India’s great secular confusion – Michel Danino

Indian secularism

Prof Michel DaninoIndia’s brand of secularism denies equal rights to a perceived “majority”. It has no roots in the history of the land: the word “secularism” does not exist in any Indian language (except for recent coinages)…. – Prof Michel Danino

India seemingly has armies of self-appointed guardians of secularism, such as those who recently petitioned the Supreme Court to turn Ayodhya’s disputed site to a public purpose (The ‘secular’ solution for Ayodhya) But secularism in India is as enigmatic an animal as the proverbial elephant variously described by blind men: it has been all things to all people.

Indeed, although it frequently figured in the debates of the Constituent Assembly, the word “secularism” did not appear in the 1950 Constitution of India; Nehru was initially cold to it: “Another word is thrown up a good deal, this secular state business. May I beg with all humility those gentlemen who use this word often, to consult some dictionary before they use it? It is brought in at every conceivable step and at every conceivable stage. I just do not understand it.”

His influential minister for Agriculture, P.S. Deshmukh, is on record for questioning “the specious, oft-repeated and nauseating principle of secularity of the state. I think that we are going too far in this business of secularity.” Nauseating or not, the principle was parachuted into the Constitution by the 42nd amendment of 1976 (promulgated during the Emergency), which turned India from a “sovereign democratic republic” to a “sovereign, socialist secular democratic republic.” But there was a catch: “secularism” was left undefined, which is uncharacteristic of Constitutional amendments.

If so, we should expect it to have the conventional meaning. Let us therefore heed Nehru’s advice and turn to our dictionaries: “The principle of separation of the state from religious institutions,” says the Oxford Dictionary; “indifference to or rejection or exclusion of religion and religious considerations,” adds the Webster.

The former definition reflects the expulsion of Christianity from state matters which European nations opted for (to varying degrees) from the eighteenth century onward; also of Islam by Turkey in 1923. Was such a concept ever relevant to the Indian context, where compulsion in matters of religion and belief is repulsive to the ethos of the land? No Jain, Buddhist or Hindu king or emperor, to my knowledge, ever imposed a “state religion”; nor was India the scene of “religious wars,” whatever doctrinal frictions there may have been. Even those Islamic rulers who declared their intention to draw India into Dar al-Islam failed in the end.

Besides, the same Constitution which declares all Indians equal irrespective of their religion, caste or gender, proceeds, in Articles 28 and 29, to give religious and linguistic minorities the right to manage their places of worship and educational institutions. The civil code, too, is religion-specific as regards marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc.

This is anti-secular on the face of it. How do we get out of this embarrassing situation? By what I call a “sleight of word”—by declaring that “secularism” actually means something else: for instance, equidistance from, or neutrality towards, all religions (which is not the case), tolerance (why not use this word, then?), or perhaps some combination of atheism, rationalism and agnosticism (why not those words?).

Strictly speaking, then, India’s brand of secularism denies equal rights to a perceived “majority”. It has no roots in the history of the land: the word “secularism” does not exist in any Indian language (except for recent coinages); more importantly, “India has all along been trying experiments in evolving a social unity within which all the different peoples could be held together, while fully enjoying the freedom of maintaining their own differences. … This has produced something like a United States of a social federation, whose common name is Hinduism,” wrote the impeccably secular Rabindranath Tagore in his 1917 essays on nationalism.

Already expressed in Ashoka’s Edicts and many classical texts, this mix of integration, mutual respect and “full freedom” could, or perhaps should, have produced an Indian alternative to the European concept by building on the land’s long experiments in religious coexistence.

Instead, secularism has been a source of endless controversy and bitter feelings. As Taslima Nasrin once declared, “Most secular people are pro-Muslim and anti-Hindu. They protest against the acts of Hindu fundamentalists and defend the heinous acts of Muslim fundamentalists.” Or to quote the respected advocate, statesman, educationist and litterateur K.M. Munshi: “The word ‘secularism’ in India has no bearing on the attitude and conduct of individuals nor of religious groups. However, it has been used as a slogan of varying significance. In its name, anti-religious forces, sponsored by secular humanism or Communism, condemn religious piety, particularly in the majority community. In its name, minorities are immune from such attention and have succeeded in getting their demands, however unreasonable, accepted. In its name, again, politicians in power adopt a strange attitude which, while it condones the susceptibilities, religious and social, of the minority communities, is too ready to brand similar susceptibilities in the majority community as communalistic and reactionary. How secularism sometimes become allergic to Hinduism will be apparent from certain episodes relating to the reconstruction of Somanath temple. These unfortunate postures have been creating a sense of frustration in the majority community.”

