he ignored voices such as those of Arif Mohammad Khan and went ahead with legislation to reverse the Shah Bano verdict of the Supreme Court of India. It is wrong to regard the fringe as representative of the Muslim community in India, exactly as it ridiculous to tar the whole of Hindu society with a brush meant for the Sadhvi Prachis. Triple talaq as practised in India goes against every human right of Muslim women in India. While equality under the law would be the ideal at the very least, what is needed is to bring divorce and marriage practices for Muslim women here in sync with those of Turkey, a country even the most diehard in the AIMPLB would find it difficult to denounce as “anti-Muslim”. – Sunday Guardian, 4 Septembeer 2016

Ban Triple Talaq

Perversion of secularism and the non-implementation of a uniform civil code – Nithin Sridhar

Nithin SridharIndia should have evolved an indigenous social and legal system rooted in Dharma. … Such a social and legal system would have developed unique responses to challenges that are unique to Indian society; would have been fair and righteous towards everyone, irrespective of their affiliations, and would have been, at the same time, firmly rooted in Indian civilization. But since we have already imported an alien system of secularism, it would do us good if we remove the prevalent perversions and implement it in its true sense by enacting a fair uniform civil code. – Nithin Sridhar

Dalai Lama Quote India is probably the only country, wherein the concept of secularism is most perverted, both in principle and practice. After Independence, India, first borrowed this alien principle without giving a thought regarding its necessity and applicability in Indian society, and then perverted it beyond measure to selectively implement it for petty political ends, with disastrous results.

Secularism in simple terms means “separation of State and Religion”. That is religious concerns will not dictate State policies and the State will not interfere in religious activities. This concept of secularism originated in the European society, necessitated by the constant struggle for power between the Church and the Monarchy. Secularism was thus a unique solution in response to unique challenges prevalent in Western civilization in general and European society in particular.

Since Indian civilization, being rooted in the concept of Dharma, wherein even a ruler is subjected to its tenets and answerable to his citizens, no dichotomy between religion and government ever existed. More importantly, the very concept of religion as understood in Western (Abrahamic) civilization is alien to India. Sanatana Dharma is not merely a religion bound by certain principles of faith, instead it is a way of life based on eternal principles that sustains all life—individual, social, ecological, and universal. Thus sacred as well as secular, social and political as well as religious and spiritual, all aspects of life derive their sustenance from Dharma. Thus, dichotomies like religion vs. science, state vs. church, etc., which were an important force in the European society, never even sprouted in India.

Yet, ignoring these realities of Indian civilization, the Indian leaders, after independence, first imported secularism into India and then perverted its tenets and selectively implemented them in appeasement of certain “minority” communities, all the while being discriminating towards the majority community. How else can one explain contradictory actions of various state and central governments during the last seven decades?

Let’s take the example of religious institutions like places of worship belonging to various religions. Various state governments, especially in South India have taken control over Hindu temples and are earning crores of rupees from them. This is a clear violation of secularism, which mandates no interference of governments in religious activities. Add to this is the fact that out of the crores that these state governments are earning from temples, only a fraction of the amount is set aside for the maintenance of temples, and the rest is diverted to the government’s coffers. How is it secularism? Now consider this, the same state governments have allowed a free functioning of churches and mosques without any state intervention in the name of “secularism”. Moreover, crores of taxpayers’ money are spent by some of the state governments to help minority communities to renovate and build their places of worship.

In other words, the state governments have encroached upon places of worship belonging to the majority Hindu community, all the while allowing churches and mosques a free run. They are, further, looting the money from the temples and then spending taxpayers’ money on the churches, mosques, and the like. This is how secularism—the separation of religion and government—is being practiced in India. But this perversion of secularism and discrimination against the majority is, perhaps, most visible in the case of religion-specific personal laws enshrined in our constitution, despite the fact that the Directive Principles call for the eventual adoption of a uniform civil code.

Hindu Code BillsThe presence of numerous personal laws goes against the very essence of secularism. Add to this, the fact that the way these personal laws have been enacted is completely discriminatory in nature. On the one hand, the Muslim community is governed by the laws which are largely derived from Sharia and Islamic jurisprudence. Similarly, Parsis have personal law rooted in their tradition. The Jews are not governed by any personal laws, but instead are governed by the dictates of their religion. Christian personal laws are also in sync with their religious tradition. On the other hand, the majority Hindu community is governed by secularized Hindu laws which are uprooted from Hindu tradition and practices. Though custom and usage have been deemed important in the Hindu personal laws, yet through passage of various civil laws like Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Hindu Succession Act, 1956, Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, etc. the rules governing Hindu marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc. have been thoroughly secularized. Regarding the Hindu Code Bills of 1950’s, Dr. Parminder Kaur, Assistant Professor, Guru Nanak Dev University Regional Campus, Gurdaspur, writes in her article thus: “The Hindu Code Bills were a series of laws aimed at thoroughly secularizing the Hindu community and bringing its laws up to modern times, which in essence meant the abolition of Hindu law and the enactment of laws based on western lines that enshrined the equality of men and women, and other progressive ideas.”

