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India's Tryst with Secular Democracy
08/16/2006
By Ram Puniyani

This 15th August, India completed 59 years of its independence. Today where do we stand in our resolve to have a secular democratic India? It is a tragedy that conditions have so shaped during last couple of decades that one is forced to think about the very future of the democratic foundation of the country.

Right from the 1960s, communal violence began and was on at the low and medium pitch till the decade of 1980s Communal violence is a superficial manifestation of the deeper process of communal politics, the very anathema of democracy. Starting with the decade of 80s, Meenakshipuram conversions of dalits to Islam and the Shah Bano case fiasco, were used as pretexts by the Hindutva politics to go on the high offensive and shift the social debate to non issues like the Ramjanmbhoomi, Baba Budan giri and the Kamal Maula Masjid (Bhoj Shala). Using the double level of communal propaganda, through the section of media, and through the word of mouth, fear was instilled amongst the Hindus that despite being in majority, they are in danger due to the minorities, Muslim and Christians. Winning over of the social space and common sense by the Sangh combine went on getting strengthened after every episode of communal violence, it peaked with post demolition riots and the Gujarat carnage. With the Mumbai blasts of 11thJuly, the picture is close to complete and now the demonization of Muslims has become excruciatingly painful. It has gone to target the very precepts of Koran, the one's related to Jihad and Kafir. Christians, have been targeted for their work in the Adivasi areas, and the bogey of conversions has been so firmly planted by now that truth and census statistics don't matter any longer with the average understanding in the social arena.

The RSS propaganda has not been effectively countered by the democratic elements, many of them themselves coming under the spell of the same. Case of Chunibhai Vaidya, a renowned Gandhian, alleging the missionaries of conversion, is a case in point. He is not alone, there are lots and lots of people seriously committed to non violence and democracy who have partly or fully come under the grip of RSS propaganda even without realizing he same. RSS dictum is that your success is not just in coming to power, but to see that your opponents start talking in your language. This has occurred to the extent that many a gullible Muslims and Christians have started talking the RSS language in a holier than thou fashion. It is quite likely that some of them have surrendered to the ideology which aims to suppress their community, out of opportunistic reasons, but all the same such elements also do exist.

The index of degree of democracy lies in the assessment as to how secure the minorities feel in the country. If that be the litmus test, it is a stark fact that the minorities are feeling insecure and intimidated all over. And the insecurity is going up with every adverse event happening in the country and the World. It is very interesting that while the LTTE's rampage is either bypassed or justified, those insane acts of a terrorist violence, in which a Muslim is involved, intensifies the anti Muslim mindset. While this was there since decades, now there seems to be a qualitative transformation in the same.

Harsh Mander, the indefatigable fighter for human tights, points out that in the after math of Gujarat carnage, now the Muslim community there, has been reduced to the status of second class citizenship. Their boycott in the commercial activities, bypassing them in the welfare programs, and keeping them isolated at the social level, even in the villages, reminds one of the 'creation of new ghettoes of untouchables', maharwadas (untouchables bastis in village). They can neither get the housing in Hindu areas, nor is there the possibility of social interaction with others in the Hindu Rashtra of Gujarat. It seems, Golwalkar's, prescription that Muslims, "...may stay in this country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment, not even citizen's rights." (We or Our nationhood defined, 1938, nagpur, p.52), is being actualized there.

Post Mumbai blasts (July 11 2006) the police has been highly active. It has gone to the extent of reversing the dictum that you are innocent till proved guilty. For Muslims it is following that 'every Muslim is guilty till proved other wise'. Golwalkar could not have been happier. Whatever he was prescribing has become a norm even for those who are not a direct part of RSS combine. Cases after cases in Mumbai, the innocent or suspected Muslims are being hauled to the coals, and are being intimidated and tortured by the police. Nothing seems to be working in their favor. Many a delegations have met the state leadership, Central leadership, but things continue to be what they are? On the face of it the leaders/police officials say that Muslims are not being targeted, but that's purely at the level of saying only.

The plight of Christians living in the far areas is no better. Under the attack from Bajrang dal and Vanvasi Kalyan Ahsram, the RSS progenies, the Christians in general and missionaries in particular have been subjected to attacks. Not a day passes when the news of such attack does not come forth. Pastor Stain's burning by the Dara Singh, who now is given the epithet of Hindu Dharma Rakshak, was not a one isolated incident. In many a states the state administration is behaving as if it has been trained in Golwalkars thought rather than in the values of Indian constitution. The training institutes for these officials are either sleeping or giving the training, which violates the basic norms of democracy. In the BJP ruled states, MP, Rajasthan, and in state ruled by BJP affiliate, Orissa, the plight of minorities is pitiable. One wonders what is being done by Minorities commission, and the central home ministry. At the time of Gujarat carnage the chain of command from the Gujarat home minister to the central home minister, were all RSS trained volunteers. But what of now? With the 'secular' Congress in the saddle what is the state of affairs? Is it that they have also been indoctrinated unconsciously into believing in the dominant social common sense? 

RSS has combined the methods of German Nazis as far as the propaganda is concerned and has picked up from Italy's fascism, from Mussolini, to infiltrate the state apparatus. The result is an all round stifling of democratic space and the effort to abolish the democratic and human rights of minorities. It is another matter that the pot of communal nationalism which has been kept on the low temperature till two decades ago now seems to be coming close to the boiling point. Dr. Ambedker in his revised edition of the book Thoughts on Pakistan wrote that formation of Pakistan will be an unmitigated disaster for the dalits, as that may pave the way for Hindu rashtra in India. Are we witnessing the trailer of that phenomenon? It is for the nation to look back and remind itself of the resolve to nurture democracy; to weed out communal nationalism, which is strangulating the concept of India. Even at the times when BJP seems to be in the weak and humiliated state, the politics and propaganda of RSS is thriving. The time is overripe for us to take the resolve to protect the Indian constitution in letter and spirit. The time is overripe for all those committed to the values of freedom to sit up and see that India continues with a resolve to give all its citizens their due, with the resolve to promote the values of India's freedom movement, with a resolve to strengthen the concept of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity!