What'sso great about secularism?
By Ravi Shanker Kapoor
In the recent debate whether or not Jinnah was secular, nobody has so far asked the most important question: What is so great about secularism?
In our country, our intellectuals harangue us to believe that secularism stands for all that is good, noble, exalted and virtuous. This ludicrous theory has two natural corollaries. First, all political parties that wear secularism up their sleeves are good, even when these parties are full of scamsters, murderers and crooks. For instance, apologists for a scamster politician say: ?Well, he may be bad, he may have swindled crores of rupees, but at least he is secular.? This absolves him of all sins and crimes! The second corollary is that all those parties and groups that do not subscribe to the diktats of intellectuals are bad, odious and bigoted. Hence, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Shiv Sena, and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh are communal and fascist.
Stalin was responsible for the death of 40 million people; yet, he was secular. In fact, his secularism was a by-product of the Marxian dogma.
This silly theory and its sillier corollaries are the result of the silliest mistakes Indian intellectuals and politicians made in the 20th century. They misconstrued the word ?secular?. According to Webster'sDictionary, the word ?secular? means ?of or relating to the worldly or temporal (~concerns)?, ?not overtly or specifically religious (music)?, ?not eccleslastical or clerical (courts)?, ?not bound by monastic vows or rules; specifically, of, relating to, or forming clergy not belonging to a religious order or congregation.? The Compact Oxford Reference Dictionary defines ?secular? as ?not religious or spiritual? and ?(of clergy) not subject to or bound by religious rules?.
Nowhere does one find that the word ?secular? is synonymous with good or virtuous. In history, too, we find that there is no cause-and-effect relationship between secular and good. Stalin was responsible for the death of 40 million people; yet, he was secular. In fact, his secularism, a by-product of Marxian dogma of dialectical materialism, was so aggressive that the erstwhile Soviet Union set up a museum of atheism.
Another great secularist was Mao, another great butcher of the 20th century, who killed at least as many people as Stalin did. Pol Pot of Cambodia was also secular, ending up murdering every seventh citizen of the small South-East Asian country. Among non-communist mass murderers, the greatest was Hitler. He killed six million Jews, but this was not because they were non-Christians; he got them eliminated because they belonged to what he thought was an ?inferior race?. But he established his ?secular credentials? by also killing millions of Christians!
This is not to say that all secularists are violent people; what we wish to assert is that being secular does not necessarily transform a man into an angel.
As for the relevance of secularism in India, one has to carefully scrutinise the issue. For, the Indian style of secularism is completely different from what is understood in the West. In India, secularism means the policy of blatant appeasement of Muslims; in our country, the meaning of secularism has been debauched. We would be better without this perverted form of secularism.
This brings us to the actual meaning of secularism: that is, the policy of keeping the affairs of state apart from those of the Church. We maintain that even real secularism has no relevance for India, for the simple reason that we do not have a Church. Hinduism is not an organised religion like Christianity. In the Christian West, it makes sense to keep the State and the Church apart; when the two authorities combined, the result was the Dark Ages. It was only when they were separated that ascent of the West started in the Renaissance period.
In India, however, there is nothing comparable with the Church. In these circumstances, secularism is redundant, as redundant as crutches are for an Olympic sprinter. In fact, crutches become not only redundant but a burden for a strapping young man if he is forced to carry them on his person all the time. Secularism surely has become a burden. The consequence is the abomination called Indian secularism?.
(The author is Editor, www.indiaright.org and can be contacted at [email protected])