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Monday, December 10, 2012

Does secularism mean Hindu subservience?


The two hot debating topics this December first week were the demolition of a disused building in Ayodhya twenty years ago and the current Gujarat election. The Ayodhya anniversary has by now become an annual ritual which (especially) the English language media religiously (pun intended) runs through, dusting its old footage or commissioning new quotes from old columnists. The debate such as it is, is like a restricted club whose membership is closed to outsiders. It is like the yarn about investigating a murder that occurred during an Italian card game in New York. The investigator asks the first guy, ‘who fired the shot?’ and he replies, ‘I dunno. I didn’t see it. I was sitting with my back to the door, you see.’ The second guy says the same thing and all others say the same thing. It was one card game in which everyone sat on the same side of the table!

As the debate could have only one side, any new columnists would have to conform by spewing old arguments of the old columnists, but if possible, in new a idiom. Or face ostracism from what is known as the mainstream media. Even the few columnists who have a contrary view would have to shroud their views in a lot of verbiage as to practically make them unintelligible or at least sound neutral. Or pass them as social science theories. Columnists with a Hindu moniker have to be doubly careful to pass the test of secularism. Others are not hampered by any such shibboleths. Thus, to be admitted to the club while a columnist with a name like a Misra or a Sarma would have to constantly invoke the dangers posed by the ‘Hindu right’ to the ‘secular fabric’ of the nation, a Manu Joseph could be brazen about his concept of secularism. Joseph first dismissed the notion that India is secular in his December 5 column in the International Herald Tribune (India Is Not A Secular Republic). To make matters clear even for the dimwitted, Joseph elaborated his concept of secularism in his column of the same day in New York Times (Secularism in Search of a Nation):
“…what it really meant, without spelling it out, was that Hindus, who make up the majority of the nation, would have to accommodate themselves to the ways of the other religions, even if this meant taking some cultural blows.”
In order to leave no one in doubt, as to what he meant by ‘taking cultural blows’, Joseph elaborates:
“So, Hindus would have to accept the slaughter of cows, which they consider sacred (some Indian states have banned cow slaughter); …”
For Joseph this was not enough.
“… the Muslim community’s perceived infatuation with Pakistan;”
Having demolished an oft repeated if clichéd ‘the idea of India’, shibboleth chanted by the secular intelligentsia, he comes to the nub:
“…the conversion of poor, low-caste Hindus to Christianity by evangelists; and the near impossibility of getting admitted to some prestigious schools and colleges run by Christian organizations because so many places are reserved for Christian students.”
The last bit about ‘the near impossibility of getting admitted to some prestigious schools and colleges’ is a placebo thrown in to mask his main demand that India be made a grazing ground for number-starved Churches in the west. There was a time when Christian run schools and colleges were in demand but there is no such mad scramble for them now as non-Christian (calling them Hindu might offend secular sensibilities!) institutions offer quality education comparable to or even better than them.

As Joseph was writing in an American newspaper read mainly in America would he consider tendering the same advice to the Americans? For instance, being a secular nation, America should have taken the cultural blow of ‘the World Trade Centre being brought down by a few misguided youth’ and not waged a war first on Afghanistan and then on Iraq. Or that America should really not bother about some of its jobs being Banglored. Or that twenty-first century America should really be not so conservative. If it were not so why would a Bobby Jindal or a Nicky Haley would have had to go to such great lengths to conceal their ethnic identities and fabricate new ones!  

After all this din, the Indian mainstream media would have redeemed a bit of its credibility if it expended a wee-bit of its energies in mourning a humanitarian disaster that is comparable only to the holocaust. None bothered (or dared) ask, ‘if the day on which a disused structure was destroyed is to be described a black day and commemorated every year, what about the day on which an estimated 450,000 Hindus were exiled in their own homeland?’ Why do lofty ideals like secularism and composite culture do not have the same connotation in India’s northern-most state? If December 6 is to be celebrated as a ‘black day’ every year why don’t we commemorate January 19 the day on which the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits commenced in 1989 and did not stop till virtually all of them were driven out? By not speaking about it if not against it are not our intelligentsia and media guilty of complicity?

6 comments:

  1. Well sir, in Indian scenario secularism definitely means hindu subservience! I read the original article and was glad to see the damning comments from people. At least the deafening silence on hindu bashing has been broken on the internet. The writer of the article and all those who bash the nationalist hindus alike should understand for once and for all - India is not secular because minorities need it to be secular; India is secular because secularism is the essence of hinduism.

    We have never had problem with any one experimenting with the religion. We didn't kill people for hearsay!

