Pseudo-secularism and contemporary politics
By Prof. Vijay Kumar Malhotra
PSEUDO-secularism has been in vogue in India ever since we attained Independence and it has been practiced with elan by a party that claims to have spearheaded the national struggle for freedom. The damage it did in accepting the two-nation theory and dividing the country on the basis of religion has been too enormous for description.
Any attempt to philosophise on the horrendous consequences of Partition would be futile, as the trail of envy, enmity, rivalry and bitterness between India and Pakistan has caused wounds, which have turned into fostering sores. The four wars fought by the two nascent but formidable Asian nations and the unending arms race between them with concomitant changes in international relations are such events that have given many a twist and turn to the history of the twentieth century. Apart from the losses on the battlefield and the economic toll it took, the spawning of terrorism it caused and the psychological wounds it inflicted on the masses, especially among the people of Jammu and Kashmir, have directly emanated from the thoughtless ego and the lack of political foresight and statesmanship of the leaders of a party, who had the pretensions of having achieved a world stature.
If those leaders could have shed a little bit of their vanity and placed the future of millions of people of the united India before their momentary impulses as also their personal relations with the top colonial agents, the situation in the subcontinent would have been different. A belief in the destiny of the millions rather their own could have turned the scales in favour of a country which could have been the strongest and the most important entity in this part of the world.
It was explained by Dr V.K.R.V. Rao that since the university was being run entirely on government grants, it could not function for meeting the aspirations of a particular community.
The same party, after giving a handle to the hawks in the Muslim League and allowing them to exploit the situation, exacerbated the hostility with Muslims across the political boundary, and at the same time embarked on the policy of appeasing the Muslims in India in a bizarre show of pseudo-secularism. This party, which has been in power for about 50 years since Independence, has been consistently offering sops to the Muslim community in an effort to play an unethical game of vote-bank politics.
During all these years, its policy has been the same. If anything, its edge has become sharper and more lethal. Let us feel this new dart from the Finance Minister of the present UPA government led by the effete Congress party, directed in favour of the ?minority communities?, but in effect causing detriment to the majority community. In his own words: ?The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and the Ministry of Human Resource Development implement a number of schemes for pre-examination coaching of candidates belonging to the minority communities. These schemes are confined to government institutions, and the results have not been encouraging. Hence, I propose to expand these schemes to include reputed private coaching institutes, which have a track record of showing good results in competitive examinations. I propose to provide funds to pay the fees on behalf of meritorious candidates from minority communities who enroll in these selected private institutions.? It is a fantastic concession to the so-called minority communities at the cost of the deserving and meritorious aspirants of the majority community.
The government seems to be going too far in implementing or perhaps ignoring the constitutional provision of providing equal opportunity to members of all communities. Now the admissions to the private coaching institutes would not be on the basis of merit, but on the basis of the community to which a student belongs. A Muslim or Christian belonging to the highest financial bracket would receive coaching at the government expense, as compared to the most deserving candidate of the majority community who would have to pay his own fees even if he is from a low income group. The same would be the fate of the candidate of a scheduled caste category.
Such moves of the UPA government led by the Congress are more sinister than what they appears on the surface. These are indirect invitations to conversions. If a member of the majority community converts, he would naturally become entitled to the concession being offered to the so-called minorities. In no other country, such open temptations to religious conversions are in offer except, perhaps, in a pseudo-secular country like India. Let us also have a look at the prize offer made by the Union Minister of Human Resources Development to reserve 50 per cent seats for Muslims in the specialised courses. It has come in for sharp criticism by the Marxists and other Left parties, apart from a number of intellectuals from the Muslim community itself; but it is amazing how the party in power is out to woo the Muslim votes, irrespective of the indelible ugly scars such moves are bound to leave on the national policy.
Apart from the losses on the battlefield and the economic toll it took, the spawning of terrorism it caused and the psychological wounds it inflicted on the masses, especially among the people of Jammu and Kashmir, have directly emanated from the thoughtless ego and the lack of political foresight and statesmanship of the leaders of a party, who had the pretensions of having achieved a world stature.
