India That is Bharat
A secular pilgrimage
Satiricus has heard of alchemy, the magic that transforms a base metal into gold. What he had not heard of is an alchemy that has the magical power to transform a base communalist into a golden secularist. Actually he should have. For has he not seen it in action since those wonderful days of Waghela? When Shankarsinh Waghela, a self-confessed RSS Swayamsevak of thirty years standing, renounced Hinduism and embraced secularism, he advertised his newly-acquitted anti-communal credentials by publicly giving an Islamic twist to his communal name. That was an admirable example of political alchemy. (The price of this conversion was a ministership, which, Satiricus supposes, was in keeping with the ruling market rate for politicians).
Anyway, Waghela is ancient history, modern history was made by Sanjay Nirupam. When this Shiv Sainik changed into a secularist, he not only renounced and denounced Hinduism he promptly went on a pilgrimage of the local Haj, the Ajmer dargah. That was laudable, because it is a given that in secular India there can be no better secularist than a Muslim, or at least an anti-Hindu. And now we have Narayan Rane, a Shiv Sena worker of four decades, a Shiv Sena MLA for four terms, and a former Shiv Sena chief minister, who is quitting communalism. Naturally he is doing so for a price, for every politician has a price, and what that price should be would depend upon how pricey he perceives himself to be. If the dear fellow is selling himself dearly, that does not surprise Satiricus, for no self-respecting politician can undersell himself, all the ideological alchemy notwithstanding.
Speaking of ideology, this particular ingredient in this alchemical experiment seems to be somewhat inadequate. For even while about to step into secularism, Rane has said, ?I will not say anything against the Hindutva ideology.? But is that wise? How can a Congress of any brand issue him a certificate of secularism until and unless he passes the crucial test of denigrating the ideology he cherished all his life? Then there is that second?but by no means secondary?matter of eating his derogatory words about the high priestess of secularism, Soniaji. But on second thoughts Satiricus supposes that might not be so difficult, because there are praiseworthy precedents. For instance, not long ago super-secular mullah Mulayam had prevented ?foreigner? Sonia from becoming Prime Minister, but later found that she was ?hundred per cent Bharatiya nari?. For another instance, Sharad Pawar set up a separate Congress because Sonia Gandhi, President of the Indian National Congress, was not an Indian national, but now he happily shares power with her. So, Rane sahib, you will be in august company when you eat some well-cooked crow.
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So far as sensible, secular Satiricus is concerned, all these illustrious additions to the serried ranks of shining lights of secularism would certainly have made him happy?were it not for the unfriendly action of his own friend, the scholarly Muzaffar Hussain, which spoiled the happy mood. For contributing to the current controversy about whether a secular Jinnah meant a secular Pakistan, Hussain quoted a prominent Pakistani maulana, by name Asrar Ahmed, as flatly saying that there was no place in Islam for the word ?secular?. Why?
Because in Islam a secular person is called a munafiq?and that means a person given to double-talk. And so, says Hussain, Advani may well have tried to please India by calling Jinnah secular, the epithet has far from pleased Pakistan. Now this is a little too complicated for soft-brained Satiricus. For he cannot understand how in Pakistan, founded by secular Jinnah, you cannot be a secularist if you are a Muslim, while in India, the swarga of secularism, you cannot be a secularist virtually unless you are a Muslim?
But perhaps this shows that Satiricus'sunderstanding of Indian secularism is inordinately incomplete. It would be complete only if and when Haji Sanjay Nirupam'spilgrimage is followed by Narayan Rane'sjourney to Rome for an audience with the Pope. After all, without the defenders of the Indian secular faith in Mecca and Rome, where would we be?
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Talking of devotion to sacred secularism, Satiricus has no reservation in saying that reservation for Muslims in every field, from education to jobs, is the sure way to secular salvation.
Saint Arjun Singh showed this way to Muslim Mukti when he reserved for Muslims half the seats for all advanced courses at Aligarh Muslim University. Along with this big secular leap forward by the Congress-led government at the Centre in education, the Congress government in Andhra has ordered five per cent job reservation for Muslims. With these two precious precedents to guide men, women and Congressmen of all hues, it is natural that Nationalist Congressmen, sharing power in Maharashtra, should want to do an Andhra. Their General Secretary Akhtar Rizvi has declared that he ?sees no reason? why what the Andhra Congress government can do, the Maharashtra double-Congress government cannot. Satiricus quite agrees. For, as janab Rizvi assures him, the Nationalist Congress is as ?committed to the welfare of the minorities? as the Congress has always been. For the sake of secularism Satiricus hopes that this welfare of the minority will continue as the welfare of the majority.
For does not the Hurriyat refer to the Muslims in Kashmir as the majority community? On the other hand, once India that is Dar-ul-Harab becomes as Dar-ul-Islam as Pakistan on the one hand and Bangladesh on the other, there will be no minority problem, because there will be no minority.