By another sleight of word, such a statement would be viewed as “communal” today. But whether this “majority” really exists or is a construct deserves our attention. So does the important application of secularism to the world of education. – The New Indian Express, 19 March 2018

» Michel Danino is a guest professor at IIT Gandhinagar and a member of the Indian Council of Historical Research.

Secularism


 

Advertisements

Video: Are Hindu moral codes unchangeable? – Bharat Gupt

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

Religious law versus universal ethics – David Frawley

Priest, Rabbi, Mullah, Monk, and Sadhu

Vamadeva Shastri / David FrawleyAll religious leaders should sign a document of universal ethics rejecting any exceptions to it in the name of theology. No human being is condemned or damned, evil or wrong by belief alone. It is our thoughts and behavior that determines our nature and our karma regardless of the religion we may claim to follow. If our behavior is that of criminals, how can any religious law justify it? – Dr David Frawley

Do All Religions Share Common Ethical Principles?

It has been argued that all the major religions of the world share a common sense of ethics. They all teach us not to kill, not to steal, not to lie, to treat others well, to help the poor, and various other virtues acceptable to any sensitive human being. Such rules of respectful behavior form universal ethical principles and are found in many secular law codes as well. Even atheist humanists will honor them.

However, monotheistic belief-based religions teach another set of laws and principles that are purely theological in nature and can override these humanistic ethical principles, at times justifying violence and oppression. Such “religious law” or what could also be called “theological morality” teaches that if you don’t accept our particular belief in God, God will punish you, and in God’s name we true believers have the right to convert, punish or harm you as well.

These biased religious codes tell their followers that they are religiously justified in violating the human rights of those who follow other beliefs; in fact, they will be honored by God for doing so. For the true believers, religious law abrogates all other laws and principles of acceptable behavior.

Not Accepting Religious Beliefs made into Unforgiveable Crimes

The problem is that several prominent sects of Islam and Christianity have not questioned their theological beliefs even when these promote deception, conflict and violence. Islamic law or Sharia stands above all human law codes as something Divine. Christian missionaries similarly feel justified to deceive or intimidate others into conversion as part of spreading the Word of God.

According to many sects of Christianity, a murderer who repents on his deathbed will go to Heaven, while a saintly person who is not a Christian will go to hell in spite of his or her exemplary life. In other words, God will forgive you of heinous crimes if you believe in him, but will not forgive you of the ultimate sin of disbelief, whatever else good you may do. This means that not following certain Church dogmas is equated with great evils—as if violations of theology were worse than crimes against humanity.

In Islam, criticizing Mohammed or the Koran is a crime that can be punishable by death, as stated in anti-apostasy and anti-blasphemy laws. It has been said in Islam that the worst Muslim, be he/she a criminal, is better than the best non-Muslim, be he/she a saint. In other words, belief in Islam outweighs being a good person. Such unethical laws are part of the Sharia law code followed in Islamic states today.

For fundamentalists in Christianity or Islam, theological morality outweighs any universal ethics. It makes deception, theft and killing in the Name of God into virtuous acts, however much destruction and sorrow caused along the way. History is replete with examples of Crusades and Jihads, with genocide, witch-burning, and wanton destruction of entire countries and cultures.

Universal Ethical PrinciplesIslamic State, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan

The Islamic State today is a good example of a religious group that follows a cruel theological morality that violates all universal ethics, extending to public beheadings of non-believers. Such true believers feel justified in promoting a wave of terror against all who do not accept their particular view of Islam, which may include those who follow other types of Islamic teachings like the Shias.

Yet Saudi based Wahhabi Islam follows the same law codes as the Islamic State, which it teaches in numerous madrasas throughout the world. As long as Saudi Arabia upholds these cruel religious laws, the rest of the Islamic world will likely continue to do the same, regardless of any covenants of human rights they may politically claim to endorse for the United Nations.