This reminds us of an episode involving a former Minister of Education, Dr V.K.R.V. Rao, who had proclaimed a desire to appoint a Muslim as Vice Chancellor of the Banaras Hindu university and a Hindu academic as Vice Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University. Since the latter University was already embroiled in an agitation to preserve its Muslim character, which according to its protagonists had been set up to promote only Muslim tenets and ethos, they approached the Education Minister to retract his views as those would run counter to their concepts. It was explained by Dr Rao that since the university was being run entirely on government grants, it could not function for meeting the aspirations of a particular community. The present government, however, in its anxiety in garner Muslim votes in the near and distant future, has shown a tendency of bend over backwards to shower favours on that community without calculating the cost of consequences such ill-conceived moves might bring to bear on the nation. It would have been prudent if the present government had taken note of the judicial pronouncements about not providing religious instruction in the institutions being run on government grants. The nature of the two situations might be different, but the corollaries would be the same. Obsessed with the vote politics and its consuming desire for self-perpetuation, the Congress might well be on a suicidal course. It is quite difficult to understand the social justice being meted out by the present government, when a candidate of a minority community with 40-50 per cent marks would take precedence over a candidate of the majority community with 85-90 per cent marks. The government seems to be determined to disrupt and upset the social fabric of the country for some devious intent.
India, perhaps, is the only country with a National Human Rights Commission as well as a National Commission for the Minorities. The present government intends according a constitutional status to the Minorities Commission to make it a permanent body. Obviously, it is another example of pseudo-secularism when the rights of minorities are sought to be placed above the human rights.
There is no end to such contentious attempts to create an imbalance which is most likely to have far-reaching ramifications. Another instance is that of providing Haj subsidy to the Muslims, which is not available in any other country. Even Muslim countries do not provide subsidy for Haj pilgrimage. In our next door neighbour, Pakistan, judicial pronouncements prohibit the grant of subsidy and other facilities to those wanting to travel to Saudi Arabia for the purpose. A faithful Muslim is required to meet all expenditure on the Haj pilgrimage from his own means. But the Indian government, in a rush to please a minority, has been going overboard offering a subsidy, which gradually has gone upto Rs 259 crore.
The UPA government has abolished the provision for denying the subsidy to the income tax paying Muslims, thus making a multi-millionaire pilgrim eligible to receive the government largesse. This is in total contrast to those going for pilgrimage to Mansarover or for paying obeisance to gurudwaras in Pakistan. Even an indigent Sikh is not allowed a penny'shelp from the government, whereas an affluent Muslim can demand subsidy as a matter of right! Why two sets of principles for the citizens and two different standards of the government which wears secularism on its sleeves? This selective secularism would do greater harm in the long run than the gains the pseudo-secularists envisage to reap.
Let us feel this new dart from the Finance Minister of the present UPA government led by the effete Congress party, directed in favour of the ?minority communities?, but in effect causing detriment to the majority community.
The ill-conceived move of the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh to grant reservations to the Muslims has been struck down by the Supreme Court, but it lays bare the Congress mentality. In a recent Muslim rally organised by the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Hind in Delhi attended by Mrs Sonia Gandhi and other eminent Congress leaders, a demand was raised for reservations for Muslims in government jobs, college admissions, Legislative Assemblies and Parliament. This was all on the lines of the demands of the Muslim League in the pre-Partitioned India and the result of that cleavage is for everybody to see in the division of the subcontinent. But the Congress party can go to any length to gain even a small ground for keeping itself in power, whatever consequences the nation may have to face in terms of national unity or territorial integrity.
The issue of a Common Civil Code touches a raw nerve in some people. Most advanced nations have a common civil code to govern all its citizens barring India where laws of divorce, inheritance and adoption for Muslims are different. Whereas several Muslim countries have abolished the triple talaq and enforced a single marriage, the new UPA government in India has given a verdict against it and has continued with its agenda of appeasement. The policies of the present government are quite an enigma and defy comprehension. Their baffling tapeze has thrown certain challenges for an ordinary citizen who would find it problematic to unravel their intentions. Whether the nation is being led to another partition on communal lines, is a doubt that has geminated in the younger generation. One partition is enough for the present and all future generations. It would be possible to maintain national sovereignty only if the present regime refrains from its pseudo-secularism or its sham or cryptic secularism.
(The writer is MP and can be contacted at 6, Dr Bishamber Das Marg, New Delhi-110 001.)