Thus the Hindu community has been forced to shed its centuries-old customs and traditions, whereas minority communities like Muslims are freely allowed to retain their practices. Add to this the fact that Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, etc. all come under these Hindu personal laws, and thus are denied personal laws based on their own traditions and practices. It is a different issue that Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists share a common framework of Dharma with mainstream Hinduism and are deeply rooted in Indian culture and tradition. The point is just like various communities within mainstream Hinduism have their unique customs and practices, even Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists have their unique customs and practices, all of which have been discarded and replaced by secularized Hindu personal laws. This is a classic case of discrimination in the name of “secularism”.

The argument here is not that the present secularized Hindu laws are bad for the society, or that Hindus must imitate the customs and practices prevalent in Hindu society many centuries ago. The issue here is one of fairness and equal treatment. Either there should be a uniform civil code keeping with the true notion of secularism, wherein all citizens are treated as citizens, without reference to their religion in civil issues, or there should be as many personal laws as necessary to cater to various local customs, traditions, and practices. Even if one were to have a uniform Hindu personal law in such a scenario, then it must have enough flexibility and space to accommodate diverse local beliefs and practices among various communities, and these are to be framed after discussions with various religious authorities and community leaders from across the country and be rooted in Hindu religion and traditions. This is definitely not the case in the present scenario, wherein minority Muslims are allowed to follow religious principles, whereas majority Hindus, including Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists are forced to follow secularized personal laws.

Ishwar Chandra VidyasagarMore importantly, there was no necessity to secularize Hindu laws and Hindu society to usher in positive changes that were necessary, according to changing times. These positive changes could have been evolved from within Hindu tradition and culture itself. Hinduism has always been an evolving religious tradition. The presence of numerous smritis, dharma shastras, and many other texts, with each putting forward different viewpoints suitable to their own time and space, is the best evidence regarding flexibility and continuous evolution of Hinduism. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, who was instrumental in bringing in the Hindu Widows’ Remarriage Act of 1856, accomplished it by putting forward evidences, illustrations, and arguments from within the Hindu tradition. Thus, genuine Hindu personal laws, suitable for present times, rooted in values like righteousness, duty, fairness, equal opportunity to women, etc. could have been easily evolved from within Hindu philosophy and culture, through a consensus arrived after discussions and debate among various religious authorities and representatives of various Hindu communities belonging to different geographical regions. But, short-sightedness and a romance with western ideals and systems of governance, made our Indian leaders ignore Indian ideals and models present within Indian civilization.

This import of secularism, and later its perversion in the form of discriminating personal laws, have done not much good for the minority communities, especially women of those communities, either. Polygamy is prevalent and legally sanctioned under Muslim personal laws, whereas it is prohibited for everyone else. A Hindu woman has an absolute right over maintenance from her husband upon divorce, but a Muslim woman will not get maintenance beyond the period of iddah. Similarly, the grounds of divorce have been detailed and the elaborate legal process have been thoroughly established in the case of Hindus and Christians, but a Muslim woman could be divorced merely by a repetition of “talaq” thrice by her husband. The Hindu undivided family gets tax rebates, but others are bereft of this benefit. Similar discriminations exist in the case of adoption laws as well.

The gist is the perversion of secularism which has resulted in non-implementation of a uniform civil code, which has not done any good to anyone. On the one hand, the Hindu personal laws have ushered in equality and fairness in certain spheres of social life in Hindu society, but have done so at the cost of uprooting Hindu society and the legal system from the foundations of Dharma, which is bound to have adverse effects over a long-term. On the other hand, presence of separate personal laws for minority communities has kept them away, especially Muslim women, from gaining any benefits that are available for Hindus.

Ideally, India should have evolved an indigenous social and legal system rooted in Dharma (righteous duty) and Indian civilization. Such a social and legal system would have developed unique responses to challenges that are unique to Indian society; would have been fair and righteous towards everyone irrespective of their affiliations, and would have been, at the same time, firmly rooted in Indian civilization. But since we have already imported an alien system of secularism, it would do us good if we remove the prevalent perversions and implement it in its true sense by enacting a fair uniform civil code. – IndiaFacts, 9 July 2016

» Nithin Sridhar is an editor at IndiaFacts and writes on politics, religion, and philosophy from Mysore. He tweets at @nkgrock.