    People like Manu Joseph can not even be tried for hurting religious sentiments or disturbing harmony because right to practice hinduism is neither guaranteed nor protected by the media rules (which interestingly overrides the constitution!)

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    1. Well said! "India is not secular because minorities need it to be secular; India is secular because secularism is the essence of hinduism"

      May I add, India is secular only because the majority of its citizens are Hindus.

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  2. {Part 1 of 2}

    Well said Sir :-) December 6th is a date I always look forward to for two reasons. While I will explain the second reason in conclusion, let me explain in not so many words my thoughts on the first reason.

    The consternation and trepidation that befalls December 6th in India, inflamed by Media's passionate and overmastering zest for subsistence, can only be laughed at, ridiculed at and at best ignored at. The pretentious *oohs* and *aahs* that accompanies almost all of the panelists and the anchors debating this date as worthy of the time they spend over it is risible. Alas! These fellas have managed to somehow drill this date as a metonym for *destruction*.

    Nevertheless, the public have risen beyond expectation to evaluate the parochial and divisive motives of those political parties, media houses, fanatic religious institutions and practitioners. Barring a few, there is yawning interest to the significance of a December 6th anymore. The advent of a powerful social media has contributed to this change and the forceful retreat of these megalomaniacs. Whereas, the likes of Manu Josephs, Barkha Dutts etc. have an agenda to conduct and that is anything less than fragment the nation. Manu Joseph, coming from a typically hardcore Xian family from central Kerala, can not think, rather, is not permitted to think beyond the parameter which his diocese dictates. He could be sitting anywhere in this universe, yet, his diocese ultimately holds the leash. Therefore, to gloat upon a secular India can only be in those terms he penned, one which he is ordained to think within and not beyond. And that is to quote from the Horses's mouth of what Joseph thought was his concept of secularism as elaborated in his column in New York Times (Secularismin Search of a Nation) of December 6th:-

    “…what it really meant, without spelling it out, was that Hindus, who make up the majority of the nation, would have to accommodate themselves to the ways of the other religions, even if this meant taking some cultural blows.”

    “So, Hindus would have to accept the slaughter of cows, which they consider sacred (some Indian states have banned cow slaughter); …”

    “… the Muslim community’s perceived infatuation with Pakistan;”

    “…the conversion of poor, low-caste Hindus to Christianity by evangelists; and the near impossibility of getting admitted to some prestigious schools and colleges run by Christian organizations because so many places are reserved for Christian students.”

    The poor bastard! His narrative can be laid to rest with an RIP if need be at best.



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    1. Prashantji, Thank you for filling in the missing link, i.e. Manu Joseph's antecedents. The most unfortunate thing is western media like the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal insist on seeing India only through the jaundiced eyes of our pseudo-secular journalists.

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  3. {Part 2/2}

    Yes, it is a growing concern that people like Jospeh, Zakir, Roy, Teesta, Afzal, Binayak et alia get away with any rubbish they rant or perform whereas any Hindu, from a layman to a priest becomes *communal* for a genuine exhibition of our cultural values. Now, if Hindus can't practice their faith in a HINDU INDIA, where else will they do so. Dominant political interference into Hindu religion has forbade it to refrain from its festivities and practices in a systematic manner. Unfortunately majority of the Hindus, sadly belonging to the same political institution, little realized the inherent connivance. Thankfully, the RSS and its political wing, the BJP has somehow managed to tutor and amend the debilitation of a great religion. Plenty has to be done, yet, December 6th was an unequivocal execution according to a convention or tradition that was alien to the hitherto ignorant Hindu! It was perhaps the first congregation of Hindu masses with a singular purpose in over a century. Had they exhibited this unity a thousand years ago - I wish - no Baber or a Clyde would have dared step into the soil.

    But, why should India be *Secular*? Are Islamic and Xian Nations secular? And what is the concept of being secular? Does any panelist or media anchors actually realize the exact meaning of secularism? Just for the records :-

    The spirit or tendency, especially a system of political or social philosophy that rejects all forms of religious faith and worship is called Secularism.

    OR

    the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of a religious element is called Secularism.

    It's like *naughty didn't always mean "mean" and nice always wasn't so "nice" ** Eh!

    And Sir, the second reason I look forward to this date with great anticipation and eagerness is because it is my Wife's birthday! I simply love the date for both the reasons, if I may, Hahaha!!!

    Thank you for a fine write up, Sir.

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    1. Thank you again for adding value to my write-up as you always do at some length.

      While a wife's birthday is always a cherishable event for anyone there is a bit of whacky humour with which you relish its coincidence!

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