Pakistan is another prime Islamic State in which Islamic law is regularly invoked to justify brutality and to promote state support of terrorist Jihad, now threatening the entire world. Bharat has historically had the imposition of Islamic law that brought about a genocide of Hindus and massive destruction of Hindu temples during the long period of Islamic rule.

An End to Religious Law and Theological Morality

Though religions may appear to share certain universal ethics—it counts for little if they have overriding religious laws that consider it acceptable to harm non-believers. There can be no real interfaith dialogue until such dehumanizing religious laws and principles are totally rejected.

There can be no peace between religions until all theological morality is given up in favor of a universal ethics that does not depend upon any belief. It is wrong to kill, steal or deceive any human beings, not just believers. There is no exception for true believers that allows them to perform criminal acts as a form of religious virtue. That the other person is in your eyes a heathen, kafir or idolater is no excuse for their degradation.

Until such theological morality is rejected, and any religious law that promotes it, speaking of the unity or harmony of religions, and their promotion of love and human values, cannot be taken seriously. This extends to the Catholic Church, which while trying to bring an end to certain political conflicts in the world, continues to promote religious divisions and antagonisms as if it were the only true faith.

All religious leaders should sign a document of universal ethics rejecting any exceptions to it in the name of theology. No human being is condemned or damned, evil or wrong by belief alone. It is our thoughts and behavior that determines our nature and our karma regardless of the religion we may claim to follow. If our behavior is that of criminals, how can any religious law justify it?

If Islam is a religion of peace why does Islamic law promote and justify war, which may excuse terrorism? If Christianity is a religion of love, why does its God of love hatefully condemn the majority of humanity to eternal damnation? If a religion sanctions violating common courtesy and respect between people, how can it lead us to any higher truth or immortality? – Hindu Post, 28 July 2016

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

Cultural Relativism

Islam a tolerant religion!

Paedophile priests go to heaven

See also

India needs a common civil code rooted in reason, not sentiment – Mohan Guruswamy

People of India

Mohan Guruswamy“If a common set of laws for inheritance, marriage, divorce, custody, adoption and guardianship were to be framed with a special emphasis on gender equality, which neither resembled any existing personal law nor sought to impose any one personal law on the rest, it would simply be a common and secular civil code. Such a common and secular civil code, while not interfering with any of the rituals and many practices of the various religious and caste groups, would seek to merely legitimise the larger precepts of law that are being made secular.” – Mohan Guruswamy

Supreme Court of India in New DelhiThe Supreme Court on [October 12th] gave the Union government three weeks to come up with a proposal to amend the Christian divorce act while asking it to take a quick decision on a uniform civil code to end the confusion over personal laws.

“If you want to have a uniform civil code, have it. If you want to follow the uniform civil code, follow it. But you must take a decision soon,” a bench headed by justice Vikramjit Sen told solicitor general Ranjit Kumar.

We have a National Democratic Alliance government, and with the Bharatiya Janata Party alone having a majority in the Lok Sabha with 282 seats, the excuse for shelving the discussion for a Common Civil Code has evaporated. The BJP manifesto had promised to deliver on this issue. It’s time for a debate once again. It’s time that we are no longer separated by law.

Relevant laws

The cornerstone of a democratic society is equality. Without equality, there can be no justice, just as without justice there can be no equality. True justice cannot be based on unjust laws, though it is possible to have a law-abiding society with the most unjust laws in place.

Just laws are a pre-requisite for a democratic society and, therefore, a just and orderly society. The concept of justice also changes with the dynamics of the times. Laws evolved and deemed sacred in more primitive times cannot continue to be considered so, if they do not satisfy the conditionalities of the doctrine of equality.

On this, the tallest philosopher of our times, John Rawls, wrote: “Laws and institutions on matter, however efficient and well arranged, must be reformed, or, abolished if they are unjust.”

In his celebrated work, A Theory of Justice, Rawls said that every person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override. As such, justice denies that this loss of freedom for a few is made right by a greater good shared by others.