Nehruvian Secularism

Shah Rukh Khan Quote

Yoga is the basis for a true idea of India – David Frawley

Surya Namaskar

Dr David FrawleyYoga with its integral and unitary view of life is in many ways more progressive, global and universal than any other philosophy or ideology today. – Dr David Frawley

Today two different ideas of India are struggling with each other in a cultural war that is likely to continue for some time.

The first can be called the “Nehruvian idea” of a modern post-independence India as a multicultural, secular, socialist state striving to be culturally neutral and socially progressive. The predominant thinkers behind it are from the Left, including a number of Marxists.

The second or what could be called the “Bharatiya idea” is that of India as a great ancient civilisation and perhaps the most important spiritual culture on the planet. We could also call this “yogic India”. The predominant thinkers behind it follow traditional spiritual and cultural practices and include many gurus and swamis.

There has been some overlap between these two ideas of India; particularly during the independence movement in which India’s ancient heritage was evoked to awaken national pride. Mahatma Gandhi’s idea of India was much more traditional than that of Nehru.

The Nehruvian idea is that of the Congress. It is unusual in two ways. The first comprises the embracing of socialism—a term Indira Gandhi added in the Preamble to the Constitution in 1976—at a constitutional level. Today socialist states have all but disappeared and appear to be an anachronism from the 20th century.

The second is its idea of secularism, which includes special restrictions and taking of revenue from the Hindu majority but not minorities. This kind of anti-majority secularism is not found in other countries.

The yogic or “Bharatiya” idea is the main inspiration of the ruling BJP. The current Narendra Modi government at the Centre has proposed a number of initiatives for honouring India’s older culture. Its effort to replace Marxist interpretations of India’s history with views that better acknowledge the region’s spiritual and dharmic ethos is often criticised.

Other such initiatives include promoting pilgrimage to sacred sites in India that are predominantly Hindu and Buddhist. Votaries of the Nehruvian idea regard these changes as a dangerous imposition of Hindu values upon the secular state.

Narendra Modi 2015Yoga Day and promoting yoga

A major part of the BJP’s traditional cultural agenda comprises promoting yoga, dramatically portrayed in the International Yoga Day last year and the worldwide celebrations the accompanied it. The promotion of yoga this year includes new government proposals for yoga training in the schools, and to develop yoga teachers at various levels from exercise teachers to masters of the yogic philosophy and meditation. Such an initiative is unique in the world today.

The fact is that if one travels outside of India, he would realise that it is the yogic idea of India that people are most aware of, along with India’s great gurus. Few people know much about Nehru and generally look at him in the shadow of Mahatma Gandhi. There is a fear about India’s spiritual traditions and their growing global influence.

India’s yogic culture has spread worldwide since Swami Vivekananda opened it to the world in Chicago in 1893. It now embraces all aspects of yoga, including bhakti or devotion, with the popularity of kirtan as a musical form in the West.

It promotes mantra and meditation, yogic philosophy and the study of the Yoga Sutras. Yet it also includes Ayurvedic medicine, Sanskrit, and Indian music and dance. Many individuals outside India have devoted their lives and resources to following these teachings.

Yoga Day is the Modi government’s most visible initiative supporting and reclaiming India’s traditional culture and presenting it to the world. It shows that the older spiritual idea of India is still strong and is undergoing a resurgence. Yoga Day is likely to continue as a major event for India and the global yoga community for years to come.

We should note that yoga with its integral and unitary view of life is in many ways more progressive, global and universal than any other philosophy or ideology today.

Yoga is the basis for the true idea of India. It is not a political concept, but the exploration of consciousness as the main cultural value of the country, and goes back thousands of years. – Daily-O, 20 June 2016

» Dr David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri) is a Vedacharya and includes in his unusual wide scope of studies Ayurveda, Yoga, Vedanta and Vedic astrology, as well as the ancient teachings of the oldest Rigveda. Tweet him at @davidfrawleyved.

President Pranab Mukherjee inaugurates Yoga Day at Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi, 21 June 2016

Narendra Modi

Yoga exponent Ramdev, Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu, BJP MPs Meenakshi Lekhi, Manoj Tiwari and others practice Yoga during a yoga camp ahead of the International Yoga Day on June 21, at Rajpath in New Delhi on Sunday, June 21, 2016

Richard Rahul Verma

Yoga teacher training in Rishikesh