The search for a secular India

According to the preamble of the Indian Constitution, India is a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic. The term secular is symbolic of the fact that India does not identify an official state religion. In August 1947, when the British acquitted India, one of the largest ethnically diverse nations were being divided on the basis of religion. One country, Pakistan, chose to be an Islamic state. But India chose to remain secular, although the term secular was added to the constitution in 1976. Here Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists everyone has the same and equal rights. But it is a very utopian thinking that hardly ensues in the real world.

The secular India lost its meaning the day India got independence. With the threat of civil war between Indians and Muslims looming around, the leaders at that time had thought partition was the best way to retain peace in the subcontinent. But they were in for a surprise when Hindus and Muslims clashed on the wake of partition. Neighbors who lived together for years suddenly turned foes. Hindus and Muslims were forced to move out of their homes to their respective new born countries. Almost a million people lost their lives during partition, which was just the commencement of a catastrophe of communal riots about to take place in the coming years.

When Jawaharlal Nehru was surprised by the Jabalpur riots in 1961 one wonders what would have been his reaction if he was alive to see how once a pluralist nation was changing its face. The Ahmedabad riots of 1969 were sparked off on the grounds that Jagannath Mandir cows were disturbing the Urs celebrations. The Bhagalpur riots of 1989, due to a procession that was carrying bricks for constructing the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. The anti-Sikh riots of 1984 after the assassination of the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. The Mumbai riots of 1992 in the aftermath of Babri Masjid demolition. The 2002 Gujarat riots that broke out after the Sabarmati train carnage near the Godhra station in which Hindu karsevaks were killed. The 65 years of independent India have also seen a large number of smaller riots with thousands of people losing their lives in the hands of communal lunatics.

Small communal tensions existed pre independence too. But by and large it remained peaceful. Tensions began to build up post independence. Muslims go to Pakistan and Hindus go to India became a constant rhetorical sloganeering in both countries. Muslims have taken away our land in the name of Pakistan so they don’t have any right to live here, are the kind of remarks spread by miscreants who despise communal harmony . What they forget is that they are also human beings who just want to live their life like everyone else.

The partition did not ease the bitterness and animosity among the Hindu and Muslim communities with each claiming the land as their own and the other as outsiders. But no partition would have meant India was in danger of becoming a conflict zone. The seventies and eighties also saw the emergence of the Sangh Parivar consisting of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party), Bajrang Dal and VHP (Vishva Hindu Parishad) and the revival of Hindutva ideology. But to put the blame on Sangh Parivar for the propagation of Hindutva and subsequent rioting is also not correct. Congress claims itself to be a secular party but its urge for power and various communal leaders at the top, finds it difficult to remain secular. Almost all the riots post independence did occur when the Congress was in power.

The British who wanted to divide India, thought the propagation of communal hatred between the two as the best way to break the peace of the state. Unfortunately, we are still not able to overcome the communal hatred ingrained on to us by the British. People who endorse the idea of a secular state are considered as mentally sick by Hindutva bullies. With the new phenomenon of internet Hindus, who keeps trolling the internet and social media sites, they have found a new way of propagating their hindutvawadi ideas into the society. Renowned historian Ramachandra Guha in his new book Patriots and Partisans has said, how, when he endorses the need for a secular state, is flooded with mails calling him a poison in the face of this earth.

The provocative and communal speeches made by various leaders also leave a deep impact in the society. In fact it is the government’s inability to take action against rioters and hate mongers that gives them more impetus to spread hatred to communalize the society and pushes it to be in the margins. Today the idea of a secular state is totally lost. The vision of Nehru and Gandhi for a secular India is yet to be achieved even after 65 years of independence.