It does not allow that the sacrifice imposed on a few is outweighed by the larger sum of advantages enjoyed by many. Therefore, it follows that in a just society, the liberties of equal citizenship are taken as settled. The rights secured by justice are not subject to political bargaining or to the calculus of social interest.

Favouring personal laws

Much of the legal argument by those still in favour of the existing system of separate personal laws on the basis of religion and custom derive from the premise that personal laws are part and parcel of the freedom of religion guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution of India. This is despite the fact that Clause 2 of the same article specifically saves secular activities associated with religious practices from the guarantee of religious freedom.

Even so, personal laws are not laws under Article 13, and, therefore, do not have to conform to fundamental rights and the doctrine of equality enshrined in Article 14.

But if personal laws were tested against the doctrine of equality under law, it will be found that a large number of them are unjust, arbitrary, and unconstitutional. It is this issue the Supreme Court addressed in the matter of Father John Vallamattom, when the Chief Justice ruled: “we find section 118 of the Act being unreasonable, is arbitrary and discriminatory, and therefore violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.”

Choosing reason

Most of those who oppose a common civil code do so on the grounds that this is not the time as the minorities, especially the Muslim community, spoken for by its self-declared leadership, are not ready for it.

A “theological” argument has also been advanced, that these existing laws are God-given and, therefore, cannot be tampered with. The rationality of such an argument, and of the persons who advance them, do not deserve any serious attention in this day and age. This is the same logic that wants us to suspend reason and believe that a particular God was born at a particular spot just because it is commonly believed to be so.

All laws, even the eternal ones, are man-made and reflect the level of thinking and advancement of human knowledge and civilisation at that moment of time. If we have to accept what lawgivers such as Manu evolved in the period before the Gupta Empire or in medieval Arabia as sacrosanct, then we will forever be condemned to be governed by archaic, unequal and unjust laws. In the age of reason, the demand that people obey laws must be rooted in reason and not sentiment.

Destabilise to modernise

The task of modernisation entails the destabilisation of many institutions. Our founding fathers, Hindus and Muslims alike, in the process of seeking to modernise India, had destabilised and uprooted many traditional institutions. They destabilised the manner in which much of Hindu society was organised. They destabilised the hierarchy of castes. They also outlawed many discriminatory practices, apparently ordained by Hindu religion and custom.

The traditional objections of a uniform civil code hark back to the argument posed when the matter was debated in the Constituent Assembly. The two main objections then were that it would infringe on the fundamental right to freedom of religion guaranteed by Article 25, and that it would constitute tyranny of the majority.

The first objection is misconceived because the directive in Article 44 does not infringe the religious practices as stated under Article 25. As stated earlier, secular activities associated with religious practices are specifically saved from the guarantee of religious freedom.

Finding common ground

The second objection would be valid, if the laws of one community were made incumbent on the rest. However, if a common set of laws for inheritance, marriage, divorce, custody, adoption and guardianship were to be framed with a special emphasis on gender equality, which neither resembled any existing personal law nor sought to impose any one personal law on the rest, it would simply be a common and secular civil code.

Such a common and secular civil code, while not interfering with any of the rituals and many practices of the various religious and caste groups, would seek to merely legitimise the larger precepts of law that are being made secular.

For instance, a Hindu from Kerala may marry his niece under the Marumakkathyam Law, whereas it would be decreed as a voidable marriage for a Mitakshara Hindu. Under a common and secular civil code, the validity of a marriage would begin with the age of consent and end with a legitimate registration or certification by any authorised person or body such as a priest or locally elected officials or even traditional village elders.

By applying the doctrine of equality, all grounds of divorce, like adultery, desertion and cruelty, will be equally available to husband and wife. Thus, if a concealed pregnancy by another man before marriage is a ground, so will the concealed pregnancy of another woman by the man. If bigamy is to be a ground for divorce, so will polyandry. Naturally, divorce by mutual consent will be allowed to the husband and the wife jointly.

Doctrine of equality

A common and secular civil code will also then address the issues that make marriages void or voidable in a uniform manner. A void marriage is one that in law does not exist. A voidable marriage is one that exists legally, and can only be annulled by a court of law.

