<b>Politics of secularism is a threat to nationalism</b>

Politics of secularism is a threat to nationalism

Shyam Khosla

$img_titleSeveral years ago, I was invited to participate in an Independence Day function in a High School at Hisar in Haryana. As part of the celebrations, a patriotic group song was rendered which expressed the desire of the children thus: “Bharat ko phir se sone ki chidiya banana hai”. In my brief speech I praised the patriotic spirit of the song and asked if the aim shouldn’t be to make the country sone ka sher with unlimited courage and a warm heart. I underlined the need to make Bharat a strong and powerful nation that no invader would dare to attack and added that we should, however, have a warm heart that bleeds for the oppressed and the deprived humanity. The gathering, comprising students and citizens, responded with cheers to express their agreement with my sentiments. I recalled this small  incident that I had almost forgotten after reading a newspaper report that quoted former Army Chief General V K Singh to say, “If we have youth power by our side, there is no way India cannot become sone ki chidiya, again”. This statement distressed me as it came from a brave and thinking soldier who endeared himself to citizens by his ruthless crusade against corruption in the army. Not for a moment I dare doubt the General’s patriotism and courage, yet one must raise the issue of our leaders’ propensity to fall prey to terminology given currency by invaders and colonial rulers. Our leaders in various walks of life make profound statements without application of mind. It is a reflection of a defeatist and defensive mind set. This must change if Bharat is to find its rightful place in the comity of advanced and powerful nations.

It is in this context that one was gratified to hear J&K State Congress president, at long last, demanding that several thousand Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan who took refuge in Jammu region should be granted civil rights like access to education and government jobs and also the right to purchase property in the state. These rights have been denied to these hapless people for the last 65 years. They are entitled to vote in parliamentary elections but are denied the right to vote in assembly polls and are have no access to higher education and jobs in government departments. Successive state governments had never bothered to address their concerns. Denial of civil rights is a gross discrimination against our own people. These refugees from Pakistan live under the shadow of Pakistani guns near the Line of Control. No effort has been made to relocate them to safer places. Ironically refugees from Pakistan who settled in other parts of the country enjoy all the rights as citizens of Bharat and two of them rose to be Prime Ministers and one became Deputy Prime Minister of the country. Yet those who took refuge in Jammu are treated as pariahs thanks to the distorted secularism of our political class and separatist mentality of a section of the people in the Kashmir valley. The gratification over the State Congress chief’s humanitarian demand got punctured by the mischievous opposition to it by separatists like Syed Ali Shah Gilani. He and others of his ilk are painting the State Congress’ demand as a part of the “Indian conspiracy” to change the demographics of the “disputed” state. The Union and State Governments have shown no inclination to bring such traitors to justice. Let the Congress led governments in New Delhi and Srinagar demonstrate its seriousness on the issue by taking concrete action to grant civil rights to refugees settled in Jammu region. And let the National Conference and PDP come clean on the issue. These refugees in their own country deserve all rights available to Indian citizens. Separatists mischievous opposition to the demand needs to be countered by all nationalist parties and organisations to end grave injustice to refugees. Isn’t it disturbing that despite Supreme Court’s several orders to identify and deport illegal infiltrators, the Government is most reluctant to act against them yet it has shown no interest in mitigating the sufferings of Hindu and Sikh refugees settled in Jammu? The behaviour of the latter is in sharp contrast to the communal activities of the infiltrators. While refugees are loyal and peace loving citizens, the infiltrators cause communal tensions and riots not only in Assam but also in other parts of the country. 

Equally disturbing is the hue and cry raised by separatists of the valley against the Supreme Court’s recent directive to the J&K Government to ensure that pilgrims participating in the annual Amarnath yatra don’t suffer death or injury in avoidable accidents. Taking a suo motto notice of deaths of several pilgrims during this year’s yatra, the apex court asked the state government to provide requisite infrastructure to cater to the basic needs of the ever increasing number of pilgrims. It also observed that roads leading to the shrine were in bad shape that caused many avoidable deaths and injuries to pilgrims. No right thinking person would take exception to these humanitarian measures. Separatists who suffer from paranoia did. They see no merit in the directions and perceive them as a threat to their identity and an effort to alter the demographics of the valley. Similar stupid assumptions and propaganda by the same anti-national groups led to a lot of violence in 2008. They opposed then J&K Governor S K Sinha’s permission to the Shrine Board to construct temporary shelters for the pilgrims to Amarnath shrine with the condition that the land would continue to be owned by the Government. The Board promptly paid the fee demanded for this facility but separatists called it a conspiracy to change the demographic composition of the state. How could temporary shelters for pilgrims lead to change in demographics? They exploit even half a chance to create trouble to remain in the lime light. They couldn’t care less if their agitation sabotaged the pilgrimage that is the life line of state’s economy. They blocked highways, indulged in violence and threatened to take their produce to markets in PoK instead of Indian markets. Jammu citizens rose in protest to launch a mass movement against the separatists’ anti-national moves. That was indeed a befitting response to non-sense spread by separatists.

RSS and several organisations inspired by it have launched campaigns to educate the masses about the danger to social harmony and national security posed by endemic illegal immigration from Bangladesh and attempts to weaken J&K’s links with the rest of India by demanding that temporary and transient Article 370 into a permanent one. It is high time that nationalist of all hues join these campaigns to generate a mass movement to arouse nationalist spirit among masses transcending their religious, linguistic and regional identities. Robust nationalism can, and will, counter pseudo secularism, illegal infiltration from Bangladesh and separatist movement in the Kashmir valley. 

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