When the equality doctrine prevails, it will entail that in matters of maintenance and alimony, it will become the duty of the spouse with the greater or only income to maintain the other. A similar application of the doctrine on the questions of inheritance, maintenance of children, custody and guardianship and adoption will result in a dramatically different and more egalitarian social scenario.

It is this more equal society that all religious conservatives fear most. Unfortunately, the political parties that profess to be secular and those who profess to oppose pseudo-secularism pander equally to conservatives the most. That seems to be the real problem. – Scroll.in, 17 October 2015

» Mohan Guruswamy is Chairman, Centre for Policy Alternatives, New Delhi.

Indian army signpost in the Himalayas

Modi may end up winging it on his own – Bharat Karnad

Bharat Karnad“Current policies generally seem unchanged from Manmohan Singh’s days which, perhaps, explains the popular disillusionment with Modi. For Modi to pull things back, … it will require him to return to Deen Dayal Upadhyaya’s nationalist ideology and the BJP’s root social self-help principles. … Without the right intellectual heft and expertise in the Prime Minister’s Office and in government, Modi may end up winging it on his own without taking the country or even himself very far.”- Bharat Karnad

Narendra Modi & Amit ShahThe Delhi poll-quake produced an outcome almost everybody in the political firmament, including many within the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, it seems, craved for—the crashing of the Narendra Modi juggernaut. It has highlighted the shortfalls in Modi’s nine-month rule encapsulated in the opposition’s jibe that he is “All talk, no action”. Paperless cabinet meetings, ministers staying late in office, civil servants turning up in time for work do not, apparently, constitute the social and economic revolution the people expected. Arvind Kejriwal, in the event, has emerged, remarkably, as the rival the prime minister will be judged against.

Arvind Kejriwal & Manish SisodiyaModi’s achievements to date amount, in substance, to an easy camaraderie with world leaders and exhortations to the people. In contrast, the 49 days of Kejriwal’s first tenure as chief minister had such impact it carried his Aam Aadmi Party to an overwhelming victory in the capital and, the day after the declaration of the poll results, for instant changes—government tankers appeared in water-starved parts of the capital, touts disappeared from the regional transport offices, and bribe-demanding police turned into paragons of propriety. While Modi’s “corruption-free India” remained a slogan, Kejriwal’s campaign motivated the citizens to use mobile telephony to trap wrongdoers, and become the agent of change they desired.

The irony is that as a former chaiwallah who made it to the top on his own, Modi has a better story to tell, but has failed so far to parley it into policies that encourage and reward personal initiative and individual effort, reduce the profile of the government as employer of the first and last resort, and to embark schemes to grow jobs by growing the economy. Over the months the people found that Modi did not trim government waste, or reconfigure the system, or rectify its ways of doing business with the people, or ramp up the abysmal-quality services it delivered, or devise policies to encourage and incentivise private enterprise, or initiate training schemes to up-skill the potential industrial workforce needed for the country’s industry to be at the cutting edge, or facilitate a take-off by the manufacturing sector by putting teeth into his “Make in India” policy, or attract the fabled foreign investment to get trillion dollars worth of infrastructure and connectivity projects going. More disheartening still, pronouncements aside, labour and judicial reforms, like their economic counterpart, have stayed stuck in the political and administrative quagmire.

Narendra Modi at Madison Square Garden, New York (September 28, 2014)By way of relief, Modi sought visibility on the international stage where “success” can be gleaned by managing the pomp and attendant pageantry and playing to the delirious non-resident Indian crowds from New York to Sydney. The trouble is the law of diminishing returns kicks in fast. While the occasional international summit and Madison Garden-do is fine, too many foreign jaunts and diplomatic jamborees quickly pall, giving the impression of a democratic leader seeking escape or diversion from his failures on the domestic front.

Problematically, Kejriwal has scored in the areas Modi appears deficient. The AAP supremo did what he promised—improve, even if slightly, the everyday life of the majority—the underclass surviving in miserable slums and shanty towns by ordering cut-rate electricity and water for it. Populist programmes cannot be long sustained because the policy of “robbing Peter to pay Paul” is guaranteed ultimately to alienate both but, in the interim, he can coast. Relying on his “brains trust”, Kejriwal has been inventive—like asking the Centre to allot Delhi a coal block as a captive source of energy for thermal power plants in the capital region. He has less in common with the lowliest in the land than does Modi but compensates with the kind of empathy, humility, and ability to connect with the common folk the PM seems unable to match. And, bad optics—the supposedly expensive suit he donned in his session with Barack Obama—hasn’t helped.

The Left liberals comprising the bulk of the country’s media, intelligentsia, and political parties, who have benefited from the quasi-socialist nanny state, see Modi’s failure as rooted in a faulty ideology symbolised by the carryings-on of the Hindu fringe. The miniscule minority forming the more responsible liberal Right in the country, among whom this analyst counts himself, on the other hand, is a frustrated lot. With the government identified by Modi as the mother of most ills afflicting the state and society, he was expected to slash government, rid the system of the careerist civil servant-dominated decision-making, redefine the national interest along hard nationalist lines, and shape policies accordingly. Instead, Modi empowered the bureaucrats.

Meanwhile in the policy-making field, too, Kejriwal has taken the lead, appointing domain experts to advise him on innovative solutions and policy options. Other than in the economic field where outside experts have been installed in the NITI Aayog and as advisers, they are conspicuously absent in most of the rest of the Modi government. Thus, the technical ministries at the Centre continue to be run by generalist civil servants, foreign policy by the prime minister’s instincts (which has resulted in inadequate attention paid to neighbours—Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan, compounded by ill-thought out actions, such as the nuclear compromise with Obama, in violation of an Act of Parliament, that could make the indigenous nuclear energy programme extinct), and defence is constrained by the limited imagination of external affairs. Judged broadly, the Pandit Deendayal Upadhyayacurrent policies generally seem unchanged from Manmohan Singh’s days which, perhaps, explains the popular disillusionment with Modi.

For Modi to pull things back, which he can do in the remaining four odd years in office, it will require him to return to Deen Dayal Upadhyaya’s nationalist ideology and the BJP’s root social self-help principles. He will also have to bank on conservative strategists from outside, who helped Atal Bihari Vajpayee chart an expansive national security policy and set India on the great power course, to fill his strategic policies with meaningful content. Without the right intellectual heft and expertise in the Prime Minister’s Office and in government, Modi may end up winging it on his own without taking the country or even himself very far. – The New Indian Express, 20 February 2017 

» Prof Bharat Karnad is India’s foremost conservative strategist at the Centre for Policy Research. He blogs at the Security Wise web site.

An Open Letter to Narendra Modi – Francois Gautier

François Gautier & Narendra ModiFrancios Gautier

17 February  2015

Dear Mr Prime Minister,

First let me tell you that many a times, I felt that some Divine Force was inspiring you – the way Sri Aurobindo said that Churchill was guided by Him to fight the Nazis….

But then, I have to say, as someone who travels extensively in India & has spent a lot of time in Delhi for the last 40 years (I have interviewed 7 Indian PM’s), that nothing much has changed. Your ministers are still as unreachable as the Congress ones, functioning in the same system with four layers of secretaries. Even if you have an important work – there is no way you can meet one of your ministers unless you have some pull. Your MP’s, as the Congress ones before them, once they come to Delhi, with their cars, bungalows, countless aides, and so many sycophants coming for favours, quickly lose sight of why they were elected. You need to send them BACK to their constituencies the way Mao Tse Tung sent back all his cadres to the countryside. Delhi is a microcosm of India and you seem to have lost there some of the Hindu electorate who voted for you UNITEDLY, from the Dalit to the businessmen. Some of us had seen this coming for a few months already.

You need to have around you people who will tell you what the mood of the people is – without ANY FEAR – for I have seen, even with gurus, that their followers always want to please them, flatter them and thus shield them from the truth. It is something inherent to the Hindu psyche. If this had been done, maybe we could have told you that the middle class and lower class Hindus who voted for you, want a change at the grass root level. They are not concerned about Obama and nuclear energy, or the way you are skilfully loosening the Chinese encircling grip, or the remarkable unifying of intelligence and their agencies you are doing with Mr Doval, but about the daily problems and the constant bribes that are asked by petty bureaucrats and policemen. I myself experience this in Maharashtra as I am asked bribes for getting permissions for a Museum, which is free, dedicated to Shivaji Maharaj and a seva project!

Also they do not understand why you were so fiery and outspoken while campaigning – and now that you are elected, you do not seem any more to be promoting their Hindu causes. They cannot fathom, for instance in their simple minds, why you are being so friendly to Sonia Gandhi, who wanted you in prison or even dead – and why you are keeping away from those who supported you in your darkest hours, when nobody thought that you would become PM. These old friends of yours are still keeping quiet, out of respect for your work, but I know many who are bitter. The common Hindu man does not comprehend either why no one in your Government stands by reconversions of Christians or Muslims to Hinduism. During the last tsunami, at least 10% of the Tamil Nadu fishermen were converted by Christian missionaries, using financial baits, such as free boats. I was there and SAW it. Or why when one of yours says that Hindus must produce more children, he is booed down. We know that Muslims produce seven to eight children per couple and in some areas of India they are now in majority and will NOT vote for you. It is true that there have been vandalizing of churches in Delhi, whether intentional, or just by some common thieves. But this is an old trick of Indian Christians to evoke sympathy from Obama and Co and bring pressure & discredit upon you. You should know better than that: Christians have been the aggressors in this country & the Pope still thinks that India is a fair target for mass conversions.

We understand that you must be the Prime Minister of all Indians and that you have to rise above sectarianism, but there has to be in the public a perception that you are the PRIME MINISTER OF HINDUS BECAUSE IT IS THEY WHO VOTED FOR YOU – not the Muslims – whatever Ram Madhav told you before the Kashmir elections, which is going Francois Gautier & Atal Bihari Vajpayeeto be another thorn in your heel (and if you do not remove Article 370 soon, most Hindus will lose faith in your government). To cultivate the Muslims, thinking that they will like you in the end, as Mr Vajpayee did, under the influence of the nice but misguided Sudheendhra Kulkarni, is not only a waste of time, but also may ALIENATE YOUR HINDU VOTERS, whom you are going to need in four years again and at different state elections. Let the Muslims of India know that they possess the same rights as any Hindus, Sikhs or Christians, which they actually have, including total freedom of worship, that Hindus have neither in Bangladesh, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, but do not go out of your way to please them. When the common man of Delhi sees that you received Aamir Khan, whose film PK, is a deliberate insult to all Hindu gurus & Hindus, they think something is not right. Also they do not understand why so many Hindu gurus and activists such as Sadhvi Pragya and Colonel Purohit, whose innocence has been proved, are still languishing in jail. Congress had no qualms in favouring their people and flouting all decent rules. This isn’t about ethics, but if your aim is just, dharmic, and I believe it is, it does not matter what means are used.

The Congress got elected and elected again with mostly the Muslims votes, till Kejriwal came, You need to CULTIVATE THE HINDU ELECTORATE Sir, by making gestures, even if you let your people do them and stand back. And that has to be done QUICKLY. If they are convinced that you are working for them, you will have the two or even three terms you need to achieve a real Renaissance of India. Democracy is a beautiful but skewed system, easy to hijack by adharmic forces. To realise all the great things you have undertaken, YOU NEED A UNIFIED HINDU VOTE.

The trap now is to listen to the Media which says that your party lost in Delhi because of ‘communal’ reasons – vandalizing of churches, statements by your people about reconversions, or your so-called ten lakh suit. This will prod you and your government to go more secular, let go of more of the pledges you made for the Hindu cause during your campaign, the same way the Vajpayee Government veered away gradually from its Hindu ideals – and lost the elections to Sonia Gandhi.

But think of it like that: you got elected in May last year with a massive mandate BECAUSE of your dedicated, sincere and fiery HINDU promises. There is no reason why it should not work the same way now that you have the power. You need to stick by what your pledged Sir – whatever the Media, Obama, your bureaucrats or the Foreign Press says….

Namaste,

Francois Gautier

» Francois Gautier is a journalist and author of international repute. He is the founder of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum of Indian History at Pune, Maharashtra. He blogs at FRANCOIS GAUTIER.

Dalai Lama opens Tibetan Pavilion in Shivaji Maharaj Museum of Indian History, Pune (28 July 2013)